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How to Plan Successful Events and Programs

Holding a successful event is very much dependent on the quality of planning that goes into it. A very large event can seem overwhelming at the outset, but all successful events follow the same basic pattern of planning. When taken in steps, anything is manageable.

Following are ten general recommended steps to consider to host a successful event anywhere.

Before You Start
1 Determine the needs and desires of the planning committee and those you want to attend the program.

2 What types of things do you want to happen at the program or event? What is its purpose? Is it to educate or entertain or perhaps just to bring people together?

Involve Others
3 People take interest in the programs they help to plan. Get as many people involved as is reasonable. What other campus organizations/departments can help? Seek out co-sponsorships. Don't try to do all this yourself. Delegate the tasks that need to be done throughout your organization to make this event successful.

Set the Details
4 Find an appropriate date, time and location for the event. Consider the availability of your audience and space. Consult the College 24-month planning calendar on-line at so you do not compete with other events. Then check for space availability (see Site/Facility Reservations and Usage for more information).

5 How will you fund this event? If you don’t already have organizational funds to support it, you will need to find other sources of funding. Student Government Association program grants are an excellent resource, and you need to apply for one of these at this early stage in your program development.

Programming Checklist
6 Use a programming checklist to plan the program. Be sure to determine who, what, when, where and why for all aspects of your plan. There are helpful checklists on this site if you don't already have one (See Forms and Helpful Checklists).

Backwards Planning
7 Backwards planning is essential and relatively easy. By working backward before you ever start to go forward, you run less chance of overlooking important components, realizing that you have five major tasks to complete by tomorrow, or not starting preliminary work in time to meet deadlines. Careful pre-planning gives you a better chance for a smooth process and a successful event: They are as follows:
  • State what your finished result will be (i.e., over 200 students leaving the theater on November 15, glad they came).
  • Make a list of the major steps to the finished result (i.e., arrange for facilitator/announcer, provide ushers, arrange for lodging and hospitality for speaker, publicize to organizations, contract speaker, reserve Walter Theatre, seek grant funding, etc.).
  • Using a calendar, create your timeline for accomplishing each step. Give yourself time limits and set deadlines which will give you appropriate time to complete the task without rushing.
  • Be aware of possible obstacles and distractions. Do you anticipate anything sidetracking this event or your helpers? Write down all possible obstacles and distractions.
  • State the substeps. Work out the fine details of each major step.
  • Work the plan. Put your strategy into action.
  • Revise and flex according to needs. Adapt and adjust your original plan to accommodate any emergencies or miscalculations.
  • Complete your plan and accomplish your task.
8 To make your event successful, people have to know about it. Use multiple means of publicity for the most impact. Consider your potential audience and best ways to get the word to them. Word of mouth is one of the most effective means of publicizing an event. See the Publicity/Marketing/Media section for detailed information.

Lights, Camera, Action
9 Make the event happen! Follow your checklist. Don’t get panicked by the big picture. If you’ve done a good job in your pre-planning, the steps will help make things more manageable. Follow-up on the tasks delegated and be sure to have all necessary items for your program.

The following are a few basic ideas to follow for the day it finally happens:
  • First, you should be there AT LEAST a half-hour before the event is scheduled to begin.
  • Confirm all the "last-minute" details of the event.
  • Check the space that you are using and be sure that it is clean and in order.
  • If your event is a trip off-campus, on the day of the trip we recommend that all who attend fill out waiver forms to offset potential liability. Waivers should be collected and held for reference.
  • Greet your presenter in a warm, polite, and businesslike manner. (After all, you are both there for one reason only -- SUCCESS.)
  • After the event is finished, do a thorough clean-up of the area and return everything to their proper places.
  • Make sure to thank everyone involved...the headliner, your staff, and especially your audience! Without them, you would not have an event!
  • Send out thank-you notes or cards the following day or the following week.
10 Take some time to evaluate your program, especially if you plan to do it again or received student activity fee money in the form of a grant or allocation. What was your attendance? What would you change? What can you learn for your next event? There is a helpful evaluation form in the Forms section.



  1. Determine needs.
  2. Define your purpose.
  3. Get others involved.
  4. Set the details.
  5. Secure funding.
  6. Use a checklist.
  7. Plan backwards.
  8. Publicize!
  9. Manage the event!
  10. Evaluate.



Event & Fund-Raiser Planning

Phone: (920) 403-4023
Fax: (920) 403-4092

St. Norbert College • 100 Grant Street • De Pere, WI 54115-2099 • 920-337-3181