How to organize an OTF Recognition Event: Planning tips

Event timetable

The planning example shown here uses a one-month time frame for a complex event. Give yourself a reasonable amount of planning time for the type of event you are doing and the resources available. A major event could take as long as six months to a year to plan and implement.

One month before


  • What is the goal of the event?
  • Who should know about this good news? (key audiences)
  • How many people will participate? Who should they be? (speakers, master of ceremonies, performers, etc)
  • How will your audience be advised of the event? (website, social media, formal invitation, flyers, email, local media, media advisory)
  • What kinds of resources will you need? (audio-visual, microphones, podiums, etc)
  • Will you serve food or refreshments?
  • What is your budget?
  • Book the room or event location (based on estimated numbers and setup needs)
  • Consider the accessibility of your site, the need for special transportation or parking arrangements for guests and participants with special needs
  • Prepare invitation mailing lists (guests, participants, media)
  • Write promotional materials (invitations, posters, flyers, brochures, media advisories, etc)
  • Consider inviting media and guests to tour your program, project or service before or after the event
  • * If your event is outdoors, do you have a contingency plan for bad weather?

Invite or notify OTF

  • Call your OTF Public Relations Associate to discuss your ideas and any protocol requirements
  • Confirm date, time and location of event with participants
  • Invite special guests: Minister or local MPP, community leaders, celebrities, etc.
  • Call to discuss the availability of these special participants and to determine if they are able to be part of your event. You may have to adjust the date or time to suit their schedules. This is also a good time to ask about any protocols to follow, i.e. how to address them, etc.

Involve your organization

  • Designate an event Master of Ceremonies (MC). If your organization's leader is speaking, you may wish to have another person act as the host/MC
  • Have volunteers act as greeters or hosts for special guests during the event
  • Appoint someone to liaise with MPP's staff, media or keynote speaker, at the event
  • Assign someone to take candid photographs and document these special moments
  • Prepare media advisory and media release
  • Provide drafts of your advisory to participants to get their input and approval. Remember to include the OTF acknowledgement tagline. Your OTF Public Relations Associate can review your materials with you
  • Prepare agenda and speakers list
  • Distribute the agenda and list to participants in advance. Your agenda should describe all of the events in your program, including the names, titles, the order and estimated speaking time for each speaker and other participants such as the MC
  • Create an audience to support your speakers
    An audience creates a celebratory mood and helps your speakers deliver the good news with greater energy and enthusiasm. Audiences could include staff, volunteers or clients and their families

Two weeks before


  • Finalize program, activities, agenda
  • Invite an audience to be part of your event (volunteers, members, staff, clients or family members of these groups)
  • Confirm arrangements with speakers and guests (date, time, location, parking, accessibility information, style of dress) directions, event tickets, parking pass and other materials
  • Request that speakers arrive about 15 minutes early so they can be escorted to where they are needed - with time to relax and meet other participants. Assign a host to greet them
  • Prepare day-of-event materials - (agenda, name tags, media release, factsheets)
  • Prepare your detailed media distribution list
  • Arrange refreshments, audio-visual equipment, flowers, plants, giveaway items, banners, podiums, microphone, parking, etc.
  • Appoint an individual from your group to act as media liaison at the event

One week before

  • Issue your media advisory by email, then follow-up by telephone to see who is planning to attend. Ask your contacts if anyone else at that media outlet should also be on your list. Post the advisory to your website and social media tools.
  • Send a detailed event agenda first to your OTF Public Relations Associate for review. After that, it can go to all of the speakers - with names and titles of the host/MC, speakers and non-speaking special guests. Include any other information that will make your guests' participation easier, such as:
    • Maps/directions to the site - include accessibility details, room number, building name etc;
    • Parking location(s) and parking passes (if needed);
    • The name and phone number (cell) of an on-site contact who can be called in case of emergency (like the need to cancel unexpectedly);
    • Name of person who will greet them and directions to a specific, easy-to-find location where they will be met;
    • Tickets, name badges
  • Call special guests, celebrities, dignitaries, local heroes and OTF to confirm their attendance. If they have staff assisting them, review the event with the staff person and answer any questions.
  • Share your media advisory with event participants as an event reminder. Send by email, social media or old fashioned bulletin board) to increase awareness of the upcoming event and its importance to your organization, clients and your community.
  • Prepare speaking notes for your organization's speakers, as well as notes to help your MC handle introductions of speakers and other special guests.

The day before


  • Consider calling your media contacts one more time to secure their attendance (Caution: remember not to give the story away in advance of your event!)
  • Provide event information to your receptionist
  • Call your special guests - confirm receipt of agenda, speaking notes, etc
  • Confirm staff roles
  • Print and assemble a media kit


Call your contacts to confirm their attendance. Don't skip this follow-up call, as it significantly increases the likelihood of media coverage. It's a last chance to "pitch" your story, resend the media advisory and generate further interest in your event, perhaps with additional details that were not included in the advisory (any changes to the program, additional speakers, or attending experts or dignitaries, etc.)

Your organization:
Give the receptionist copies of the agenda and other pertinent information (location of event, map, contact person's name and phone numbers) so they can answer last minute general questions about the event if participants or media call.

Special guest host and media liaison:
Confirm that your media liaison and the staff you appointed as hosts for your special guests are prepared for the event.

Media materials:
Print copies of all media materials for your media kits. Ensure materials are adapted and ready to post online to websites or social media tools.

The Day of the Event


  • Set up registration table, media table and/or welcoming area
  • Make a guest book available for guests to sign
  • Alert security or reception to the arrival of journalists; ensure they know where to send them. If appropriate, provide a list of expected guests, including media
  • Check room set up
  • Check directional and organizational signage
  • Check that equipment works
  • Make sure all speakers and special guests are present and know the agenda
  • Monitor the program, make sure timelines are met

Set up a media table for sign-in and pick-up of media materials.
Hand out media materials to media contacts at the event. Arrange interviews as required.


In addition to formal shots, have your photographer take informal photos after the event is done - when people are relaxed and at ease.

A note about photo releases

  • Typically, you do not require a photo release to take or distribute photographs of adults who attend a media or public event. A photo release is also not necessary to use "news-style" photographs taken at public events.
  • Obtain a photo release when images of individuals may be used for future promotional or marketing products (brochures, posters, annual reports, etc.)
  • Ask parents to sign a photo release, in advance, for approval to take and use photographs of children. (86 kb word doc)
  • When sending photographs that include photos of young people under the age of 18 to your OTF Public Relations Associate, please include copies of release forms.

After the event


  • Distribute media kits as soon as possible to reporters who were unable to attend
  • Pack up and return all materials (banners, equipment, leftover print materials, etc.)
  • Send thank you notes to those who provided special services and, if appropriate, to other participants and guests
  • Acknowledge the contributions of volunteers and staff
  • Debrief appropriate members of your organization about the event
  • Prepare any post-event publicity (e.g. photos with the names of participants and descriptions about what they are doing)
  • Track and document media coverage - send copies to OTF


  • Email your media release to contacts unable to attend
  • Include a digital photo of the event, with a short caption explaining who is in the photo (with correct titles and spelling), what they are doing and why
  • Call them to ensure they have the information they need for their story; offer to set up interviews after the fact
  • Watch the media for coverage of your event. Send copies of your media clips and photos (include the names of people in the pictures, from left to right, and their role) to your OTF Public Relations Associate
  • Post photos and event summary to your website, social media sites or use in your newsletter