Meeting/Event Planning Guidelines
Setting goals and objectives
Your goals define the purpose of the meeting or event and guide you through each step of the planning process. There are a wide range of types of meetings and events that can fulfill your objectives and also serve to advance the University’s mission and values. Here are key questions to ask when determining your meeting objectives:
- Does this meeting or event support the University’s mission, core values, and academic plan?
- How will you achieve this goal?
- Do you require assistance, and if so, where will it come from?
- Is this goal attainable within your resource limits—time, people, and money?
The first step in program planning is to review the goals and objectives that have been developed for your meeting or event. Is the emphasis on education, developing relationships, or recognition of the participants? What are the expectations of the organizers and the attendees? Based on the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to develop your specific objectives.
- Conduct a needs analysis based on the event content and anticipated audience.
- Collect demographic information on the attendees.
- Use historical information and evaluations from past events, if available.
- A timeline for your meeting should include each task to be accomplished and who will undertake it.
- Are there special needs, such as dietary requirements or attendees from other countries requiring assistance?
Next, select an event title and theme before developing program content. Then, outline the desired format. Using the generalized schedule, develop specific content and appropriate formats for each topic category.
A well-matched venue and environment can help make your meeting or event a success. For example, although classrooms are fine for most educational sessions or training, the Curry Student Center Ballroom or Raytheon Amphitheater might be more appropriate for a ceremony.
To select the right site, consider the following:
- Remember the event’s goals and objectives.
- Gather attendee demographic and/or event historical data.
- Determine the physical requirements of the event. (i.e., a/v needs, food/beverage, special seating arrangements)
- Consider attendee interests and expectations.
Space books up quickly on campus, so as soon as you have identified the appropriate site, call to reserve the space.
A budget for your meeting or event will help provide cost controls and provide an accurate overview of program income and expenses. Consider the following when setting up your budget:
- Effectively utilize all available internal resources
- Outsource when necessary
- Use technology
- Consider ways to increase revenues
For additional information, please refer to the section “Finances.”
Promoting your event
There are number of resources to help you promote your event at Northeastern:
- NU Announcements. Call the Information Services HELP line at ext. 4357. Tell them you want to post an NU announcement to students, faculty/staff, or both. The help desk will e-mail a form for you to complete. The announcement will post within 24 to 48 hours according to IS guidelines.
- Communications and Public Relations. Your event may have a story that would be of interest to the campus media or beyond. Call University Communications and Public Relations at ext. 5718 to speak with a media specialist about getting the word out in the press or to get into calendar listings.
- Signage and banners. The NU Sign Shop can help you get the word out. Visit the sign shop Web site for information and prices, or call them at ext. 2725.
- Mailing lists. Utilize department lists from previous events, ask other departments at the University to share their lists, ask community or related industry groups to promote your event to their constituents or members. It’s all part of getting the word out.
- Fliers and posters. Distributing these around the campus and in the community is a great way to promote your event. Contact the Office of University Events for guidance.
- Notify University leadership and deans, directors, and department heads, and ask them to spread the word.
- Contact faculty and ask them to promote or announce your event to their classes.
- Contact area colleges and universities with similar departments, and ask them to promote your event to their students, faculty, or staff.
Northeastern offers affordable on-campus housing for summer conferences and event visitors. Contact Summer Housing Services, www.northeastern.edu/summerhousing, or call ext. 4035 for information and pricing.
In addition to on-campus housing, there are over 30,000 hotel rooms in the metropolitan Boston area, 18,000 of which are in Boston and Cambridge. There are 13 major hotels located within 15 minutes or less walking distance from the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay, close to the Northeastern campus. Please refer to the section, “Lodging” for a list of hotels with preferred rates for Northeastern visitors.
