Once you’ve developed a plan, work begins on preparing for the event. The extent of preparation required to create your program will vary based on your type of event, audience, and partners. It is also important to remain flexible to new opportunities that arise during preparation or that a partner might bring to the event. The following will help guide you through this phase.
- Creating programs
Depending on the type of event, the scope of creating a program will change. For meetings, it may be a simple set of materials that can be customized for each audience or event. If hosting a large community day, you may want to plan a more comprehensive program, inviting local dignitaries or celebrities to participate. Attending meetings, giving presentations, and participating in local events like community days, food festivals, county fairs, etc. may be opportunities to educate the community about the local crash and driving statistics, senior driving programs, local driving training education, CARFIT testing, DMV state license renewal requirements and more. Different communities may also require different programs such as rural versus city where the issues, needs, and solutions may vary.
When creating a program, it is advised to start with a detailed agenda. Outline the goals and objectives, identify the timeline for the event, indicate who is responsible for each item on the agenda, and consider the level of interaction that should be applied. For meetings and presentations, an interaction may be an open discussion with meeting attendees or Q&A with the presentation audience. If exhibiting at a community event, considering ways to engage with those attending will be instrumental. This might include sharing a video, having a whiteboard where people can document their concerns or issues, and taking pictures with attendees to post to social media, having a vehicle with safety features available that individuals can explore, creating a game to engage with individuals. Games might include tailoring a familiar game (e.g., darts, corn hole, spinning a wheel) to highlight different issues and/or indicate winners for prizes or giveaways.
If hosting a major event such as a half-day or full-day open-house or community day, having a playbook that all planners can refer to will be useful. The playbook includes the detailed agenda, the timeline for all activities, the roles and responsibilities of each person on the planning committee, contact information for key people (a facility representative, committee chair, security, healthcare, etc.), and copies of all presentations. This provides planners and those responsible for running the event the guide for keeping all activities on time and on track.
- Developing messages
Messages are usually succinct and clearly articulated to describe the outcome desired. Messages are often simple statements that help frame the problem and solution. Messages are supported by data and statistics, success stories, and program information that motivate an individual or organization to action. Developing key and supporting messages refines your thinking on the themes and framework for the event. Sharing these messages with others who are presenting and/or preparing materials will keep everyone focused on the goal and outcome for this event and ensure a cohesive event providing the information, materials, and resources that will engage the audience and facilitate success.
- Identifying and recruiting presenters
When hosting an event, identifying, and recruiting partners can be a critical success factor. While members of the planning committee and/or host organization may know what needs to be presented,
There can be others who will be more successful in delivering that message. As you meet with partners and the planning committee, identify those who the target audience trust and will respond to. This might include individuals that regularly do presentations for the community and are seen as an expert. There might be a particular official that focuses on community outreach and would be a recognized name to have participate in the event. Trusted spokespersons might include a council member or a community center employee, someone from the local news, a radio personality, a local business owner, or another prominent member of the community that has a connection to your audience and message. There are also doctors and family members in the community that might want to be a part of the presentation.
Once you identify some community members, it is easy to reach out to them on the phone or via email. Consider a face to face conversation or teleconference with all presenters to review the event agenda, speaking order, and talking points. If a presentation is going to be put together, you want to make sure the information that is being shared does not overlap. Make sure all presenters come to an agreement on who will be speaking about what topic. This organizes the groups, facilitates a smooth-running event, and helps avoid redundancy by having each presenter understand their role in the event. This also allows presenters to ask questions about the presentation and they might even share ideas.
- Gathering program material (content and format)
Based on the agenda, identify the material that should be available to provide to attendees. Materials might include fact sheets on statistics and data, videos and print success stories, posters, display materials, and brochures, and handouts with additional background information as well as lists of additional community resources.
If making a presentation, make sure you have the latest and most relevant information. You can get national statistics from the NHTSA website. This website has factsheets to share with your audience. If you are doing a presentation to older drivers and family members, then you can share crash information, how to have difficult conversations, and how older drivers can be proactive and plan for the future. If you are doing a presentation, you might also want to include local crash information and resources found in your community.
Include printed resources that allow a person to bring home and think about the support they need to be a safer older driver and set up a personal plan. ChORUS has a number of resources which be found on the Family/Caregivers Guide and the My State Info page. Before you host your program, see what other resources and handouts are available locally either with your local government, DMV, medical offices, or law enforcement. Check back annually on the ChORUS website when hosting your program for the latest nationwide statistics.
- Ensuring Accessibility
When preparing for the event, accessibility is extremely important. Accessibility includes preparing the location to accommodate individuals who are blind or those who use a wheelchair, scooter, or walker. You want to allow ample room for people to navigate the space and eliminate any barriers that might hinder movement. Remember to check bathrooms to make sure they are accessible for individuals with disabilities.
All materials developed as handouts should be available in large print and electronic format to allow all participants to benefit from the information provided. Write materials in plain language to allow content to be easily understood.
- Planning Logistics
Consider the number of participants anticipated and the location of the event to develop a layout. This might be as simple as an exhibit table or booth if participating in a larger event or as complex as a large meeting space to allow for multiple presenters and concurrent display tables. The layout should allow for ample seating with room for people to move about comfortably. Work with the host facility to identify options for audio-visual support if doing presentations and the room is large. You may need to go to an outside organization for audio-visual equipment if necessary. Consider your audience’s needs when making these arrangements to ensure that a microphone is available to amplify presentations for those with hearing loss and to provide accommodations such as sign language interpreters if participants may require. (Note: also, it is good practice to make sure you read slide content as an accommodation for those who may not be able to read/view the screen when making presentations.)
If hosting a large event with multiple activities and partners, you may need to arrange for registration and a sign in area. You may also arrange for display space or tables for organizations to provide additional information. Again, be mindful of sufficient room for participants to navigate when laying out the exhibit space.
Finally, signage that directs attendees to the event space should be clearly written and easily understood. Signage should be displayed at key points along the path to the event to make sure all attendees can easily find it. You may also consider having volunteers along the way to help people find the room(s).
- Publicizing the Event
Effective publicizing requires doing your homework to understand how best to reach your target audience. If you are planning a meeting of agencies to discuss issues, this may be a simple task of pulling up contact information for the agency leadership or key personnel that you already know. For a public event, this might include reaching out through a variety of means including, radio and tv news and public service announcements, local newspapers, community bulletin boards (virtual and in community centers, senior centers, libraries, etc.), and using social media (e.g., Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and Instagram feeds). Engaging any partner networks and social media is also effective. Depending on the lead time for your event, community centers and stakeholder organizations often have weekly, monthly, and sometimes quarterly newsletters.
Learn about what avenues are available in your community and assign a specific person to reach out to these different media and organizations. If your organization has a public information or communications office, it can be an excellent source of support. Cultivating a relationship for one event will pay off for future events as you build your network of contacts.
Consider not only your needs for publicizing the event in advance to encourage attendance but also articles and news releases after the event. This might share some of the comments from presenters, stories from individuals who attended who benefited from the event or services being promoted, and facts and figures that explain the issue and actions people can take. Including post-event activities increases the reach of your event and keeps your message in front of your audience that much longer.
- Developing a referral list of community resources
A list of community resources should be gathered before your meeting so you can provide them to your attendees. Resources include partner and other community resources that offer support for older road users such as public transportation options; programs that assist older adults navigate the system to explore alternatives to driving, online services for shopping or other essentials, faith-based or other civic organization that offers supports and services. Consider also linking to the ChORUS website that has guides for Older Road Users and Family/Caregivers that present an array of considerations and resources to meet their individual needs while improving road safety.