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In-Person Event Planning Guide

Before you start tip: Use our Event Detail Tracking Template found in the In-Person Event Toolkit to track decisions, bookings, responsibilities and contact information. Here are some considerations as you begin planning for your event:

  • What is the goal of your event?
  • Who is your intended audience?
  • What will be the format of your event? (Lecture, conference, roundtable discussion, reception, announcement, dinner, luncheon, gala, concert) 
  • Who are your speakers?
  • Will this be a hybrid event? (if hybrid, review the Virtual Event Planning Guide
    • If you are planning to host a hybrid event, and require livestream support please contact: Learning Technology Services for more information.
  • Will you be having any live entertainment at your event?
    • Whether in person, online or hybrid be mindful of music copyrights. 
  • Is alcohol being served?
  • Do you need EMS on-site/standby? 
  • Identify what accessibility requirements should be considered regarding venue, catering, delivery of speeches and/or presentations.
    • Will any of your guests require ASL or language interpretation services?
    • Is your physical event location accessible and comfortable for your guests?
  • Please note that a Land Acknowledgement must be delivered at the beginning of an event or meeting. The purpose of this is to recognize the Indigenous inhabitants of the land and their continued presence on the lands that are being acknowledged.
    • Refer to the Land Acknowledgement Guide for both an in-person and virtual version of the land acknowledgement and to understand how to affirm the land, tips on pronunciations and more.
  • Wayfinding (signage)
    • Consider volunteers or staff to assist guests in locating your venue.
  • Consult the Sustainable Events Certification Checklist to ensure that you event aligns with York University's sustainability efforts.
  • Refer to the Inclusion Lens Event Management Tool to ensure that from the planning to evaluating stages, your event is designed to involve all peoples.

Additional information can be found at the Sustainable Event Planning Website.

Refer to The Environmental Footprint of an Event info graphic to understand the impact an event can have on our environment and how you can minimize your carbon footprint.

  • Consider paperless options where possible (YUConnect, Yfile story, word of mouth... get creative!).
  • Create branded evites with links to an online RSVP because they are better for the environment. They are easy to use, appear professional, and can be safer and more accurate than sign-up sheets.
  • Develop online posters for your event that act as sharable graphics, links, posters or videos for social media buzz.
  • Buy local, organic, fair trade where possible, even if it costs a little more.
  • Minimize event impact by only buying what's needed.
  • Challenge vendors/caterers to provide sustainable options.
  • Consider using energy efficient A/V equipment where it is necessary (LED lighting etc.).
  • Pick a venue with a suitable size for your event and consider venues that have smaller environmental impacts.
  • Consider energy conservation efforts that you can make as users of a venue (i.e use daylighting instead of artificial light or avoid using a PA system).
  • Always remember to turn everything off after the event is over.
  • Reuse materials from event to event where possible (for repeat events, create signage without a reference to the date, so it can be used again, or signage with a blank spot that can be written on and erased later).
  • Provide adequate recycling and composting at your event.
  • Utilize reusable decorations, supplies, dishes, cutlery etc.
  • Ensure equity by planning a safe, inclusive, and accessible event.
  • Plan your event at a location that is accessible by public transit, cycling or walking.
  • If sustainable transit options are not available, consider organizing shuttle buses or shared transportation for attendees.
  • Encourage attendees to connect with each other in advance to arrange carpools.
  • Make your commitment to planning sustainable events before, during and after your events.
  • Be as inclusive as possible with pricing of events.
  • Don't only plan events that are sustainable, but also consider planning sustainability events.

Additional information can be found at the Inclusion Lens Event Management Tool.

