|Junk in the Trunk, Downtown Rochester|
Our market is a growers-only market, meaning that everything sold at the Market must be grown or made by that vendor. We advertise it as "Fresh From Michigan" and that distinction helps to set us apart from other markets that have sprung up in our trade area over the past few years. Needless to say, the "flea market" concept didn't really feel like a good fit for our Market, so we never pursued it. But much like any interesting idea that comes our way, we file it away until the right time.
The structure of Junk in the Trunk was simple:
Step 1: Take over downtown parking lot
Step 2: Sell parking spaces to residents & businesses for $35 (or 2 for $50)
Step 3: Generate funds for our organization
So as I looked out on the event, I saw full spaces and a steady crowd. But what I was really seeing was opportunity. I've always believed that the best time to critique an event is while you are immersed in it. At no other time will you be as clear in your vision of what next year's event could be. So rather than hanging out in my shady spot at the Information Booth, I ventured into the hot sun with my favorite pad & paper and got to work. If you decide to try out my On-The-Spot Event Evaluation technique, make sure you have comfy shoes, a thick skin and follow these handy tips:
Take the time to talk to people. Ask the attendees how they are enjoying the event. Was there anything else they hoped to see at the event? Would they attend if the event was held again? Stop by your vendors and check in. How are their sales? Was the event what they expected? Inevitably, you'll hear some negative comments. It's easy to get discouraged and defensive. Don't. Stop, listen and cherry-pick the most valuable information to assist in your planning for the next year.
Dissect everything. I've planned nearly 1,000 events in my career so far, but that doesn't mean that my events are flawless. They can always be better. Look at signage, traffic flow, parking, amenities, ambiance, everything that goes into creating the event. Reflect on the advertising and PR that proceeded this event. Did you get media coverage? Was the event media worthy?
Lightning doesn't always strike. There will be those events that are wildly successful from the moment they start. This is the exception, not the rule, so don't get frustrated if every event isn't a rollicking success the first time. On the other hand, tt should never be a given that an event will continue just because it had moderate success. Set some benchmark questions that need to be answered before committing to another year:
- Did the event meet your goals? (Increased foot traffic, ringing the register, fundraising, friend-building)
- Were able to execute the event within budget without cutting corners?
- Was it worth the time spent (planning & execution)?
The art of downtown event planning lies in the ability to design events that connect people with your place, creating memories and feelings that will last long after the event is over. It's never about the number of events, but rather the quality and distinctiveness of your events that contribute to the overall downtown experience you are striving to deliver every day.
The Downtown Geek