University event professionals produce events that run the gamut. Everything from scientific symposiums and art exhibitions to debates and visits by prospective students: academic event professionals do it all. Regardless of event type, each one requires a similar event management process.
Here are four ways university event planners can create amazing events.
1. Develop an event strategy.
A master plan that includes the following elements will keep a university event planning team, especially one that extends across campus focused and on-task.
Set a Goal: Clearly define the event goal. Is it to deliver a special message, prompt a specific action, or support a university priority? Keep that goal in mind during each phase of planning.
Once the goal is clarified, decide how it will be measured (event attendance, social media engagement, donor support, etc.). You cannot measure the success of a goal without a metric.
Know Your Audience: Know your target audience. What do they expect at the event? What will make them physically, emotionally, and socially comfortable? Those needs have to be met before a guest can relax and engage.
Also, remember that audiences respond emotionally first, then intellectually, which is counterintuitive at a university. So, reach them first through emotion (an inspirational story), then information (PowerPoint).
Define a Budget: University budgets are tight. An event budget reveals areas where you may have to negotiate prices, be creative in acquiring event resources, or make necessary cuts. Most importantly, it will prevent you from going over-budget.
At non-profit universities, the perception of cost is also important. You don’t want donors assuming their money is paying for lavish parties. A good rule of thumb is that simple elegance is best. For example, white-on-white-on-white is budget-friendly, yet creates an upscale ambiance.
Create the Content: Events are immersive marketing opportunities. Take time to formulate the event message. Then, convey it in layers with invitations, promotional materials, catering, music, and activities.
Use the “five senses rule” as a guide in designing the content. What are your guests going to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell? Their sensory perception should repeatedly remind them of the event’s purpose and message.
Learn more about how to create an event with this step-by-step guide.
2. Assemble your event dream team.
Academic event professionals rely on a dynamic team of people from caterers and graphic designers to audio/visual experts and the set-up crew. It is vital to develop a rapport with them one-on-one and as a team throughout the entire event planning process. High-level communication inspires confidence in the master plan. Once you’ve assembled an expert team, don’t try to control every minute detail. Let them do their job.
3. Create an event logistics plan.
You can use something as state-of-the-art as the 3D event management software or a team-tracking web application, like Asana. Or you could use a good, old-fashioned Excel spreadsheet in the cloud to create a logistics plan that is accessible to the entire team. It becomes a living/breathing document to update information, track progress, and facilitate communication. To get started, begin with your event strategy and break down the abstract components into precise tasks with assignments and deadlines.
4. Market your event.
University faculty, staff, and students are known to work and learn in silos. Draw them out of their comfort zone with an effective marketing strategy: a) start with an enticing theme, which must match the event’s message; b) spotlight the theme and message in promotional materials; c) make it easy to RSVP and get additional details; and d) promote it creatively on social media platforms.
University event planners are required to have a unique set of contrasting attributes—detailed and creative; CEO and team player; and traditionalist and trendsetter. Having a solid management process helps keep all that in balance. Learn more about creating successful event marketing here.
University event planners: what tips do you have to share? Give us a shout on LinkedIn.
And check out Social Tables Event Software for Universities to save time setting up for commencement, hosting scholarship lunches, selling unused library space, and more.