Here we consider the things you’ll need to be aware of as the festival approaches and during the event itself.
Information for new and existing festivals
Just Before the Festival
In the week or so before the festival, you have time to make sure everything is in place and to make any last-minute changes if you need to. Also take the time to check through your plan and make sure everything is in place.
Make sure all leaders walk their routes a week before the festival. This will identify any problems and give you time to do something about it. At the same time, leaders should complete their detailed risk assessments.
Make sure your sponsors know what is happening and give them the opportunity to attend any events you are holding during the festival.
Hold a briefing session for your organising team and walk leaders to make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and to help build a team spirit. Make sure other people in the town know about the forthcoming festival – businesses, information centres, etc.
It’s important to have a focus for the festival where participants can ask questions. This could also become a social hub – so locate it in a place with refreshments and a place to sit.
You’ll need a place for participants to register for their walks and where you can give them any participant information of pack you might have produced – this might contain:
- A welcome letter
- Confirmation of the walks and events booked
- Information on the local area, local businesses, etc.
- Any gifts you might want to provide (e.g. a festival t-shirt or some local produce)
Some participants will want to change their bookings and some people might just turn up with the hope that they can book, so you should have the capacity to make and change bookings at registration. It also gives you an opportunity to engage with participants and to sell any walks or events that still have places left.
Ideally you should have access to the interned here too as you might find participants make late changes online that you will need to accommodate, especially if you are using one of the online promotion/booking options, such as Eventbrite
Running the walks
On the day of each walk, check the conditions (weather, flow in any rivers that need crossing, etc.) and take a view on whether or not to go ahead with the day’s programme.
Have a system for leaders to check in and out at the start and end of each walk (subject to mobile coverage).
You’ll need a system for dealing with problems. Things will go wrong, however well you plan and prepare. If you have the resources, have a small team of people with cars and, ideally, mobile phones from several networks, available as trouble shooters. This team should be familiar with the walks, terrain and local services and be able to react to problems reported by leaders or the registration desk.
Winchcombe Walking Festival gives all leaders a crib card with checklists of what to do in advance and on the day. This includes information on what to do in an emergency.
Walk leader note card (Winchcomb Walking Festival)
As organiser, it’s important that you are aware of what’s happening at all times. Set up an operations centre, ideally at the registration point/hub and have a system for collecting and displaying all information from leaders and others.
You can often get around mobile signal problems by sharing numbers from different networks. However, if this doesn’t work, or if you have black spots, you could hire a radio system for the duration of the festival.
The festival is a great opportunity to collect information from participants. You can do this in a number of ways, as follows:
- Include a feedback form in participants’ welcome packs and encourage them or give them an incentive to complete it and hand it in before they leave
- Provide feedback forms after each event, ask participants to complete them and hand them back to the leader before they disperse
- Conduct telephone interviews with participants shortly after the event
- Take every opportunity to speak to participants and encourage member of the organising team and leaders to do the same to collect anecdotal information
- Take email addresses and undertake a survey through Survey Monkey
If you are asking questions, make sure you collect information on how much people spent during the festival and information to help with your marketing, such as their preferences for different kinds of walks, length of festival, etc.
Think about other information you could collect. Many festivals ask participants to send images of the festival and the Islands of Barrow Festival holds an annual photo competition, with participants waiving their copyright as part of the process.
Case study examples
The organisers of Winchcombe Walking Festival hold a briefing session in the village pub the night before the festival. Making the briefing into a social event encourages all involved to attend and people are able to meet informally to discuss aspects of interest after the formal briefing.
Provide free tea and coffee at your ‘festival hub’ to encourage people to linger here. This way you get the chance to talk to participants and to learn what they like and dislike
Be prepared to cancel walks if the weather or other conditions are not suitable. It’s easier to deal with disappointed walkers that injured ones!