Planners seem confused on whether they need to provide programmes to their guests at events. Too often, expensive or time-consuming programmes are untouched while nearby, guests at another event are feeling like sheep needing to be corralled. Should you go to the trouble of providing event programmes? Ask yourself these questions to decide.

Is your event self-explanatory, or built on tradition?

If people already know what to expect out of your event, you may be wasting your time and potentially annoying your guests to provide programmes.

Do you have a keynote speaker, other special guests, or are you honouring one or more individuals?

Providing printed record and explanation of any honours or ceremonies is not only a great keepsake offer, but also ensures that you drive the point home and spend less time sweating at the microphone.

Are there moments in your itinerary that could confuse your guests?

If they need to know not to sing along, what room to enter, or why a crew is dismantling the display before the coffee has been passed around, you will want to provide at least some obvious explanation, if not a printed handbill.

Is the event taking place in the same venue/room throughout?

If you will not be asking your guests to move from dining to standing, or indoors to out, you may be able to lead the event without programs.

Do you need to provide directions, instructions, or other offers?

If you have a complicated interactive event, or there are opportunities to attend related events, you should provide programmes.

Did you sell advertising or sponsorships to raise funds?

You will most likely need to honour your sponsors in some fashion. Providing a programme ensures some guests will leave with this information in hand, making them more likely to visit sponsoring businesses.

Programmes are a wonderful way to provide information, but you also need to ensure they make their way into guests’ hands. Placing them by the door is almost a guarantee that no one will pick them up. When people are arriving at an event, they are usually hurried, excited, and checking out the other guests and maybe even the exits. Have someone hand-deliver programs, or put them next to food. An alternative is to provide table-toppers in the dining room, as this is one of the rare moments you have a captive and potentially relaxed (or even bored) audience. You can also craft signs for guest books or physical directions, but these can also be knocked down or missed.

It is important to avoid confusing guests, as confusion leads to frustration. However, make sure you and your team are not spending time and money creating programmes that will be unread.


Sarah Harbin has been planning and promoting non-profit fundraisers, art and cultural events for over ten years, and recently began planning personal events.
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