People from/with varying:
a) Abilities
b) Ages
c) Familial responsibilities
d) First languages
e) Indigenous communities
f) Gender / sexual identities and orientations
g) Graduate and undergraduate programs
h) Racial and ethnic identities and citizenship statuses
i) Regional locations (e.g. provincial, territorial, global)
j) Religious/spiritual communities
k) Socio-economic / employment statuses

The people on your agenda should represent people from/with varying:
a) Abilities
b) Ages
c) Familial responsibilities
d) First languages
e) Indigenous communities
f) Racial and ethnic identities and citizenship statuses
g) Graduate and undergraduate programs
h) Racial and ethnic identities and citizenship statuses
i) Regional locations (e.g. provincial, territorial, global)

Does it have:
a) An elevator, with low buttons, Braille or raised number markings or audible floor announcements?
b) Accessible functioning bathrooms?
c) Built in sound systems?
d) Adjustable lighting?
e) Accessible doors, aisles/pathways, including entranceways?
f) Accessible desks / work surface?
g) Accessible stage?
h) Well-lit pathways leading up to and from the venue?
i) Accessible parking and a drop off area, close to the venue door with ramp access?
j) Accessible public transport, including request-stop services?
j) An emergency alarm system with audible and visual cues?

York has several gender neutral / all gender washrooms, but they may or may not be close to your planned location.

If your location doesn't have one, consider designating a washroom gender neutral and be sure that it has an accessibility stall.

Accessibility and accommodation requests can come from your participants, emcees, facilitators, speakers/presenters, performers, volunteers, staff, and service providers.

Typically these include requests for:
a) Food accommodation / Dietary restrictions
b) Childcare needs (e.g. childminding services, breastfeeding spaces)
c) American Sign Language (ASL)/ Real Time Captioning (RTC)
d) Accessible documents/Handouts in alternative formats
e) Transportation subsidy
f) Sliding scale tickets
g) Prayer spaces
h) Language Interpretation (e.g. French/English). For French interpretation services please contact the Conference Interpreting Program at Glendon.
i) Service/therapy animal or support accompaniment provisions

If you are using registration forms, be sure to add a section for people where people can make accommodation requests.

a) American Sign Language or Real Time Captioning services
b) Translation services (e.g. French/English)
c) Childminding space and child-minders
d) Breastfeeding spaces
e) Prayer spaces
f) Private counselling room and onsite counsellors
g) Handouts to be made available in an alternative format
h) Microphones and speakers, including an onsite technical support person
i) Nut-free catering/special menus
j) An ingredients list for the food being provided

It is preferable to enable people to sit anywhere in the audience and not separate them based on whether they require assistive devices, service/therapy animals, support person accompaniment, or need American Sign Language (ASL) or Real Time Captioning (RTC) in order to participate in the event. However, you might not have an option depending on your room set up.

To provide access to people with varying hearing, RTC services is preferred as it enables people to sit anywhere; however, it depends on the screen placement and size, and the size of the room. If you need to use ASL instead for a large event, the interpreter might be hard to see from a distance. Consider projecting the ASL interpretation on a large screen. If this isn't an option, you may need to designate an area for ASL close to the interpreter.

Whether you choose RTC or ASL, be sure that there is space for persons with assistive devices and consider that some people with assistive devices might also need ASL/RTC access.

Depending on the request, available services, and your budget, it may or may not be possible to provide the accommodation. If funding is an issue, please contact the person responsible for student group management. They can advise you as to the current funding available for student groups to access.

It’s one thing to collect accommodation requests, but it is another to ensure that people know whether you can meet their needs. People who ask for accommodations know it can’t always be so. Be sure to follow up and let them know what you are able to offer.

Ask them:
a) To advise if any of their content might be concerning for participants?
b) Whether they require a screen?
c) To use a microphone and orally describe the content of their presentations (slides, notes, etc.) when presenting?
d) To ensure that videos or other forms of media include accessibility features?
e) To use the CNIB Clear Print Accessibility Guidelines when preparing their presentation materials?
f) To send their presentations in advance and allow you to copy the presentation materials?
g) To keep to their time allocation?

Have you determined whether:
a) You will charge a fee?
b) You will provide transportation subsidies?
c) Your event conflicts with a day or time of religious/spiritual observance or a statutory holiday?
d) Your event encourages or requires people to wear a costume or particular style of dress?
e) Your team has undergone inclusivity training?

