Amherst’s semester came to a joyful close around late May. As a lucky humanities person, I had only papers to complete, which for me, works a lot better than tests. Fun fact: I’ve actually never taken a test while at college (unless it was a written one–but no multiple choice nor math)! My return home involved a quick turn around, departing campus on a Sunday and starting a remote internship the next day, which has beautifully been great!
Now that I have the time to reflect on the past semester as a whole, I realized that by the grace of God I either hosted or co-hosted five different events on campus, all with the intentions of bringing excitement and unity (and to throw in some take-out from town to diversify everyone’s palates. Under COVID restrictions, no one could leave campus). I had a blast doing each one of these. They had such a great turn-out that it prompted me to plan other future diversions with the help of some friends.
The hassle of getting an event together comes with its own set of instructions depending on its theme. For me, I hosted nearly all service-based events with one as solely a dinner. I’ll explain these in greater detail in another post. However, between figuring out how to turn on speakers to making sure the delivery man came on time to even dealing with a beyond crowded room full of people eagerly waiting for attention, I think I’ve got five small tips and tricks that often go overlooked or simply unknown.
Let’s dive into it!
Fabulous and Furious Five
A big fan of service and the way it brings people together, a lot of the clubs I spend the most time with at Amherst revolve around this theme. People love the idea of giving back to the community or donating their time for a cause. With Amherst’s funding and a willing crowd, I had the time of my life doing some awesome service (more specifics on what those were coming up!).
1. Make sure the speakers work
Unless you want the event to be silent, music is the perfect way to get rid of the deafening silence. For each event, even though I had visited and used each space multiple times before, I always had some sort of complication with the speakers.
For starters, bring the right chords. In fact, bring every chord you own. Unfortunately, not everything is bluetooth. Bring your own portable speaker if you are unsure if the event space even has speakers (yep, I’ve walked into events straight up not even knowing if I could play music or not).
2. Order or make MORE food than you think you’ll need
Some people that came to the events that I cohosted genuinely wanted to do the activity and the other half probably came for the food. There was a reason why I asked for funding for some type of food for every single event, hahahhahaha. But regardless, the more, the merrier!
Therefore, it was beyond embarrassing when I ran out of food at some times. Yikes! For one of my events, we ran out of food before half of it was over. Some people were greedy with their burritos. Hence, overestimate a little when planning for food. If you end up with leftovers, you’ll have free meals for the next couple days.
Also, don’t forget utensils! I think for nearly every event (you think I’d learn by at least the third), I forgot some major staples needed, such as plates and silverware. Do not rely on the takeout service to provide you with anything additional to the food. I learned this the difficult way. In fact, at one of my events, we had to use paper towels from the bathroom as plates. This was also the event where people took way too many burritos.
3. Ask for an RSVP so that you can follow up
SignUpGenius and Google Forms became my second group of best friends this past semester. Using a platform such as these to collect people’s email and confirmation not only gives you the ability to send them reminders leading up to your event, but it also gives you the chance to reach out to them after the event!
For really big events where you need everyone to register and/or choose their time slot, use SignUpGenius. For smaller events or events that require people to fill out information, use Google Forms. I also use Google Forms as a survey piece to send out after the event and it’s super awesome! Everyone with a Gmail has access to all of Google Workspace, which includes Forms. They even provide you templates for whatever type of form you need.
For my very first Letter Writing event back in the fall of 2020, I had people RSVP through Google Forms, but instead of emailing them, I sent a text message to each of people who dropped their phone number. Getting a text is a lot quicker and eye-catching than an email. If you can text reminders to your friends, they’ll come!
4. Greet people as they come in
If it’s an in-person event, stand by the entrance and say hello! Yes, it might be a bit awkward, but get someone to do it, whether that means you or another person. Plus, this way it’s easy to direct people in the places they need to go, or sit down, or where to grab the supplies they need, or you can even tell them ahead of time not to steal all of the burritos for themselves.
If it’s online, send them a private chat saying hey! I tend to do this at club meetings that I’m leading through Zoom. It’s nice to receive a hello from someone recognizing your presence, especially if you’re brand new to the group! Plus, then they can private message you any questions they have and you can answer them speedily.
5. If possible, leave people with something as they go
Whether you gift them a smile or a little info sheet of paper with more details as to how to get involved/contact you/etc., it’ll make the event all the more memorable. They’ll have something to bring back with them.
However, goodie bags are not essential, although they are certainly cute and if you can afford them, go for it! But for a college student like me, I can only work with the money that my university allocates for my club. But, trust me that regardless of the cash you have, you can give something out… It doesn’t have to be tangible.
Say that you are hosting an event online. Leave people with an individual chat message letting them know it was awesome seeing them. If you took a picture or any screenshot at the event, send it to everyone! People love a good picture to put on their social media. If you meet someone super cool, privately chat them and ask them out for a meal (this sounds super romantic, but I promise you that meals can be platonic. Unless you want to make it romantic, which is great, too).
If it’s in person, have someone stand at the exit saying goodbye and thanking them for the event. Maybe you can leave them with a little bookmark with more info about your next event, your club, organization, etc. At some of my events, people came because their friends asked them to tag-along. Later, they end up liking the event so much that they chose to subscribe to one of my club’s email list (it was for 3D, a club that builds community with adults with developmental disabilities).
My friend and I hosted a service event at Amherst where we wrote letters to kids currently held in ICE detention centers. The event was an awesome and huge success! To thank every person for coming out, we stood at the entrance—which was conveniently also the exit—and handed out little affirmation notes that said stuff like “thank you!” and “we love you!” as people walked out. We took sheets of paper, cut them up into little pieces, and wrote notes during the event, so we didn’t even have to do this ahead of time! We ended up doing this for another dinner event, too.
I hope these tips help you think strategically for your next event. Some other tips might surface later, and maybe I’ll have to add to my five. Nonetheless, it’s often the little things that can make the event or totally sour it—so be prepared!
Regardless of how the event goes, know that some might flop and others will thrive like no other has. Perhaps my next blog post should be about all of my event failures, unexpected and unwanted surprises and straight up bad planning… I have a story where my friend and I literally had to kick boxes of pillows and cotton stuffing for almost half a mile to get to the event location (which couldn’t have been further from my dorm). It will definitely make you laugh!
Wishing you all the best! Talk soon,
Quote of the post:
Let all that you do be done in love1 Corinthians 16:14