David Biggs ran several Fellows' networks across Kent until May 2012. He shares his tips and advice on the key to running a successful Fellows' event.
First you need an idea or a subject that will be focal point of the evening. This can be fully formed or just a basic idea to be refined as the available resources and directions become clearer. The basis of any activity should be realistic and have enough substance to lead to a successful event.
Take the Idea Forward
Approach the RSA Regional Programme Manager or the Regional Committee with your idea.
The Regional Programme Managers are always keen to promote local activity but they have limited resources and time so you should treat them as such. Approaching them with a vague idea that you expect that they will carry forward for you is unrealistic. If you approach them with more definite plans and one or two specific needs (to find a venue or if you need an introduction to a Fellow to speak on the subject in question) you will find them very accommodating.
The Regional committee may offer similar support but will also have a greater level of contact with Fellows in the region and will be able to advise you whether there would be any interest in your event or whether something similar has already been done.
The Fellowship has a lot of experience and enthusiasm which can help take your ideas to the next level.
Finalising the Details
You can always invite local Fellows to meet and discuss the idea prior to finalising the event so they can learn a little more about what you hope to achieve, and suggest possible ways the idea can be refined. If you do, then you must be prepared to have your idea questioned and accept possible new directions from the Fellows. The Fellowship has a lot of experience and enthusiasm which can help take your ideas to the next level.
Taking the Idea and Making it Happen
Once you know what you want to do and how you want to achieve it, next, are the practical steps needed to make it happen. You will need:
A speaker (speakers, or facilitator)
Venue - If there is already RSA activity in your area then talk to the Regional Programme Manager or the Regional Committee. They should be able to help find a suitable venue, in some cases this may be free of charge. If not local schools are always a good source of cheap spaces for hire.
A speaker – The local Fellows are always a good source for speakers and given the diversity of the Fellowship you are likely to find someone in the organisation who will be able to enhance your event. Personal connections are always more effective.
Funding – Funding to pay for the venue or the refreshments may be available from your Regional Committee. In some cases, the committee may be willing to pay initial room charges etc, on the understanding that a small entrance fee will be charged to the attending Fellows to repay this outlay. RSA events are not to be run for profit and if the Regional Committee are involved any entrance fees will be made payable directly to the committee.
Advertisement – RSA events are open to the general public. The easiest and most effective method of advertising available is for the Regional Programme Managers to organise email invitations (using your copy) to all of the Fellows on the membership list who live in the area of the event. They will also set up an eventbrite page for Fellows to book their places. If you wish to advertise this to a wider audience using whatever media is available, you can, although this will be at your own expense.
It is always best to start advertising an event 8 to 6 weeks prior to the event and depending on the response and scale of the event send out further reminders a couple of times to make sure everyone knows about it.
Refreshments – It is always advisable to have some light refreshments available either before or after the event to give Fellows a chance to chat and discuss what is happening. There is no need to provide too much, the focus of the evening should be the event not the food. You should consider the cost of the refreshments before you decide if and how much you are going to charge Fellows to attend.
Holding the Event
A week before, make sure the venue is booked the speaker is still coming along and, if you can, send a reminder to those who have booked places.
On the night, make sure you have a general timescale of when things should happen and try to stick to it. Make sure the Fellows know how to get there. Make sure you have someone to greet the Fellows as they arrive. You can have name badges ready, these can be a good way or knowing who has arrived and who hasn’t. You can ask Fellows to sign in and give their email addresses when they arrive; an easy way of starting more regular activity through a local email group about further events.
The Fellows are usually quite an interactive and involved bunch and as the evening progresses you should allow them some time to ask questions or discuss the idea further. If Fellows try to cut in before this time just politely remind them when the opportunity for them to speak will be.
You should take some time at the end of the event to summarise what has happened, particularly what you would like to happen after the event and who wants to be involved. If you do need help to move things forward this is your best opportunity to find it. Do not press the matter if you don’t get an immediate response you can always ask again when you send your group emails out to everyone. You can also use this as an opportunity to set the next meeting.
For more advice about running a successful event or if you want to find an event near you then get in touch with your RSA Regional Programme Manager.