Event Planning Guide

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This document is meant to serve as a guideline for helping you structure your proposals for the planning stages. Public events a way to raise consciousness around a specific issue, cause discussion of possible solutions, broadcast opposition to a government or corporate policy, or win new recruits.


Here are some basic guidelines:

  1. What are our goals for this event?
  2. Why are you doing it?
  3. Who is it for?
  4. Where is it?
  5. When is it?
  6. Getting a permit?
  7. Outreach/Publicity avenues?
  8. What/whom do you wish to focus public attention?
  9. What aspect of your issue do you want to highlight?
  10. How many volunteers will be needed to fill roles?
  11. How much support do you already have?
  12. Is there an organization willing to co-sponsor the event?
  13. How much time should be allotted?
  14. Do you have/need filler activities?
  15. Do you have a specific issue you are targeting?
  16. Do you have any factual information to share re: issue?
  17. Make a list of everything that will need to be done:
  • Reserving rooms
  • Planning the time frame your event will take
  • Making food
  • Getting decorations and other supplies
  • Making banners and information flyers
  • Compile Facts for education and publicity

Event Types

What type of event do you want to have?

Outdoor rallies

All you need to organize a rally is a few people who have something meaningful to say, and a microphone. Rallies work best if you can mix substantive speeches with music and participatory exercises to loosen up the crowd (“What do we want?” “Health Care” “When do we want it?” “Now!”). You can schedule and advertise several speakers in advance, then follow with an open-mic discussion, or you can just stick with one speaker schedule. Remember to circulate and to announce it ahead of time more than once!

Informational Pickets

Informational Pickets can be used to keep an issue in the news and to reach out to people involved in a particular institution or business (e.g., picketing outside of a bank will enable you to talk to the employees and customers). All you need is a dozen or more participants with signs and leaflets, who are willing to walk in circles for an hour, two hours, or all day. Hold signs, pass out literature, but most of all, talk to passerby in a nonthreatening and informative way. Be persistent, regular, and creative, to keep the boycott target off-balance and pressured.

Panel discussions / Speakers

Panel Discussions are excellent ways to generate dialogue around a specific issue. A panel discussion is typically a series of invited speakers who each make 5-10 minute presentations on a topic, then take questions from each other and the audience. It is important for panel discussions to be well-framed and topical. Invite professors, speakers from local organizations, and prominent local activists.

Awareness Fairs

Fairs are a dynamic tool to increase awareness. Through screenings, exhibits, demonstrations and activities, people can be led to make positive behavior changes. Fairs are held at businesses, churches, schools or other public locations, and can last a day or a weekend. Planning for these events takes a substantial investment of time and money. However, a well-planned fair can have a lasting impact on your community.

Benefit concerts

Try to get everything donated: performance space, sound equipment, bands, food. If a club owner or musician is reluctant to donate an evening, then rap with them about the important work that you are doing and how social justice groups can’t function without money. Tell them that it’s what they can do for the movement, which is the truth. Afterwards, thank the bands and owners, and offer to take them out to dinner so they will be receptive to working with you in the future. During the show, be sure to schedule short and punchy political speeches while the bands are setting up, and remember that people are there to have fun.

Film showings

Film Showings are excellent ways to educate current activists and to recruit uninvolved spectators. Show political documentaries or feature films with a socially-conscious theme. You can also order pizza or have light refreshments and invite people to stay after the film to discuss it.


  1. Reserve rooms and get permits well in advance; make sure that speakers know what they will be speaking on; arrange transportation for participants. Ask other organizations to endorse the event or help to organize it. This will build support for your action and broaden its impact.
  2. Last minute preparation: What needs to be done on the day of the event? Make sure that a designated group of activists know what they need to do: calling the media, microphone, setup/ cleanup, literature/donation/ signup table, food, etc.
  3. Evaluation: It is important for the core organizers to sit down and engage in self-criticism: What did we do right? What could we do better? This will build the cohesiveness of your group and allow you to improve your public events over time.