Take a look at some helpful words of advice from Degy intern, Amanda Cifelli. Amanda is a current senior at Iona College, where she serves as the Chair of the programming board, leading various major concerts and comedy shows on campus, which have been successful for the past three years. We hope you enjoy her insight on the basics of planning major campus entertainment events!
COLLEGE REPORT: Planning Major Campus Entertainment Events 101
By Amanda Cifelli
Every college or university is unique in terms of how they handle a major campus event, like a concert, comedy show or public speaker, but there are some basic tips that work universally for all. If you don’t know much about how to plan an event like this or don’t know where to start, keep reading!
- Be Visionary – Nothing great came without a vision
- Some of my best thoughts have come from in the shower or in a dream. Imagination and general goal setting is the very first step to completing a successful major campus entertainment event. Work with your executive board and advisor to generate an overall vibe for the event, whether that be a Hip Hop concert or a child TV star motivational speaker, vision is key, and (almost) no idea is impossible or too extreme. It’s great to dream big, but also be realistic.
- Have more than one vision or plan. Don’t get too attached to one idea, in case it doesn’t work out, which can cause disappointment and frustration (although that would be a good excuse to get some ice cream). Have ideas A, B, C, E, F, G, but focus on one at a time!
- If you’re a newer or younger member, speak up about your vision! Change means growth for individuals, organizations and campuses. Share your ideas! You never know what could come from them! Innovation and fresh ideas bring great attention to your organization and help gain retention for your university.
1: Do Your Research – Don’t make assumptions! To know if your vision is even plausible, you have to know your campus!
- Research whether or not your student body agrees with your vision. Hold focus groups or tabling events, where there is face-to-face communication with your audience. Conduct surveys for students to fill out by clicking on the link in your organization’s Instagram bio. Gather all of your findings and bring it back to your executive board round table. Don’t waste your money on something your student body won’t enjoy.
- This major entertainment event may be more costly than the average campus event, so be sure to research and understand your budget! To start off, organize a spreadsheet of all the possible expenses (talent, production, security, promotional materials, etc.) and a ballpark price. Where is the money coming from? Discuss whether that would take proposing money for the event, organizing unused money to cover the cost of the event or having it already and waiting to spend it. Know all the details before you make promises to vendors, agents and artists.
- Know and understand your university’s processes, policies and rules (and their loopholes!). Chat with the administrators who know them best. Major events always have major eyes on them. Follow each given process step by step, according to your student handbook, to make sure you’re not accidentally overstepping any rules that keep students, and everyone involved, safe.
- If you remember one thing from this blog, remember this! Keep plans behind closed doors and only around the round table to avoid rumors or “maybes”. Nothing is worse than being in the vision state and telling your roommate that Beyoncé could be coming for your Spring Concert. All of a sudden, wild fire catches and the entire student body is excited for Beyoncé. Eventually, when Beyoncé doesn’t come, your organization can lose its credibility and trustworthiness.
2: Communicate – “He Said, She Said” is the worst game to play!
- Having effective communication with co-workers, administrators and vendors can make this stressful process so much easier! Communication helps everyone foster healthy working relationships with everyone involved, which can make your event even better than you could have imagined.
- If you’re unsure of something, ask! Humans have the great luxury of language. Although they could be hard to keep track of, you definitely want to make sure you’re following vendor and venue policies. A great way to do so is through speech.
- Always have written confirmation for all major decisions in case you need to refer back!
3: Work in Advance – Plan ahead
- When you think starting to work on something is too early, plan even earlier. Major campus productions take a long time to coordinate and finalize. There’s no harm in gathering quotes, making space reservations, or meeting with your team early in the process. Keeping the idea fresh in everyone’s’ heads is a great way to improve efficiency and avoid ignorance.
- Be careful and aware of quick and major changes in the entertainment industry, as they can directly affect your event. “When are the Grammys again?” “When is Drake’s new album coming out? Any cool feature artists on it?”
- Worrying about timing and letting small details get swept under the rug could be a make or break for your event. Plan in advance in order to take your time planning and focusing on the details.
4: Stay Organized and Manage Your Time – “If you need something done, ask a busy person”
- I don’t take a breath without checking my calendar app first. When balancing so many different tasks, creating a schedule is the only way to keep everything in check. Sometimes it couldn’t hurt to schedule in a meal, in case you forget.
- Prioritize and stick to it! Always actually do what you say you’re going to do. If you plan it out correctly and stick to your schedule, you will be unstoppable. Remember that you’re part of a team and everyone is relying on everyone to complete their task before the next meeting. With that being said, don’t hesitate to get your work done! The whole next season of Stranger Things can wait, your team is counting on you!
5: Complete all paperwork – But not by yourself!
- Don’t even try to decipher contracts or sign them yourself! Always work with your professional advisor and agent on important pieces of (typically virtual) paper like contracts, riders and invoices. Feel free to read them, it couldn’t hurt to have an extra pair of eyes on them to catch the fine print.
- Something really interesting I learned recently was the method behind the madness of riders. It’s stereotypical that celebrities only want the green M&Ms, and we may think that sounds ridiculous. More likely than not, there are reasons behind these obnoxious requests. Say the artist and their agents work to request specific tech equipment and stage requirements, but when they get to their dressing room, there is an array of colorful M&Ms for the artist to enjoy. Although you think it’s no big deal (they all taste the same, right?), the artist freaks out and management is now worried that the stage could fall apart while the artist is performing. Prove that you’re paying attention, and assure the talent that they won’t be injured during the show. Pick out all the green M&Ms!
6: Promote, promote, promote!
- Prior to promoting the event, foster anticipation for who’s coming to perform for this year’s Spring concert. Like I said earlier, keep the ideas around the round table only. Get people talking, asking and wondering who’s coming. When you’re finally ready to announce, make the announcement an event itself! Music, food and a big reveal is a great way to kick off the Spring season and blast ticket sales.
- You’ve done all this work for the past few months, now it’s time to get people to your event. Although they could be expensive, giving out free t-shirts with the artist’s face on it is a great way to promote the event. Not only do students get yet another free tee, but they become walking advertisements. It’s a win-win.
- Get creative with your social media campaigns. Silliness catches on a obnoxious things catch eyes. Don’t be afraid to try something different to #drawattention.
- Selling tickets is not only a great way to make some money back, but to also provide a guaranteed attendance for your event. Having students pay for a ticket allows them to realize that they invested their time and money into the program, making them most likely to actually attend. This strategy helps give the executive board a better idea of how many people are coming to the event. As much as people say they’re definitely coming, it’s always reassuring to know how many people actually bought tickets, and whether or not your e-board needs to kick it up a notch.
7: Have fun
- There is so much pressure on students to craft a production as large as a major campus concert, speaker or comedy show. So in order to get everything done, and done right, you need to have fun and be passionate. The moment planning starts to feel more like work than it does fun, stop.
- Always remember self care is the fuel that helps your light shine brighter. Be sure to get enough rest, eat healthy, exercise regularly, focus on your academics and socialize with friends. Planning major campus events can be very stressful and time consuming, but balancing a healthy lifestyle can help you prosper in your work as well.
Sources: My memory