What I Learned Planning My First Event

Just don’t start any fires.

That was the advice I told myself Wednesday, moments before hosting my first large-scale event as a graduate assistant for the Cohen Career Center.

Since September, I had been planning the K-12 Education Interview Day, an event for school districts from across the state to visit campus and interview teacher candidates from the School of Education.

The calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm.

Back then, when I was holding meetings and making phone calls to book space and secure a caterer, the event seemed far away. But as I’ve come to learn managing several short, medium, and long-term projects at a time, deadlines arrive quickly.

I’m fully aware this movie reference may be lost on some, but I’m remembering a scene from the 90’s comedy, Wayne’s World II (yes, the sequel). The main character, Wayne Campbell, was told by Jim Morrison in a dream that his destiny is to host a rock concert (“Waynestock”). Weeks later, frustrated by the fact that no major bands have signed on to perform, Wayne Campbell visits Jim Morrison again in a dream and is told, simply, “Book them, and they will come.”

One of two rooms buzzing with students and school district recruiters.

One of two rooms buzzing with students and school district recruiters.

While not my frame of reference when I first saw this movie, it came to mind today as I thought about how great it would be if event planning worked this way. Just book them, and they will come. No need to worry about reserving space, invitations, registration, payment, marketing, program materials, or event staffing. If only . . .

In truth, as I found out in managing my first event, it requires all of these things, as well as a supportive (and caffeinated) staff and a healthy sense of humor.

In the week or two leading up to the Interview Day, I was pretty apprehensive about the event, worrying about small things. Would the caterer know where to arrive? Would recruiters find their tables? Were there typos in the program?

Fortunately, as I came to find out throughout the day, most of those fears were unfounded. There are always going to be minor blips—one recruiter’s table was in a different room than what was stated on the program—but I quickly found out I did myself a big favor by striking gold with the caterer. My event planning advice? Don’t underestimate your catering decisions.

Working one-on-one with students continues to be the favorite part of my work in the career center, but after this first successful foray, I’m pretty confident I can pull off this event planning thing again, too.


Categories: Academics, Careers, Student Leadership Development

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