Event Planning, Promotions and Communications
There are many elements involved in planning and hosting successful events. The following checklists contain items regarding facilities/ transportation, promotions, and finance that you may want to consider before, during and after your event:
- Official ceremony
- Organize contests and secure prizes
- Identify and invite participants
- Draw up site plan, display space, stage and a schedule of events
- Identify and invite volunteers to handle planned activities
- Vary the entertainment to meet the needs of pre-schoolers, children, teens, adults,
- Seniors and persons with disabilities
- Refreshments. Use ceramic or paper containers rather than plastic
- Rainy-day program
- Promotional materials
- Registration/information system
- Participant survey
- Station counters/surveyors
- Activity schedule posted
- Site map posted
- Info/registration booth set-up and shirts given out
- All equipment and signage at proper place for activities
- Public announcement system (2-way radio, megaphones) to inform public/leaders of scheduled activities
- Lost and found area
- First Aid station
- Prizes (awards, ribbons)
- Clean up
- Return equipment
- Thank participating clubs, organizations, volunteers, sponsors
- Evaluation survey analysis
Facilities/Transport Booking Sites
- Review all site facilities with regard to needs
- Check accessibility
- Determine costs
- Book day-of and rain-date facility
- Assess parking capability
- Secure parking permits, if necessary
- Inform police traffic services
- Apply for race permit if necessary
- Recruit volunteers for security and to direct traffic
- Place signs/ barricades for restricted area(s)
- Reserve parking for officials, participants, exhibitors
- Encourage use of public transportation, non-motorized vehicles, walking, park ‘n’ ride
- Vending licence
- Street permits
- Building permits
- Fireworks/fire permits
- Liquor licence
- Temporary structure permit
- Festival market licence
- Hot air balloon release, parachute permits
- Race permits
- Raffle permit
Facilities to Secure
- Refreshment areas
- First Aid facility
- Display equipment (display boards, electricity, water, phone lines, audio/visual equipment)
- Info/registration booth
- Tables, chairs, linens
- Tents, bleachers, picnic tables
- Sound system
- 2-way radios, cellular phones
- Golf carts
- Post site plan, signs
- Extra garbage cans
- Extra bike racks
Develop and distribute promotional material to local businesses, neighbourhoods, participating organizations, schools and City departments.
Secure permission to display at other events, malls. Material could include:
- Calendars of events
- Posters, flyers, stickers
- Restaurant placemats
- Bridge banners
- Bus transfers
- Newsletter for participating organizations, staff and volunteers
- Buttons, ribbons, T-shirts, entry forms
Media relations II
- Prepare media kits, media releases
- Publicize rainy-day alternatives
- Prepare public service announcements for radio, newspapers and television media outlets
- General mailing to all media
- Arrange interviews between various media and key participants
- Submit feature articles on event
- Contact media celebrities to participate in event (contests, challenges)
- Increase promotions two weeks prior to event
Day of event
- Prepare news release for day
- Ensure media passes are at a central location
- Provide an interview area
- Book photographer for event to prepare photo report/feature shots
- Send final media release to let sponsors, participants know what happened
- Thank media celebrities and other supportive promotions people
- Clip all articles, tape samples and retain for final report
- Post-event follow-up: How did things go?
- Prepare final report with recommendations and ideas for the next year.
- Set up work order and account number or bank account
- Prepare and submit budget
- Apply for grants
- Identify sponsorship opportunities within the budget
- Identify appropriate sponsors
- Prepare an inventory of equipment needs
- Solicit goods and services donations in lieu of money
- Arrange all payments well in advance. The larger the payment, the longer the lead time required
- Apply for petty cash and floats for the day of the event
- Secure rolls of tickets for admittance
Day of the event
- Ensure all vendors have small change
- Ensure all cheque payments are available for entertainers, sound equipment
- Ensure there is a cash box in place for any activity that costs money
- Ensure money is continuously being collected and put in a secure location
- Account for all money spent and received
- Allocate funds or food vouchers for volunteers
- Audit funds
- Review budget estimates and actual amounts
- Review unexpected expenses
- Obtain receipts for value of donated goods and services
- Thank sponsors with a photo record
You may be required to contact other City departments and agencies not included in this list, depending on the nature and scope of your festival.
