How to Plan a Large Campus Event: Our Top 5 Tips
Hosting a successful campus event isn’t easy. Whether you’re organizing a concert, bringing a famous speaker to campus, or just putting together a coffee hour for new first year students to mix and mingle, trying to put all of the pieces in place can be a real challenge. And the bigger the event you try to pull off, the more difficult things become.
It’s one thing to get students together for a midnight pancake breakfast. It’s another to host a dozen bands for a multi-day campus music festival, or organize a conference that involves 20 or more well-known speakers and academics. The mere thought of coordinating a huge event can be overwhelming.
Here’s the thing, though: it doesn’t have to be! Hosting a hugely successful, major event on campus is all a matter of taking the right approach. Large events take more time to plan, coordinate, and execute on, but they’re also hugely rewarding -- both for you and for the students on your campus.
We’ve put together this list of our top 5 tips to help you plan your next big campus event. Keep reading to learn more!
This might sound like an obvious tip, but we really can’t emphasize it enough. Don’t wait until the last minute to plan the biggest event of the year! As anyone with experience in event planning will tell you: things always take longer than you think they will. If you’re convinced you can pull off an event with a one month lead time, give yourself two months instead. The further in advance you start planning, the larger the margin for error -- and the less stress you’ll be putting on yourself (and the other campus activities board members) down the road.
Bring Everyone to the Table
Small events often involve relatively few “key players.” Take the midnight breakfast example: you’ve got to advertise the event, sure, and you need to secure some food and a place to host the students that attend. Overall, though, not a lot of balls to juggle at once.
But compare this scenario to the campus music fest. You have to figure out sound, lighting, stages, outdoor space, bathrooms, food, publicity...and then you’ll have to actually book all of the bands, too! It’s a lot to think about.
While starting early is important in this sense, it’s also essential to bring everyone to the table from the very beginning. Identify the various parties you’ll need to involve in order to make the event a success, and be sure to make contact with all of them ASAP. The sooner you start this process, the more lead time you’ll have if you hit a snag coordinating with someone.
Bring In Volunteers
Attracting student volunteers is important for any event. But the bigger the campus event in question, the more essential it’s going to be to involve plenty of volunteer workers. Going back to the music festival example, imagine trying to coordinate something on this scale with just a handful of SAB board members. Good luck with that!
When looking to recruit volunteers, be sure to emphasize just how exciting the event’s going to be. You want your volunteers to look forward to it. The more psyched they are about it, the more likely they are to get their friends to volunteer, too!
Promote Like There’s No Tomorrow
Even small events need a solid promotion plan. But when it comes to a huge campus-wide event, you’ve got to promote it like there’s no tomorrow. The last thing you want is to invest countless hours (and dollars) into an event, only to have it fail due to a lack of attendance.
Facebook, email lists, and flyers are your friends. Get to work promoting as early as possible, and be consistent, with your efforts.
Lighten the Load
Sometimes, we make things harder on ourselves than they need to be. There are often ways that we can simplify a given task, but for whatever reason we overlook the obvious and wear ourselves out taking the more difficult road.
When it comes to planning a big campus event, you can’t afford to make this mistake. You’ll exhaust yourself (and the other members of the student activities board), and that’ll take a toll on the success of the event.
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