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Student-Led Event Planning Checklist

Planning to host an event?

As your student group considers your event options, review the student-led event planning checklist to ensure your planning is thorough and following the correct Duke policies and procedures

contact Student Engagement & Support with questions


Click on each arrow to expand for more details:

Every event must identify an event lead or point person. This individual should be listed on all event reservations, contracts, and advertising. Their contact information should be listed on any advertising as a point of contact for guests with questions, concerns, or accommodation requests. Then, outline additional support roles

If you have a specific date and time in mind, FIRST check availability on the following:

Select location based on anticipated maximum head count, event scale and needs (tech, layout, seating).  Locations within Pratt will help make the event well-attended, but not required. 

  • Outlook Calendar (meeting spaces) 


  • Pay very close attention to room capacity and existing number of chairs. 
  • Premium spaces in Penn Pavilion must be booked at a minimum one month in advance and require additional paperwork. 
  • Outlook Calendar requests usually confirm immediately. A list of those rooms can be found here. Enter the room number & name in the “location” field of your event details to see if it is available and send the invitation.
  • 25 Live requests may take up to one week to confirm and at the beginning of each semester (before the drop-add date) and during reading week/exams, many rooms are not available from 25 Live. 
  • Always schedule extra time on both the front and back ends of the event for set-up and  breakdown.  
  • Confirm funding source(s) and maximum budget
  • Break down event costs with a budget assigned to each one
  • Leave room in the budget for unexpected expenses

    * Catering will be one of the highest expenses, with final charges often being higher than the estimate
  • Determine whether the event is “open” attendance or “set” attendance 
    • Open attendance – no need for an RSVP or registration 
    • Open attendance – registration is not capped but you would like to track expected attendance, use a Qualtrics survey for tracking 
    • Set attendance – create an RSVP or registration that is capped at a limit using Signup Genius, JotForm, or similar. It is also a good idea to create a form for a “waiting list” if the registration is expected to fill quickly. 
  • Expect no-shows
  • Determine the style of service based on budget and event style/needs
    1. Delivery with set-up
    2. Delivery without set-up
    3. Full-service with staff on-site 
  • Send availability inquiry to caterer for the date, time and style of service desired. Menu creation can come after availability is confirmed
  • General standard of cost per person, often without beverages included: 
    Breakfast = $15 – $18
    Pizza = $5 – $10
    Boxed Lunch = $15 – $20
    Lunch Buffet = $25 – $30
    Reception = $50 – $75
  • Place delivery order as soon as possible (minimum of 2 weeks prior, earlier during busiest weeks/months for caterers) 
  • Place full-service orders 4+ weeks in advance as they must find/book staff
  • Determine whether disposables will be included or are an extra cost                          
  • Request a “FULL” quote that includes all fees, taxes, gratuities, reiterating your max budget includes all of the above
  • Set delivery time 30-45 minutes prior to event 
  • Set full service arrival time 2 hours prior to event and “set-up” time of 15 minutes prior to event
  • Get email confirmation
  • Give the event lead’s name and phone number for caterer arrival
  • Give detailed directions to those caterers who are unfamiliar with campus
  • Save paper or email receipt for reimbursement or expense report
  • Check the contents of delivery against the order
  • Dukes preferred rental company (tables, chairs, linens, etc) is American Party Rentals (APR) here in Durham. 
  • Email or call Natalie Bell to check availability for your date as soon as possible, at least a month out when possible; December, Spring and Fall are their busiest seasons.  
  • APR can set the room for you, but at an extra charge. Note: there must be space for storage of the equipment reserved in or near the room prior to and after the event 
  • If using full-service catering, the caterer can set up the rentals for you, but you must communicate that need to them and provide them with a diagram and copy of the rental order 

If you need AV equipment that isn’t included with the room, Pratt IT has a number of things that can be borrowed. You can check by sending an email to John Vincent

  1. Schedule pick-up and drop-off time with Pratt IT 
  2. Ensure the AV equipment is fully charged and in working order
  3. Return all equipment as you found it

Arrange supplies from vendors to be delivered at least 1 week prior to the event to allow for delays and make sure to save  all receipts 

  • Create a flyer for your event. Always include a point of contact, email address, or phone number so guests who require accommodations may reach out.
  • Share advertising via email, social media, and on the Duke Events Calendar
  • If there is a required registration, include a QR code or link
  • Optional use of Pratt Plasma Screens: Submit your flyer through  Duke Flyer and schedule it to begin at least one week in advance of the event. Be sure to check the “Engineering” box under the “Topics” tag
  • Send a reminder a week ahead if needed to boost attendance and then the morning of the event 

Use this form to request extra trash bins or any other housekeeping needs that should be done before, during, and after the event

Purchase a parking pass for your guest speaker using this form.

