Planning a Program or Event
Most clubs and organizations will find themselves planning an event or activity sometime during the school year. The Student Activities Office has a number of great resources available to help you with this process, and we're always here to answer questions or provide help when you need it, so don't hesitate to ask!
Below, you'll find a general outline of the process involved in planning an event. This is a great place to start when you're ready to put on a program. Also consider downloading the Student Activities Programming Handbook for more detailed information on the resources available to you on campus in in the Walla Walla community.
If you're looking for programming checklists, various forms, marketing ideas, or other miscellaneous resources, you'll find them here.
Programming Nuts and Bolts
While each program you organize will certainly have a unique set of tasks and "to-dos" associate with it, most will follow the same general outline.
1. Assess Needs and Interests
At the initial stages of program planning you need to consider the specific needs and interests of your audience. There are a number of ways to do this including conducting an interest inventory, distributing questionnaires, hosting informal group discussions or focus groups, having a suggestion box, or doing "get acquainted" interviews with individuals in your target audience. By identifying the specific needs or interests of community members before you begin designing your program you increase the likelihood that you will have a successful and well-attended event.
2. Develop a Purpose - Have a Vision!
As you consider the information you gathered during needs assessment and begin the program planning process, it's important identify your objective and formulate a rationale for the program. What do you hope to accomplish? Which community needs or interests do you want to meet? This is also your opportunity as a program planner to envision and create a unique event with your own personal signature. Even if you are planning an event that has taken place before, you should not overlook the importance of innovation and evolution. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself to help develop a program vision:
- What did the event look like in the past?
- Which aspects do you want to keep?
- Which aspects would you like to see change? What would you like to add?
- What do you want people to walk away thinking or feeling about your event?
- How will your program improve or add to the community?
- What is the legacy you want to leave as the coordinator of this event?
Consider writing your vision down in a clear concise statement that you can refer back to for inspiration and motivation as you work through the planning process!
3. Initiate Program
With your purpose and vision in mind, start brainstorming specific ideas and formats for your program. This is a great time to go wild and dream big. In a brainstorm all ideas are written down and comments on and evaluations of ideas are kept to a minimum. This is the time to be creative and build off of the ideas of others. Once you have gotten everything down on paper, you can start to sort and evaluate the list. If you're working in a group, try to reach consensus on a solid program idea that will meet your community's needs and your group's vision.
4. Implement Program
Alright, time to get to work! This is the part of programming that most people think of when they imagine putting on an event and in truth, it does take up a majority of the time involved in programming. During this phase you'll need to do some or all of the following:
- Set a budget - think about where the funds will come from for your program and if necessary, seek out co-sponsorship with another campus organization (see Assistance Request Forms on the Programming Resources webpage). Do research on the cost of producing your event to make your budget as accurate as possible (don't forget rental fees, advertising costs, supplies).
- Contact resources people early (e.g. student activities office, scheduling desk, catering).
- Identify possible dates, times, and places.
- Check for scheduling conflicts using the Whitman College Campus Calendar.
- Choose a specific time, date, and place; reserve your space and equipment immediately.
- Talk to the Director or Assistant Director of Student Activities if you will need to contract a performer or if your event will require a contract of any kind (you should NOT sign contracts as a student programmer).
- Start involving other people - delegate!
- Check out the programming checklists on the Programming Resources webpage to get specific ideas of the tasks you should be completing.
Marketing your program is one of the most important and at times, most challenging tasks in event planning. It's important to spend time at the beginning of your planning process deciding who will be responsible for publicity and who you are trying to reach with your marketing campaign (i.e., who do you want to attend the program). You'll want to think about what kinds of publicity to use (e.g. posters, box-stuffers, buttons, t-shirts, invitations, listserv/mailing list, word of mouth, radio/newspaper ads, sandwich board, etc.) as well as what campus and community resources are available to you (newspapers, television stations, radio stations, Communication Services, etc.). For more tips on publicity, marketing, and poster making see the Programming Resources webpage.
6. Finalize Plans
As the date of your event nears, you should confirm that all plans are in place and that everyone knows their roles on the day of the event (don't forget to assign a clean-up crew). Remember to confirm room and equipment reservations, ensure that publicity materials have been distributed, check-in with volunteers and event coordinators, and assign last-minute tasks.
7. At Time of Program
At the time of your program, most details should be in place and all you need to concentrate on is executing your plans. You may need to make an introduction to the event or welcome your participants. Be attentive to discussions if they are an element of your program and help facilitate as needed. And remember to relax, have fun, and participate in your event!
8. Evaluate the Program
Many times the relief of completing a successful program leads us to forget this last and critically important step in programming. Evaluating your program serves many purposes: it gives you a chance to celebrate your successes, leave notes on possible changes or adjustments recommended for future programs, and reflect on the things you learned as a programmer and event planner. There are some possible assessment worksheets on the Programming Resources webpage.