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Start Your Planning

When beginning the planning for your event, consider two major components: budget and timeline.



Before planning your event, determine your budget for the entire event and from where the funds will come. The budget for all events must be going through the appropriate approval process. If using University funds, all contracts and agreements are with MU, and the Office of Operations will need to sign the documents.  If using MU Foundation funds, all contracts and agreements are with the MU Foundation, and the Executive Director of the Foundation will need to sign the documents.  Keep in mind that some of your vendors may require deposits.

Some things to consider for the budget:

  • Venue Costs. Depending on where you host the event, the cost of the space can vary greatly.
  • Postage and mail house fees
  • Setup costs. You may need to pay for furniture rental or to have furniture moved. Also, if you are planning to use the same room in different layouts, you may have to pay a reset fee.
  • Print items.  These may include invitations, programs, registration materials, signs, etc
  • Security/EMTs.  Venue may require these or you may want to secure certain areas.
  • Catering. This may be the largest part of your budget and may include catering staff and catering equipment rentals
  • Rentals of tables, chairs, staging
  • Décor. You may use linens, flowers, lighting, balloons, musicians, etc.
  • A/V Services. These costs can be small if you only have a computer, podium, microphone, and projection, but can get quite large if you have to add multiple screens, sound systems, A/V techs, etc. Make sure you only order what you really need.
  • Parking
  • VIP guests. You may need gifts, accommodations, travel, etc.
  • Staffing
  • Photography/Videography



In order to keep organized and on track, create a timeline with key items.

Some items to include:

  • Selecting a venue, and finalizing contracts, if applicable
  • Creating invitee lists
  • Sending out invitations
  • Establishing RSVP follow updates
  • Determining parking needs
  • Choosing caterers and finalizing contracts
  • Selecting linens and flowers
  • Contacting speakers/presenters
  • Determining AV needs and secure services
  • Creating and delivering briefings and scripts if applicable
  • Ordering awards/plaques if applicable

Also, create a day of timeline to include who is responsible for each action item.



List/Guest Management

When creating the guest list for your event, you will want to consider who you are trying to reach and the purpose of the event. If you are trying to raise money, you may want to include someone from the donor relations team to the planning meetings. Keep in mind that you want to invite donors with an interest in the area of your event. Early on, decide who will be managing the guest list, what information you want to capture about each guest, and what you will do with the information in the guest list.  You will also want to determine if there are any “VIP” guests – these are guests who will require special attention based on their past giving, position within their company/government, they are a speaker/presenter, etc. There should only be a few select VIPs as it is easy to start thinking everyone should be VIP.

  • Create a guest list with the Executive Producer (event owner)
  • Save the Date – depending on the event, you may find this is helpful
  • Invitations – electronic or print, if print ensure you mail them early enough
  • RSVPs – who is tracking these? Will you do follow up calls/emails to non-responders?
  • Order materials needed for nametags and check on the type of nametag, format, badge holders
    • Paper for nametags
    • nametag holders
    • cases for nametags
    • ribbons
  • Create nametags

If there are true VIP guests:

  • Do you need to assign a host to greet them?
  • Do you need to arrange for transportation (air, car, train, etc.)?
  • Do you need to arrange for a hotel room?
  • Do you need a welcome/thank you gift?
  • Do you reserve seating for them or their guests?
  • Will you need to secure special parking?



When booking your space, consider what the layout of your event will be:

  • Conference and Hollow Square: Appropriate for interactive discussions and note-taking sessions for fewer than 25 people.
  • U-shape: Appropriate for groups of fewer than 40 people. These are best for interaction with a leader seated at the head of the setup. Audiovisual equipment is usually set up at the open end of the seating.
  • Ovals and rounds: Generally used for meals and sessions involving small group discussions. A five-foot-round table seats eight people comfortably. A six-foot-round table seats 10 people comfortably.
  • Theater: Appropriate for large sessions and short lectures that do not require extensive note-taking. This is a convenient setup to use before breaking into a discussion or role-playing group because chairs can be moved.
  • Lecture or Classroom: The most desirable setup for medium to large-size lectures. This configuration requires a relatively large room. Tables provide attendees with space for spreading out materials and taking notes.

You will also need to consider if you need additional spaces: a catering prep area, a green room, breakout rooms, registration, coat check, etc.



When ordering catering for events with university funds,  please get three proposalsand suggestions.  Know your budget, which will help with their suggestions.  Check with the venue to see if they have a preferred catering list or if you can use your preferred caterer. Consider if your meal is sit down or buffet.  If sit down, do you want the first course preset? This keeps the event moving if you have a speaker or if people are coming in at different times.

Some other considerations include: water on the podium/table for each speaker, vendor meals, etc. Once you place your catering order, the caterer will send you a Banquet Event Order (BEO) which is a complete summary of the event. Check your BEO carefully for date, start times, setup times, locations, number of guests, meals ordered and any other details that you are expecting. You also need to explain to your caterer that they are responsible for cleaning up and removing all of their trash after the event.



Once you have determined the location and layout of your event, you will want to consider the ambiance and décor. You can change the look and feel of a room using linens, lighting, flowers, music etc. When doing this, consider the time of year, purpose and theme of the event.

  • Linens
  • Music
  • Flowers
  • Lighting
  • Coat Rack/Check (do you need a coat rack for people to hang their own coats, or do you need to hire someone to check coats)



You will need to consider if you need directional signage for parking, walking to the venue, or within the facility.  In addition, will you need signs for registration or breakout rooms?


Audio-Visual Equipment

When ordering A/V, consider if you will need to have a support person on-site to assist or if you and your speakers are comfortable handling the A/V needs yourselves. Will your speakers want to have someone advance slides for them, or will they want to advance the slides themselves using a remote?  Do you need lavalier microphones, a podium with a microphone, mics in the audience area?



Will you need a photographer and/or videographer at the event? Make a list of the photos required, such as speakers, VIPs, and setup shots.  If photographing individuals, you may want to assign an additional person to the photographer.  If using a videographer or photographer, what will the video/photos be used for? Will you send the photos/link to video to guests?  Will they be used on a public website, or will they be for archival purposes only? If using these services, you will want to put a sign in a public space (the registration desk is a great place for it) stating that people will be photographed and the photos may be used in public forums.



If you will be having guests, consider where they will park and if you want them to be responsible for their own parking fees or if you will be offering a permit and paying the fees for them. Check with your venue to see if they offer free/discounted parking for your guess or if you can purchase prepaid parking vouchers to hand out to your guests. Check parking availability for the day and time of your event.