Getting Started

Important: External users, including events primarily serving a non-Brown audience or for non-Brown purposes with or without involvement from a University department or student group, MUST start by contacting the Office of University Event and Conference Services.

Whether you are planning a simple meeting or a multi-day event, the best place to start is to be sure you've considered and answered some basic questions before you make your first phone call to begin organizing the event:

As you begin this process, please keep in mind that you are responsible for all aspects of your event. While the University offers many services, it is your responsibility to contract with these services and make the necessary arrangements.

Plan ahead. Plan ahead, plan ahead! You should start planning NO LATER than four weeks in advance. Final plans with many event services, as well Event Registration (for student events), must be completed 2 weeks in advance. The Student Activities Office provides a planning timeline that provides a good overview of timelines.

Take advantage of the help the university has to offer. Staff in the Office of University Event and Conference Services, the Student Activities Office, and various event services have planned numerous events and are here to help you. Seek out their advice and ideas. Feel free to stop by the Event Service Office Hours on Wednesdays from 12-1 PM in the Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center Conference Room (room 225) to consult professionals from Brown's major event service offices.

Understand Your Goal(s)

Good event planning begins with knowing what you are trying to accomplish. Clearly define your goal in mind - it will be invaluable as you go through the planning process. What kind of experience do you want your guests to have? What environment/ambience are you going for? Knowing your goal can also help you avoid unintended growth and expansion of the event.

Consider Your Audience

Understanding your goal will help to inform who you want to invite and why. This will help you get the right venue, design your promotion, etc. You should have a clear admissions policy and include that information on any promotional materials. Student groups must obtain permission to advertise off-campus in advance from the Student Activities Office through registering their event.

It is important to be realistic about your anticipated attendance: more people may increase revenues but they also increase costs. An event with 50 people sitting in a room that holds 200 can lead to the feeling that your event is not successful or can disappointed invited speakers; it may be better to run the risk that a few people won't get in.

You should also be careful to consider what services may be necessary to enable everyone to participate.

If you anticipate minors coming, you may need to address issues such as parental permission.

Identify Your Resources

Before you begin planning, you should know what resources are available. Please don't hesitate to consult the Student Activities Office (for student groups), Office of University Event and Conference Services (for departments), Brown's event services, or the tips and resources section of this website.

Staff and Volunteers

If you only have one other person to help you, you probably can't organize a 250 person lecture. Knowing how many volunteers you are likely to have at your event (or arranging to pay people if that is necessary) will help you develop an appropriate scope as you plan your event.

Budget and Finances

While, with few exceptions, reserving space on campus is free, most of what you will need to make your event happen is not (audio-visual equipment, chairs, tables, promotional materials, etc.). You'll need to know your budget in advance. For example, large events will typically require Public Safety officers; if you don't have funding to cover this cost, you should be planning a smaller event.


If money is tight, seek co-sponsorship. With so many departments and organizations on campus, there is certainly going to be another group that has interest in your event and will become a co-sponsor. You may have to give up some control of the event, but it will be worth the additional collaboration and funding.

It is important to be clear, up front, about your expectations for co-sponsors. Do you need them to provide volunteers? What level of recognition do they want on materials and at the event? What if the event runs over-budget? It may be helpful to clarify and get confirmation via e-mail or in writing.

Performers and Vendors

The Student Activities Office has information about speaker's bureaus, carnival companies, etc. Feel free to stop by the SAO on the second floor of the Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center. If you are bringing a speaker of note, you may need to provide proper notification for a visiting dignitary.

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