The key to hosting a successful event is proper planning beforehand. There are many details that go into planning an event. By creating a specific list of all the tasks that need to be accomplished, you can stay organized and spend less time worrying about forgotten details.
The amount of time you need to plan an event depends on three things—the number of people attending the event, the scope of the event, and how far participants have to travel. For instance, a national academic conference may take years of preparation, but a small event for an on-campus student organization may take only one month of preparation.
Preliminary Steps in Event Preparation
1. Schedule the event and outline tasks
Create a timeline and checklist of all the things that need to be accomplished and their individual due dates. Suggested lead time for special events, such as conferences, seminars, special meetings, guest speakers, is a minimum of 7 weeks ahead. The Checklist for Event Planning is an excellent place to start creating your detailed list with due dates.
Another critical component when planning an event is to make sure funding is secure. There are several resources available to find additional funding. However, many of these resources have specific criteria. Some of these resources include the following:
- Student organizations
- University Lecture Committee, 144 IMU, 319-335-3255
- Small Events Fund, Undergraduate Program Office, 319-335-1037
- UI Student Government, 48 IMU, 319-335-3860
- Corporate sponsorship
Once you plan the event and outline the details, seek assistance from others to help you accomplish your list of tasks. Delegating tasks to others will increase the number of people committed to the event, and it will help you focus on larger details and potential concerns. Make sure you keep a record of the people who are helping you plan and execute the event. This record will be important when you are confirming event preparations and recognizing the people who helped put the event together.
Getting the word out about your program is very critical to its success, and it must be a consideration early in the planning process.
There are many forms of publicity that are available to you, such as fliers, press releases, advertisements, PowerPoint slides, and many other creative ideas. The following is a select list of available resources for you to get the word out about your event.
- List your events on the college calendar.
- PowerPoint kiosks in the Pappajohn Business Building, Linda Knowling, 319-335-0869.
- Bulletin boards in the Pappajohn Business Building. There is a public board near the vending machines or if this event relates to specific student organization or department, you may be able to include it on their boards.
- Table Tents. You can reserve a Tippie table tent to publicize your event. Table tents are located throughout the Pappajohn Business Building throughout the academic year. You'll find a template for your table tent a good place to start.
- Residence Halls, 319-335-3000. They will accept up to 149 posters for display on bulletin boards located on each floor in the residence halls.
- UI Cambus, 319-335-8633. They will accept 5-10 posters for display on the buses.
- University bulletin boards, University Box Office, 319-335-3041. To post flyers, submit up to 14 posters to the University Box Office, located in the Iowa Memorial Union.
- Campus Information Center, 319-335-3055, provides an information rack for pamphlets and fliers. They also keep a master calendar of campus events on the web.
- Radio and Newspapers, Tom Snee, 319-384-0010.
- Web, Rachel Stewart, 319-335-0935.
- Printed Materials, Lesanne Fliehler, 319-335-0859, Misti Huedepohl, 319-335-1554, or Linda Knowling, 319- 335-0869.
The essential information in all publicity must include the event's time, location, title, short description, sponsors, and the University's accommodation statement. The university's accommodation statement is required under the Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA) to inform the public of their rights and protections under the ADA, which includes access to reasonable accommodations such as auxiliary aids, interpreters, or other reasonable accommodations when attending university-sponsored public events. To ensure that you are using the university's most recent statement, find it here.
Depending on the scope and location of the event, and its audience, arranging for catering can be very simple or relatively complicated.
Food for events can be handled by:
a) Buying the food and beverages personally.
b) Hiring a caterer such as IMU Catering, Hy-Vee, or other local vendor. Call the vendor, ask to speak with the person in charge of catering off-site events, and ask that a written menu and estimate be sent to you. Be honest about your budget for the event and the number of people who will attend so that the vendor can suggest items within your scope.
c) The hotel, restaurant, conference center, or club where your event is being held. Again, contact the sales/catering representative for the establishment to determine a menu that falls within your budget.
The university alcohol policy requires that an Alcohol Request Form be submitted to the Dean of Students through the Dean's Office (request forms are available in the Tippie College Dean's Office, program offices, and departmental offices). The university discourages the use of alcohol at UI events and only those activities that are determined to be developmental, rather than educational, qualify for consideration. Attendees at such activities must be over 21 years of age, and all alcoholic beverages must be purchased and served by employees of IMU Catering.
Final Steps in Event Preparation (from 2 weeks until the event day)
1. Confirm Arrangements
From one month to two weeks before the program, it is very important to send a confirmation to all individuals involved with the success of the event (e.g., speaker, caterer, facilities manager, volunteers). This confirmation should include the event's date, time, location, number of people you are expecting to participate, and any other important details the individual will need to know about.
2. Create Signage
Signage to direct participants to the event is often an overlooked detail. Do not assume the location is easy to find. Signs with directions at the building's entrance are always helpful and may help the event's publicity. Many of the building's directional signs have grippers at the bottom to use to insert signage.
3. Technology and Equipment
Using technology and equipment can make presentations informative and professional. However, an excellent presentation can be ruined if the appropriate arrangements were not made or if the equipment fails. When making arrangements with speakers or presenters, make sure you find out what kinds of technology and equipment they will need. In addition, make sure you are able to provide the equipment they are requesting. Some kinds of equipment may need to be reserved months in advance.
Contact these people:
- Computing equipment, Brian Heil, 319-335-0675, in Tippie's Stead Technology Services Group.
- Renting A/V equipment: Equipment Services, 319-335-2571.
- Other building/furnishings, Rick Adrian, 319-335-0987, manager of Tippie's building operations.
- If you have any other questions, contact the front desk staff in the Dean's Office, 319-335-0862, who can help you find the right source.
Once you have reserved the equipment, make sure you or someone at the event knows how to run the equipment. You will also need to ask your speaker/presenter if they need training on how to run the equipment before the presentation. In case of equipment failure, make sure you have someone to contact or have a back-up plan.
4. Hosting the Event
When the day of the event arrives, there are several details that need to be checked before and during the event. These details include the following:
a) Make arrangements to greet the presenter. If your presenter/speaker is traveling from a long distance, make sure you have agreed on a meeting place and time before the event. This will help put the speaker at ease and allow you to make arrangements if the speaker is late. Be sure to make parking and/or chauffeuring arrangements for the speaker's convenience.
b) Arrive early for preparation. It is critical to arrive early to the event. By arriving early, you are able to check the room temperature, equipment, seating, etc.
c) Arrange greeters. For any event, it is important that your participants feel welcome. For large events, you may need to have greeters as well as ushers.
d) Prepare introductions. Make sure you have enough information on the speaker/presenter to conduct a proper introduction.
e) Be an active participant and troubleshoot when needed. When hosting an event, you have two roles. You need to be an active participant during the presentation and activities. In addition, you need to be aware of your surroundings and the potential problems that could arise. For instance, are there enough seats for everyone? Does everyone look comfortable? Are people missing handouts?
5. Event Closure
- Program evaluation
Participants need to complete program evaluations that will help the organizers measure the event's effectiveness. In addition, the evaluations will be used to determine if the event should be repeated.
- After the program
The following is a list of tasks to keep in mind once the program is over.
a) Clean-up. No one likes to be the only person left with cleaning up after an event. Make sure a committee or crew has been assigned to return the location to its original condition.
b) Write thank-you notes. Promptly write notes to the people who participated and planned the event.
c) Save receipts and complete paperwork.
d) Take down publicity, fliers, posters, etc.
e) Write a final report and keep it on file. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Completing a final report will help you or next year's organizers plan a similar event. It is also a useful tool to determine if the event should be repeated.