  • In the “Type of Permits” section, select the “Departmental Temporary” radio button 
  • In the “Permit Type” section, select the “Single Day Permits” radio button 
  • In the “Locations” section, tick the “West Campus” box 
  • In the “West Campus” section, tick the “Parking Garage IV” box 
  • In the far right of the “Quantity” section, click the number to select the quantity of single-day parking passes you need
  • The pass(es) will be emailed to you as a PDF, which you can either email to your guest or print off for them
  • The guest will scan the QR code to enter/exit the Bryan Center garage from the LOWER ENTRY area (accessible from the alley directly opposite the camel statue on Science Drive).

Except in rare instances, Duke cannot provide an honorarium for speakers. Instead, Duke can pay for the speaker’s travel expenses and meals associated with their visit. Some speakers may wish to seek reimbursement after booking their own travel and accommodations; however, it is recommended that we book these things for them. 

  • When purchasing airfare, coach or economy class tickets should be booked on the corporate card. First class or business class tickets are not authorized. The speaker should submit their boarding pass for Duke’s accounting purposes
  • If the speaker needs a rental vehicle, be sure to use the least expensive vehicle that is suitable for the intended use
  • If the speaker travels to Durham in their personal vehicle, they can be reimbursed at $0.67/mile
  • When booking a hotel, be sure to inform the speaker that only the room rate and applicable taxes will be covered. The speaker will be responsible for any other expenses (mini-bar, movies, etc)
  • Be sure to explicitly state which meal(s) you will be covering 
  • If it is a set attendance event, print out the list and have a “Check In” table set up to confirm attendees 
  • If you need to track attendance for a “no registration required” event, you may request a card reader from the Duke Card office. Requests should be made one week prior to your event
  • Walk through the event location in advance to devise a room layout and where you will move/store extra furniture, if need be. Take photos before moving anything in order to be able to return the room to its original layout. 
  • Communicate the layout to any vendors who will assist with set-up (caterer, APR). 
  • Confirm who and how many volunteers and delegate set-up tasks/responsibilities 
  • Block plenty of time on all volunteers’ calendars for “Event Prep and Break Down” 
  • Confirm Caterer and other vendors to ensure alignment with all details, directions and timing 
  • Confirm guest speaker (when applicable) has all details, directions, timing 
  • Depending on size, style and scale of the event, arrive 2 hours early with plenty of other volunteers to decorate, meet caterer, move furniture, set-up rentals, AV equipment and food/beverages. Student attendees usually arrive EARLY; plan to be SET 15-30 minutes prior to advertised start time
  • Do not use nails, pushpins, or any other fasteners that will damage walls or windows
  • Event lead should have phone to receive any last minute communication from vendors, team, or attendees 
  • Bring extra disposables, serving utensils, gloves, hand sanitizer, tape, scissors, pens, paper, wipes, etc. 
  • Remove all decorations or signs that have been posted
  • Return furniture to the original layout where applicable
  • Donate/share or take away any leftover food 
  • Break down and store any rentals or AV equipment
  • Pick up any leftover trash and dispose of all trash 
  • Clean any used Pratt tables before returning to storage  
  • Secure receipts from speakers for reimbursable expenses.
  • Refer to this page for a list of non-reimbursable expenses
  • Send a formal thank you to all speakers and/or guests via email or a hand-written note
  • Cash gifts are strongly discouraged due to tax implications. Gift cards, traveler’s
    checks, gift certificates, and vouchers are considered to be the same as cash, and are also strongly
  • Non-cash gifts should be valued at less than $100