Planning before the Event

All successful events, no matter the size, are planned in advance. Effective event planning starts early and requires regular communication and documentation. Understanding your room capacity, expenses, and anticipated attendance will influence your marketing strategy, ticket costs, room layout and more.

The Pre-Event Planning phase has 5 components:

  1. Generate Ideas
  2. Set Goals
  3. Establish Event Date(s) and a Planning Timeline
  4. Develop a Budget
  5. Gather Resources

Once you have completed the pre-event planning phase, the event planner can begin to coordinate all the necessary resources and parts of the event. If you have questions throughout the process, please contact the Student Activities Office at sao@umn.edu, 612-626-6919, or in 126 Coffman Memorial Union.

Generate Ideas

All events begin as an idea. If your group is in need of ideas, consider dedicating time together to generating ideas. Don’t rule out any idea. Allow members to generate ideas in small groups and take those ideas to the large group. Allow members to pursue ideas and events they are passionate about within the scope of your group.

Use the Student Group Event Template to help in generating ideas and framing your group’s event.

Set Goals

Using past event experience or the answers to the questions above, determine goals you have for the event. Setting goals simplifies the rest of the event planning and preparation process by focusing the energy and resources of your group on specific tasks. Goals should documented in a way accessible to members of the group. You may want to use the Student Group Event Template to facilitate goal setting.

Goals may focus on any aspect of the event. As you develop goals for the event, you may want to document why you set those specific goals. This will help future event planners understand your decision-making process.

Once you set the event goals, you will need to consider not only how will you reach them, but also how will you measure if they were achieved.

Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Below are examples of SMART event goals.

  • Attendance numbers
    “We will promote on social media and paper flyers to ensure that between 50 and 100 UMN undergraduate students come to the event.”
  • Outcomes
    “After the event, at least half of attendees will say they have a better understanding of the topic, which we will measure in a quarter-sheet exit survey collected as attendees leave the event.”
  • Venue
    “We will book the Coffman Memorial Union theater for the speaker event to match the tone of the speaker and the popularity of the topic.”
  • Entertainment/Speaker
    “We will confirm one month before the event that we are bringing [Person A] to campus to give a talk on their topic of expertise.”
  • Budgetary
    “We will spend no more than $1,000 on this event.”
  • Date of the Event
    “We will host the event on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday between April 15 and May 15.”

Establish Event Date(s) and a Planning Timeline

When choosing a date (or dates) for the event, the event planning team should consider conflicting or competing events occuring in the community, and other external factors that may impact the event.

  • Think about your audience and other academic or professional commitments they might have.
  • Are there other similarly themed programs taking place around the same time? Are there are other student groups who program to the same audience as your group or your event?
  • If your event is outdoors or will require attendees to travel in any capacity to the event, what is alternative plan for inclement weather?
  • To avoid conflicting events in order to maximize participation in your event, check Student Unions and Activities events calendar, the GopherLink groups event calendar, the University’s Events Calendar, and the specific event schedules for applicable communities, academic departments, or student groups for similar or large events that may draw from the same target audience.
  • Consider when your vendor(s), performer(s)/speaker(s), and venue(s) is/are available.

The event planning team should establish a timeline for planning and executing the event. Each step should be assigned a deadline and someone who is responsible for its completion. Consider external deadlines that impact the event (e.g., when must venues be booked, when are permits due, when must contracts be signed).

Your timeline may update as event planning and preparation continue. Be prepared to be flexible.

Click here to see a sample Event Planning Timeline

Develop a Budget

The event budget should include projected expenses and projected income. As a reminder: Expenses include everything you will spend money on for this event; income includes any money that is acquired to pay for the event (including partnerships). Not only will you want to project specific dollar amounts, but also you will want to project when you will receive and spend money so you can get a better sense of your timeline.

Make sure all event partners are working off of the same budget information to minimize miscommunication and assumptions. Throughout the event planning, preparation, and execution, you should track all expenses and income as they occur.

You may use this event template to track your projected and actual income/expenses.

Projecting Expenses

Using the ideas you generated, the goals you set, and the resources available to your group, you can likely accurately predict how much money the event will cost to put on. In a central location, write down what expenses you’re likely to incur. Each event will have unique expenses, however many events encounter the following expenses:

  • Room/Venue rental
  • Furniture rental
  • Audio/Visual equipment
  • Personnel (technicians, security, event staffing)
  • Food and Beverages
  • Promotion and Advertising
  • Performance/Speaking fees
  • Travel (hotels, airfare, ground transportation, parking)
  • Event supplies and decorations

Projecting Income

Using the ideas, event goals, and resources your group has, you can begin to project where the money will come from to host the event. Visit the Funding sections for different methods of funding your event.

Gather Resources

Benefits and Resource for Student Groups

As a registered student group, you have access to several benefits and resources at the University of Minnesota. Please visit the following links for details:

Regarding Partnerships with Other Organizations

The benefits to which your student group has access are for your student group’s use alone. You cannot receive spaces for use by other student groups, University departments, outside groups, or individual use to provide access or reduced costed in using University facilities, services, or staff. When entering into collaboration with other student groups, University departments, outside groups, or other individuals, your student group should maintain ownership over the event. If needed, please contact the Student Activities Office to review partnerships or collaborations.

Event Agenda

The ultimate question: What is going to happen at your event?

An event agenda is a detailed outline that shows when things will happen at your event. It should include the following:

  • When you have access to the space
  • When volunteers and event coordinators must arrive
  • Time to set up the space (including AV, sound checks, decorations, catering)
  • When “doors open” to allow event attendees into the space before the program begins
  • When the event will officially begin
  • What is the timing of the program
  • When the event is over
  • Time to clean the space
  • When you have to vacate the space

Some venues (especially Coffman Memorial Union and St. Paul Student Center) will want to see your event agenda to understand better your event’s needs.

Event Supplies

Think through the supplies you’ll need for you event and determine when you will need them. Determine who is in charge of picking up various items and make sure to communicate the process for payment and receipt documentation. What do you already have? What are essentials supplies?

Items to consider: plates, napkins, cups, utensils, decorations, and additional requests from performers

Safety and Security

Safety and security is a critical component to the success of your event. You may need additional security personnel with large crowds. You may need to ensure the physical safety of participants. If you have questions about what type of safety and security you may need at your event, please contact the Student Activities Office at sao@umn.edu or 612-626-6919.

Police or Security Personnel Presence

Especially for large crowds, your event may necessitate police or special security personnel presence to ensure the safety for you, your attendees, your group members, and the University community. The University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) offers a variety of services for special security needs on the Twin Cities Campus. University of Minnesota departments and organizations may hire UMPD Officers and/or Student Security Monitors to work events such as dances, parties, seminars/lectures, sporting events, fun runs/fundraising events and other functions. Departments and organizations requesting sworn police personnel or student security monitors will be billed for the service. More information can be reviewed here.

Please note: notify your venue’s reservations coordinator that you are interested in booking or required to book security personnel – some venues reserve security personnel directly as part of the reservations process.

Safety of Minors

If your event is bringing individuals under the age of 18 to campus, you may be impacted by the Board of Regents’ Safety of Minors policy. Please see the student group handbook for more information.