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Jan 25, 2021 8:19:36 AM by InitLive

The Complete Step-by-Step Festival Planning Guide

Here's what you need to know about festival planning.

A lot of work goes into planning a festival, from setting your goals to securing a workforce to making it all happen. In particular, this year will require even more planning and preparation to ensure that everyone has an amazing and safe experience at your festival. 

IntiLive has helped hundreds of event organizers manage their staff and volunteers, and we understand all the hard work that goes into planning an event. This step-by-step festival planning guide should act as a jumping-off point for you as you begin planning your next festival. 

Here is a quick look into what will be covered in this guide:

Addressing COVID-19 Public Health & Safety Considerations 

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on events around the world, but with the approval and distribution of vaccines, a light at the end of the tunnel is appearing. 

As you begin planning a festival, you must stay informed on what local public health officials require for health and safety protocols. Create an open line of communication with all the relevant health officials as you plan your event and consider going above and beyond minimum health requirements to ensure the safety of your staff, volunteers, attendees, and the general public. 

Step 1) Create concrete goals for your festival.

Before you start planning a festival, it is essential to set concrete goals for what success means for your festival this year. These goals should serve as a compass, providing you direction on what actions to take in your planning process to ensure success. Your goals should include both overarching objectives and key KPIs that are measurable. 

Here is a list of example goals to help guide you in your goal development process:

  • Book 5 headliners that are in the top 20 charts 
  • Become the premier summer event in the region 
  • Offer the most sustainable festival experience possible 
  • Implement above-and-beyond health and safety requirements
  • Increase social media engagement and media coverage 

Once you select your overarching aims, move on to nailing down specific goals with measurable KPIs. Take the following for example:

  • Increase ticket sales by 20% compared to last year
  • Reach 70% returning attendee from previous years 
  • Increase food and beverage sales by 35% 
  • Increase the number of performances by 20% 

Regardless of your festival goals, it is important to document them before you commence your planning process to ensure that everyone on the planning team has a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve this year. 

Step 2) Determine your festival’s budget.

Now that you have a clear understanding of your festival goals, it is time to start allocating a festival budget to make all those goals come true. There are a lot of moving parts of a festival that need to be considered and budgeted for in your festival planning. 

Here is a list of common budgetary line items that you should consider as you plan out your budget

  1. The venue or location rental cost 
  2. Talent or entertainment cost 
  3. Catering and associated logical costs  
  4. Sanitary facility costs 
  5. Staffing & volunteer management 
  6. Health and safety measures (cleaning, barriers, additional COVID-19 procedures required by health officials) 
  7. Equipment rentals 
  8. Security and local authority permits 

There is so much that goes into planning and executing a festival, and everything must be represented in your budget. Like anything else, it will be necessary to prioritize your budget spending based on your goals and the logistical requirements of running your festival successfully. 

Step 3) Secure a festival venue.

Now that you have determined your budget, it is time to get out there and secure your festival location or venue. A festival location or venue can really determine how the festival is perceived by attendees and performers, so it is vital that you pick a location that is accessible to your target demographic and fits with the experience you are trying to deliver. 

Finding the perfect location for your festival event isn't easy. In order to ensure your event is accessible to your target attendees and performers, consider the following: 

  • Is the venue accessible by public transit, and does it provide ample parking? 
  • Can your venue fit your current attendee numbers? Does it also have the capacity for your event to scale year over year? 
  • Does it have the required infrastructure like high voltage capacity? 
  • Will you be able to bring in all the required vendors and equipment to the venue?

Once you have found that perfect venue, you need to set a date, sign a contract, stay within budget, and make payments. Don't forget you also have to secure the necessary licenses and permits to hold the festival (think zoning and parking). 

Step 4)  Book your festival’s lineup and vendors.

Now it's time for that all-important lineup and vendor planning. These decisions will determine what kind of experience your attendees will have at your festival, so it is crucial to get it right. Festival Line Up

Before you even begin making calls, you need to determine your key attendee demographics and what would motivate them to attend your event. Booking a hip-hop artist at a country music festival might be a waste of time and budget, so make sure you have a clear understanding of who you are planning for. 

Here is a quick list to help you kick start your line up booking: 

  • Create a list of desired performers and entertainment vendors.
  • Start booking artists and entertainment. 
  • Build a festival schedule and fill gaps with new innovative attractions and entertainment. 
  • Send artist and entertainment vendors the festival schedule and make edits as required.

Step 5) Build out your marketing plan for your festival.

Once you have your main entertainment and venue booked, it’s time to get to work on marketing your festival to your target audience. It is important to ensure you have a unique sales proposition in all your marketing messages. Basically, you should ensure you have a marketing hook that makes you stand out from your competition and inspire people to take action the right way so they don’t miss out. Once you have that core messaging nailed down, you can start planning out your marketing channel strategy.

In 2021, there are so many marketing channels to choose from and it's up to you to determine what channels are best to reach your target demographics. 

Here are a few channels to consider using for marketing your festival: 

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements - Data is king, and now you can really target PPC advertising to reach your desired audience. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; make sure to use a few PPC channels like social media and Google. This allows you to do some testing to determine which channel is best for your festival. 
  • Social media campaigns - Create hashtags and offer ticket contests and giveaways when users share your content; this is low cost and high reward when executed effectively. 
  • Influencer sponsorships and giveaways - This marketing tactic can cause a lot of eye-rolling, but if you select influencers who have your target audience as followers, one post can bring in a lot of ticket sales. 
  • Local media - Contact local press, radio stations, and local organizations, and extend your giveaway and paid promotion to these channels. Those who are local will be more likely to buy tickets for your festival. 
  • Email marketing - It might be old fashioned, but it works. Reach out to your existing contacts from previous years and offer them exclusive ticket deals and giveaways to get them excited for your event.

