Feature Article - March 2008
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The Main Event

Pulling It Off Without a Hitch

By Kelli Anderson

The survey says...!

According to McShane, a large part of their event's success can also be attributed to knowing what people want.

"We know because we survey constantly," she explained. "It's a big thing—I can't say enough. Parks just don't do enough nationwide. It's as easy as taking ZIP codes to look into census information. From the data we can determine the demographic."

Knowing the ages of those who attend and their economic status and cultural background are good predictors of what events will most likely appeal to those in the surrounding areas.

Furthermore, asking questions on surveys like what people would like to see more of, or asking how an event can do better, provides the feedback needed to keep an event moving in the right direction. Surveying before, during and after provides different but useful information.

McShane also uses software to do queries that break down demographics to learn more useful information like how certain groups find out about them or where these groups are looking for entertainment ideas.

"It's not about being a nonprofit anymore," McShane explained. "You really have to work at it."

However, knowing whether or not you have a bona fide success on your hands takes time. "In our experience it takes between three to five years for an event to grow and to decide if it's worth it," Gaines said. "You have to assess it. Some do go by the wayside. It's a constant juggling act."