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How to run a forum – Step 1

Plan

It takes time to plan a well-run event. Think about the kind of event you want. A larger forum (which needs greater promotion)? A one-off event? A series of more informal, smaller ‘community conversation’-type events? It’s important to ensure you are meeting a need in your community so that your event will be supported.

When setting the date, we recommend you allow 10 weeks preparation time prior to your event. It’s important to have a group of helpers/colleagues/committee members/friends to share the workload. If there are not a lot of hands to help you, you would be wise to keep the event smaller.

You might want to establish a checklist like the one below of the essential tasks that need to be completed in the 10 weeks to help you plan. (Items in this list are expanded on in subsequent steps.)

10 weeks out

  • Make contact with your local government agencies (e.g. council, police, local health district (LHD), etc.) to find out what support they may be able to provide.
  • Encourage involvement from experts and leaders in your community.
  • Find and book a suitable venue that will accommodate your audience, has access to the technology you need, is centrally located, and is accessible by public transport or has ample free parking available. It is recommended that you visit the potential venue(s) in advance to run through the details of your event with them and ensure the venue meets all your needs. (See also Step 3: Book a suitable venue.)
  • Check that the venue has public liability insurance. CDAT events can be covered by the Australian Drug Foundation’s insurance). CDATs will need to contact their Senior Community Development Officer (SCDO) for the latest version of the risk management guide and template that has been designed specifically for CDAT events. Once this is completed, Australian Drug Foundation (ADF) can provide a certificate of coverage.
  • Confirm that your selected event date is suitable – think about school and public holiday periods, other local community events, similar events that have been held in the area or close by, and when speakers are available.
  • Create an event flyer and running order. We have provided ADF templates as a guide (see Step 8: Use these resources/templates).

6 weeks out

  • A minimum of 6 weeks is recommended for promoting your event and generating your audience.
  • Approach possible speakers and panel members (such as your local AOD treatment services) and confirm their involvement and availability to present and to answer audience questions at your event. Think about who could be a good master of ceremonies (MC) for your event (see also Step 5: Find a suitable MC).
  • Make sure all your speakers have good content knowledge on ‘ice’, alcohol and other drugs and that they will stay ‘on message’ and that their message aligns with NSW Health’s Key Messages i.e. it will not inadvertently inflame the issue in the community. (This is particularly important when involving police, ambulance workers, politicians and the media.) You can send your speakers the ADF sample speaking notes to show the requested approach (see Step 8: Use these resources/templates).
  • Consider involving 2–3 expert speakers from:

– Local health district AOD and mental health services
– Local non-government AOD services
– Local Aboriginal health services
– NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS)
– NSW Ministry of Health
– NSW Police
– Australian Drug Foundation
– Local youth services
– Family Drug Support (FDS)
– NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA)

  • Start promotion of the event by sending out emails/invitations and setting up a free Eventbrite (or similar) page to track RSVPs and attendee details. This more formal approach encourages people to commit to attending. (For more details and help for setting up an Eventbrite event, please see video tutorials and help here.) (See Step 2: Seek local support.)
  • Order any resources you want for the audience at the event from ADF and/or Your Room. CDATs can ask their SCDO for help with this.
  • Book catering if you are planning to provide refreshments.

2 weeks out

  • Circulate the NSW Health crystalline methamphetamine Key Messages and the final running order to the relevant stakeholders. Emphasise the importance of sticking to these at the event. You can also send the ADF sample speaking notes (see Step 8: Use these resources/templates) to any expert speakers – these can be amended to fit your local area.
  • See how your attendee numbers are going (on Eventbrite or similar) and compare them with the seating availability at the venue.
  • Check that your resources have arrived and follow up if they haven’t.
  • Contact media and other supporters and ask them to promote the event and/or send reminders to their networks (see Step 7: Utilise the media).

1 week out

  • If catering is being provided, confirm final numbers with the caterer.
  • Check with your speakers to see if their presentations are ready so you can load them on to a USB stick and take it along on the day in case they forget theirs.

2 days out

  • Print all documentation required (including evaluation forms).
  • Have any resources and stationery on hand and packed.
  • Contact all suppliers (audio-visual, catering, venue, etc.) to ensure everything is in hand.
  • Ensure that the system you are using for event registration (Eventbrite or similar) is closed prior to the event day.
  • Check in and confirm final details of the event with your MC, speakers and panel members.
  • Prepare thank-you gifts.

Event day

  • Print final registrations from your registration system and adapt them to make a sign-in sheet.
  • Do a final check of all event documentation (running order, speaker notes, panel member contact details, etc.).
  • Pack your vehicle and ensure you arrive at the venue in time for set-up with your helper(s).
  • Check all technical elements with the venue (PowerPoint, laptop, speakers, microphones, etc.) and ensure everything is in working order.
  • Set up seating. Place any documents/evaluation forms/brochures, etc. on seats or have them available at the registration desk.
  • Ensure set-up is completed at least 15 minutes prior to scheduled guest arrival.
  • Keep an eye out for any media and introduce yourself.
  • Make sure attendees know if media is present and ensure that, if you are filming/taking photos, the audience is notified so they can choose to sit out of camera/lens view if they so desire.
  • Follow your running sheet and make sure the event runs to schedule and finishes on time. Encourage attendees who have further questions to stay on and ask their questions of speakers, but let them know it is important to finish on time.
  • Collect evaluation forms as attendees are leaving.
  • Pack up and account for all your supplies prior to departing.
  • Touch base with your venue contact prior to your departure.

After the event

  • Add any attendees who did not register but signed in at the event to the Excel spreadsheet that you exported from the registration system (e.g. Eventbrite) so you have a full list of attendees.
  • Send thank-you letters to key stakeholders, panel members, speakers, etc.
  • Send a thank-you email to attendees (as required and where you have email addresses).
  • Ensure invoices are paid in a timely manner.
  • We ask CDATs to complete an event report using the template provided (see Step 8: Use these resources/templates) and send compiled results from the evaluation forms and your completed event report to your SCDO.