FAQ: Event planning

Help! I’m supposed to plan a [X]...what should I do first?

In event planning, we begin with the interrelated process of determining a date and a venue. Analyze the factors, considering the availability of key players, the space requirements, and the space availability. For example, one might begin planning a lecture by obtaining a few dates that could work for the speaker and the host before comparing them to the dates that an appropriate lecture hall is open. Remember to consider class schedules and holidays when determining your date and time.

Where can I find a comprehensive event planning checklist?

We provide an event planning checklist for your reference.

How do I know whether a vendor proposal represents good value and aligns with MIT best practices?

Contact the MIT professionals who will be glad to review the proposal or point you in the right direction.

I could use advice on an appropriate menu and the timing for a high-profile event. Is help available?

Of course...please contact Institute Events. We will be happy to offer recommendations.

Should I webcast my in-person event?

Whether to webcast is a judgment call. Give some thought to whether offering that service will have a negative impact on attendance. Many times, an event’s quality is connected to the onsite engagement of participants—and you would not want a speaker addressing an empty room. If you’d like to offer a wider audience access to the program, you can always make the video available online afterward. Contact MIT Video Productions for assistance with recording.

Webcasting can be appropriate when you anticipate a level of interest far greater than capacity to accommodate an audience. Contact the Office of Digital Learning for on-campus webcast services.

You may also consider a hybrid onsite/online event via Chatcast, another service of MIT Video Productions.

How can I make my event fully accessible?

If you are an event organizer, you should be prepared to make reasonable efforts to provide access so that individuals with disabilities can participate in events, whether academic or social. You should anticipate the cost of providing these services in your event budget just as you would catering, AV, or other event needs. 

For many events, you may be able to ascertain guests’ needs in advance by asking them via registration what accommodations will allow them to enjoy the program. Examples of requests include American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, all-gender restrooms, or a stream text feed of remarks that can be viewed on mobile devices.

Not sure where to begin? MIT Human Resources provides helpful information via the Accessibility for Staff Events page. Event planners may request accommodation services for an event, including ASL interpretation and CART services, via the Request Accommodations Webform. If you anticipate requiring these services, act early—requests should be submitted a minimum of three weeks in advance, as area providers are in high demand.

You may also share with your attendees the campus map highlighting accessible routes and entrances. When staffing your event, consider whether it’s helpful to have someone available to greet guests at these entrances or escort them on tricky routes (arrival at 77 Mass Ave, for example).

For additional information, please see 10 Considerations for Planning an Inclusive Event

Is there a list of vendors for event planning?

Yes! Please see our developing compilation of vendors and resources that are recommended by MIT community members. If you have a provider to contribute to the list, please contact us—we continue to grow this list with colleagues’ input.

My group would like to have a food truck visit for our event. How to we make those arrangements?

MIT Campus Dining will be able to assist you with the rules and regulations regarding food trucks on campus. Please contact Mark Hayes.

We are expecting visitors from / will be working remotely or on campus with a team from another culture. How can we prepare ourselves to welcome our guests to or interact with MIT?

For immediate access to this kind of direction, please consult GlobeSmart, the MIT-licensed resource providing detailed information on how to work effectively across cultures.

Event planners group

An MIT Event Planners group, administered by Institute Events, meets periodically to discuss topics relevant to our work and community. The group’s mailing list also serves as a resource to members—join via this membership form.

Morss Hall in Walker Memorial (Building 50)

Photo: Dominick Reuter

MIT Police Honor Guard

The MIT Police Honor Guard precedes the Academic Procession on Commencement Day.

Photo: M. Scott Brauer

Depending on the event, you may want to make a guest book available for signing. Institute Events provides a complete event planning checklist.

Photo: Dominick Reuter