While you may just think of graduations, student-life events, and seminars as the extent of higher ed event planning, there certainly are a ton more! From alumni events and class reunions, to non-college related seminars and conferences, college campuses are a breeding ground for events.
In episode 8 of the etouches' Affinity Podcast series, we are joined by Beth King, the executive director of campus relations and special events at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. During the interview, she takes us through the challenges of having such a diverse portfolio of events to work with, quantifying and defining the success and challenges of an event, and the components to getting buy-in from your team's key stakeholders.
Check out a few excerpts from Beth's interview and download the full episode below!
How do you set your goals for your events? And after an event, how do you know if it was successful or not?
That's a great question - and one I think every planner struggles with after their events after they're over. If I were to come up with a full-proof solution to quantifying success, I'd be a very rich woman!
There are typically five things I look at to evaluate whether an event was successful or not.
- Attendance; did we have enough of the right people in the room
- Programming; was the event well-received, was the audience restless or fidgety or did they start talking in the middle of it
- Atmosphere; was it pleasant, were there lively conversations going on, lots of mingling at the event, etc.
- Length of the event; did guests stay past the event or leave early
- And finally, contributions. In the world of higher education, a huge issue is fund raising. A successful event may include an unexpected large gift or an increase in someone's giving. That's often difficult to tie back to an event specifically, but it has happened on occasion, which is really exciting.
What are some of the challenges you're facing, especially in the higher ed realm? How can you compare planning in higher ed to others in the industry?
I think the biggest comparison between higher ed and other industries is the availability of space and not having the space that they need. On campus, spaces are either too small, not easily adaptable or there's no catering kitchen.
Another concerning issue with space is overuse. All of the good spaces on campus are in such high demand that they never get the opportunity to rest. It's just a revolving door in and out of people in the spaces and there's never a time to wash windows or clean the carpet and complete basic maintenance in these spaces. They eventually start to look a little tired.
Basically, the goal of every campus is to first provide the needs of the current students, then the second is to attract new students, and third you want to bring alumni back to campus. That means all of your events are held on campus, whereas a non-profit can use hotels, country clubs and all sorts of different venues.