Student Unions & Activities : University of Minnesota

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Goal Setting

Generate an Idea

Brainstorm ideas and start to get an idea of what kind of event you want to put on. Think of multiple ideas in case one does not pan out.

  • Think goals. What is the purpose or intent of this event? Who is the target audience?
  • Be creative and unique. What would be special about your program?
  • Brainstorm. Do not rule any idea out. Try brainstorming with groups of people.
  • Personalize. How are you showcasing the uniqueness about your group?
  • Use resources wisely. What other student groups, University departments or community groups can you partner with to strengthen your overall event and broaden your audience?

A few key questions to ask your group when event planning:

  • What goals do we have for our event? What are we hoping that people will take from the event?
  • Do we want our event to be educational, social or a combination of the two?
  • Do we want our event to focus on a certain topic? Are we providing for diversity of interests/points of view?
  • Do we want our event to be for group members only? Open to all University students? Open to the public?
  • When will our program have the best attendance or when is the best time to have our program?
  • What kind of funding do we need to make the event happen?
  • What kind of advertising do we need to make the event successful?
  • What will our timeline look like?
  • How many people (event planners and volunteers) do we need to make the event happen?
  • Does the event serve a need previously not met on campus?
  • Do we have the resources to make it happen?

Determining what goals you have for the event will help make the rest of the planning process simpler. Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely).
If your goals for your event include an educational component, think about your overall program design – what are the objectives for your program? What are your participants and attendees gaining from their experience? What do your participants need from you, as organizers, in order to meet those expectations? Successful educational programming is more than the topic and the presenters. The room design and layout, instruction medium, participant interaction and provided materials all add to attendee experience.

If your event is utilizing a large space, think about the room layout as you are determining your goals and objectives for the event. Keep in mind that you need to confirm what the capacity is for the space before you get too far into the event planning process. Adding in staging, tables for food, various seating elements, open space for performers – it all affects how many people the space can safely hold.

Effective event planning is ensuring you aren’t moving too quickly. You can’t determine your budget unless you know how many people to plan for (including ticket sale revenue). You can’t determine room capacity until you know more about your room/venue layout and needs. You can’t finalize your marketing plan until you know how many people you can safely invite.

Examples of student group events include:

  • Bringing one or several speakers to campus (for a lecture, presentation or panel discussion)
  • Community Service
  • Art show or fair
  • Organizing a lunch group/roundtable for people to exchange ideas
  • Celebrations of culture
  • Organizing a dance or concert
  • Fundraisers
  • Theatrical Play

Event Planning Timeline... At A Glance

Three Months Prior

  • Start with a Checklist to guide all of your planning
  • Set Funding plans: create event budget and verify your funding timelines and deadlines (See Student Group Resources)
  • Contact your performer or vendor (if applicable) and schedule the performance date
  • Reserve event space: see Logistics and Working with Venue Reservations Staff for information about successful reservation timelines
  • Create/Execute marketing plan with detailed tactics for promoting the event to reach your target audience.

Six Weeks Prior

Meet with venue’s reservations staff to review tech needs and room set-up.

Exhibits/Poster Session Arrangements: 

  • Determine number expected: exhibits _________, posters__________
  • Confirm venue is large enough for exhibit/poster session needs
  • Recruit, select and contract with exhibitors/poster session presenters
  • Design exhibit area layout
  • Register and confirm registrations
  • Assign exhibitor/poster space
  • Answer questions from potential exhibitors
  • Provide on-site set-up support
  • Conduct exhibitor/poster evaluation

Presenter, Performer or Vendor Arrangements: 

  • Contact speakers to negotiate their participation fees and expenses
  • Send written confirmation of presenter topic, time slot on program, and expense reimbursement details
  • Gather Audio Visual requirements if needed for presentation
  • Collect biographical information
  • Collect abstracts and handout materials from speakers
  • Make travel arrangements: airline tickets, room reservations, or direct them to service provider
  • Obtain signatures on appropriate forms for fee payments and expense reimbursements–process payments
  • Determine and schedule event rehearsal and tech run-through (if applicable)
  • Determine travel arrangements, including air, ground transportation and hotel accommodations

Participant Registration and Management: 

  • Design and develop registration form/RSVP system (if applicable)
  • Determine process for pre-registration and day-of registration for event attendees
  • Determine and schedule event rehearsal and tech run-through (if applicable)
  • Determine if a volunteer meeting (link requested) or training is needed and identify when you would like to schedule it
  • Draft Event Day Schedule:
    • arrival times for all staff/volunteers
    • performer transportation
    • vendor/performer arrival on site
    • facilities set-up
    • facility decorating
    • supply shopping
    • “doors open” and audience arrival time
    • take down of event.

Two Weeks Prior

  • Evaluate marketing tactics and adjust as necessary to ensure your audience is aware of the event
  • Contact or schedule a follow-up meeting with your venue’s Reservations Staff to confirm all details are secured and permits are approved.
  • Contact performer/vendor and make sure travel arrangements are secured (if applicable)
  • Assign event shifts for group volunteers (set-up, during event, take down). Create programs or fliers needed at the event
  • Create event evaluations
  • Finalize Event Day Schedule
  • Confirm with everyone they are attending the volunteer meeting or training session (if applicable)
  • Compile and confirm your records:
    • copies of reservation confirmations
    • room diagrams
    • approved permits
    • performer agreements
    • vendor orders and volunteer/staff responsibilities should all be in writing and updated

If you don’t see a detail of your event in writing than you may not have successfully communicated it to necessary parties. Double-check your confirmations and room diagrams to make sure they are up to date and reflect the event you have planned. Sometimes last-minute decisions are made and aren’t successfully communicated to reservations staff.

Day of Event

  • Venue set up/decoration: make sure event is setup according to plan and decorated far in advance of event start time. This includes seating area, head or guest tables, registration area, display/exhibit area, and food function areas.
  • Meet with venue staff regarding use of lighting, audio/visual equipment and any other needs (including catering and security).
  • Execute transportation plans for performer/vendor/special guests: make sure you have arrangements made for your group to greet them at event site (if applicable)
  • Prepare dressing room or green room, addressing any performer requests (if applicable)
  • Meet with the volunteers to assign event duties and review expectations.
  • Ensure event signs are posted
  • Ensure presenters or performers know how to use the audio/visual equipment
  • Greet guests at the door and/or check in event attendees based applicability to your event
  • Hand out evaluations
  • Pay performers/vendors (if possible)
  • Clean up - remember that your venue location may have special clean up procedures

After the Event

  • Send thank you notes to performers and volunteers
  • Consolidate pre-registration/RSVP and day-of registration/check-in lists, as needed, for your records
  • See Evaluation and Records section for more information about event assessment and record-keeping
  • Verify your group members have paid all bills and submitted grant “post-event” paperwork
  • Host a follow up meeting with all event planners to evaluate event and make notes for future events
  • Update records if needed so you have “final” copies of reservation confirmations, room diagrams and approved permits for next year’s event organizers. If needed, develop your contact list and organize your revamped timeline using what you learned from the event planning process. This will help ensure next year’s officers and event planners have the information they need to plan a successful event next year.