festival event planning

11 Steps to Successful Festival Event Planning: Part One

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The functions and tasks involved may seem overwhelming when starting the festival event planning process. As a festival planner, not only must you deal with all the various logistical issues involved with festival production, but you must also anticipate and plan for many contingencies and adverse incidents.

Part One of this two-part article discusses the event planning steps that take place early in the process of organizing a festival.

Do I have the right venue? How do I get people to come?  Is there enough parking available? How do I prevent the festival event planning budget from blowing up? Am I booking the right talent? Do I have enough portable toilets? Am I prepared to handle emergencies? What kind of festival insurance should I have? The list goes on and on.

These questions may seem overwhelming if you’re just starting out as a festival planner. But if you break down each step of the planning process by level—from strategy and organizational goals to logistical details—you’ll find that festival production boils down into a set of manageable steps. Let’s consider the following 12 festival event planning and production steps.

Festival Production Begins with a Plan

Whether you turn to festival production companies to help you with planning a music festival or decide to do your festival event planning yourself, you should have a strategic plan to guide you through the festival event planning process. This plan will guide you through the festival planning process. It contains the why, what, and who. It may also contain the when and where, but not always early in the festival event planning process. The festival strategic plan constitutes the first steps discussed below.

Determine Your Festival Goals, Objectives, and Theme

festival goalsThe first step in festival production is to determine your goals and objectives. While they are often used interchangeably, they are different. Think of goals as the things we aspire to and objectives as the measurable steps we will take to get to the goals.

Why are you having the festival in the first place? What are you trying to achieve if it’s successful? What is the purpose of your event? Are you trying to reach a specific demographic, or are there other key objectives that need to be met as well? What will you measure to know how successful it is? For a more in-depth in the first steps in festival production, check out our blog: 4 Proven First Steps in Festival Production.

Once you have answered these questions, you have direction as a festival planner and guardrails to keep you on track without losing your focus as the planning process progresses.

Another key element of your festival plan after the “why” is the “who.” To accomplish your goals and objectives, you will want specific people to attend it. These segments of the population will be your target markets.

Whom do you want to attend (and why)?

      • When does the event take place (and how long does it last)?
      • Where will people come from (or go) during this time?

To stay within your budget while still making sure that everything runs smoothly at the end of the day, there are several things we recommend doing:

Understand Your Target Audience

festival event planningThe audiences you target to attend the festival is a basic issue of your event. You must first determine whom to target to accomplish your goals. You will need to design the entertainment, ticket pricing, and activities of the festival to appeal to your target markets. To do that you will need to do the research necessary to understand the segments of the population you hope to attract. The more you know about the audience you want, the better you will be at attracting them to your festival.

If you do the research needed for effective planning, you will divide your target markets into groups that you can focus on as you promote your festival. These groups are called segments in the marketing industry and are based on demographic, psychographic or geographic traits. While there are other ways to segment, these three are what TSE recommends for festival event planning purposes.

Demographic segmentation is based on attributes such as age, gender, income level, education level, race, family size, etc. It’s the simplest and most common form of segmentation used in marketing.

Psychographic segmentation considers the psychological profile of consumer behavior based on things like lifestyle, values, opinions, interests, and other personality traits.

Geographic segmentation is used to target people who live in or visit/shop at a particular geographic location. It’s usually based on region, state, city, climate zone, or zip code.

If your goal is to bring an art festival targeted at families, you will need to know the demographics of those who would be interested in such a festival. You will need to determine the segment(s) of the population who would be interested in an arts festival. You would also want to understand the geographic area from which families are likely to travel to attend it given the associated activities provided as part of the festival experience.

If you are targeting families, then you will need to provide activities for both adults and children. After all, we all know that young children may not appreciate an art exhibit, but they do appreciate face painting, storytelling, and games.

Start with a Thorough Budget

festival event budgetYou need to create an initial budget for festival planning.  Your festival event planning budget should be realistic in terms of expenses and sources of income to cover the expenses.

Whether you act as the festival planner or if you employ one of several festival production companies, you need a comprehensive budget template that reflects all the potential expenses involved in putting on a festival. It should also include categories for generating income to offset those expenses. Examples of income categories include ticket sales, sponsorships, exhibitors, food & beverage sales, donations, etc. Thankfully, there are many festival production budget templates out there on the Internet.

You must recognize that most new festivals lose money until they become well-established with a good brand. It’s important from day one to start by asking yourself if you have enough available funds to start a festival until your festival’s income streams start to generate the funds needed for the event. Your plan should be realistic in terms of how long it will take your festival to break even and start generating a return to the festival organizers.

Your festival plan and budget should be updated continually as you move forward in the planning process and discover things that impact them.

Determine the Location

event planning servicesLocation is an important decision as part of the festival event planning process. Where do you want to hold your festival? Do you want it to be near a city, in the middle of nowhere, or somewhere in between? You’ll need to consider many factors before making this decision, such as accessibility, attendance, cost, and convenience. You may want to consider other factors such as parking availability and staff capacity if there is more than one stage at your event. Make sure that everyone can get where they need to go easily. Be sure that the location fits your target audience, or you will end up with a neat place but very few attendees.

Obtain Proper Permits, Licenses, And Environmental Permissions

festival permitPart of selecting a festival site is determining the issues involved in using it. Once you identify a couple of potential sites, you will need to check with local authorities to determine what jurisdictions are involved and what requirements and permits are needed to use that site as a festival venue.  There is a lot more to hosting a festival at a site than just the rent issues. Your festival event planning process requires you to understand all of the issues involved with using a certain site for a festival.

Urban street festivals involve even more permits and issues.  You will need to obtain proper permits and licenses that are required by law from all jurisdictions involved. This includes environmental permissions, such as ones for noise reduction, waste management, and air quality control measures. You should also investigate any laws related to public health (e.g., food safety), drug use/consumption/possessions (including alcohol), and other safety issues as well as street closure – traffic flow regulations when necessary.

Festival Event Planning is a Process

Once you have these first five steps in the festival event planning process completed, you can then move on to the more operational planning steps that need to be taken to enable your festival to take place as you want. A successful festival is one that is planned well, with how every anticipated contingency will be handled as part of the plan.

Part Two of this article will cover the more practical sides of planning a festival entertainment event.

Remember, you can take the work and unknowns out of the festival planning process, by using a company like TSE Entertainment to plan, manage, and produce your festival. With our 47 years of experience, we know how to plan for a great event.

Related Posts:

Event Planning: Key Festival Audience Engagement Ideas

Planning a Festival: Use a Good Timeline

About the author

Picture of Sara Harmouch

Sara Harmouch

Sara always believed that music has a magical power to reach people in ways that nothing else can. Her passion for music and its business inspired her to pursue a career in the music industry. She recently graduated from Berklee Online with a degree in music business and is thrilled to apply her learnings and experience in music marketing at TSE entertainment.
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