PLANNING YOUR EVENT
The style of signing events will vary from community to community, but there are a few time-proven practices to employ to guarantee a successful event:
- MOBILIZE early! Recruit a diverse Planning Committee - a mix of library staff and trustees, and community partners.
- Keep it short. Schedule the presentation to run 20 minutes so as to guarantee it doesn’t run longer than 30. If holding outdoors, schedule for 15 minutes. People lose interest quickly if they are standing too long.
- Get on the media’s radar early. Think of the media as your primary target.
- Recruit VIP's (elected officials and other local notables): Make sure they are personally invited, attended to when they arrive, and acknowledged in opening introductions.
- Script as much of the event as possible. There are only a handful of people that can speak extemporaneously and still engage the audience, and not run significantly overtime.
Checklist for Event Planning
- Pick a date and time.
- Make sure it does not conflict with any other major community events or religious holidays.
- Check on availability of key speakers for selected date.
- Pick and book a location. Your library would be a top choice. This is a great opportunity to get non-users, as well as elected officials in the door.
- Coordinate sound and A/V.
- Number and type of microphones (tabletop/handheld, corded/wireless, lapel)
- Secure qualified technician for the event
- Considerations for an off-site event:
- Ensure availability of restrooms (including handicapped accessible) and water.
- Provide refreshments after signing (optional; encourages continued discussion and networking).
- Purchase or print a copy of the Declaration for the actual signing. A 22” x 34” version is available for purchase from ALA Store in October at http://www.alastore.ala.org/ Note: It has a high gloss finish, so requires a non-smudge marker for signing.
- Recruit event staff (library staff, trustees, Friends, community partners), and specify assignments.
- Choose and invite events speakers. As the signing event is an opportunity for the community to visibly declare their support for the library, the majority of the people in front of the microphone should be from outside the library, including “local notables.”
- Every community has local notables (and maybe some genuine celebrities) who can step forward and speak out personally and passionately in support of the library.
- Your local notables are people from many walks of life, such as authors, civic leaders, the owner of the local ice cream shop, high school or college sports stars, musicians and actors, beloved teachers, or even everyone’s favorite mail carrier!
- Consider selecting a local notable as honorary chairperson to help add some “oomph” to the event PR. Ideally in place for the first announcement of the signing event.
- Check out the Cultivating Your Local Notables toolkit for more inspiration. Think creatively and have fun putting your list together.
- All good publicity starts with a plan. Working backwards from the event date, devise a timeline for media contact and overall promotion.
- See the Media Relations Handbook for Libraries for tips, including a detailed timeline.
- Write your media advisory and press release. Sample signing-event templates:
- Announce through newspapers/radio/TV
- Announcements by library and participating groups
- Photos are prime! Plan ahead for event day photos. See the ALA Snapshot Day Primer for guidance regarding permissions, and tips for getting and sharing great photos. Also consider videotaping the event.
Additional Suggestions for School Libraries
- Coordinate with your Principal to hold your signing events around another school event such as open house, parent-teacher conference night, etc.
- Invite all stakeholders to attend, including legislators, school board members, administrators, teachers, parents, and students. A sample invitation is available here.
- Advertise the event in your school newspaper, website, social media, announcements, and appropriate e-mail lists.
- Coordinate with the school’s public information office to invite local media. A sample press release is available here.
- Plan how to keep stakeholders in the library after the signing event to showcase the library. Consider arranging displays or presentations in different areas of the library such as science projects, student art, and student-led tours of both the physical and online resources.
- Set-up the Declaration and a signing table for the students during the opening of school.
- Refreshments help promote lingering and discussion.
- Need inspiration? Check out the attractive signing event set-ups and materials created for the August 2013 Open House at Southwestern Elementary School, Jamestown, New York, located here.
Additional Suggestions for Academic Libraries
- Coordinate with the college or university public information office to widely promote your signing event, including board of directors, professors, students, alumni, and the general public. A sample press release and invitation is available here.
- Plan to hold your event around another college event such as Homecoming, Parents’ weekend, etc.
