Running Successful Events

How to Run Successful Events

Events are key in engaging students and encouraging their involvement with student organizations. In order for an event to be successful, effective planning must be carried out by the organizing party.

Event Planning

Creating your Event Plan

Before starting, ask yourself: What is the purpose of this event and what kind of experience are you hoping to create? It is imperative to decide what the goal of your event is, as this will determine every other decision that needs to be made.

As a team, consider the following questions to create a vision and begin planning for your event: 

  • How will the event be hosted - will it be in-person or online?

    • If in-person, where will the event be hosted?

    • If online, will the event be live, pre-recorded, or a combination of both? 

  • Where will event content be shared?  

  • How will the event be accessed & is access limited or open?  

  • What is the best date & time for the event?  

  • Does the event require registration beforehand?  

  • Can participants join the event at any time, or must they join at the very beginning?  

  • How will you promote the event?  

  • Will the event be a collaboration with another group or external partner?  

  • What will be provided at the event? Will snacks, prizes, or giveaways be provided?

  • Will any data be tracked? 

  • How will the success of the event be measured?

  • What tasks need to be accomplished for the event to be successful?

  • What roles need to be filled prior to, during, and after the event?

These questions serve as a starting point for your team to start planning your event and highlights some key decisions to be made, but will require more fleshing out. To do so, create your master plan, which should cover all aspects of the event, including the following information:

  • Logistics – date and time, venue booking, catering, registration, etc.
  • Activities/Entertainment – games/activities, gathering materials/equipment, etc.
  • Marketing – marketing plan, graphics, social media campaigns, event page launch, tabling, etc.
  • External Relations (if applicable) – collaborating with partners, sponsor management and deals, volunteer management, etc.
  • Internal Relations – task delegation, team roles and responsibilities, etc.
  • Finances – budget, receipt management, reimbursements, etc.

Choose the right date & time

Consider what works best for both your team and your audience 

  • Do some research – find out when other events are happening and try your best to avoid these dates to minimize competition

  • Consider time zones – This is especially important if your event will be hosted online, as people may be tuning in from all over the world. Consider what time might work best for most time zones. An alternative is to make content available on-demand following the event so it can be accessed at any time. 

  • Ask your audience – Create a simple poll and ask your audience what date/time works best for them.

  • Consider other commitments – When do classes tend to be? When do people often work? When do students tend to be otherwise occupied? 

  • Consider "peak days" – There tends to be the most number of students on campus on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Mondays and especially Fridays tend to have the least number of students on campus

  • Think about what else is going on at the time – Is it midterm season? People might be pre-occupied with studying for their midterms. Is it right before Reading Week? People may have left early for trips. Is it a weekend? People will be reluctant to make the trip to an event, unless you can incentivize them well!

Plan out a budget

Consider how much your organization can afford to set aside for this event. This will give you an idea of what is realistic to accomplish given your finances.

  • Will your event include an entry fee? – If there is an entry fee, this can help subsidize some of the costs of the event. If there is no entry fee, your group must consider where your budget will be coming from.
  • Consider where your budget is coming from – Are you hosting a fundraiser to support the event? Are you setting aside some of your student group funding for the event? 
  • Apply for funding – Various funding opportunities are available to you as a student organization at the University of Toronto Mississauga. As a Ulife recognized group, you may apply for the funding opportunities found here. If you are UTMSU recognized, you may receive funding and apply for additional funding, as outlined here.
  • Prepare your budget – Think about what you will need to purchase for your event (eg. snacks, decorations, material for activities, etc). Be realistic about how much you will need to spend to acquire a sufficient amount of food/materials/etc. For more details on how to prepare a budget, refer here.
  • Keep track of your finances – Make sure that your VP Finance or Treasurer keeps track of all transactions related to the event. Several of your executives may incur expenses while purchasing materials and will require reimbursements later on. Make sure that they take photos of their receipts and upload those to a shared Drive or space immediately as well as hand over physical copies of the receipts to your VP Finance or Treasurer. This will ensure that reimbursements go smoothly after the event.

Brand your event

Marketing is key in spreading word about your event and inviting interested students to come out. If students never hear about your event, no matter how great of an event you plan, no one will attend to witness it.

  • What is the brand of your group and event? – Does your group uphold a certain brand image? What do you want the brand of your event to be based on the message you are trying to send about the event? Is your event an upbeat social, calm destressor, thought-provoking panel, cultural learning experience, etc.?
  • What marketing platforms can you use? – Various platforms are available for student groups to use to spread the word about their activities, including but not limited to your group's social media accounts, poster and bulletin boards, digital signage, UTM Engage App, CFRE radio, and The Medium. For more details on how to access these platforms, please refer here.
  • Create a marketing plan – With your marketing team, create a plan and timeline of when certain campaigns, graphics, event pages, etc. will be launched. Consider what is realistic for your team to accomplish and be strategic about how you approach the best timings for each launch.
  • Be creative – Think of new campaigns and ideas to engage your membership! Consider creating polls on Instagram Stories to hype up your event or consider activities that you could play with passer-by's during tabling to help spread the word.