The University owns a variety of vehicles that can be rented for event transportation needs. If University vehicles are not available, the Northeastern Transportation Department can assist you by renting buses or shuttle vans for your event. The department has established relationships with many transportation vendors in the city. There is a charge for transportation services, regardless of whether the transport is a University-owned vehicle or a vehicle from an outside vendor. For availability, fees, and services, call ext. 2343. Other transportation suggestions are noted under “Transportation” in the “Event Services” section.
If you have a large amount of event equipment or supplies that need to be moved to an event site, call the Transportation Department, ext. 4609, well in advance to request assistance with supply transport. If event materials need to come back to your office after the event, request a round-trip transport well in advance.
Food and beverage
Chartwells Catering is the preferred caterer for Northeastern University. Chartwells catering expertise extends from casual breaks to formal dinners. Chartwells is the only caterer that may serve alcohol on campus. Visit www.mycampusdining.com/neu for sample menus and pricing, or contact ext. 2479. Please refer to “Policies and Procedures” for more information about using caterers other than Chartwells, and restrictions on serving alcohol at events.
Contracts with sites and suppliers
If you plan to use an off-campus venue for an event, you will need to provide University Counsel with a contract for the venue for review and signature. University Counsel requires a minimum of 10 business days to review and return contracts. Refer to the “Legal and Insurance Issues” section of this guide for more detailed information concerning event and venue contracts. If you have questions about contracts, please call University Counsel at ext. 2157.
Generally, for smaller meetings and events, you can manage your own registration. For larger events, you may want to consider outsourcing registration to one of a number of companies in the greater Boston area that handle registration as their full-time business.
Technology and audio-visual support
Most event technology and audio-visual needs for internal University events can be addressed by Campus Media Services or Academic Technology Services. For technical or audio-visual advice before your meeting or event, please call the Information Services HELP line at ext. 4357. If your meeting or event has special needs beyond the scope of internal resources, we can refer you to outside vendors. Northeastern has recognized preferred audio-visual vendors, which are listed under “Preferred Vendors.”
One of the extra touches that can enhance a meeting is the opportunity for social interaction and recreation. If hospitality programs are well planned and marketed, they can also boost meeting attendance and add value to the meeting experience.
If you need help planning a hospitality program, call the Office of University Events. Local destination management companies can arrange and manage almost any activity, perhaps saving you time and money. These services can include tours, special events, theme parties, entertainment, and more. Destination management companies can be found through the Greater Boston Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, www.gbcvb.org, or the Association of Destination Management Executives, www.adme.org.
In order for your event to run smoothly, the need for different types of on-site communication is important to consider. On-site event communications should be planned in advance.
- Create a list of key contacts and numbers, including cell phone numbers.
- Get contact numbers and cell phone numbers for your vendors.
- Make sure your cell phones are fully charged. Bring a charger with you to the event site.
- Keep emergency numbers at hand.
- If a facility issue (heat/ac, light, cleaning, room set, and so on) arises during your event, contact Facility Work Control at ext. 2754.
- If you need to have a phone or fax installed at the event site, contact University telephone services, ext. 4870, for services and rates. A telephone services work order request is available at www.help.neu.edu/fac_help_documentation.html.
- For conference calls at meetings, a standard Northeastern phone can accommodate three parties (you and two others). If you need to arrange a conference call at a meeting for more than three parties, contact Telephone Services for the University’s preferred vendor.
For medical, fire, or other emergency at an event, call the Northeastern Public Safety emergency line at ext. 3333.
Wrap-up tasks include:
- Gather equipment and supplies at the end of the meeting. Arrange for shipping of materials back to your office.
- Make arrangements for rented equipment to be returned, and keep documentation of return confirmations.
- Gather reusable signs.
- If your event was held at an off-campus facility, tips or gratuities may be appropriate. Check your event invoice for gratuities that are included in the event bill. If tips and gratuities are appropriate, they should be considered in advance and included in the event budget.
- Solicit feedback from the event staff, volunteers, suppliers, facility personnel, and attendees, as well as from speakers and moderators.
- Summarize detailed financial and attendance records. Keep accurate back-up material for invoices.
