Event Planning 101
Start with the End in Mind
When a registered student organization wants to plan an event, it is best to start with the end in mind: What is the desired outcome we want from this event?
- Are we trying to raise money for a community agency?
- Do we want to educate community members on a topic that relates to our purpose?
- Are celebrating the organization's graduating members?
Focused questions help clarify what the end goal is for the event which is the first step in planning a successful event/program.
Who within the student organization is responsible for planning the event? Is it a single individual or a committee? Be mindful that there are some members who may take on too much and flounder from being overwhelmed; there are others who are eager to step up and contribute, but another person may not be willing to share responsibilities for fear of appearing incapable.
What is the desired date for the event? Is there enough time to thoroughly plan the event?
- HINT #1: If the organization wants to have an event in April/May, event space is often booked several months in advance.
- HINT #2: Check campus and community calendars! What else is happening on the desired date that might conflict or compete with the event? Is there something else happening that they could collaborate with in order to share resources (human & financial) and have a bigger impact?
- HINT #3: If an organization wants to create a new, large-scale event, they should plan to meet with a CSI staff member several months in advance to walk through their plan. Our staff will know the policies and resources that will help in planning.
Who will be attending the event? Is it only open to members of the student organization or will the event be open to the public?
How many people do you hope to have attend or participate?
What will be happening at the event? Do the activities comply with University policies?
What type and size of space is needed to comfortably accommodate the activities of the event? As soon as this is determined, head to UIC Connection and request the desired space as soon as possible.
What are the costs associated with the event/program? (room rental, equipment rental, decorations, food, DJ, advertising, etc.) Often, if this is the first time a registered student organization has had the opportunity to plan an event (particularly a NEW event), there are costs associated with it you may never think of initially.
How will the organization cover these costs? (student government funding, fundraising, dues, charge admission to the event, co-sponsorships, etc.)
- HINT #1: Planning far in advance allows the organization the time to research their options, and meet any funding request deadlines.
- HINT #2: Funding requests must be submitted before the event is to take place. Student organizations cannot submit requests AFTER an event has already happened. Be aware of request deadlines!
What will be happening at the event? Depending on the answer here, the organization may be required to purchase special event insurance and get waivers from the university.
- HINT #1: If there is any kind of physical activity by which someone could potentially get hurt, the organization will need insurance and waivers. This is another instance where it is recommended that the student planner contact the CSI staff to discuss the event to help determine if these are necessary.
Is the organization hosting a speaker or performer? What are their sound/AV needs? What are their travel requirements? Do they need special accommodations? Does equipment need to be rented or do supplies need to be purchased?
What are the "behind the scenes" things that need to be taken care of? Who will be in-charge of set up, tear-down, clean-up? How long will it take? How many people are needed to do these things most effectively and efficiently?
- HINT #3: Typically people under-estimate how long it will take to set-up (or how many people are needed) for an event and scramble to finish before the scheduled start-time. Everyone wants to do the "fun" stuff, but usually only a few committed folks show up to help with the "dirty work", particularly if it's really early in the morning! :)
The event is over!! Have a de-briefing meeting and walk through the successes of the event as well as the challenges. Talk about why they thought certain things went well where other things might have been a little rough. Think of solutions to any challenges and make sure to communicate them with next year’s leadership, if this is to be a recurring event. Write up a report about the successes, challenges and suggestions, and upload that to the group's portal on UIC Connection so that it can be available in the future.
Obviously this is not an exhaustive listing of everything that goes into planning an event, but hopefully it will help you make the event planning process a little easier. Please contact the Center for Student Involvement at 312-413-5070 or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any particular questions and we will do our best to assist you!