Be sure you have created bilingual signage for service providers – breastfeeding spaces, child minding, American Sign Language, Real Time Captioning, catering - and for an all gender washroom (if there isn’t one already).  Ensure your volunteers and staff are aware of the location of these services.

If you have designated a seating area for people accessing RTC or ASL, or have specific seating with accessible desks, be sure to mark those areas with reserved signs

Signage also includes those markers that ensure staff and volunteers are easily identifiable. This has several benefits, particularly for people who might have requested an accommodation or have accessibility needs. Consider having them wear the same t-shirts, or name badges with the word STAFF or VOLUNTEER in large font.

The Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion has created signs you can download and print to designate a washroom "all gender."

a) A land acknowledgment statement.
b) An inclusive space welcome statement.
c) A statement from your faculty or Dean about its commitment to inclusion.

a) Content - information to be covered at the event
b) Location of services - translation, child-minding, breastfeeding spaces, American Sign Language, Real Time Captioning, prayer spaces
c) Location of food, in particular, the location of special food requests, and when it will be served.
d) Location of all washrooms.
e) Availability of counsellors and the private space for counselling.
f) Location of elevators.
g) Location of microphones and the importance of using them.
h) Length of the event and any scheduled breaks.
i) Process for accessing goSAFE or other transportation services for commuting home.
j) Evaluation forms - when and how they will be distributed.

Draft your evaluation form early. Visit the “Evaluating” tab to assist you in formulating questions that link to measuring the inclusivity of your event.

If you plan to conduct your evaluation after your event, and intend on circulating it by email, be sure to have attendees register for the event and provide an email address. Registration could be organized to collect this information from everyone at the door, or you could ask people to pre-register and provide an email, and then capture anyone who doesn't pre-register at the door.

Whatever you choose, ensure you think of this at the planning stage or you will miss out on obtaining feedback from attendees as to how inclusive your event was.

York University vendors please visit the Procurement Services website.

Best practice tip: include an extra 15% in the budget for contingencies. 

Depending on the requirements of your event, here are some things you’ll want to consider:  

  • Audio-visual equipment
  • Catering
  • Venue (on campus vs. off campus room fees)
  • Transportation costs
  • Parking Services
  • Additional rentals
  • Gifts for guests
  • Hotel accommodations
  • Honorariums

When would you like to have your event? Consider factors that will guide you in determining the most ideal date for your event. Please visit the York University Events Calendar to find out if your event may coincide with any others across campus. 

  • Consider exam periods and other important dates.
  • Who are your speakers, what are their availabilities, and will they be located in different time zones?  
  • Do you have international participants and are there any international holidays to consider?  
    • Are they expected to attend in person or connect virtually?
  • Would you like the President to attend your event? If so, please complete this form: Invite the President
  • Do you need a rehearsal date?

If you are planning an event on campus there are several ways you can book space.  

  • Common Indoor and Outdoor Spaces: please visit the Office of Temporary Use of University Space  (TUUS) for instructions on how to reserve common indoor and outdoor spaces, reserve audio visual equipment, and more. You can also send an email to for inquiries regarding room options, availabilities, and capacities.   
  • Academic Spaces: To book classroom space on campus, please complete the Adhoc Booking Request form.
  • Second Student Centre: To book a space in the York University Second Student Centre, please email  
  • Schulich Spaces: To book a space at the Executive Learning Centre in the Seymour Schulich Building, please call 416-650-8318.

If you are planning a York University event off campus, please email for recommendations catered specifically to your needs. 

If you are hosting a private event and wish to send invitations, ensure that you have the most up-to-date and preferred contact information for your guests.

Other factors to think about include:

  • RSVPs: How will your registrations be tracked? THINK ABOUT TIMELINES! You will need numbers of attendees to book services such as catering, so give yourself plenty of time to gather this information.
  • Promotion: Consider utilizing social media channels (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) to spread the word. In order to promote sustainable event practices, consider creating electronic invitations, advertisements and RSVP forms. Your guests will also appreciate the ease, convenience and transparency that moving your event promotions online will offer.
    • We encourage you to develop a brand for your event(s) and apply them throughout your electronic communications such as online posters, invitations, website(s) and RSVP forms.
  • Reminders: How do you plan on following up with those who have not responded to your invitation? Plan for when you'd like to issue reminder invites to your guests.