Once you have a planned marketing strategy, it's time to figure out your campaign launch lengths and launch dates. However, you choose to market your festival, make sure it lines up with your event’s goals. 

Step 6) Coordinate volunteers and on-site staff for your festival. 

No event can take place without a committed team of event staff and volunteers. It is absolutely crucial to any event’s success that they can staff their event properly and for many events, which means using volunteers to get the job done. 

To recruit volunteers for your event, you need to create a volunteer management strategy, and in order to effectively and efficiently create and execute a successful event volunteer management strategy, consider investing in a volunteer management solution built for events. InitLive’s volunteer management solution will ensure you and your volunteers are equipped with everything needed to succeed. 

Here are some core components of a successful volunteer management strategy: 

  1. Determine your staffing needs - What specific tasks need to be completed to set your festival up for success? How many volunteers do you need to complete those tasks? 

  2. Create detailed volunteer role descriptions - Define the various roles or duties volunteers will need to perform to help ensure your festival is well-staffed, clean, and safe. 

  3. Create your volunteer schedule - Determine when, where, and what you need volunteers to do leading up to, during, and after your event. Then build out a volunteer schedule with shift and volunteer roles that need to be filled. 

  4. Post public shift opportunities right on your event website’s volunteer page and promote them through your marketing channels. Volunteers can view and sign up directly for the shifts they want, reducing any additional administrative work for your team. 

  5. Equip your volunteer with the mobile app - Provide your team with quick access to their personal schedules, event maps, and a direct communication tool to ask questions and receive updates from festival coordinators. 

In order to effectively and efficiently create and execute a successful event volunteer management strategy in your festival planning, consider investing in a volunteer management solution built for events. InitLive’s volunteer management solution will ensure you and your volunteers are equipped with everything needed to succeed. 

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Step 7) Fully plan out your festival’s schedule.

Now that your talent is all booked and your staff and volunteers are secured, it’s time to look at the event schedule, logistics, and all the details that come with it. Nailing your event schedule is an integral part of ensuring your attendees have a great experience while guaranteeing your food vendors and staff can keep up with everything.  

While you start drafting up your festival schedule, make sure to consider how people will move from activity to performance and how to ensure people can do so safely. Event safety is a core component when considering your event schedule and logistics. Festivals don't need any surprises when it comes to logistics. 

Post an online and many print maps of the site around your event. The map should mark all parking areas, restroom facilities, eating areas, and emergency exits. Have an emergency plan clearly mapped out as well, along with evacuation routes, emergency procedures, and safety instructions. 

Your schedule can be used in your marketing efforts as well to make sure you get it up on your event website and social media. Your event schedule will give people a detailed look at how great your event will be. 


Step 8) Watch your festival planning pay off on event day. 

There is nothing more rewarding than watching all that festival planning and preparation pay offer. However, there are always last-minute things that come up leading up to the event and on the day itself. You should try and plan for those last-minute issues as well. 

As part of your festival planning checklist, here are few last-minute tasks to expect and plan for: 

  1. Equipment reallocation - Be ready to move barriers, tech equipment, and even tents in the days leading up to the event. You need to be ready to adjust your festival plans for new requirements like weather, changing security concerns, and unexpected circumstances. 

  2. Staff scheduling issues and no-shows - Make sure to overstaff your team and have a tool that allows you to monitor staff and volunteer attendance, so you can reallocate human resources when people don’t show up or if things get busy.

  3. Ensure security staff members are briefed - Brief your security staff on the security measures and what to check for at the check-in point.

Remain flexible and overprepared for whatever circumstance comes your way. With good festival planning, your event should go off without a hitch. 

Bonus: How InitLive Can Simplify Festival Planning

Streamline your event staff management operations and increase your capacity to scale up your event operations through InitLive. Our all-in-one event staff and volunteer management software allows you to reduce your administrative time and increase your ability to manage a growing team of event staff.

InitLive’s all-in-one solution allows event producers to: 

  • Recruit an exceptional team through a customizable online registration form and roster your team based on skills, qualifications, and availability in half the time.

  • Set up your schedule and make changes fast with InitLive’s event staff scheduling software using the web or mobile app. That way, you can make sure your event is always appropriately staffed.

  • Support and manage your team from anywhere. No matter where you are, the InitLive event day app keeps managers and staff connected, informed & empowered to act quickly.

  • Manage your event staff data your way with the most flexible and user-friendly event staff management software on the market. 

InitLive has helped hundreds of organizations streamline their volunteer management process so they can focus on meeting their goals. To learn more about InitLive’s solution, click here to watch a demo.

Conclusion and Additional Resources

Now that you have a better understanding of what it takes to plan a successful festival event, start setting your goals and planning your future event. Remember to develop a clear vision as a guide, which will ensure you stay on track and deliver the exceptional event experience you are striving for. 

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Don’t forget that your event staff and volunteers are a vital puzzle piece for your festival. If you are looking to learn more about volunteer management and engagement, check out the below blog posts: 


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