First, congratulations to Mitch Elvidge and Chris Langlois, who will be the 2013-214 consuls for the Classics and Medieval Studies Student Society! I know you guys will do a job. In the interest of that, and because it’s part of our theme for this term, our next two posts will be about event planning. Events are a big part of running a student society and being involved on campus, and they are invariably more complicated than they seem. That’s the way it should be. If it goes smoothly, no one sees all the hiccups and hurdles. So today, six steps to better event planning, along with some links to resources.
Have an idea. Even if it’s just one like “Feed the homeless” or “Go to the ROM”. Then refine it, and get a little bolder. Put your own spin on it, whether it’s “CMS Invades the ROM”, an event that has students in teams seizing objectives by posting pictures of them to the Classics Facebook page, or “Life of Diogenes”, an event designed to get Classics and Medieval Studies students working with 5 Days for the Homeless, a five-day fundraiser for homeless and at risk people that runs on campus every year. The spin, the flavour, that’s what gets people really intrigued. Don’t just do something, do a Thing.
There’s two of you, but that doesn’t mean you have to work alone. Find students who are interested in championing a specific event or cause, and recruit them to help out and bring in other volunteers. Everyone has something they’re passionate about, something they can bring to an event. Find that, and help them use it. Maybe they’re making posters or designs, or reaching out to local businesses to get a good deal on pizza, or are just able to drive the guest speaker across town. With a good team, you can accomplish just about anything. Besides, planning an event is in itself an event, so you can bring students together and have a good time before your event even happens.
Some events cost money. Not all of them, but things like trips, appetizers, t-shirts, and other miscellaneous costs can come up. Budgeting early can help you figure out what to apply for grants for (I’m going to do a post on grant applications in a couple of weeks, it will be rad), and whether or not you need to raise funds. There’s lots of ways to raise money and go beyond your stipend from the university, but it takes time and evergy to get there. The earlier you invest that, the easier it’s going to be, so you’re not scrambling around the deadline to get everything in.
To that end, assemble a timeline. When do you need to have things done by? When do the posters need to be up? When do the funds need to be in, and the grant applications? Sketching out a timeline will not only help your events run more smoothly, it’ll help you plan multiple events around each other, and best capitalize on your strengths. Expect that your timeline is going to change, but make sure you know what your hard deadlines are. It’s okay to bump your poster print by a few days, but if you miss that grant deadline or presentation meeting, you’re sunk. With student societies, this gives you the opportunity not just to plan a single event, but a term, or even a year. Generate ideas in September, and budget how much time each one is going to take. It’s not just funding, either. Know when you need to book your space or make reservations, when you need to get transportation, and when you’ll be able to pick up any supplies that you need. The sooner your start planning, the sooner it’s done.
There are only a few events that benefit from having no one attend. They’re probably not yours. So get the word out, both in the department and outside of it. There are lots of medievalists over in St. Jerome’s looking for things to do, and there are lots of ways to branch out past that. Our Kalamazoo trip two years ago had people from nine different departments on it, from Anthropology to Math. Find the things about your event that appeal to everyone, and market to those. Put up posters, get on Twitter and Facebook, contact alumni, and reach out to the ASU and FEDS (going to those meetings is really helpful). They want to make students’ experience at university more awesome, just like you.
For a large event, whether that’s a gala or Campus Day, be prepared to arrive early and leave late. Planning so you have everything you need a few days in advance will keep headaches to a minimum on the big day. That could be posters and dioramas, tickets, or just money for pizza. The better prepared you are, the more you’ll be able to relax and enjoy it, rather than worrying about what comes next. This will help everyone else enjoy it too, because they won’t see you all frantic and tense. You set the tone. It’s hard to give valuable advice about execution beyond this, because every event is going to be different. All I can say is be prepared, don’t panic, and roll with the punches.
That’s six steps to planning awesome events. For more information, check out wikihow or about.com, and always look on the internet for similar events. Anything you can learn from them is an asset. What worked, what didn’t, forewarned is forearmed. Enough platitudes. Grats Mitch and Chris, and I know you’ll make the next year in Classics amazing.
Jim Tigwell doesn’t always plan events, but when he does it’s the upcoming Headshots from the Heart, where local gamers will help raise money for children’s hospitals. Find out more by asking him on Twitter.