The success of any event is always dependent upon adequate pre-planning and it is essential that you allow enough lead-time to ensure that your event is a success.

  • For large-scale events such as a dance, we recommend beginning the planning stages during the semester prior (at least 12 weeks) to when the event will be held. 
  • For smaller-scale events such as a guest speaker event, student organizations should allow at least 8 weeks for event planning.

Brainstorm and Set Event Goals

The event planning process begins with an idea. Consider these 5 Ws of Event Planning as you brainstorm and begin to bring ideas together. 


Develop the purpose of your event.

  • Why is your organization planning the event? 
  • Does the event connect to your organization’s purpose/mission and values?

Ask those planning the event. Ask potential participants. Consult your advisor and the Center for Student Leadership, Involvement, and Service (CSLIS) team.

Using the purpose of the event as a guide, develop several event goals using the remaining Ws—who, what, when, and where—as well as the SMART method.



  • Who is “hosting” or implementing? Are you collaborating with another group?
  • Who is the audience? 
  • Who will benefit/be served?
  • What is the projected attendance?


What type of event is it? Examples include: meeting, performance, dance, lecture, mixer, tournament, etc.

Be creative with your ideas and concepts. What makes it different than the other events on campus?  Think outside the box!

With that said, keep the following in mind:

  • Be practical about what can be reasonably implemented.
  • Consider issues of safety, liability, and risk management.



  • Is the timing appropriate for hosts and audience?
  • Always check for “competing” events.  Avoid holidays or school breaks. Check the Seawolf Calendar, Facebook and SonomaSync events, in addition to many other calendar resources on campus and in the community.
  • Do you have enough time to successfully and effectively plan this event?  Consider creating a backwards timeline to answer this question.  


The location must be appropriate to the event, size of audience, specs.  Consider a walk-through of your ideal event space during brainstorming.


The Brainstorming Techniques for Student Organization Events guide also provides ways your group can work together to generate creative, thought-out ideas for an event.  

Event Committee

Gather a planning team or committee of people within your own organization, as well as those from outside of the group who may have an interest in the topic. For large-scale events such as dances, we recommend gathering this group the semester before the event is to occur.

People with the following skills and experience should be considered as you pull the team together:

  • Strong leadership skills (committee chair)
  • An eye for detail (logistics)
  • The ability to raise money, if funds are not available for the event (fundraising)
  • Community outreach, advertising, and public relations experience (marketing)
  • Event program planning experience (general event committee members)

Once these people are gathered and event pre-planning questions are answered, we recommend developing a task or project list where each committee member will be delegated tasks and will be held accountable for a part of the planning.  Assign deadlines according to the planning timeline.