Special Events Guide
Planning a special event of any size can be a challenge whether you are a novice or a pro. To make life easier, this Special Events Guide will provide some essential guidelines for planning an event and identifying the resources that will lead to a successful outcome.
At Memorial University dozens of special events take place every year. They range from elaborate ceremonies involving hundreds of people (such as Convocation) to small meetings and receptions specific to one department or unit. While all events should be well organized and executed, events that involve an advancement opportunity for Memorial, providing exposure to external audiences, require particular efforts to ensure a high quality and consistent event.
Before planning any event, it is important to clearly understand why you are having the event. Be sure to have a thoughtful response for ‘why are we holding this event?’. This will help you stay focused on the task and motivated to see the objective fulfilled. Key points to keep in mind as you proceed:
- Have clearly identified objectives for holding the event.
- Set objectives that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
- Objectives may vary, based on the nature of your event. Examples include:
- Increasing attendance by 5% at the Galbraith Lecture over previous year
- Raise $10,000 for new scholarship fund
- Generate media coverage of new research project
Tip: Be sure to measure the event results, identifying what was done well and what could be done more effectively in the future.
A successful event is often the result of a group effort. Here are some tips for pulling together your team:
- Be clear on identifying the team leader, whose main role is to keep the team organized, motivated and focused on the event objectives.
- The team should include members who will bring something unique to the group and will add positively to the event. Consider the major elements required to make your event a success and include people with expertise in those areas (security, marketing, protocol, communications etc.) on your planning committee/team.
- Hold meetings well in advance of your event and on a regular basis.
- Set an agenda for each meeting and stick to it.
- Keep meeting notes and circulate them to each team member identifying tasks and deadlines.
Tip: Identify critical points in the planning process where input from your event team is most useful (early and mid-way through the planning stages, one week out from the event, two days before, etc.).
Whether you are a novice or a professional event planner, the following questionnaire is useful in identifying elements of the planning process.
- is the event being held
- type of event will this be
- is the agenda
- will you serve
- will the entertainment be
- equipment is required (audiovisual, microphone, podiums, banners, etc.)
- costs are there
- is the event
- are the planning meetings
- are the pre/post parties
- should things be set up
- should staff/volunteers be there
- will the event be
- will the head table and podium be
- will people sit (is there a seating plan/do you need place cards)
- will the entertainment play
- will people park
- many people are invited
- many people will likely attend
- can we get the addresses of the invited guests
- will the event be promoted
- will be invited
- will coordinate the function
- will order and plan the decorations
- will clean up (pre/post event)
- will greet or register guests
- will do the coat check
- will sell tickets
- will be in charge of the menu
- will be a sponsor
- will be a sponsor
Successful events just don’t happen; they take weeks or months of planning and preparation. Preparing a timeline and sticking to it is an essential component of planning a successful event. While larger and more complex events require more preparation than others, most events take longer to plan than you expect. Here are some tips to creating a timeline to keep you on schedule.
- Use a work-back schedule (which starts from the event and works backwards) to help to identify many vital components of the preparation before you have too many distractions and deadlines to meet.
- Organize your timeline in chart form with the tasks entered down the side.
In the ideal world, we would all have plenty of advance notice and be able to dedicate 100 percent of our time to planning the event. In reality, event planning is often an add-on to our already busy schedules and can be sprung on us with very little warning.
While every event is different and elements to be considered will vary accordingly, the following check lists and recommended timelines will assist you in your planning process. Feel free to adapt these to meet your own needs.
