How to organise an event
This document will assist you with event planning. As each event has its own set of unique details to attend to, this document will not apply directly to every event, but it will assist you in developing a plan that takes into account the essential elements for a successful event.
UniSA's network of campuses provide exciting venues for events, whether it be a workshop for five people or an international conference for 2000 people.
Events are a major marketing tool for the University and those who attend UniSA events should be aware that the University's mission of Educating Professionals, Applying and Creating Knowledge and Engaging our Communities is paramount to our business.
Events are an opportunity to showcase the facilities, teaching, research and staff of the UniSA to people who do not normally visit the University. To those who are regular visitors it is a reminder of the reasons they choose to be partners with UniSA.
The guidelines below can apply to any of the following events:
- International conference
- National conference
- Public lecture
- Launch/announcement of research or new program.
IMPORTANT: Have a contingency plan in case a speaker does not show, or a venue becomes too small, etc. The Organising Committee should make the decision to use this plan if and when needed.
For further information regarding coordinating events at UniSA there is also a comprehensive Events @ UniSA guide (1Mb, Word doc).
- What? Why? When? Where? How?
- Select an organising committee
- Making it happen
- Date and time
- The venue
- Mailing list
- Ancillary items
- Greeting VIPs
- Running sheet
- Signage and directions
- Recognition of Indigenous land owners
- Name tags
Download templates you can use in organising your event (staff access only).
What? Why? When? Where? How?
These questions become part of your feasibility plan, and will assist you to decide whether to proceed with the event. Remember it is always better to pull out of an event than to host a failure.
Select an organising committee
The chair or coordinator is critical for the event. They will have to make all the final decisions and solve any conflict. You might also consider hiring a professional conference organiser (whose fee should be incorporated into your budget).
Ensure that the committee members have the necessary skills and knowledge or that there is sufficient time for them to be trained to fulfil their tasks for the event. Areas to be covered might include sponsorship, program design, or meet-and-greet. Each committee member should be given specific tasks to perform and where possible a job specification so that they are aware of their responsibilities and will feel comfortable with the tasks required of them. It is also a good check mechanism for reporting purposes.
Staff in the Communications and Marketing Unit are available to assist you with your event and to act as a resource to you and your planning committee. The committee may also wish to consult outside organisations such as the Adelaide Convention and Tourism Authority who will be able to provide specific information, seeding finance and other promotional materials.
This is the most important part of the event. It does not matter if you have two years or only a few weeks to organise the event - the planning will ensure that all avenues are covered.
When you begin planning, use project planning principles to become aware of all the things that need to be put into place to make it a success. Your event management plan should take into account all facets of the event such as budget, speakers, travel, accommodation and AV equipment.
Making it happen
It is important that those who are on the organising committee take responsibility for their allocated areas. Regular meetings and communication between members and the coordinator/chair are essential at this point. It is during these meetings that the little things that make an ordinary event into a great event come to fruition.
An essential item in your plan is the budget. Even though you may not have full details of funds available, it is essential to estimate the total cost. From this budget plan you can then see if the event is viable and which areas can be trimmed.
A major item to be budgeted for is staff time. Often this is a missed item as often University staff time is given as in-kind. However, if you are budgeting for an outside event, remember to include this cost with appropriate oncosts.
Date and time
Finding a date and time that is suitable for your event is always a difficulty. What may be great for you and the organising committee may clash with other major events at the University. Try to find out as much as you can about what is happening in the University and then plan your event accordingly.
If Senior Management are to be involved, avoid clashing with Council Meetings, Academic Board or School Board as this will mean the majority of senior staff will be unavailable to attend the event.
If appropriate, identify key personnel from the University for your event. It may be the Senior Management Group, Divisional Pro Vice Chancellors or others. Once you have decided on a date for your event and the University staff are pivotal to your event, make sure these people are notified, so that they can pencil it in their diaries. (If it is not a suitable date for these people then alternative dates may have to come into play.)