- Street events – By-law consolidation and implementation guidelines
- Street event implementation guidelines – Appendix B
Street Events By-Law
- City Council’s by-law for street events addresses such issues as: Road closure equipment and city service costs
- By-law enforcement/infractions
- Existing permit fees
- Waste management and clean-up
- Services of divisions, agencies, boards and commissions
- Limiting the number of events on the same roadway
- Public notification
The Transportation Services Division, Right-of-Way Management receives applications and provides permits for banners, sidewalk sales, festivals, street closures, installation of hanging flower baskets, advance signage, barricading and construction.
Transportation Services, Right-of-Way Management
Toronto East York District
Dennis Dionyssiou, Supervisor
Etobicoke York District
Don Pardoe, Supervisor
North York District
Carlo Sarracini, Senior By-law Officer
John Pursley, Acting Supervisor
Use of Toronto Parking Authority Parking Lots
(Green “P” Parking)
Food serving permits
Food Handler Certification Program
Toronto Public Health
Toronto Police Services
Special Events Unit
Toronto Emergency Medical Services
Toronto Fire Services
City of Toronto Municipal Licensing Standards
City park permits
Permits for serving or selling alcohol in public
A permit is required any time liquor is sold or served outside of a licensed establishment or a private place. Special occasion permits are for either sale or consumption and are issued for specific types of events. Please call or write to:
Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
Temporary structures on-site
City of Toronto: Building Division
You may be required to contact various City departments depending on the type of permit for which you are applying. For example, you need to contact your local community council administrator to obtain a council resolution to designate your event as a community festival or a significant event.
For outdoor events you must notify the Clerk’s Department, Police, Fire and Health departments of the event and identify physical boundaries in writing. If a tent or marquee is used you must also notify the building division. The City of Toronto may involve other departments as well, depending on your request. The Toronto Event Planning Guide provides useful information to help you organize your event.
- Involve as many members as possible, including member businesses on upper floors, on the periphery or around the corner
- Hold activities within the BIA, rather than elsewhere, and on days when most of your member businesses are open
- Appeal to as many senses as appropriate: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch
- Conduct post-event follow up asking: “What can we do to make it even better next time?”
- Sidewalk sale
- Farmers market
- Flea market
- Giant garage sale
Get Involved With Your Neighbourhood and Community
- Hold a BIA Open House
- Show the neighbourhood/community that the BIA cares and wants to co-operate with them on common interests and concerns
- Provide daycare during BIA events
- (Themed) window display contests among your merchants
- Amateur entertainment competition
- Children’s poster painting, scavenger hunt, clean-up campaign
- Baby contest
- Pet parade
- Sponsor sports competitions: softball, track & field, tennis
- Writing, poetry, photography, art, handicraft, ice sculptures
- Look-alike contests: famous persons, family generations, pets and owners
Here is an opportunity to make your BIA event even more successful. In a large, dynamic and attraction-filled city like Toronto, there is a wide diversity of entertainment and events happening every day throughout the year. Many of these provide excellent opportunities for cross-promotion by enterprising BIAs.
Collaborating on events affords BIAs exceptionally attractive opportunities to participate and share in the benefits of more ambitious events at significantly less cost and effort than would be needed if attempted alone. Also, some BIAs, especially those located near to each other, have joined forces on occasion to co-sponsor successful joint promotions. Also BIAs across the city have participated in TABIA’s annual citywide promotional, advertising and publicity campaigns.
One practical means of obtaining additional funding for an event or promotion is to get the support of one or more sponsors. Large corporations and other organizations with an obvious interest in a particular audience that your activity is apt to attract are especially likely to respond favourably to your request for support. Such organizations need to be convinced that it would be worthwhile for them to provide funding and/or other kinds of support and thereby have their name associated with an event that can enhance their brand or product awareness, visibility, market penetration or image and gain favourable publicity for them among a specific target audience.
Combining a suitable venue like your shopping district, with a special event or promotion, creates an attractive marketing opportunity for prospective sponsors. Not all prospective sponsors are prepared to make cash donations. Many prefer to provide products and/or services on a contra basis. However, arrangements of this kind can often be converted into cash by means of sales or auctions.
When approaching prospective sponsor organizations, it is best to be prepared.