Planning elements to consider
6 months – 1 year ahead
· Select a theme
· Select the date
· Obtain budget parameters
· Compile draft invitation list
· Select and reserve a facility
· Develop a rain plan if the event is to be held outdoors
· Reserve a block of hotel rooms, if necessary
· Select and order recognition items and get them engraved
· Order favors, souvenirs, printed folders, and other give-away items
· Reserve special equipment such as vans, buses, tables, chairs, tents, podiums
· Develop a program and confirm a master of ceremonies and the program speakers
· Audition and select entertainment
· Make preliminary security arrangements
· Obtain appropriate insurance coverage
· Obtain all necessary administrative approvals
· Plan promotion and publicity
Planning elements to consider
3 months – 6 months ahead
· Schedule and conduct a planning committee meeting with key stakeholders
· Draft and obtain approval of printed invitations and all other printed materials
· Finalize and obtain approval of the invitation list
· Select menus and submit them for approval
· Print tickets, if applicable, and obtain parking permits
· Make contact with the event participants, collect their biographical information and, if applicable, supply suggested talking points for their remarks
· For internal events, notify the President’s Office and Marketing & Communications
· Confirm entertainment bookings, if applicable
· Plan the decorations and color scheme
· Order props, special napkins, foods, or other unusual needs
· Begin publicity, if appropriate
· Send advance announcements to invitation list, if appropriate
2 months ahead
· Address invitations and set a mailing date
· Finalize decorations and facility arrangements
· Make hotel and transportation arrangements for out of town dignitaries
· Mail an itinerary to dignitaries; include a reminder about bringing academic dress, if needed
· Secure hosts and hostesses and other university representatives to assist
· Confirm the staffing needs, including: ushers, checkroom attendants, greeters, registration table staff, and troubleshooters
· Make direction and welcome signs/banners
· Draft and print the program and menu cards (if needed)
· Get place cards prepared for everyone on the guest list
· Check that any ceremonial items needed such as flags, the university mace, medals, toasting goblets, podium banners, flags and the like can be located and that all are clean and in good repair
· Check that flagpoles and stands are in working condition, and easels for displaying awards or seating charts are available and work properly
· Inspect the facility and request repairs to hazards that could cause an accident such as loose edges on stairs and upturned carpeting
Continue publicity on schedule
Planning elements to consider
2 weeks – 4 weeks ahead
· Record and acknowledge invitation replies as they are received; send tickets, parking permits, and maps by return mail
· Take delivery on all printed materials
· Finalize the audio-visual presentations
· Stuff registration packets (if needed). If your event is taking place in another city, ship printed materials and other items to the event site. Call your contact person and ask how to label shipment so that it will be accepted.
· Double-check publicity progress with public relations staff
· Draft event scenario
· Revise and update plans if necessary
· Send detailed final instructions to all dignitaries with all tickets, parking permits, and maps. Supply them with the names and phone numbers of university officials and other VIPs who will be attending. Remember to include the first name of each VIP’s spouse, if attending
· Notify the caterer if the count seems to be significantly higher or lower than previously discussed
· Write speeches and introductions and obtain approval
· Take delivery on favors or mementos. Double-check for correct amount
- Clear the date with important participants (e.g. President, VPs, Deans/Directors, department heads etc.)
- Double-check for conflicts with the university academic calendar, the Division of Marketing & Communications’ Advancement Calendar of events, athletic events calendar, School of Music concerts, online university event (www.today.mun.ca) calendar, major city/community functions, and religious/civil holidays.
- Consider the time of the year for weather conditions or other demands on people’s time (holidays, summer vacations, the start of school, etc.) that may make the date inconvenient.
When preparing a budget be sure to include:
- Print items and mail (invitations, signs, programs, postage, design fees, printing cost, etc.)
- Environment (flowers, plants, lighting/sound, stage, materials)
- Food and beverages (food, beverages, ice, catering, service rentals, linens, etc.)
- Equipment (audiovisual, podium, photography)
- Publicity (posters, advertising, media)
- Miscellaneous (custodial, security, incidentals, gifts)
Tip: Review your budget periodically to ensure that you are keeping on track and that unexpected costs are added. Reconciling your budget with the actual costs once the event is concluded will help provide a guideline when planning your next event.
A checklist is the key to keeping track of the myriad of details involved in event planning; it helps you keep track of things that can easily get overlooked. The following list covers the main points of staging a successful event – you may wish to customize it to your specific organization or event.
