How to put on an Unwrapped event

What is an Unwrapped event and why should we organise one?

The London team at Friends of the Earth wanted to try an experiment – could an evening event with a focus on what people can do to tackle plastic pollution in their own lives bring in lots of new local activists to Friends of the Earth?

By picking the right venues, getting some great speakers on board and planning an agenda which gave people room to talk and share their lifestyle tips, the answer was yes!

We trialled events in Brixton and Camden in London. Both events were packed – 70 people came to the Camden event, all new to Friends of the Earth. Camden Friends of the Earth are now working with lots of these people on their own plastics campaign, and Plastic-Free Brixton is on its way to becoming a force to be reckoned with following these events.

So what could an ‘Unwrapped’ event do for your group?

If you can get people through the door, you can get them taking action. They could join your group, or you could support them to run their own campaign and bring them into the group at a later stage. And, if you’re trying to put some pressure on your local MP, council or businesses, this is an ideal opportunity to invite them along and get them on board.

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Planning your event

When planning your event, here’s 5 things you’ll want to consider to make sure it’s a success.

  1. Your objectives – what impact do you want to have and what do you want the event to achieve? Is it bringing in new members to your group, getting a local politician to take action? Nail this first and you’ll be able to plan the event much more easily.

  2. Your audience – who do you want to attract? Which venue you choose, the speakers you invite along and the agenda on the night will be shaped by who you want to get through the door. Is it younger or older people, an ethnically diverse mix, etc.

  3. Venue – when you know what you want to achieve and who you want to attract to your event, you’ll be able to think about where you want the event to take place. If you’re looking to get younger people along, think about the kinds of places nearby that they go to, and start researching some available venues with this in mind. Make sure the venue is accessible to everyone too.

  4. Speakers – people love an inspiring talk to get them warmed up, so have a think about who might appeal to your target audience. Friends of the Earth can always provide speakers, but if there is someone local who has done something plastic-related that might help pull in your audience then give them a try too.

  5. Plan your agenda – there is a sample agenda below, which you can tweak to make work for you. But when you’re planning your agenda, make sure you think of it with your target audience in mind, and allow plenty of space for them to talk to each other.

Promoting your event

Here are 5 simple steps to make sure loads of people hear about your event.

1) Tickets

It’s a good idea to use an online platform like Eventbrite, or our own version, Action Network, to create tickets for your event. By asking people to book online, you’ll get a better idea of how many people are likely to turn up, and you can send them follow up information afterwards.

Eventbrite is simple to use, or if you’d like to use Action Network, it’s even easier and our staff can guide you – just email actionnetwork@foe.co.uk for advice.

2) Graphics

When promoting the event, we found that using a striking logo really helped. Our creative team can help make some visuals for your event. Write to edward.burke@foe.co.uk if you’d like us to put something together for you.

3) Facebook

Facebook is a really useful promotion tool. Posting on local residents’ groups Facebook pages, or other local groups’ pages as well as your own can be really useful. We can help you promote on our own Facebook channel, and target people in your area with a paid promotion plan. This means we’d put up to £50 behind some adverts on Facebook and is a great way to make sure people hear about your event. A donation for this would be gratefully received if you have the funds to help.

4) Email

Email all your lists, and ask people to forward the email on to people who might be interested. Keep the email short and focused on what people will experience and get out of the event (e.g. a chance to hear from great speakers, get plastic-free living tips and meet like-minded people). Forward the email to any allies you have in the area from other local groups or people with email lists who can help spread the word. We can also email Friends of the Earth supporters in your area – write to edward.burke@foe.co.uk if you’d like us to do this.

5) Local businesses

It can help to ask local cafes and shops to help promote – they might put leaflets or posters in the window, and some might even tell their customers about it.

On the day

You’ve planned and promoted your event, and now you’re ready to go for it. here’s a checklist of things to remember and a template agenda to help make sure it’s a successful evening.

Checklist - things to remember

  1. Sign up sheet – have something for people to sign in on and leave their email address. This template is compliant with data protection law, so why not use this one?

  2. Flipchart paper and pens

  3. Blu-tak

  4. Leaflets, stickers, posters (order them from our website)

  5. Check the AV equipment (microphones, projectors etc) are working

A template agenda

Here’s a template agenda which you can use and adapt for your event.

Note: we have a box of plastic-free alternative materials you can use in the workshop section. So write to edward.burke@foe.co.uk if you’re planning an event and would like to borrow them.

And, if you’d like more detailed instructions for running the workshop sections please get in touch.

Following up – how to make the most of all the new people

This is the important bit, making sure all the new interest in your area is built upon to get more people involved with your group.

It’s a good idea to think this through as much as possible in the planning stages before the event.

It’s really useful to map out a journey for how you might get these new people involved. Here’s a 4 week plan that you could adapt:

Week one:

• Email everyone who came (you should have everyone’s email addresses in your sign in form), thanking them for coming and for their contributions. Give them another opportunity here to sign up to get involved, by replying to your email. Do this the day after the event or as soon as possible, while it’s all nice and fresh in their minds.

IMPORTANT: put everyone’s email addresses in the ‘BCC’ box when you’re emailing them – this means ‘blind carbon copy’ and stops the people you sent the email to seeing everyone else’s email address.

• Email all the people who signed up to get involved, asking them when they’re free to meet up and discuss what they want to do.

NOTE: you could invite them to your next local group meeting, or to another event or action instead, but we suggest meeting up with them separately from the rest of the local group at this stage. Joining an established local group is a bigger step than meeting up with others from the event, and it will feel newer and more exciting starting something afresh.

Week two:

• You might be ready to meet the new people this week or next week, so some preparation is needed. Think through what the ideal outcome of the meeting will be (people keen to be involved and with some ideas for what they want to do would be a good starting point) and how you might run the meeting to achieve it. Pick a friendly, accessible venue and think through some discussion starters which could get people talking.

Weeks three and four:

• You’ve hopefully had your initial meeting by now, and the group has come up with some ideas of what it wants to focus on. This is a good time to talk to the rest of your local group to tell them about the ideas and start working on the campaign together. You could invite the new people to your next local group meeting to talk about the ideas and start planning then out. Or it might make sense to have the new people’s campaign running alongside your local group’s and merge them over time – whatever makes the most sense to you and works best for the new people.

Good luck! And please get in touch if you need any support or guidance.

If you’re interested in hosting an Unwrapped event, write to edward.burke@foe.co.uk to get the ball rolling.