If a member of the Senior Management Group is to be one of the prime people in the event then it is necessary to brief them on their role and what needs to be executed by them. If the Vice Chancellor is a speaker at the event, you will need to provide briefing notes for her (As a courtesy the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor should receive invitations to major events at the University).
Once you have chosen a date you will need to book the venue. Most room bookings can be made through FM Assist at each of the campuses. Remember to ensure your venue is accessible for people with a disability and that wheelchair access is well signposted.
Should it be necessary to book an interpreter for the hearing-impaired, contact the Royal South Australian Deaf Society.
It may also be necessary for extra equipment to be ordered from outside the University (eg sound and AV). The University mostly uses Novatech Production Services.
If you need to call for papers this should be done very early in the planning stages. Abstracts and a preliminary program should be developed well ahead of conferences. As the abstracts start to arrive the program can be modified to fit the papers. If you are accepting papers and registrations via the internet, meet with the IT people and formulate how this will happen.
If you are having programs or invitations designed, meet with the designer. At the same time information from speakers, sponsors, etc should be sought. Included in the program should be information concerning any costs to the delegates/guests, accommodation requirements/catering/transport/etc. This process may take some time as you proofread the information and develop the final product. So give yourself ample time to do this properly and avoid making mistakes with dates, times and venues.
At the same time put in place procedures for the collection of money. Finance officers will be able to assist with this.
Develop a mailing list. This will be an ongoing function. It will include internal as well as external people including the media and guest speakers. This database will then provide you with a comprehensive mailing list for other events. Make sure that this list is up-to-date before using it for your mailout. Make arrangements to have your database updated if you should receive returned mail.
Formal invitations should be sent to the guest speakers, VIPs and Senior Management as soon as possible. These do not necessarily have to be the same as the general invitations and can be sent on UniSA letterhead. Once confirmation of your speakers has been received you can proceed to further develop your program.
You may also want to develop a webpage which includes a call for papers, invitation, program and registration. This should be discussed with the appropriate Divisional IT person.
If the Governor is to be a special guest, Government House will forward you a briefing paper that needs to be completed and returned prior to the event.
Invitations should also be sent to journalists in the print and television media. If you need assistance in this area, contact News Manager, Michele Nardelli.
Templates for invitations are available in A4 and DL format (staff access only).
Make sure that the RSVPs are being given to a person that is available most of the time prior to the event. It is essential that this person is fully conversant with the event and the location so that they can answer questions such as parking, access, etc.
Once the RSVPs have been received you can then start to finalise the arrangements. It is at this stage that you can make decisions on whether it is viable to go ahead with the function. Remember that it is always better to pull out of an event rather than go ahead and risk it being unsuccessful.
Start organising publicity surrounding your event as soon as possible. Develop a media plan in consultation with Michele Nardelli. This should be done as soon as possible after you have decided on a date and venue.
At least one month's notice of events for publication in UniSANews is required. However, the earlier you are, the better as you may be able to promote it more than once. For a fee, flyers can be sent out as an insert in UniSANews.
If you require a photographer for your event, the Communications and Marketing Unit will be able to advise. Contact Michele Nardelli.
It may be suitable to advertise your event on the University's homepage - contact John Newall for details. Advertising your event to all UniSA staff should be done through the Announcements in the Staff portal. Fill in an online form request to request your event be added to Announcements (staff access only)
Consider also other forms of advertising eg through newspapers. For assistance and details on costs, etc, contact Manager: Campaigns, Alison Leese.
Get quotes for your printing at the same time as you are designing the invitations and programs. This will give you a better idea of what is available to meet your budget.
Print your invitations/programs as soon as practical. There is a need to proofread these, so leave yourself sufficient time to make changes.
Mail general invitations approximately four weeks prior to an event.
Conferences will need to develop a timetable for their mailouts. Call for papers can be anything up from two years to six months prior to an event. Requests for Registration are usually sent at different times. If you are planning to have online registrations you will need to discuss with ISTS staff and have this set up prior to printing your program.