- Complete all components of the Event Planning Questionnaire (see above)
- Determine program, activities, agenda, participants
- Invite/book/confirm guest speakers, presenters
- Arrange for facilities (based on estimated numbers and set-up needs)
- Compile mailing list
- Arrange for mailing services (collating, inserting, labeling, sorting, etc.), be sure to meet your deadlines and get the invitations out in time for timely replies- typically one month to one week, depending on the event.
- Arrange for food/refreshment needs; be sure to address special needs of guests (i.e. Special or vegetarian diets (i.e.: allergies), ethnic or religious restrictions etc.)
- Send hosting chart to caterers, outlining the event, date, time, location, and number of guests, menu, liquor services, table set up, decorations, and any other important notes.
- Arrange for other logistics: custodial service before and after the event, waste management, giveaway items, banners, podiums, parking arrangements, audiovisual needs
- Make an event scenario, which is a complete description of the occurrences of events as they should happen. It is a good idea to send out an event scenario to individuals who are partaking in major roles at the event (i.e. guest speakers).
- Prepare day-of-event materials: program, name tags, final event scenario, signage and any materials that can be prepared before hand.
- On the day of the event have an event walkthrough; take your clipboard and pretend you’re a guest and do what guests will do step by step. Make sure everything is in place and ready to go.
- Have an accurate contact list with cell phone/pager numbers for last minute details and for speakers/VIPs (security re. building access, facilities management re. cleaning etc.)
- Put in place a measurement for event evaluation. Will you contact some guest by telephone after the event to get their remarks on the event or will you have an evaluation card at the event for immediate guest feedback. If you plan to do this, please identify what you need. (i.e. guest telephone numbers, the evaluation cards printed in time for the event, etc.).
Tip: Assemble an event kit bag with essential items to help you handle any unexpected occurrences. For example: black markers, pens, scissors, scotch and masking tape, blank name tags and place cards, paper clips, a small sewing kit, safety pins, tissues, wipes, and a label maker, etc.
- Set up welcoming area
- Make sure tables are set up, seating assignments made, place cards and/or name tags are ready
- Make sure all signage is up, equipment is working
- Monitor food service
- Make sure all speakers/presenters are present, and aware of the agenda
- Monitor program; make sure timeline is met
- If something goes wrong at the event, please be sure to maintain calmness. Be sure to use the resources you have available to try to solve the problem effectively and efficiently away from the bulk of the guests.
- Make sure food service is cleared
- Make sure custodial service arrives for clean up
- Pack up and return all materials (banner, equipment, leftover print material)
- Send thank you notes to those who provided special services and those who volunteered
- Arrange and prepare any post event publicity (i.e. photos)
- Evaluate the event (did the event fulfill its goals and objectives - why or why not? Identify what worked and what needs to fine-tuned, what items were missing on the checklist?) Follow up on the evaluation of the event, what were the guests’ comments, etc.
Tip: Always be sure to keep very clear, concise records and keep a paper trail of your event. Whenever possible, get written quotes and confirmations of your orders, or keep a record of the time, date and persons you spoke with via telephone. When ordering services, be sure to list the exact of type of arrangements, timing and setup requirements (i.e. plastic or china service). You can never be too clear in your instructions!
With almost 18,000 students and four locations, Memorial is a large, full service university that can provide most services required for a successful event. Catering, accommodations, graphic design, printing and video production are just some of the services available in-house at Memorial. However, those same services can be in very high demand and it is important to understand exactly what is available on campus, and what the necessary and appropriate steps are to utilize them. While not exhaustive, the following is an overview of some of the services you may require when planning your event.
Memorial University of Newfoundland has an exclusive contract with Chartwells (Compass Group) for provision of all food services for on campus functions. No food may be ordered in from any other organization for events at most campus venues. Chartwells can prepare a wide variety of hot and cold appetizers, meals, and desserts to suit your particular function. They can customize your order and their staff will work with you to ensure your needs are met.
