Event – The first step in holding a Program for Excellence event is deciding which event you want to plan. Take into consideration your Alpha’s goals for both the short term and long term and pick the events that will help you achieve them. This shouldn’t be difficult, because each Program event can be catered to any Alpha goal. However, it is prudent to consider the scope of the event. For instance, if your #4 can only avail a small sum for the event, your selection becomes a bit more restricted.
Date and Time – Once you decide which event to plan, you need to pick a date. Be sure to review the Alpha’s calendar and the host institution’s academic calendar to avoid conflicts with existing events, exams, and breaks. If you plan to work with the Central Office, contact a staff member to determine their availability. Be sure to contact alumni and involve them in the scheduling process. Remember that faculty, National staff, and alumni need more time than then the average undergraduate to work an event into their calendar.
Once the date is picked, be sure to let each constituent know about it. Post it to your Alpha’s calendar, bulletin board, etc. Send emails, and follow up with reminders. Do what you must to ensure participation.
Location – With a date set, you need to pick a location. Think about your event needs and constraints. Can the event take place at the Lodge or housing block? What low-cost options are available? Be sure to contact the CO, alumni, and Greek life office to inquire about low cost options in your area.
Locations away from the Lodge necessitate additional logistics. If alcohol is involved at an event away from the Alpha’s housing space, you must secure third-party transportation for attendees.
Price and Payer – Work with the Alpha’s #4 to determine your budget for the event. Once the budget is set, do not exceed it and expect to be repaid. Keep all receipts and submit them for reimbursement as soon as you can. If you expect funding from The Chi Psi Educational Trust or alumni, be sure to communicate with them clearly. If you receive outside funding, plan to provide itemized estimates and/or receipts.
Risk Management – An event’s success is contingent upon thorough management of any incurred risk. Does your event need security? Do you need to arrange third-party transportation? Before you finalize plans for an event, consult your Alpha’s risk management chairman. If you are unsure whether your event fits into Chi Psi risk management policies, call the Central Office and a staff member will advise you. For questions regarding compliance with host institution policies, consult your Greek Life Professional. Remember that the Alpha or its Alumni Corporation many not purchase or sell alcohol by any means (including pooled purchases).
Security – For the safety of your guests and protection of the Alpha, you must control who attends your event. Maintain an accurate and detailed guest list. Employ third-party event security to prevent unauthorized access to your event. This is especially important if alcohol is present at the event. Use wristbands to designate those on the guest list to expedite entry. Do not allow individuals that are already noticeably intoxicated to attend an event where alcohol is present.
Attendees – Who’s coming? If the event is a date function, Brothers need ample time to secure a date. If a sorority will be included, they need time to schedule and prepare. Alumni, in consideration of their obligations to family and careers, need significantly more advance notice of at least two weeks if you expect them to attend an event. The variety of attendees can create additional logistics that you may not ignore. If ladies will be present, ensure that the ladies restroom in the Lodge or housing block is clean and well-stocked. If your event takes place during poor weather conditions, plan ahead for where attendees may store umbrellas, coats, etc.
Facilitator(s) / Speakers(s) – Work closely with your facilitators, speakers, or VIP guests. Communicate logistics to them clearly in advance. Make them feel comfortable and at ease about their participation in your event. Provide them as much information on their audience, setting, and allotted time. Work with them to arrange housing and meals in advance to avoid any conflicts. Be clear about what is compensated for them and what they are responsible for.
Setup / Supplies – Plan ahead! Purchase supplies in advance and buy extra when you can. An unused pack of punch cups or dessert spoons can always be returned, and you do not want to make an unexpected run to the store during your event. Set up your event space or verify with the facility manager that the set up is correct as early as possible.
Food / Snacks – Having some kind of food available at an event is advisable (and required if alcohol is present). If your event requires a meal, use either a caterer or negotiate an arrangement with the Alpha’s chef.
Transportation – Travel to and from an event that is outside an acceptable walking distance is one of the most important logistical items for a successful event. It can add a new level of enjoyment to the event, as boarding a large motor coach or bus adds to the fanfare.
Do not treat your pledge class like a limo service. It is not their job or responsibility to ferry Brothers and guests to or from an event. If you need transportation, arrange for a bus or coach. If everyone chips in for this service, it becomes very affordable.
If alcohol will be available, third party transportation is a very smart investment. Eliminate the risk of an alcohol-related traffic citation or tragic accident by arranging this ahead of time. Convey to attendees your expectation that if they consume alcohol, they use the provided transportation.
Invitations / Marketing / Communication – Stay in front of your marketing plan. Give Brothers, Pledges, and guests plenty of time to work your event into their schedule. Consider that alumni, with careers and families, need significantly more notice than undergraduates. Employ a mix of media including emails, facebook messages, text messages, posted reminders, hand-delivered invitations (which provide a very classy touch), etc.
Alumni involvement – Never overlook or undervalue the presence of alumni at your events. While most will have little interest in attending general parties (for good reason), their presence at other events can enhance the overall experience and contribute to a very healthy relationship with your alumni constituency. Consider which events might be appropriate for alumni to attend. Whether you extend an invitation to just your alumni corporation and advisory boards or you open an event to your entire alumni constituency, just about every event in this manual can benefit from alumni involvement. Contact the Central Office for a complete contact list for alumni of your Alpha and/or alumni in your area.
Remember that alumni have high expectations when they return to the Alpha. The Lodge or housing block should be clean and in good order. Memorabilia should be on display, furniture arranged appropriately, and bathrooms well-stocked.
When alumni arrive, engage them. Many alumni are legitimately intimidated by returning to the Alpha. They fear that they will know no one, be ignored, and be underwhelmed. Make them feel welcome by introducing yourself, shaking hands, offering tours to guests, etc. If an alumnus asks to see the room in which he stayed, oblige him with a smile. Most importantly, when alumni arrive, turn off the television (unless they’re arriving to watch a game on it), get off the couch, and start a conversation. For events at which several alumni will be present, designate one or more Brothers to welcome them so that they will feel more comfortable.
Alcohol Management – It is imperative that you, as an event planner for your Alpha, understand the Fraternity’s risk management policies especially as they apply to alcohol. If you have any questions about what they permit and prohibit, call the Central Office, and ask a staff member to review them with you.
Clean-up and breakdown – It is important to schedule disassembly and cleanup of all event materials. If left to happenstance, garbage and such can remain in place for days. Identify a team and place them in charge of leaving the event space in the condition in which it was found. Dispose of trash, and empty any trashcans that have been filled. If using a 3rd party’s space, discuss in advance what cleanup activities are included in the event contract and what may incur additional fees for the Alpha.
Follow up and thank-you notes – Never underestimate the value of a hand-written thank-you note following an event. Take the time to write and mail these to those that helped make your event successful. If you expect these individuals to help you in the future, you need to show your appreciation for their effort.
Replication – Debrief on your events and activities at meetings. Use forums and surveys to generate feedback and suggestions for future improvement. Catalogue both successes and failures in your Alpha’s proprietary events manual. If you don’t have one, start one, and provide it to those that follow in your footsteps.