Event Planning Guide


This guide will walk you through the steps of planning an event from logistics to promotional support.


As you know, planning a successful event depends on having defined and measurable goals. If you are clear at the outset, it is much easier to conduct a post-event evaluation with attendees, sponsors and partners. It will also enable you to establish a benchmark to measure future success. Here are some questions to think about:

  • Are you providing information to educate participants about their drinking water?
  • Are you creating or strengthening partnerships among local organizations? (governmental, scientific, environmental, etc.)
  • Are you publicizing your utility?
  • Are you trying to call attention to a particular issue?


Knowing your audience will help you immensely in planning your event. It enables you to communicate in a way that is truly engaging and will help you get results. Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • Who is your target audience - i.e., families with children, children ages 8-12, women, sensitive populations, community leaders, etc.?
  • How many people do you want to attend?
  • How will you inform your audience about the event?
  • What are some of the barriers that you may encounter to reaching your target audience? And, how can you overcome obstacles? (For example, if language is a potential barrier, you may need to hire a translator to attend and/or translate materials.)
  •  What will your target audience consider fun? Educational? Informative?

Once you have a clear picture of your ideal "target" in mind, it is easy to define the types of events and activities that might appeal to them.


Determine the program
Once you have defined your event and identified your audience, it’s time to determine your event content and structure. For many events it helps to write out a script, including the timing for each portion of the event to ensure that you stay within your time limit.

Create a budget
When creating your budget, it is important to take into account all expenses. For help determining your expenses, see the event budget checklist.

Select your location
When selecting the location for your event, there are a number of logistical considerations to keep in mind. Depending on your event, these may include:

  • Space requirements
  • Budget constraints
  • Safety considerations
  • Parking
  • Availability of restrooms (or space for port-a-potties)
  • Overall appearance of area
  • Public address system or other electrical requirements 
  • Storage space
  • Directional signs and/or volunteers placement 

Once you have selected a site, consider preparing a diagram of the event layout with each of the above areas taken into consideration. Prepare instructions for vendors, volunteers and other supporters working with you, if necessary. You should also verify if your location requires a permit. Permits can sometimes be costly and/or take time to obtain.


Your equipment needs will vary depending on the type of event. Some considerations include:

  • Audio-visual equipment – microphone, podium, speakers, etc.
  • Equipment – tents, chairs, tables, etc.


While not always necessary or appropriate, prizes or food can definitely add to your event. Refreshments of some sort can be especially helpful if your event will last several hours or if children are involved. Depending on the nature of your event, you may be able to get food and/or prizes donated. Identify potential food sources (i.e. local grocery stores, fast food vendors, drink distributors, restaurants, etc.) and coordinate event delivery and preparation.


Obtain financial support and in-kind donations for the event and develops partnerships in your community. 


Publicize events to build event awareness and attendance, and works with local media. Ask a local television or radio station to provide an on-air personality to act as emcee for the day, and broadcast live from your event. This provides support, excitement and, of course, publicity!


No one likes to think about the negative things that can happen at an event, but you have a responsibility to plan for contingencies. Don’t overlook things that may be beyond your control, such as health emergencies and weather, and make sure you have a plan to address them:

If weather can affect your event, plan to have a rain date, backup location or tent. Check the historical/seasonal weather patterns for your area. Set a time with volunteers and partners when you can call a "GO or NO" because of inclement weather. Establish a telephone tree to disseminate this information. Make sure you are working with the local radio stations to announce necessary cancellations. You may want to include this information in your event materials so participants know the rain plan or date.

Although 95 percent of Americans believe legal fishing is a fine sport, a very small percentage of Americans believe that it is wrong to catch fish and that boating is hazardous to the environment. Such individuals may be present at your event and may use it to vocalize their minority opinions. To be on the safe side, contact your local law enforcement authorities and tell them about the event you have planned. Ask them for advice on handling hecklers, and whether there is an officer on call should you need assistance. For large events, it may be a good idea to work with a security firm and provide a separate area for protesters.

Safety issues
Promote safety by ensuring that responsible boating and fishing are the norm at your event. No one wants an accident to happen, but be prepared if one does. Establish a safety plan and know what to do in case of an emergency. Make sure to consider the following in your event safety plan:

  • Directions to your event site (especially if you don’t have an ambulance on-site).
  • Identify the nearest phones (both pay and private).
  • Identify staff and volunteers who have cell phones – make sure all staff and volunteers have a phone list. 
  • Volunteers should be clear about their roles in an emergency situation. For example, in case of injury, one volunteer should stay with the individual, one should call for help and another volunteer should stay with the main group.
  • Identify the nearest hospital.
  • Have a well-stocked First Aid kit that includes needle-nose pliers, sunscreen, bug repellent, bandages, instant ice packs and ammonia (for stings).
  • PFD with rope.
  • Ask a registered nurse or an emergency medical technician to volunteer his/her services.
  • Fire extinguisher (if cooking is involved).

For larger events:

  • Walkie-talkies or cell phones are a good way to maintain communications between you and your volunteers.
  • Plan to have an ambulance available in case of serious injuries.

Insurance and release forms
It is important to verify your organization’s coverage and to purchase any necessary liability insurance prior to the event. If you have partnered with a service organization, they may already have a blanket liability policy available through their national office, which could be extended to cover the event. Release forms are needed if your event includes children, or if you plan to use photos of individuals taken at your event in future promotional information. Registration is a good place to capture these releases.


Registering participants will help you track attendance at your event, and provide a basis for evaluation. Registration may be conducted in two ways: in advance or on-site at the event. If you pre-register participants, you can: 

  • Have an attendance estimate before your event and control your numbers if size and space are issues. 
  • Pre-determine who will be fishing from boats, and have registrants pre-assigned to specific boats, if necessary. 
  • Collect demographic and lifestyle information for evaluation and/or leads.
  • Develop a baseline of experience levels and find out what participants are most interested in learning. Even if you conduct pre-registration, you should plan to allow for on-site registration on event day, based on space availability. Registration is one of the most effective ways to measure whether you met your goals, and it enables you to build a baseline against which future events can be judged.


Depending on the size and start time of your event, you may want to secure space and set up either the night before or in the early morning hours. Make sure to coordinate all setup and deliveries well in advance of your event so that you are ready to start on time.


Schedule on-site briefings and rehearsals well in advance of your event, so that volunteers, staff and dignitaries who will be working at or appearing at your event know what is expected of them. Be sure to provide directions to your site as well.

  • Dignitaries –  Provide a detailed memo to any dignitary who may be involved with your event (mayors, U.S. Representatives, local government representatives, etc.) that describes the event goals, hours, schedule of events, description of the target audience, number of people expected, other VIPs, etc.
  •  Rehearsals - Rehearse any scripted items and perform sound and/or video checks with celebrities/dignitaries before participants arrive.


Thank yous
Maintain that interest by thanking and acknowledging everyone who played a role in your success, including partners, sponsors, volunteers and local dignitaries. Let them know that you will be calling on them to support next year’s event. 

Strike while the iron is hot! Following your event, evaluate each area based on the goals you established at the beginning of your planning process. Ask sponsors, partners, volunteers, dignitaries, and event participants about their experience (i.e., what did they get out of attending, were their expectations met, what are their plans about fishing and boating in the future, etc.) to gauge whether you met their needs and fulfilled your own objectives. By conducting your evaluation while the event is still fresh in everyone’s mind, you’ll get a head start in planning for next year.