- Anticipate what information decision makers(s) will want to know before agreeing to participate, and present it to them in a clear, concise, well-organized, preferably written form
- Make sure that the extent of involvement and related benefits in return for their participation such as identification in event advertising and other means of exposure is carefully spelled out and formally agreed to in advance. You may even be willing to offer some potential sponsors an exclusive in order to get their participation
- Make your approach as far in advance of the event as possible. Such spending commitments are often made before the beginning of the fiscal year and frequently involve a considerable amount of time before a decision is made
- Make sure that the BIA fulfills its part of the commitment to the sponsoring organization, and that the latter is provided with ample evidence thereof. This is very important if you hope to request support from this organization again in the future.
Categories of corporate sponsors
Here is a partial list of the types of corporate sponsors that have supported BIA events:
- Major brand-name consumer goods manufacturers
- Banks and trust companies
- Large retail chains
- Fast food outlets
- Grocery chains
- Television and radio stations
- Daily newspapers
- Police and fire departments
- Hold a street dance, costume party, music festival, food fair, arts and crafts exhibition, fashion show, ethnic cultural exhibition, winter carnival
- Sponsor a play, Christmas caroling
- Provide weekday lunch-time activities
Local schools can provide a readily available source of inexpensive, talented and skilled labour. Using local students on BIA projects can help build stronger ties with the community as well. And developing good relations with the local schools can prove helpful when you want to make use of their facilities or secure the services of their band or other entertainment group for a special event.
Students can perform a broad range of useful functions. They can work on clean-up and set-up crews, distribute newsletters and other communications throughout the neighbourhood, entertain and look after younger children, as well as a variety of other jobs. Students are also available through the co-operative education program offered at several local community colleges to work for BIAs or individual businesses on special projects or to fill in during peak workload periods, employee vacations or leaves. High school students must complete a minimum number of volunteer hours in the community before graduating; this is your opportunity to recruit for your BIA. They can also be hired for short-term, part-time or freelance work.
Useful tips on how to create successful print advertising.
Effective advertising begins with a definite plan. Decide first of all:
- What do you want to advertise?
- Who do you want to reach?
- Who is your target audience?
- How do you intend to reach them and what approach do you intend to use?
- How much do you intend to spend on your advertising?
- Where to advertise?
- What media to use?
- When to advertise and for how long?
Effective advertising in any medium must:
- get your prospect’s attention
- arouse his/her interest
- stimulate a desire for your product
- create a demand for your product
- lead to action to obtain your product
Remember the AIDDA principle: attention, interest, desire, demand, action. Consistency in both content and scheduling helps build a recognizable image for your product.
- K.I.S.S. (“Keep it simple, seller”). Organize ad elements so your message is easy to understand and follow
- Make one element dominant: a bold headline or an arresting photograph or illustration
- White space and the use of colour will help an ad stand out amid a mass of surrounding hype
- Avoid using small, hard-to-read type
- Avoid overprinting copy on tints, screens, illustrations or photographs
- Use reverse lettering only sparingly
- The text in your ad should be clear, concise, informative, persuasive and believable
- Use short, familiar words and simple, easy-to-understand sentences
- State the benefit for the reader in the headline
- Keep in mind that inappropriate humour may have an unintended, undesirable backlash
Radio is one of the most popular media for retailers and other small businesses to use. Radio is versatile, flexible, immediate, relatively inexpensive, and has a clearly definable audience.
Especially in a large metropolitan area such as Greater Toronto, there are a large number of radio stations from which to choose.
Stations feature a particular type of programming that appeals to a readily identifiable audience such as commuters, homemakers and youth with a specific demographic profile.
This variety allows advertisers to select the best stations to reach its target audience of present and potential customers.
Radio stations are generally quite flexible when it comes to offering extras to advertisers. These may be in the form of extra plays of commercials and/or reduced rate charges, particularly during lower listening hours and seasons, as well as contests and other offers to listeners, merchandising items, public appearances by on-air personalities and on-site remote promotional broadcasts at special events.
Many stations are also willing to provide free airtime to broadcast public service announcements and community billboard items.
Television has wide market coverage and is capable of delivering highly dramatic visual impact and a memorable image, but it is also relatively expensive in terms of both commercial time, especially prime time, and production costs.
Since television reaches a broad audience and is quite expensive, it is critical, particularly with a limited budget, to purchase advertising time that will be seen by the majority of your target audience.
Cable television, with its increasing number of specialty channels aimed at sharply defined audiences, such as women, multicultural populations, sports fans and travelers, offers even greater opportunities to be selective when it comes to placement of your message.