- Thelma Careen, Catering Manager 864-8125
- Chartwells@munhousing.ca Room: HA320
There are selected areas on campus that are excluded from the food service contract with Chartwells and where you can host an event with alternate food service. For catering services at these locations, please consult the following:
The Graduate Students Union operates a restaurant-style pub that is open to the general university community. Whether you are seeking a quiet area for a light lunch for small group s or a place for an evening reception, the staff at Bitters Pub will be happy to accommodate. While Bitters operates during regular business hours, it is also available for rentals and private parties at other times.
- Doug Gorman, General Manager 864-4383
Tip: When planning food services for your event, whether snacks or a multi-course dinner, it is important to be aware of special dietary needs of your guests. Food allergies, sensitivities and ethnic preferences are very common, and while it would be great if all guests self-identified these requirements to the event planner in advance, this is not always the case. To encourage this it is helpful to remind guests to identify such preferences when submitting their reply, or on their registration forms, etc. Your caterer can usually accommodate most requests with advance notice. For large group events, it is always a safe practice to order a variety of items that could meet the most common special requests (vegetarian options, sandwiches without mayo, diet drinks, peanut-free desserts, etc.)
Depending on the size, type and scope of your event, you may require some type of audiovisual equipment (computers, projectors, PA systems etc.) While each situation is unique, it is important to remember that if your guests cannot adequately hear your keynote speaker, or clearly see your painstakingly prepared PowerPoint presentation, all of your other preparations for a successful event will be in vain!
Distance Education, Learning and Teaching Support
Distance Education, Learning and Teaching Support (DELTS) offers a variety of audiovisual services including digital video production, web casting and satellite transmission, technical support for classrooms and events, and video and DVD production and copying services.
Media Services 864-4061
Classroom Support 864-7552 (Education Building) or 864-8695 (Science, Chemistry and Arts Buildings)
Certain buildings and classrooms on the St. John’s campus are equipped with their own audio visual equipment. To determine available resources for the following locations please refer to the following contacts:
Education Building (CAVE), Science, Chemistry, Physics, Arts & Administration Buildings
- Calvin Rose, Distance Education 864-7553/8695
- firstname.lastname@example.org Room: SN2104A
- Ron Wiseman, Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science 737-892
- email@example.com Room: EN1007
- Brian Tiller, Faculty of Business Administration 864-4707
- firstname.lastname@example.org Room: BN3038
- Jennifer Hart, Concert Assistant 737-4700
- email@example.com Room: MU2034
R. Gushue Hall
- Brian Mallard, Facilities and Summer Accommodations Supervisor 864-7657
- firstname.lastname@example.org Room: HA316C
For more advanced technical requirements or outside equipment rentals, there are several external companies available. Please consult the local yellow pages or contact the Marketing Events Coordinator in Marketing & Communications for advice and recommendations.
For all types of furniture setup or moving, as well as cleaning and janitorial services, please contact Work Control at Facilities Management.
Tip: Work orders must be placed at least 48 to 72 hours in advance of your event. For more complex requests (weekends, evenings or large events), please allow even more time to ensure the work can be scheduled and completed on time.
Memorial offers a number of on campus accommodation options when planning an event. Contact the Conference Office for room suitability in a student residence or apartment and for room availability:
- Regular Accommodations 864-7933
- Brian Mallard, Facilities and Summer Accommodations Supervisor 864-7657 email@example.com Room: HA316C
There are a wide variety of entertainment options available at Memorial to add to your event. Students from the School of Music , the MUN drama program or other groups are available to perform upon request. Below are some suggested contacts, or contact the Marketing Events Co-ordinator for additional suggestions.
The School of Music
- Dr. Ellen Waterman, Director, School of Music 864-7486
- Room: MU2000
The MUN Drama Club
Most all areas on campus have regulated parking, either by meter or permit only access. For specific information on the best areas for guests to park, contact Campus Enforcement and Patrol well in advance of your event.
