Tips & Tricks of Event Planning

The Communications Team at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry is here to support you and work with you as you plan upcoming events. Reach out as soon as you think you’ll be hosting an event and we’ll do our best to help you along the way.

We know many of you are quite capable of organizing and hosting events on your own. To assist you along the way, we’ve compiled some tips and tricks that may be helpful in planning and executing a successful event.

Before you plan an event, you’re going to want to do some research. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the goal of the event and how will you achieve it?
  • Who is your potential invitee and is the content relevant to them?
  • What are the key messages you would like to convey to attendees?
  • What are you providing to your guests?

Make sure to find out what other events are taking place (on campus and in the community) at the same time so that you’re not competing for attendees.

Consider any upcoming holidays or long weekends. Typically, you want to avoid scheduling your event too close to a holiday as people may extend their time away.

Ask for advice. Do you know of an event with a similar theme? Reach out to the organizer to see if they can share any insight about what worked well and what didn’t.

Once you have determined the goal, core audience, and key messages, begin thinking about the event logistics.

Determine the type of event. Is this an open event or a ticketed event? Is it a lecture, symposium, cocktail reception or formal dinner? The type of event will determine if RSVPs or ticket sales are needed and dictate your next steps in event planning.
Determine the venue. Research potential venues and request multiple quotes to compare. If you’re hosting your event on campus, you must book a space through the Office of Institutional Planning and Budgeting, Room Reservations

Is your venue accessible? Does it have adequate parking? These are important factors to consider when choosing a venue.

Make sure you tour the event space and confirm the layout and flow of the event works with what you were thinking/planning. 

It’s best to book a venue as early as possible as most places fill up quickly and some require 6-12 months’ notice. 

Considering Catering: What type of catering is needed? A coffee break, lunch, dinner or cocktail reception. Consider the type of event you’re hosting and the length of time guests will spend at the events. If the event is being hosted on campus, it is recommended that Great Hall Catering at Western University be used. If the event is being held off campus, explore what preferred vendors the venue requests using. 

When hosting an event with catering, it’s helpful to track RSVPs so that you can order the proper amount of catering.

Will there be alcohol served? If the event is catered by someone other than Great Hall Catering, and alcohol is being served, you much submit a campus alcohol policy form 2 months prior to the event date.

Determine with the caterer when they need final numbers by and use this date to help determine your RSVP close date.

Create a budget. 
This should include every expense and revenue; such as catering, venue, rentals, promotional materials, travel/accommodation and small things such as supplies (pens, name tags, photographer, etc.) along with ticket sales, sponsorship and gifts in kind. 

For a list of preferred vendors, a sample event budget and help anticipating event costs, contact the Communications Team.

If your goal is to obtain sponsorship for your event, you must receive approval from Western University. Contact Kristen Lesko, Director, Major Gifts, before approaching a potential sponsor.

If this is a ticketed event, consider all of your expenses. Is your goal to raise funds or simply break even? Based on your goal and the costs to run the event, you can determine your ticket price.

Create an event plan.
Include all of your planned details and all of the tasks you need to complete leading up to and following the event. For an example of an event plan, contact the Communications Team

Do you need volunteers? Depending on the size of your event, you may need additional support on event day. Be sure to have clearly outlined roles for each volunteer and assign roles tailored to individual strengths. 

Communication with volunteers leading up the event is key to the event’s success. Send out a volunteer brief a week prior to the event can help get everyone on the same page and consider hosting a volunteer meeting if the event is large enough to warrant one.
For a sample volunteer brief, contact the Communications Team. 

How is the School’s brand being considered, reflected and/or enriched? 

Create your promotional material: Reach out to the Communications Team before creating your marketing materials. We can offer support creating the materials and ensuring they’re properly branded. Reference the Branding Guidelines if you’re unsure about whether or not you’re event materials meet the School’s standards. 

Prepare all marketing materials well in advance and stay consistent with your messaging across all platforms.
Your marketing materials should be eye catching, but also informative. Make sure you have all the information needed for the invitee to decide and RSVP. 

Think about any additional event materials you may need created for event day. For example, do you need directional signage at the venue, welcome or sponsorship thank you signage at the event?

Brainstorming this list ahead of time is key so that you have enough time to create and print anything required before the event. 

