Once you determine an event date, work backwards to develop a working timeline. This is a sample event preparation timeline for you to use as a guide. Not all events are the same, so be flexible and tailor this tool to suit your individual needs.
6-12 Months Out:
- Set event goals
- Establish event budget
- Check proposed date for conflicts – Check campus event calendar, community calendars, religious and other holidays, etc.
- Reserve a venue – Conduct site visits if needed
4-6 Months Out:
- Initiate planning and assign responsibilities
- Reserve date on key participants’ calendars
- Design save-the-date cards if needed
- Book event with caterer and begin preliminary budget and menu discussions
2-4 Months Out:
- Contact vendors for any rental items needed (tent, chairs, specialty linens, tables, AV, staging, etc.)
- Compile guest list
- Mail save-the-date cards if using
- Design and create invitation
- Submit alcohol permit if applicable
- Order gifts if necessary
- Finalize menu with caterer
- Submit your event to the ISU Event Calendar (link)
4-6 Weeks Out:
- Make arrangements for flowers, centerpieces, balloons, or other decorations
- Plan promotion of event
- Confirm speakers for program
- Determine needs for event signage
- Mail invitations (This is an industry standard. If guests are local, 4 weeks is usually sufficient.)
- Make security arrangements as needed
- Request University Photographer, if applicable (link)
2-4 Weeks Out:
- Consider site preparation as needed (special cleaning, grounds maintenance, sprinkler schedule, etc.)
- Work with Marketing and Communications to promote your event through press releases, social media, ISU website, etc.
- Confirm volunteers and staffing assignments
- Plan seating arrangements, if needed
1 Week Out:
- Print programs, name tags, seating cards, signage, menus, etc.
- Give caterer final count (Chartwells requires 72 hours)
- Confirm delivery times with vendors
- Arrange sound checks if needed, for performers/speakers
- Finalize logistical details including timing of program with the meal, VIP transportation, etc.
Day of Event:
- Arrive early to set up or check setups
- Be prepared to trouble-shoot and improvise
- Meet with staff and volunteers to give instructions and walk through the event (point out location of restrooms, elevators, etc.)
- Bring all materials (registration lists, name tags, programs, scripts, etc.)
- Check weather forecast if applicable
- Touch base with caterer and give them any last-minute changes or special dietary requests
- Test AV equipment
- Make sure decorations, centerpieces, etc. are in place
- Bring supplies (scissors, tape, pens, markers, extra printed materials, etc.)
- Set up check-in table
- Send thank-you notes to volunteers, staff, speakers, and others as appropriate
- Hold event debrief meeting
- Update records to show actual attendance, final costs, etc.
- Pay invoices
- File all event materials, notes and suggestions for future events
Determine the resources necessary to carry out your plan. Does your current budget cover all expenses or will you need to create a plan to generate additional funds?
Tips to reduce costs:
The location is critical to the success of your event. When evaluating a venue, consider the following:
Available square footage
Are there options to enlarge or shrink the space based on number of guests? You want to ensure your guests have enough space to be comfortable, but too much space will make your event look sparse and not well-attended
Food & Beverage Compatibility
Will you be able to serve alcohol in this venue? Is there ample staging area for the caterer?
Lighting makes a huge impact. Like many aspects of event planning, if it is done well, hardly anyone will notice. But, if it is done poorly, everyone will notice. The lighting in any given room sets the tone and feeling, and can have a huge impact on your guests’ first reactions, as well as general comfort throughout the event.
Is there ample parking nearby? Do you need to provide a shuttle for any elderly or special guests? Also consider special arrangements that may need to be made with the Parking Office. Do you need to provide passes or maps to your guests? Make things as easy as possible for your attendees so that they have a positive experience at ISU.
Technology and equipment options
Do you need equipment for presentations such as screens and projectors? Is there an AV tech on-site to assist you if problems arise? How is the internet connection in the venue? It is imperative to have a reliable and strong connection for you, your presenters, and your guests. How is the sound system? Ask to test it out beforehand if you are unfamiliar with it. These items may sound minor, but too often a faulty microphone or slow internet connection becomes what guests remember most about an event.
When planning for an outdoor event, always have a rainsite reserved. Be proactive by listing the rainsite on your invitations and other promotional materials. This will save you time and will assist your guests if you do need to move your event indoors. If an indoor venue is not an option, consider other possibilities such as a tent.
In most cases, the host of the event is the first to speak, followed by the highest-ranking official, down to the lowest-ranking official. In some cases, you may want your highest-ranking official or VIP to speak last, so they can “bat clean-up” so to speak. The nature of your event will help determine speaking order. If you have questions, feel free to contact our office.
Incorporating students into your program can be very effective. Events are successful when they create emotional connections with ISU for their guests. A great way to accomplish that is by having students share their stories.
Identify possible risks associated with your event. Risks can include factors like alcohol, animals, fire or explosion, travel, large attendance, children in attendance, performers, hazardous activities, and others. If you have questions or need help with liability insurance, contact the Office of Risk Management, (208) 282-5741.
Alcohol on Campus
Any alcoholic beverages allowed at a permitted event shall be supplied through authorized contractors of the organizers (such as caterers hired by the organizers). In no event shall the University supply or sell alcoholic beverages directly.
You can find the ISU Permit Application to Serve and Consume Alcohol at www.isu.edu/marcom
If you have concerns about large crowds, extra security for a notable VIP or other safety concerns, involve Public Safety early in your planning process. They can be reached at (208) 282-2515.
On the Pocatello and Idaho Falls campuses, all food and beverages, including alcohol, must be catered by the campus food service provider, Chartwells. Consult with them directly about options and catering costs. Their menu and additional catering information can be found at www.dineoncampus.com/isu
Ken Monroe, Catering Coordinator, (208) 282-2242
Cyndy Johnson-Kunz, (208) 282-5463
- Chartwells offers a variety of colored napkins and tablecloths. If your budget permits, specialty linens can be rented through off-site vendors (see list of contacts in appendix).
- Inform the caterer of your food and beverage budget. Most caterers will be happy to create and customize options to fit your needs that do not appear on the menu.
- Decide if a buffet meal or a served meal will better suit your event.
- Events held between 5 and 7 p.m. should include a meal or heavy hors d’oeuvres.
- If you have questions about how many items to plan per person for a cocktail reception, consult with your caterer or feel free to contact our office.
- For receptions, make sure to have a variety of hot and cold items, as well as a mixture of vegetarian and non-vegetarian items.
- If you are serving alcohol, offer non-alcoholic beverages as well.
- Consider your guests’ comfort when selecting food items. Chicken wings are delicious, but not necessarily something you want to eat in front of people. Try to select items that do not require utensils if your guests will be standing.
- Meet with your caterer beforehand to discuss details such as serving time, whether or not you want dishes cleared during the program, vegetarian options, etc.