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Events 101: Taking Spoon from URL to IRL

Because there are real people behind your favorite articles.

Speaking like a true millennial, I could spend my entire life behind a screen. But sometimes I wake up in the morning and think, "Wow, today is the perfect day to put on a pair of real pants and venture out into the world for some human interaction!"

This is my terrible metaphor for how I think about being a Spoon contributor—our online community (and the content we create) is dope, but sometimes we just want to eat tacos with that girl whose food Instagram we stalk. Hosting an event is the perfect opportunity to do just that, plus it's the best way to spread the word about Spoon on your campus.

Running an event that's able to bring people together is incredibly rewarding. Planning one equals a lot of phone calls and emails and probably access to a vehicle with wheels and a motor, but it also equals an event that goes off without any figurative or literal fires. 

I talk a big game, but trust me, I've both caused and put out many fires in the past three years of planning Spoon events. These are the five biggest mistakes I've made—allow me to help you avoid them.

1. I ran out of time

kettle, water, coffee
Emma Danbury

Let's go waaaaaay back to the first event I ever planned as a Spoon member. Freshman Lauren had the dream of creating Northwestern's first farmers market. But freshman Lauren didn't know that she would have to secure permits from the City of Evanston's Health Department.

10 days before the event, freshman Lauren discovered that these permit applications had to be submitted—you guessed it—at least 10 days prior to the event. There was simply no way that all of the already-confirmed vendors would be able to turn that paperwork around with less than a day's notice, which meant that any vendor not already registered with the City of Evanston would not be able to participate. I was left with four vendors: challah, popcorn, swiss chard, and tamales, which was a pretty weird combination.

What I'm trying to say here is, plan ahead so you can budget your time wisely. Ask questions when you think your requests may be time-sensitive, and set personal deadlines days before the true deadlines. Applying for these permits was extremely doable, I just didn't start early enough. I find that I work well under pressure, but there's a fine line between lighting a fire under your own ass and trying to defy the laws of time and space.

This brings me to my next point...

2. I thought I didn't need any help

Lauren Goldstein

Asking for help will almost guarantee that you won't run out of time. Trust me when I tell you that everything takes longer than you think it will.

Once upon a time, I planned the Sugar and Spice Summit, a 200-person conference for women in the food industry, all by myself, all while taking a full courseload. Are you surprised that I was a little overwhelmed?

Everything was going smoothly until the swag for the gift bags started to arrive in the days leading up to the event. I looked at the hundreds of pounds of boxes that had been delivered to the basement of my sorority house and illogically thought to myself, "Packing these 250 bags will only take a few hours!"

Five hours later, I was sweaty from carrying and opening boxes, and had packed all of two items into each of the bags. They say it takes an army, so I decided it was time to call in my army (aka my Northwestern Spoon fam + my mom). I didn't even have to bribe them with chocolate, which I have totally resorted to in the past when asking for last-minute help.

Moral of the story is: look how happy I was when I had 10 sets of hands helping me stuff and move my bags! Teamwork makes the dream work, people.

kettle, beer, wine, coffee
Michelle Galliani

3. I didn't have a budget

Luna Zhang

Creating a working budget is really one of those skills you should be required to learn as a freshman, but instead I had to take a class about plant leaf structure.

I used to plan events without knowing their purpose, financially-speaking. Was I trying to make a profit to fund our print magazine, or was I happy with breaking even and using the event as a tool to market Spoon on campus? It was impossible to set goals when I had no idea how much money would be going out and/or coming in.

Now, Google Sheets is my best friend. I learned the basic functions, and the first thing I do when planning an event is sit down and list all of the things that I could possibly need to spend money on. That way, I have a clear idea of how much money will be going out, and can determine how much money needs to be coming in to either make a profit or break even.

4. I didn't realize how much garbage people create

cilantro, tacos, salad, salmon
Michelle Galliani

This is where I get to tell you to think about all the things you're not thinking about.

Will there be trash? Do you have trash cans? Who will take out the trash? Think about this in advance, or you'll end up with armfuls of other people's cupcake wrappers, and I can tell you from experience that that's sort of gross.

I'm not just talking about garbage—this applies to microphones, chairs, tables, parking passes, and anything else you will need to reserve or rent in advance of your event. Literally, sit down and make a list of everything item that you would interact with as you walk through your event. If your event is on campus, it's a good idea to check if your school offers any specials or discounts for registered student organizations.

5. I was too modest to self-promote

coffee, pizza, beer
Alex Schwartz

You know what? Your friends, classmates, family, strangers, etc. are much more likely to come to your event when you tell them how proud you are to have planned it.

Personally text and Facebook message anyone and everyone who might be interested in your event, because chances are, they aren't reading every email they get or every flyer they see on campus. Take credit for your hard work, because you are a badass, and because your people want to support you.

Shoot some emails to the editors of your campus publications telling them about your upcoming event. Offer to send them free tickets to send a writer and photographer to cover your event. While you're at it, email professors and administrators in related departments, your campus career center, and literally anyone else with access to an email list. Ask them to blast your event over their list and their social channels—you'll get the attention of an entirely new audience that way.

On that note, I end this post with a shameless plug for the biggest (and baddest) event I've ever planned: Brainfood 2017. There will be speakers, panels, food trucks, and more. The event is on October 14 at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, New York. Early bird tickets are on sale now—get yours here and come hang with me!