Attract your attendees: Now that you’ve created your event plan and have the marketing materials approved, you’re ready to launch your event. Consider all of the platforms available for marketing – social media, e-newsletters, poster boards, visix slides, etc. Design your messaging and graphics with the intention of attracting individuals to the event - make them need to attend and not miss out. 

Another great way to attract attendees is through personal outreach. Send a personal email to people in your network and community to invite them to attend. For example, if you were hosting an event about cardiovascular health, it might be beneficial to send a personal email to the Heart and Stroke Foundation to invite their networks to attend.
When sending emails, writing newsletter content or designing social media posts, try to create a punchy subject lines, content and graphics. Consider your messaging and limit the frequency as to not alienate your readers. 

When promoting an event, particularly one with complimentary tickets, always assume that approximately 30% of your registered guests won’t attend. If your space can hold 100 people, aim to sell 130 tickets to ensure a full room. 

Consider tracking RSVPs as you receive them and comparing them to the tactics you’re using to promote the event. For example, if after sending out an email to all Schulich Medicine & Dentistry employees you see a spike in registration, it would be worth sending a second email. If you host the event a second time, you can refer back to your notes on which tactics were most effective and use them for promotion. 


Stay organized: 
You will need to keep track of a lot of moving parts and small details leading up to the event, so it’s important to reference your event plan frequently to make sure you’re hitting all of the key deadlines. 

Document all your conversations with vendors, volunteers, and presenters. If you’re having a conversation over the phone, send a quick email to recap everything that was discussed so that nothing is missed.
Complete as many tasks as you can well in advance of the event. There often are last minute details and kinks to work out a week before the event so the more prepared you are the better.

To stay organized, save important documents in folders so that they’re easy to find. 

Consider using briefing notes:
To ensure your presenters, staff, and volunteers are on the same page, consider creating a detailed briefing package for them. This helps your volunteers or key dignitaries feel comfortable in their role during the event. Depending on the individual, the package might include items such as speaking remarks, a detailed itinerary, and/or a map to the venue. Once the briefing packages are prepared, review them with your volunteers or key dignitaries to make sure they fully understand their role and responsibilities.

For briefing note examples, contact the Communications Team.
To keep yourself organized on event day, create an event binder. Include everything you might need during the event such as confirmation emails, contracts, a copy of all speaking remarks and a detailed itinerary of the event. 

Confirm the details: 
It’s also extremely important to confirm everything in writing and keep copies of the confirmations. If you’ve ordered flowers for your event, make sure to save the email correspondence, invoice, and receipt. That way, should any confusion arise surrounding what was ordered, you’ll have all the details in writing.

Make sure to reconfirm everything the week leading up to the event. That will leave you with enough time to solve any problems that might arise.

Consider how you plan to capture the special moments from the event and how you might want to share these experience after the event. Hiring an event photographer may be a smart idea if you have budget. 

On event day, always arrive early for set up and make sure your volunteers have arrived (if applicable). It’s important to stick to the schedule that you’ve created for the event. 

Do a final walk through before any guests arrive. This is an excellent opportunity to make any last minute adjustments.

Ask for a cell phone number from everyone who is helping with the event to easily get a hold of them on
event day.

If you find that you’re off schedule, adjust the timing of the rest of the event. Attendees will expect to leave at the advertised end time.


Say thank you: Thank you notes are a cost effective and thoughtful way to thank your event participants such as volunteers and or presenters.

A hand-written note stands out. If you are able, it’s worth sending one in the mail. Personalize the letter with anecdotes from the evening.
Consider including a small photo gallery in your thank you note to participants if moments were captured at the event. 

Be sincere in your messaging and share what was learned or what takeaways you the guests experienced at the event in your thank you messaging. 

Host a wrap up meeting:
Schedule a meeting with your team and or group of volunteers after the event. As the event manager, you aren’t able to be in all places at once; it’s important to get feedback from as many as you can at your event. For example, someone working registration will likely have very different feedback than someone handing out awards or working the AV. Take notes from the meeting and use the feedback to improve future events. 

For strategies on how to run an effective post-mortem meeting, please contact the Communications Team

If this is an annual event where you’re looking for feedback from attendees, consider a post-event survey. Western University offers online survey tools to help you gather information, such as Qualtrics.

The Schulich Medicine & Dentistry Communications Team is available to support events throughout the School. Please contact the Communications Team with any event related questions or to request any of the following materials:

  • List of preferred vendors
  • Event plan templates
  • Sample briefing notes, budgets, and/or remarks
  • Design support
  • Promotional support