Also, like radio, television does offer some opportunities for free publicity such as public service announcements (PSAs), particularly via such vehicles as community affairs programs, how-to shows and interviews.
Determine what your objectives are in having a newsletter and record them for ready future reference. An objective might include a need to provide a means of communicating regularly with members and keeping them informed about what the BIA is doing for them.
Identify your intended audience precisely. Who do you want to reach?
- Your fellow BIA members only
- Residents of the surrounding neighbourhood
- City councillors
- Others (specify)
Flavour your approach with the make-up of your audience(s) in mind then:
- Decide when and how often you will publish
- Establish your potential news sources
- Determine who will be responsible for gathering material, writing/editing and producing it
- Determine who will approve its content
Decide on design elements including:
- Number of pages
- Colour(s) of paper and types
- Format appearance
Decide on regular editorial features, if any, to be included in specific issue(s). These could include:
- Events in the BIA
- News from TABIA
- News from the BIA Office
- Decide on regular columns to cover items such as: Issues that concern BIA members
- Answers to questions about the BIA
- Brief history of the BIA
- List of Board of Management members and how to contact them
- Call for volunteers
- Welcome to new members
- Request for input from readers
Decide on a method of distribution:
- Mail, postal walk, hand-delivery, handout
- Encourage input from readers. Make it easy for them to respond by including a website, email address or telephone number
Producing a newsletter the easy way
Every BIA needs to communicate regularly and frequently to all its members, and in certain instances, to other individuals and groups, such as politicians and neighbourhood residents’ organizations. A newsletter is an effective means of doing so on an ongoing basis.
The following nine areas represent commonly used section headings in BIA newsletters that help create an informative, well organized and attractive newsletter.
The top of the first page of the newsletter, called the masthead, should include the following information:
- The name of your BIA
- The name you choose to call your newsletter, for example, The BIA Reporter, or BIA Neighbourhood News
- A slogan or brief theme line you may wish to add as a subheading, to describe what the newsletter’s objectives are and who its intended audience is
- The number of the current issue and volume of the newsletter
- The date or month and year of the issue
2. Board of management
A narrow column extending down the left of the front page is a suitable prominent place to list your BIA’s board of management. This only needs to be updated when there’s a change on your board. It should appear in every issue and should include:
- Each board member’s name
- Name of business
- Business or property address
- Business phone number
- BIA email address
- BIA website URL
- Fax number (if applicable)
3. Lead story
Your most important article should begin at the top of a wider column on the first page. You’ll need to provide a new story here for every issue.
The headline should be big, bold and interesting wherever possible, in order to attract attention.
The subject should be timely and of interest, importance and concern to your readers. For example, you may want to emphasize an upcoming BIA event or meeting, a new or expected development likely to affect members. Feature articles should run about 1,000 words. Remember to include information that should answer the key reader’s questions by keeping in mind journalism’s five Ws and one H when writing an article: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.
4. Secondary articles
Additional articles may follow your lead story on a variety of subjects, such as a successful recent BIA event or happening. Such an article should emphasize positive results, and all who contributed significantly to the success of the activity should be named and thanked.
5. Welcome new members
It’s a good idea to list the individual names, business names and/or property addresses of any new members who have moved into the BIA since the last newsletter was published. It helps them become known to their fellow members and makes them feel part of the BIA.
6. News from TABIA
The information for this feature can be supplied on a regular basis by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) and will consist of items of general interest to BIA members.
7. News from the City BIA Office
The City of Toronto BIA Office can provide new material for every issue.
A question-and-answer format is just one example of the kinds of informative material that can be regularly supplied to you by the City BIA Office. Subjects could include:
- Current issues likely to affect BIA members
- Upcoming events and activities of interest to members
8. Call for volunteers
An appeal for volunteers to help carry out your BIA’s program of activities should be included in every issue of your newsletter. You can change this copy as often as you like, or let it stand.
9. Solicit opinions
This feature, which you can title “Have your say” or “Tell us what you think” can be updated periodically, gives your readers a convenient opportunity to let you know what they think of the BIA and the job it is doing. You may also ask them for their suggestions on how to improve the BIA’s effectiveness. Include an email address or a handy reply form in the newsletter that can be quickly completed and passed along to any board member.