- Plan to hold your event in tandem with the opening of a special library exhibit.
- Plan for student-led tours of the physical and online resources.
- Refreshments help promote lingering and discussion.
Additional Suggestions for Special Libraries
- Coordinate with management to hold a signing event during a significant time for the company, such as an organizational anniversary or even the all-important Halloween party. A sample invitation is located here.
- Is the library conducting regular promotion of services and resources via an e-newsletter. If so, start promoting the event well ahead of the event. If the library does not have an e-newsletter, now would be a great time to start.
- Schedule demonstrations of resources throughout the day of the signing event.
- Do you primarily provide services remotely and to multiple locations? How about a 15 minute company-wide webinar, and at the end attendees exit to an online declaration to sign. Promote archived webinar and online declaration following the event.
Week-by-Week Timeline for Event Planning
The calendar below is a sample that can be adapted for your use, distinctive to your event, community and media outlets. The timeline, which begins three months ahead of the signing event, can easily be condensed to fit a shorter planning cycle.
A few “at the top” recommendations:
- Be specific in listing tasks to be completed, including person responsible and deadlines.
- Your town or city may have better days when reporters are likely to attend the event. Figuring out your news cycle can help you plan this.
- Social media will help build momentum. Create a posting schedule and keep the messages diverse.
Three months to six weeks before event
- Recruit the Event Planning Committee (library staff, trustees, Friends, and community partners).
- Pick location and date. If off-site, verify permit and insurance requirements.
- Contact and begin to solidify participants, speakers, and if applicable, honorary chairperson.
- Check with as many media outlets as possible to find out their deadlines for listings, PSAs, articles, etc.
- Draft and send out long-lead media advisory or press release to long-lead publications.
- Track if time to get announcement in library and partner print newsletters.
- Create posters, flyers.
- Draft copy for library website.
- Create print and/or online invitations.
Five weeks before the event
- Receive commitment from speakers. Inform all speakers of time limit for their presentation.
- Update media list.
- Contact key journalists regarding in-depth coverage.
- Distribute PSA to radio stations.
Four weeks before the event
- Post Declaration signing-event information on library and partner websites.
- Post event announcement to social media, blogs, online forums, etc.
- Send calendar listing to feature and community calendar editors at local papers and televisions stations.
- Distribute release/advisory to weeklies, assignment and planning desks.
- Begin to shape speaker remarks.
- Plan and produce press kit components for event.
- Draft event agenda
Three weeks before event
- Finalize speakers’ remarks internally.
- Post flyers and posters in library and throughout the community.
- Post to social media, blogs, online forums, etc. Consider highlighting a different Declaration in each announcement. Check that your community partners and local notables are posting online.
- Distribute press release to dailies and bloggers.
- Edit press kit components.
- Check on logistics, particular to onsite or offsite.
Two weeks before event
- Review remarks with all speakers.
- Communicate event staffing assignments to all involved.
- Keep the social media flowing. Post twice this week with unique messages.
- Finalize event agenda, and distribute to all partners and event staff.
- Produce oversize Declaration for display at event.
One week before event
- Contact invited guests (elected officials, etc.) via phone or e-mail to remind them of event.
- Call speakers to confirm appearance and finalize remarks.
- Finalize press kit components.
- Meet with coordinating staff, preferably at event site, to walk through logistics and agenda.
- Social media, of course, and multiple postings.
- Confirm arrangements for photography and video.
- Produce Declaration documents to be signed. Locate high quality signing pens.
Week of event
- Distribute press release again to dailies, TV and news radio contacts.
- Assemble press kit.
- Create name tags for event staff, speakers, and invited VIPs. Consider having a distinctive name tag for guest speakers and VIPs.
- If serving refreshments, confirm order and setup at event.
Day before event
- Call to remind assignment editors
- Set up event space if possible. Have you included a press sign-in table?
- Announcement on social media and all online outlets.
- E-mail agenda to all participants.
- Do a walk-through of event space. If signing event is going to take place close to or outside of open hours, confirm with building management that entrance access will be easy and clear to event staff, speakers, and early arrivals.