Last updated: March 2015.
BEST PRACTICES – EVENTS PLANNING
Events should positively reflect the University of Southern Maine. The information provided below is to help USM faculty and staff sort though the many necessary details to plan and execute a successful USM event. Information includes:
- How to develop a budget
- How to select the best room or hall
- When and why to work with USM Conference Services
- When and why to work with USM Marketing and Public Affairs
- And much more
- What is goal/purpose? What do you expect to accomplish?
- Goals/purposes can include education, community building, recruitment, alumni relations, student engagement, donor engagement, etc.
- Who is target audience? Who is the event for?
- Many groups at USM share a common goal—event partnerships can help share the workload and stretch financial resources.
- Do you have the budget available to support the event? Are you able to plan this event with resources from your department, or should you enlist USM’s Conference Services? USM Conference Services is ideal to work with if you are planning an event that meets two or more criteria: open to the public, has an expected audience of at least 50, requires room set-up and tear-down and requires catering. If you are unsure, please contact USM Conference Services at x5962 to discus your event.
- Outline anticipated expenses
- Location rental fee
- Communication and marketing expenses
- Catering — Food is often the largest expense for an event. Select your food early in the planning process and establish the per person food cost as soon as possible. Multiply the per person food cost by the anticipated attendance numbers to estimate the total catering charge.
- Presenter fee
- A/V — Video equipment allows you to record the event for those who are unable to attend
- Facilities management
- Travel and/or housing for presenters
- Outline projected revenue
- Grant funds
- Registration fees — Set your fees early in the planning stage and decide who gets a discount or a free registration. To determine your revenue, multiply the estimated attendance by the registration fee. Take into account discounted fees and free registrations.
- Project profit/loss by subtracting total projected expenses from total projected revenue.
- Check calendars of all involved
- Avoid setting event dates that do not allow for enough advance notice for all involved or target audience in order to achieve maximum attendance. It is strongly encouraged that event planning start AT LEAST 3 months prior to the event, ideally start 6 months prior to the event.
- Avoid setting event dates that conflict with finals, holidays, or other large events
- Does date provide enough lead time to arrange for logistics and marketing?
- Should a snow/rain date be set?
- Is location realistic for the expected number of attendees? For instance, a space that accommodates up to 500 people for an event that only expects 50 people can make it appear as though the event was poorly attended.
- Determine your space requirements:
- Plenary space to hold the entire group?
- Breakout rooms — How many?
- Eating space?
- Reception space?
- See separate listing of venue locations, capacity and contacts.
- Meet with your college’s director of communications for guidance.
- What type of marketing will appeal most to get your target audience in the door?
- What is timing of marketing outreach/communications?
- Is a press release needed? E-mails? Direct Mail (e.g. postcards)?
- When should communication materials be distributed or displayed (e.g. posters)?
- Should marketing materials be displayed on campus? In the community? Both?
- Will a registration website need to be created? By when do people need to register?
EVENT ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
- Helpful to identify an event leader who will be point person for event
- If alumni/donor engagement — make University advancement aware.
- Put together a detailed timeline that breaks down all of the tasks that need to get done, along with who is responsible for that task and what the deadline is.
- Download the planning timeline guide for an outline of the necessary steps and timing needed for planning a successful event. It will help to review this guide before you speak with your college communications director, who can provide further direction on how best to proceed.
- Presidential Attendance Request Form
- Food service: Provided by ARAMARK or a licensed, insured caterer
- Registration: If you are registering participants, particularly if you are charging a fee, determine how you will handle the details and who will be responsible for:
- Tracking registrations
- By email? Phone? Online?
- What system or database will you use?
- Sending confirmations
- Processing fees and refunds
- Generating nametags
- Staffing the on-site registration
- Generating a participant list and final report
- Facilities management: Work orders must be submitted for all set-up and break-down requests.
- Instructional Technology or Audio/Visual: Requests for A/V equipment must be submitted to Instructional Technology
- USM Police/Public Safety: Events at which 25 or more people are anticipated to attend, please provide notification to USM Police/Public Safety at x5211. They sometimes receive calls inquiring about event details and can serve as another resource for your potential attendees.
- Parking: Parking needs must be coordinated with USM Parking. Distribute valid temporary parking permits if needed.
- Guest management? RSVPs — online or by mail?
- Dress code? Need coat room/rack?
- Event staffing
- Event tracking: How many attended? Record any feedback received.
- Event assessment — for attendees to provide feedback at the end of the event
- Clean up: Arrangements must be made for clean up after the event. This can be arranged through facilities management.
AFTER YOUR EVENT
- Send out any follow-up communications — thank you notes, links to photos, etc.
- Would it make sense to issue post-event press release?
- Meet to debrief