Event Planning Tips

Follow these steps and answer the related questions to insure a successful event at BU. This will bring value to your department as well as support overall University advancement goals.

Develop Goals and Objectives

  • What type of event do you want to have?
  • Who is your intended audience?  Develop your guest list.
  • What is the purpose of this event?  What is your desired outcome of this event, and what do you want your guests to take away from the event?
  • Is your desired event the most appropriate way to achieve your goal?
  • What value does this program add to the overall University?
  • Who will be the program participants?
  • If this is an event that has been done in the past, have you analyzed the purpose and audience to determine if it is still the most effective use of University resources or is it being done “because we always have?”

Select a Date and Location

  • What is the desired date for your event?  Before confirming it, clear the date with all important participants.  Be sure to check your desired date with the academic calendar as well as with the calendar maintained by Campus Information & Visitor Relations for any possible conflicts.
  • Have you checked to make sure your date does not conflict with any major religious observances?
  • Be sure to select back-up-dates for your event.
  • How many people to you anticipate attending?
  • What type of space would be most conducive to your event?
  • What types of audio/visual equipment will you need to support your event?
  • Submit the Space Request Form to University Reservations with details about your event and your desired date(s) and location(s).  University Reservations will respond within two business days with a hold on the space to be assigned to your event.  The hold will not become confirmed until a Room Reservations Form has been submitted with appropriate signatures.
  • Not sure what space might be appropriate for your event, or will your event have complex scheduling needs?  Contact the Events & Conferences Director at 3-2769; he will be happy to discuss your event with you and recommend space solutions.
  • If you are planning an outdoor event, have you identified an indoor venue or alternate plan in case of inclement weather?
  • Will hotel accommodations be needed for out-of-town participants and/or guests?  Have you blocked rooms and/or made the necessary reservations directly?

Plan a Budget

  • Before arranging for travel, catering, printing, and other expenses, it is suggested to write an event budget that includes all anticipated expenditures.  Typical budget items include:
    • Facility fees (including Facilities Management charges)
    • Catering
    • Equipment Rentals (tables/chairs/tents/etc.)
    • Décor (linens/florals/props/etc.)
    • Audio/Video Equipment
    • Printing/Promotional Materials (including websites)
    • Postage
    • Travel and Transportation expenses (including parking charges)
    • Entertainment
    • Police
    • BU Photography
    • BU Productions (videography)
  • Are you charging an attendance charge for your event?  Is this charge to defray costs, break even, or be a profit-maker/fundraiser?  Have you priced the tickets appropriate for your income objective?
  • Will you attempt to solicit sponsors?  What are the benefits of sponsorship (name in a program book, promotional materials at the event, etc.)?

Develop a Communications Plan

  • What is your event’s primary message or theme?
  • How will this event be marketed and/or promoted (invitations, flyers, articles, posters, electronic mail, web site)?
  • Do you want media at your event, or do you anticipate media to cover your event?  Don’t forget to contact Media Relations
  • Is there a way the University can gain more effectiveness from your event?
  • Have you considered contacting Marketing & Communications to discuss your communications plan?

Develop a Show Flow

  • How is your event to be organized?
  • Do you need an M.C.?
  • What is the order of your participants?
  • Have all the participants been informed of their exact roles in the event (speak for 5 minutes, be prepared for Q&A, cut the ribbon, etc)?
  • If your program has multiple speakers, have you provided speaking points to each?
  • Do you need to write a script to thread all the components of your event together?
  • Does your event need to include any “photo opportunities” such as a ribbon-cutting or awards presentation? Have you identified where in the program these will occur and who will participate?
  • Have you prepared a minute-by-minute timing for your event?  Have you reviewed it to see if there are areas that can be pared?  For instance, if there are 3 soloists in your event, are all needed?  Also, this minute-by-minute should be sent to all your program participants along with any other specific instructions so they can see where and how they fit into your program.
  • If the President or Provost will have a role at your event, have you completed their Speaking Checklists?

Conduct a Logistics Site Visit

  • Schedule a time to walk-through your event venue with the Facilities Manager, Catering Manager (if needed), and any internal/external vendors to discuss your program and desired set-up.
  • Does your facility have the capability for all the audio/video support you need?
  • Does your facility have all the furniture and equipment you will need for your program (tables, chairs, coat racks, easels, rope & stanchion, etc.)?  Don’t forget to include any furniture needs for Dining Services in your overall calculations.
  • Does your facility have internet connections?  Phone connections?  Do you know where the electrical outlets are?
  • Be sure to identify the location of the restrooms and well as emergency exits.
  • Do you need any further decorations or props?  Did you include these in your budget plan?
  • Do you need to rent any items for your program?
  • Have you given your Facilities Manager a diagram of your room lay-out?

Develop a Staffing Plan

  • During the event planning stages, is there staff to whom you could delegate aspects of the event?  If so, be sure to set progress deadlines.
  • Is everyone in your department familiar with the basics of this event in order to answer questions accurately?  Do they know where to direct more detailed questions?
  • Will you need to employ additional staff (casual employees/student employees/consultant) for this event?  If so, be sure to include this in your budget projection.
  • Prepare a “day of” staffing plan.  Will you need staff to:
    • welcome and direct program participants?
    • welcome and direct guests?
    • man a registration/check-in table?
    • serve as seaters/ushers
    • serve as the “show flow” monitor (who is responsible for keeping the program on time?)
    • serve as troubleshooters?
    • serve as floaters?
  • Communicate the staff plan at least two days prior to the event to your staff.  Make sure everyone is familiar with their assignments.
  • To whom should staff go to on the day of event with any issues or problems?  Make sure this information is communicated with your event staff.
  • Prepare a phone list of staff, volunteers, and other key phone numbers, and circulate it to staff as necessary.
  • Will there be any special guests at your event (benefactors/prospects/dignitaries/etc.) who will need special escorts?

Cross the “T”s and Dot the “I”s

  • Double check, triple check, and quadruple check!
  • Review your “to do” list to make sure all items have been completed.
  • Confirm arrangements with program participants, make sure everyone knows where they need to be, when to be there, and what they are expected to do.
  • Do the program participants need a walkthrough of the event venue?
  • Do your staff and volunteers need a “dry run” at the event venue?
  • Have you given your final catering guarantee?  Do any of your guests have special dietary needs?
  • Have you prepared any needed briefing materials?
  • Have you prepared any event box with any needed supplies (staplers, clipboards, nametags, etc.)?
  • Do you have an alphabetical list of guests?
  • If tickets are being sold have a cash box with plenty of change on hand.

Follow-up and Tie-up Loose Ends

  • Clean-up event-related materials and return any borrowed items.  Make sure any rental items have been picked-up by the vendor.
  • Secure any receipts needed for any reimbursements to be made.
  • Secure vendor invoices and initiate the payment process.
  • Create a final event budget for historical purposes; reconcile any major discrepancies from projected budget
  • Document event process including final budget and any notes for areas of improvement.
  • Send thank you notes to program participants and/or special guests.