  • Set Up Your Venue: 
    • Consider holding your event at one of York University's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings.
    • If you require tables and chairs, place a request through Maximo so that facilities services can assist you.  
      • You will need a budget code when submitting this request. 
    • Consider if you need food tables, registration tables, a podium, risers, or even high-top tables for a reception. 
  • Food:
    • There are a variety of catering services at both the Keele and Glendon campuses. With over 20 catering options for your campus event, you’ll be sure to find something that suits your needs. Visit Food Services to receive a quote. 
    • When determining the menu for your upcoming event we encourage you to consider the following to ensure that your event is reflecting York University's sustainable efforts:
      • Talk to your caterer about what types of sustainable foods they offer
        • Is the food organic? Fair Trade Certified? In-season and purchased locally?
      • Look into the option of offering a fully plant-based menu that will reduce your carbon footprint.
      • Before you confirm your order, send out reminders to your guests to determine the appropriate quantity of food and ensure you are not over-purchasing.
      • If you do have left over food following your event, we encourage you to donate it to York Federation of Student Food Support Centre or another local food bank such as the North York Harvest Food Bank.
    • Often the catering vendor will provide table linens for a lower fee than sourcing them yourself, keep this in mind and don’t forget to order a few extras for your registration table(s)!
  • Waste Management:
    • Avoid giving paper hand-outs or merchandise at your events to reduce waste.
    • Use reusable utensils and cutlery at your events. If this is not possible a good alternative is to use recyclable and or compostable utensils.
    • Ensure there are adequate recycling and composting receptacles at your event location.
    • York University has a single-use water bottle ban, encourage your guests to use one of York's 70 water refill stations and bring their own water bottles to limit the use of disposable water bottles and cups.
  • Will you need AV equipment and support?
    • Contact UIT by filling out the Classroom Equipment Order form.
    • Inquire about their energy efficient equipment such as LED lighting etc.
  • Will you need to reserve pop-up banners or step and repeat backdrops? 
  • Review your Event Detail Tracking Template
  • Connect with speakers, vendors, and event staff to ensure they have all of the information they need.
  • Print the appropriate event materials as needed. 
    • Registration, dietary lists, name tags and/or place cards, menus, brochures, rollouts (agenda) etc.
  • Discuss set-up and tear-down plans with your team.
  • Best practices tip: Prepare an Event Day Kit (scissors, stapler, tape, nametags, paper, pens, etc. ANYTHING THAT YOU MAY NEED, should go in the kit. It’ll be useful when you are crunched for time!).

Best Practice Tip – draft a registration list in advance and have a check-in table for your guests. Name tags and/or place cards are also helpful in creating a more inclusive environment for all. 

  • Arrive at least one hour early – but please give yourself more time if it is a larger event. 
  • Connect with your on-site vendors to ensure everything is going to plan.  
  • Set up your registration table.
  • Welcome your special guests and speakers.
    • We advise that you have one person responsible for hosting your special guests to ensure that they are comfortable.
  • Review the rollout for the day with everyone who is involved.
  • The details matter, so the better prepared you are, the better the event will go! 
    • Best Practice Tip: Have extra hands-on-deck available to assist if needed.
  • Collect invoices from your vendors.
  • Pay any applicable honorariums to your musicians, other live entertainment, and/or staff.
Assess the success of your event
  • Prepare a post event survey that can be distributed via email to your guests so you can gather this information. 
  • We recommend that you issue a formal thank you email or letter to all involved parties including volunteers, speakers, panelists etc.
    • Tip: Ask for feedback on the event.
  • Event Debrief: Set up a time to meet with your team to discuss challenges and successes.
    • Best Practices Tip: Add all discussion points to a new sheet on your Event Index. This will allow you to find it easily if you plan the same event in the future!