Arrange any other ancillary items for the venue, such as sound, AV equipment, decorations, entertainment.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Do I require a microphone? (if the audience is to ask questions, you may need at least one roving microphone, depending on your venue)
- Will I need a lectern?
- Are tables and chairs needed?
- How would I like the room to be set up, eg lecture style, semi-formal? Campus Services can provide assistance with setting up the room to meet your requirements. Send through a Customer Service Request (CSR)
- Do I require water for the speakers?
- Do I need whiteboard markers and whiteboard dusters?
- Do I need University banners?
- Do I need sponsor's signage?
- Do I have a spare bulb for the overhead projector? Do I know how to change the blown bulb?
If travel is required for the VIP guests, arrange this through the University's preferred airline and travel agents. Provide the suggested itinerary to the guests for their final approval. Book their travel and/or accommodation as the case may be. Payment can be made via an invoice from the accommodation booked or a University Visa card can be used. If the Visa Card is used make sure that you fill in an FS83 form (staff access only) authorising the use of your Visa card and keep a copy for reconciliation purposes.
Arrange a quote for the event. The cost of catering should be incorporated into the price you charge for the event. If it fits into your allowed budget make the final decisions and book the catering. Make sure caterers are given a site inspection. Catering can be provided by on-campus providers (eg the campus cafeteria) or outside caterers can be engaged.
A menu and run sheet template is available (staff access only).
Arrange a compere for the event - someone who will welcome guests, give a brief summary on the purpose of the event, introduce and thank the guest speakers.
If the VIPs are non-University staff ensure that a suitable representative of the University is there to greet them on arrival. There are specific requirements if the Governor or Premier are to be present. These can be obtained from the Functions Officer Government House or the Premier's appointment secretary.
Recruit volunteers to assist with mail-outs, setting up, on the day, etc. Make sure that the volunteers are given training.
A running sheet for your event should be developed. This needs to take in every aspect of the day, including such things as: when are cleaners arriving, when does the AV equipment get installed, sound testing, who is meeting and greeting. This sheet needs to be given to all those involved on the day. It is also a good idea to have a briefing session for all those people who are volunteering their time to assist on the day.
University Security (through Gordon Todd) must be informed of all events. Security officers are invaluable when using the University premises and may be particularly helpful if your event surrounds a contentious issue, or is to be attended by any high profile individual(s).
If a speaker is a Member of Parliament and you are dealing with the Premier's Department or other government departments, contact the person's appointment secretary for details on security requirements (if any).
If necessary Ian Bastable can contact SAPOL to ensure the safety of guests and visitors.
Signage and directions
Make sure that adequate signage (arrows, pointing hands etc) are posted at all entrances, directing people to the venue. Wheelchair accessibility should be clearly marked. Toilets also need to be signposted.
Signage templates are available in A3 and A4 format (staff access only).
Should you wish to record the event (either tape or video) or have photographs taken, contact the Flexible Learning Centre or the Communications and Marketing Unit for advice.
If guest speakers are not being paid, it may be appropriate to present them with a gift. University items can be purchased through the merchandise catalogue (staff access only). The Jam Factory also offers a discount to University staff.
Recognition of Indigenous landowners
It may be appropriate to have a representative of the Indigenous landowners, the Kaurna people, to open your event. Having a representative of the Kaurna people welcome your audience onto their land provides a respectful recognition that the venue and, more broadly, our community is built on the land of the Kaurna people. Visit the Unaipon School for contacts and enquiries.
A formal 'Kaurna Welcome' may not always be appropriate for the size and scale of the event. In many cases a 'Kaurna Acknowledgement' from your MC or Host will often suffice. Wording similar to that below can be used in MC or Host speeches when conducting a Kaurna Acknowledgement:
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the
University of South Australia's (insert event name).
In so doing, I acknowledge that this event is taking place on Kaurna Land and on behalf of all here today, pay our respects to the traditional owners of the land.
You may wish to print name tags with the event title. These are available from Document Services.
Name tag templates are available in blue on white and white on blue format (staff access only).