- Reimburse speaker expenses and staff expenses promptly.
- Write thank you letters to program participants, vendors, presenters, and others.
- Schedule a wrap-up meeting. Include representatives from the planning committee, facility representatives, event staff, and others as appropriate.
- Create a final event report that serves as an overview of the entire event for staff, archival records, and committees.
- A final report includes, but is not limited to:
o Registration statistics
o Financial statistics
o Housing reports, if an event includes sleeping rooms.
o Promotional information including the target audience, number of communications, dates, and costs.
o Media and publicity
A meeting/event wrap-up process is an important opportunity to examine effective programming and operational phases. Collecting facts and opinions after an event will help you to plan the next event accurately and better, and can help you in future negotiations.
Evaluations help you to understand if you were successful in meeting goals, and are important tools for improving future events and identifying the needs of attendees.
In preparing an event evaluation, first determine the goals of the evaluation and decide what elements of the event need to be appraised. Some standard evaluation questions that are relevant to most meetings or events include:
- An evaluation of the program, including topics, substance, and speakers
- An evaluation of the event site and facilities
- Other programmatic elements like social events and entertainment
- A profile of attendees
Consider the timing of evaluations. In some cases, it is helpful to have attendees complete evaluations after each session, if multiple programming is in place, while the information is fresh. Usually, evaluations are distributed at the conclusion of a meeting or event. Questionnaire design is important, and short, simple forms are preferred.
Sample event evaluation
Evaluation, ABC Meeting, Date, Northeastern University, Location
I completely agree
I somewhat agree
Neither agree nor disagree
I somewhat disagree
I completely disagree
information to the
Food and beverage
of high quality
Staff was helpful
Please note ways in which this meeting might have been improved for you.
Sample Planning Timetable
18–24 MONTHS AHEAD
- Select dates
- Select venue (location)
- Visit the facility (site inspection)
- Reserve meeting, banquet, and overnight room space
- Prepare a preliminary budget
- Negotiate with and get signed contract from facility
- Define your audience
- Develop a program
- Contact associations and publications
12–18 MONTHS AHEAD
- Determine theme/title of event
- Identify planning committees, define committee responsibilities, and select Chairs
- Begin search for speakers
- Plan business and social agenda
- Establish event budget
- Determine cost to attendees.
9–12 MONTHS AHEAD
- Contract with speakers
- Develop invitation list from various sources. Select and order mailing lists
- Send first mailing or save-the-date-announcement
- Review program with facility
6–9 MONTHS AHEAD
- Design and prepare a printed invitation or conference brochure
- Design other printed material (registration packets, signs, badges, etc.)
- Maintain contact with speakers and identify audio-visual needs, obtain biographical material for conference brochure and registration packets
- Review program with key participants
- Review and refine budget and committee assignments
3–6 MONTHS AHEAD
- Mail invitations and correspond with participants if appropriate
- Establish on-site registration procedure
- Select on-site personnel
- Plan and confirm special event logistics- food and beverage, room set-ups, décor, florals, linens, etc.
- Begin preparation of name badges, registration material, and signage
- Continue contact with speakers. Confirm their presentation needs and travel/accommodation arrangements
- Review and refine budget
- Develop attendance list from brochure responses; address problem areas where responses are lower than expected
- Meet with publicists to begin developing press releases
3-6 WEEKS AHEAD
- Finalize agenda
- Select final food and beverage requirements
- Confirm all audio-visual arrangements
- Confirm all room set-up arrangements
- Finalize attendance list
- Review all planning committee activity and make appropriate final assignments to committees and/or individuals
- Confirm parking and transportation requirements
- Confirm any special ADA accommodations
- Have final program printed
- Have registration packets completed
- Send correspondence to attendees reminding them of the event and confirming details.
2 DAYS PRIOR TO MEETING
- Walk through the program at the event site
- Review program with facility
- Review all details, including the registration area with staff members.
- Have pre-conference meeting with all appropriate personnel servicing the event