Monday, June 15, 2009

Julie Wallace's Event Planning Tips

Welcome Julie Wallace, (writer, poet, editor, trainer, and event planner) Today, I’d like to pick your brain on planning an event.

First,, Julie, please tell us about your experience in planning programs and events.
I've worked on a variety of events from poetry readings to fashion shows to simple high school fund raisers. I also spent two years working for a large non-profit. Currently I work at a software company in sales, marketing, and training. And I've seen a lot of badly organized events, so I know what not to do! Being active in the Genealogical Society of Isabella County, however, has really given me the opportunity to wear many hats. I’ve used organizational and computer skills to compile a database of first families in the county, and also written all of the promotional pieces for our annual open house event.

How did your successful “Family History Detective Day” come into being?
Not long ago I dived into researching my family history and found a supportive group: the Genealogical Society of Isabella County, (MI). While the organization had enthusiastic members and had worked on a variety of projects, they were looking for a way to reach the community and share knowledge and resources. Someone suggested and open house and I volunteered to chair the event.. Our “Family History Detective’s Day” featured speakers, representatives from organizations, and prizes; it was a free event and open to the public. We had about fifty people attend – not bad for our first year. In four months the committee met, brainstormed, planned the event, and hosted it without any major catastrophes, and we’re getting ready to do another one this coming October 17. What are the most important pieces in planning an event?
Planning and promotion. You've got have a schedule and know who's going to be doing what and when. Spending time on the details will pay off on the day of the event. Then the actual event day, you don't have to worry. Your ability to control all of the details is gone, so you have to relax, and go with the flow of the day.

Promotion is crucial. Without it, you do not have people attending. And without people you have one sad event. So promotional ideas are perfect for brainstorming with the organizing committee. Get creative! Don't just stop at the local newspaper or radio stations and call it good. Get flyers out there at local businesses. You've got to reach people and entice them to attend. Check out Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies or The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Meeting & Event Planning for the basics.

Last week Deborah Schneider, who plans events for the King County (WA) Library System described Romance Extravaganza. If a group of authors wanted to do something like this, what advice would you give them?
Plan and promote. Pick a chairperson. Set your budget. Brainstorm and get creative. Have fun planning. I think the type of approach Deborah described could work for any genre - think about Crime & Punishment for mysteries/detectives/police stories), or Joke-A-Minute for a celebration of joke books. What about poetry readings or cooking demos? Hire local actors to dress & act as characters. Tie it in with other events happening around town, for example, 2009 is the 150th anniversary of Isabella County. There are many events scheduled throughout the year. The Genealogy Society is sponsoring two events this fall. First, there will be a Victorian Funeral Tea and Cemetery Walk. that features a fancy tea discussing Victorian Funeral customs; then participants stroll through a nearby cemetery and meet local actors dressed as ‘famous folk’ from the area who just happen to be buried in the cemetery. I’m also on the committee for the Historical Fashion Show, so we’ll be gathering authentic clothing from the past 150 years soon. How’s that for events for writers to love? I can feel historical romance plots thickening already!

Thanks for the tips and ideas to get authors thinking creatively. Besides events, Julie, what are you working on?
I’m writing a food-inspired memoir tentatively titled "Essays To Eat By." I'm becoming active in the online writing world, and would love to connect with other writers and editors.
Find me on Facebook and Twitter.
Photos: Genealogist Larry Noyes in costume as an undertaker, Julie Wallace (in red) at “Family History Detective’s Day”


  1. I agree with Julie, you can create an event around any theme. I just finished a series of programs based on "The Call of the Wild" and a local history event. We had author events, music,storytelling, art and theater. A few years ago we did a series around mystery authors, "Make Mine a Mystery".
    Be creative @ Your Library. (OK - that's actually our Summer Reading Program theme, but it holds true for the entire year!

  2. Hu Julie and Amber

    Great interview--definitely something to think about. I'm not at the point yet where I need to think about large promotional events, but I've made some mental notes. Also, it's advice I can take and apply to writing in general--figure out what's going to be interesting to people, and be organized about getting it done :-)