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Fundamentals of Event Planning

When it comes to planning an event, the first thing you have to do is gather some information.  To make the event planning process easier, we’re providing you with the “Five W’s and one H” questions. This is a series of questions that will help you and your organization establish a firm foundation on which to plan your event.

The question of who is involved in the event is two pronged, concerning planning and attendance. And it’s important you answer this question early on as it will help you and your student officers more successfully organize your event.

    • Planning
      • First, you need to consider who’s involved in planning the event. For instance, does the event need a committee? If so, who should be on the committee? Finally, who needs to approve the event? (Note: The answer to that last question will be addressed in the Solicitation Requests section.)
    • Attendance
      • Now that you have your planning group, the question becomes: who do you want to come to this event?
      • Determining who your audience is will help you determine what kind of event you want to have and also give you a better idea of what kind of budget you’ll need. For example, if your event is only for members of your organization, that may be less costly than an event that is open to anyone to attend.
      • Whether your event is open only to members of the organization or to everyone, you and/or your student leaders will need to engage in some research about the campus and your target audience.
      • What do they like? What is popular among the student body? This research can be accomplished by reviewing successful events that other student organizations have put on, asking other event organizers about their experiences, or even conducting surveys of students (online or in person).

Why and what build on the foundation you’ve already established with who you want to come to the event. Now that you’ve done your research into your target audience and what’s hot on campus, you should have a general idea of what people will like. Maybe that’s a lecture or maybe it’s a pizza lunch or a multicultural fair.

    • Regardless, once you have your event idea, you need to ask additional questions such as: What are your goals? In other words: Why do you need to have this event? What is your organization trying to achieve?
    • You can also start thinking about your budget. We’ll discuss budgeting in further detail a little later, but you can start planning by asking what your basic costs are with regard to renting a venue, buying supplies, creating advertising, etc.

Once you answer the first three fundamental questions (who, what, why), it’s time to tackle when and where. This means determining a date and time for your event and a location.

    • When determining the date and time, you’ll want to make sure your event doesn’t conflict with any major exams or holidays or other campus events.
    • Your location may be on or off campus. If you want to hold your event on campus, there are a number of rooms and venues available. You can find a list of on campus venue resources and place reservations on the Office of Campus Events website at
    • While determining and requesting your location is one of the last steps you’ll take in your initial planning, remember: the earlier you submit your location request, the better off you’ll be!

Finally, you need to determine how people will know to come to your event.

This is a question of marketing. How are you going to get the word out? There are numerous ways to market your event, both traditional and non-traditional, online and off (think paper flyers versus email).  We have made resources for marketing student organizations and student organization events here.


Campus Resources for Planning Successful Events

Center for Student Engagement

The CSE is always willing and able to help support student organizations planning or looking to plan an event.  Email for any questions or to schedule a meeting with a staff member.

Campus Event Services

The Office of Campus Event Services oversees the reservation process for all events and meetings at the University of Tennessee. From small meetings to large banquets, Campus Event Services will help you schedule space and resources for every event.

Student Disability Services

The mission of Student Disability Services (SDS) is to partner with the campus community in creating equitable access to eligible students while promoting disability-inclusive diversity.  SDS is able to provide interpreters for student organization events, contact SDS to submit a request.

Student Union Event Services

The Student Union offers space for the meeting and programming needs of the campus community. From small groups to large events, we can accommodate your needs in the Student Union. Most rooms can accommodate multiple seating arrangements, and catering is available through Vol Dining.