- Campus Enforcement and Patrol 864-8561
- Room: FM1018
If you wish to serve alcohol at your event (outside of services provided by your caterer), you must first arrange liquor service through Student Affairs and Services. Please note that in accordance with the universities liquor license, all liquor purchases must be made through Student Affairs and Services and no alcohol may be brought on campus. If you have any questions please contact:
- George Summers, Student Affairs and Services 864-6219
- firstname.lastname@example.org Room: HA316D
In accordance with university policy, all printing must be coordinated by Printing Services. They can assist with all your printing needs such as stationary, nametags, programs, posters and invitations. They can also provide stock and templates for overprinting, and can assist with custom designed items.
- Pamela Snow-Wade, Financial and Administrative Services 864-4057
- Room: PS1007C
If you wish to have photos taken at your event, please contact the photographer at Image Services, Marketing & Communications, to reserve the time. On-site photography is charged on an hourly basis and overtime rates apply after 5 p.m. (4:30 from June to September)
- Chris Hammond, University Photographer 864-7570
- Room: FM2038
Promotion of your event is important whether your goal is to attract a wider audience, inform the public or to share or celebrate your success. Memorial University has numerous outlets available to help get the word out about your event.
The Division of Marketing & Communications manages several media, which are available to on-campus groups to help communicate your message.
If you would like to advertise in, or have a function covered for, the University newspaper, contact:
- Mandy Cook, Editor, Gazette, 864-2142
- Marketing & Communications Room: A1024
If you wish to have an e-mail message sent out to faculty and staff, or your event profiled on today.mun.ca, please contact:
- Mandy Cook, Editor, MUNtoday 864-6199
- Room: A1024
This online events calendar lists on-campus and Memorial University events and can be accessed by anyone via the Memorial webpage. To add your event to this calendar, please visit www.today.mun.ca
Additionally, Marketing & Communications can provide you and your group with media training; distribute news releases and other public relations and promotional assistance. For more information contact:
- David Sorensen, Manager, Communications 864-2143
- Room A-1024
The Communicator is Memorial University’s employee newsletter, and is
published six times per year. For more information, please contact:
- Shannon O'Dea Dawson, Marketing & Communications 864-6199
- Room: A1024
For story coverage or advertising in the universities’ student newspaper, please contact:
CHMR offers free air-time to non-profit groups within the community. If you have an event or cause to which you would like to draw attention, please email in a copy of your announcement. Your event will be posted onto the online community events webpage, and be heard on the Around Town Report every weekday morning as a part of CHMR's morning show.
- Kathy Rowe 864-4777
For any information on protocol or proper procedures for inviting and entertaining distinguished or honorary guests (i.e. Premier, Lieutenant-Governor), Marketing & Communications would be pleased to answer your questions and advise you on the appropriate measures to take:
- Paula Eddy-Shea, Marketing Events Coordinator 864-3990
- Room: A-1033
In the event of an emergency, please phone 911.
Depending on the nature of the emergency, please contact Campus Enforcement at 4100, or pick up any blue emergency phone on campus.
Be sure to place a work order from Facilities Management at least three hours in advance, if a room needs to be cleaned before your event.
If you require Canadian, Memorial or Newfoundland flags and flag stands or Word templates for invitations and name tags.
- Roxanne Keats, Marketing & Communications 737-6706
- Room: A1034
The Marketing Events Coordinator in Marketing & Communications will be pleased to answer questions you may have while planning your event.
