External events encompass any event that requires your members to engage with non-members and vendors. These can include performances, fund-raisers, and competitions. The best practices for event planning still reply and bear repeating:
Successful events have three elements in common:
1. The event has an actionable objective and agenda.
2. The event has a specified start and end time.
3. The necessary event logistics are planned and accounted for. Contingency plans for vital steps are in place.
However, there is one key difference between an internal event and an external event.
Internal events are self-contained. Most of them do not require significant planning or investment of resources. External events, on the other hand, often affect your organization’s reputation and ability to operate. Therefore, there’s one final element to consider:
What checkpoints are needed to assess whether an event is a go or a no-go?
Checkpoints are vital, especially for large and complex projects. Team members will often become heavily invested in a project and will strongly resist any suggestion that it’s headed toward failure. These checkpoints need to be agreed upon ahead of time and adhered to. One of the most famous incidents of ignoring checkpoints was documented in the book Into Thin Air which chronicles the true story of a group of climbers who died trying to summit Mount Everest. These climbers had set a turn back time at which point they were supposed to return to camp regardless of how far they had climbed up the mountain. This safety measure was ignored with fatal consequences. While you likely will not be dealing with such dire situations, you will be holding events that are important to the future of your organization. Obeying checkpoints may save you from a potential disaster.
Unlike internal events which generally center on continuing operations or one-off decision making, external events tend to have very specific goals. For fund-raisers and performances, identify the amount of money you need to raise and/or the number of audience members you want to accommodate. For competitions, consider the results that you’d like to achieve. Think about the necessary logistics that need to be in place to make the event possible and the rigor of internal meetings required to achieve success for this external event. Now that external parties are involved, consider the following questions:
1. Do these parties have specific goals or agendas of their own? 2. How do these goals and agendas play into how you plan for your event? 3. When dealing with an external party, what is the nature of your relationship with that party?
4. Does that influence how you interact with them?