Prepare for any potential technological problems

Technology doesn't always work according to plan, so do your best to reduce the potential for technological problems beforehand. This is applicable to in-person events as well, but is particularly important when hosting events online. 

  • Test your internet connection – Make sure you test your internet connection beforehand and even consider using a wired connection for better stability. Prepare backup files just in case a file corrupts so that you have a suitable offline alternative available.

  • If you can, try to run a rehearsal – This is especially important if it's your first time running a certain type of event. Oftentimes, our ideas may look better in our heads than they do when we play them out. Going through what you have planned can help catch any logistical problems that are difficult to imagine otherwise. If you are using any new technology or equipment, make sure you test them out in advance.  

  • For online events, be aware that not everyone in your audience will be familiar with the technology or platform that you're using – Anticipate technological troubles that people may encounter and try to prepare easy instructions to follow or resources to guide them in navigating the system. Be available and accessible to your audience so they can reach out to you for help. 

Make your event inclusive and accessible

Be aware when you're preparing your content and planning for your event to ensure that it is inclusive of and accessible to everyone.  

  • When reaching out to your membership, mention that they may contact you if they require an accommodation

  • When preparing content to share (eg. slideshows), be aware of: word choice and clear language, font size, colour contrast, captions for audio clips, descriptions for visuals 

  • If you are hosting an in-person event, ensure that your venue is physically accessible.

  • Present your information through multiple avenues – try to provide audio, visual, text, etc.

  • Anticipate and provide priority seating 

  • Be aware of the language you are using – reflect upon whether the language you use is inclusive or exclusive

  •  Make sure accessible and gender-neutral washrooms are available nearby

  • Provide wide aisles and spacing within your room set-up to allow for ease of movement

  • Use a venue with good lighting and acoustics so that things may be clearly seen and heard  – Additionally, you may use spotlights or mics to better amplify these aspects.

  • Cover any exposed electrical cables/cords for safe movement within the venue  – This is an important health and safety concern that should be practiced at all events.

  • Post clear and legible signs to direct participants to relevant areas  – eg. accessible entrances, accessible washrooms, gender-neutral washrooms, etc.

  • Include questions regarding accessibility and inclusivity of the event within your assessment for feedback on how to do better next time

Teams & Roles

Once the team has locked on to their vision and general plan for the event, it is time to decide what needs to be done to execute the event and what everyone’s roles are in preparing for and executing the event. Events are a collective effort to pull off – everyone on the team plays an important role in contributing to a successful event.

As a team, decide on what needs to be done for the event – team members each have assigned roles and will have a good idea of what to prepare on their end. Trust your fellow executives to help decide what tasks need to be accomplished in preparation for the event. 

  • Once tasks have been decided, an individual or a few individuals should be held responsible for their completion – this ensures accountability and makes sure group leaders know who to reach out to about a specific task.

  • Task delegation will require a combination of initiative taken from team members as well as a degree of delegation – As leaders, you must know your team and learn what their strengths are. Use your team members’ strengths to your advantage and ask them to complete tasks where they can maximize their full potential, have interest in skill development, or continue growing a skill. 

  • As a team, set deadlines for when tasks are to be completed – This ensures that everyone has a voice in setting the timeline for the event while also holding everyone accountable for their responsibilities.

  • Keep communication channels open – Check in on your team members to see if they need help and always remind them that you are there to support them if needed. Make sure they know that they don't always have to figure things out themselves and that you are all a team working together.

  • Stay updated – As a leader, it is important for you to know the progress of your team members, so make sure to consistently check in with them and stay updated on the team's progress.

  • Send reminders – Student leaders are often busy and have other things going on in their lives as well. Sending friendly reminders are a helpful way to ensure people think about what's coming up and reach out to you for an extension if needed. Make sure you find a balance with sending reminders, as they should not be too frequent to the extent of being overbearing, but they also should not be so rare that it is as if there are no reminders at all.

  • Trust your team – It is important that you are not always monitoring their every move, but rather have trust in your team members' abilities and believe that they will accomplish what is asked of them.

  • Consider what roles will be needed during the event – Some roles to consider include: emcee's, registration, game directors, guides, food distributors, team captains (if participants are divided into teams to play games), floaters (who are on stand-by if anything comes up), etc.

Execution

If your team took the time to thoroughly plan your event, then the execution of the event should run relatively smoothly. 

However, you may run into sudden hiccups, but don't let those intimidate you. We cannot always foresee everything in advance and can only do our best to minimize any potential problems. Be flexible and adaptable in case you run into any issues on the day of. Know that it's normal for there to be minor hiccups during an event and most of the time, participants will not even notice. Do your best to handle any issues, but know that you have an entire team that you can consult with as well. 

Even though you'll be quite busy managing the event, remember to enjoy yourself as well! Give yourself and your team members breaks throughout the duration of the event so you can all enjoy the fruits of your labour. It's always a satisfying feeling to watch what you've been working so hard on finally come to fruition.

Assessment

Assessments provide an opportunity for student groups to reach out to their membership for feedback on events so that you can be equipped with knowledge on what went well during the event, what could be improved, and what your membership would like to see. This information is incredibly valuable as it allows your group to continue growing and improving yourselves. 

Click here for more details on conducting assessments and reviews