- Paula Eddy-Shea 864-3990
- Room: A1033
Rental Rate (+ HST)
30 – 70
25 – 40
50 – 70
$80.00 session **
Lecture Theatres (MM)
120 – 330
$130.00 session **
* Classroom seating style varies from moveable desks, fixed seating or tables and chairs
** Session refers to a time block of 1 – 4 hours
MM Multimedia Room
† Current rates - subject to change
Rental Rate (+ HST)
R. Gushue Hall
Junior Common Room
(External Clients Only)
80 – seating
157 - standing
Hatcher Dining Hall
200 (cafeteria style)
For meeting facilities, contact:
- Brian Mallard, Conference Office
- Memorial University
- St. John’s, NL, A1B 3P7
- Phone: (709) 864-7657 Fax: (709) 864-3520
- E-mail: email@example.com
For food services, contact:
- Thelma Careen, Chartwells
- Memorial University
- St. John’s , NL, A1B 3P7
- Phone: (709) 864-8125 Fax: (709) 864-2580
- E-mail: Chartwells@munhousing.ca
- Theresa Doyle 864-4432
Board Room, Dining Room, Atrium and B3030.
- Doreen Browne 864-8851
- Department of English 864-8277
- Valerie James 864-8553
D.F. Cook Hall, Petro-Canada Hall, seminar rooms, instrumental room and smart classrooms.
- Jennifer Hart, concert assistant 737-4700
- firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: 737-2666
If you would like to plan an active event that may include swimming, recreation or athletic activity, contact Janet O’Connor at the Works for more information. The Field House has a large gymnasium, running and walking tracks, swimming pools and lots of multi-purpose space that can accommodate large numbers. The Field House also has a meeting room equipped with a kitchenette for smaller functions.
- Janet O’Connor 864-3781
- Jonathon Ivey, Event Coordinator 864-3078
Please note this site cannot be booked between 12- 2 p.m.
- Evelyn Skinner 777-6690
The MUN Botanical Garden conference room is a unique, scenic environment, ideal for holding meetings, workshops, conferences, receptions and private parties. It is located at
306 Mount Scio Road and free parking is available.
- The rental rate is $50 (+HST) per session. (1-4 hrs)
- Capacity: 37 people sitting theatre-style
- 20 people sitting board room-style
- 70 people standing
- The following equipment may be reserved when booking the conference room:
- Screen (6’X7’)
- Overhead projector
- Slide projector
- TV/ VCR
- Tables and chairs arranged to your specifications.
- Jane Cooper 864-8591
Catering is available through The Bloomin’ Teapot Tearoom, located within the field centre. For more information, please contact Laurie Butt, owner and operator. No outside catering is permitted.
- Laurie Butt 753-8327(TEAS)
The Office of Student Recruitment offers several types of campus tours, including:
The general tour of Memorial’s St. John’s campus will show visitors around the university’s academic facilities, food court, recreational complex, and more!
Are you interested showing visitors a specific department or aspect of the university? A detailed tour of specific areas may be arranged by calling a week in advance.
Book ahead: Allow us time to prepare for your visit, so you will receive the proper attention to detail you deserve.
Special needs: Please inform us of any special needs when you book your tour.
Parking: Parking permits are necessary and can be provided at your request.
Large Groups: Groups of 20 or more may be divided for your maximum tour experience.
Supervision: Certain age groups may require chaperones. Please inform us of visitors’ ages when booking.
- Toll free: 1-866-354-8896
- Phone: 864-8896
- Fax: 864-8611
Groups of 10 or more people are invited to book a tour or education program at the Garden. A wide variety of programs are available to groups of all ages and interests including: curriculum-based school programs, tea and tours, pre-school programs, nature hikes, garden visits for seniors, plus much more. The conference and tea rooms are available upon request for refreshments.
- Group Tours: Adult $5.00
- Child / Student $2.00
Special rates are available for non-profit organizations. All group tours must be booked in advance. Minimum group size is 10 people.
Please contact information contact:
- Tour Facilitator 778-0562
- Toll free: 1-800-563-5799 ex: 370
- Planetarium Tour 778-0372
- Danielle Nichols 864-2459
Campus tours are approximately one hour in length and are given by senior students who can answer questions about life at Grenfell.
To set up your personal tour of Grenfell College, call or email us at:
- Grenfell College 1-709-637-6298
- Toll free: 1-866-381-7022