Festival of Museums – Event Planning 101

Part of the 'Festival of Museums - Plan it, Promote it, Achieve it!' series


Hello, I’m the event planner. I’m here to hopefully give you a few things to think about when it comes to planning your Festival of Museums event. Whilst I’m more used to planning conferences and symposiums there are a few basic planning elements that are the same no matter what your event. This blog also kicks off a series of Festival of Museums posts which aim to cover all the essentials you need to make your event a success.

“What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

Well Juliet might’ve been right but when it comes to events, names matter. Your event name is probably the first thing that’s going to catch someone’s eye so…

  • Try to use something that’s brief, fun and attractive to visitors
  • Try to make it unique and memorable
  • Finally, does it give people a sense of what your event is about?

 Your event description…

…Or in other words, a devilishly good description about your utterly amazing and totally extraordinary event that will completely blow the minds of your unsuspecting visitors leaving them astounded at the awesomeness of your museum!

In case you haven’t guessed yet, your event description is one of the most important things you’ll need to market your event. Your public facing event description should be engaging, lively and imaginative and it should give people a really good idea of what they can expect. Remember, your event will be listed on the Festival of Museums website along with over 100 other events so it has to stand out, simply listing your activities or giving a one sentence description isn’t going to cut it. Think about bringing each of the elements of your event to life to create a picture of the day that will capture the imagination of potential visitors. Don’t undersell yourselves but be careful to stick to the truth too.

Why? WHY?

Apart from simply wanting to be part of Festival of Museums, which is obviously a great reason, you also need to consider the purpose of your event, such as

  • Do you want to increase visitor figures?
  • Do you want to attract new audiences?
  • Do you want to raise funds for a particular cause?
  • Are you looking to turn participants into advocates for your museum?
  • Do you want to show off a particular part of your collection or building?
  • Do you just want to try something new?

Of course you can choose to have more than one purpose but if you do you should consider prioritising them so that you’re clear on what you’re trying to achieve. This will also influence your evaluation so consider how you can measure these things too.


So who do you think should be coming to your event? Having a clear vision of who your event is for is essential and should inform all the other areas of your event and marketing plan. Is it for adults only, kids only, families, school groups or everyone? Look out for our upcoming marketing blog which will go into more detail on identifying your audience.

It’s a date!

Ok, so we know that you need to hold your event within the Festival of Museums date range but there are still a couple of things to think about here. You still have a choice of 3 days so consider which day will work best for you and your intended audience. Also, have you checked whether there are any other events being held nearby on these dates? Whether these are Festival of Museums related or not you may want to consider whether you can work together to promote them. This could mean simply swapping flyers with another venue or you could look at creating a joint marketing plan. Again, our marketing and promotion blogs will have more info on how you can maximise your marketing potential.

Unique Selling Point

 “Everyone is looking for a unique selling point. Sometimes small touches make an amazing difference” Jim Hossack

 As the quote says, it doesn’t have to something huge but it is important to think about what will make your event stand out and why visitors will pick it over another event. Your USP will also be central to your marketing activity, here are a few suggestions –

  • Exclusive access to XXX collection which is not normally on show
  • Exclusive preview of an upcoming exhibition
  • A chance to handle objects from the collections
  • Behind the scenes access to the museum, this could include access to the museum after dark for evening events
  • Do you have specific performers / artists (ie a chance to take part in a Viking battle re-enactment or a masterclass with an artist)

 Location, location, location

The majority of you will probably be holding your events on your museum site but…

  • Do you need a map of your site (either for staff or visitors) so that people know what’s happening where?
  • What is the capacity of the space you’re using? This can apply to both indoor and outdoor events.
  • How accessible is your location, this can be particularly important if you’re planning an evening event, for example, if public transport stops at a certain time then you may be limiting your audience.
  • Do you need any additional equipment eg, a PA system, presentation facilities, microphones, staging etc?
  • Do you need to inform the local police?
  • Do you need any additional licences from your local council?

It’s also important to think about the visitor’s journey through your event, does it make sense? Are there any sticking points? If you’ve got a particularly complicated event, try walking it through to identify any issues that might affect the visitors experience.

 There’s no business like show business!

And if you’re using the services of performers, artists or caterers at your event, there are a few key elements to cover –

  • Ensure you have written confirmation (or even better, a contract) in place prior to the event.
  • Ensure you have given them key information including arrival time, who their main contact on the day is and who to contact in case of an emergency.
  • Have you checked whether they need any specific equipment that you don’t have onsite?
  • Do you need any additional insurance for performers or licensing if you’re planning on serving alcohol? (If you’re unsure whether you need this or not Senscot Legal can provide affordable legal advice to social enterprises, charities, community and voluntary organisations, and the wider third sector in Scotland or your local council should be able to advise you.)

Risk Management

 “Sense and deal with problems in their smallest state, before they grow bigger and become fatal”  Pearl Zhu

Even the most carefully planned events don’t usually run without a hitch so it’s best to be prepared. Consider each element of your event and think about what could go wrong and how to deal with it –

  • What if a performer/caterer fails to show or is late?
  • What do you do if weather conditions prevent your outdoor event from going ahead?
  • What if you have technical difficulties with equipment?

These are just a couple of things that could go wrong but ensuring that you have a plan to deal with each item on your own list will mean that you’re able to deal with them efficiently and effectively should they arise on the day.

That’s a wrap

Hopefully this has been a useful introduction to event planning and you’ve found a few useful tips along the way. The eagle eyed among you might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned anything about budgeting, ticketing or sponsorship. Don’t worry we haven’t forgotten about these but, as they’re all pretty important we’ve given them their own dedicated blog post which will be coming soon.

Keep up to date with all the festival fun by signing up to receive the Festival of Museums ebulletin, follow us on twitter @FestofMuseums or check our webpage for updates.

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