“We Can’t See Your Screen”: Reflections on Event Planning as a Student Leader

     Back in August, I discussed the importance of student groups to your future career; and briefly discussed how, if your schedule allows it, you should consider pursuing student leadership positions while in library school. Depending on the structure and focus of the student groups and chapters your library school sponsors, the student leadership positions available may vary from group to group; and those positions’ responsibilities may vary accordingly, too. So, there may be a diverse range of positions you can pursue that will help you build your resumé and cultivate skills you might not already have, or have had the chance to develop further.

     As I mentioned in August, I have served and currently serve as a student leader in my department in a variety of roles, from being the chair in one group to being a blogging assistant in another, and other roles in between. Thus, I have had to wear many hats, often at once, depending on what any one position I have occupied or do occupy requires; which has made for many interesting moments while in library school so far. Most recently, as the chair of one of my department’s student groups, I had to lead the planning of one of my student group’s main large events; which occurs bi-annually and centers around a featured speaker, often from my department’s faculty, and most of this planning occurred within the course of one month in the midst of a heavy workload that seemed to grow larger each day.

     Now, I will not lie to you – there were some days I had wished our student group had its own events coordinator to take care of the event; and it may be something we consider for the future as our leadership team evolves as one of the newer groups in my department. I am a part of other student groups that have them and I fully recognize their importance to a student group’s operations as their job is in no way easy. But, I am thankful and grateful to the members of the leadership team we do have – a secretary, social media coordinator, webmaster, and vice chair – as they helped make the event possible by contributing their own part to its planning in the absence of having one person be in charge of planning everything within the group.

     Thus, I learned a lot from having to lead the planning for this event as, speaking as someone with limited direct large event planning experience, there was a lot I had to learn and learn quickly. While serving as a student leader in my other student groups so far in library school, I have often contributed to event planning as a source of feedback within the larger leadership team, not as the leader of it. So, for those of you who may be in the same position as I was before this semester, I share these lessons I have learned while leading the planning of this event:

First, start planning earlier than you think you need to. If your event is in October, start solidifying as many details as you realistically can in July. While my leadership team began loosely planning the event towards the end of the Spring semester in May, we did most of our planning after the Fall semester began; mostly because our current pandemic has made long-term planning difficult as everything is always subject to change without notice. So, if it is possible, do not leave most of your event planning until last minute, or you may end up regretting it if you do not have a backup plan to fall back on like my team had.

     Secondly, plan out what needs to be done and delegate tasks accordingly early. Depending on the size of your student leadership team, many team members will likely have to assume various roles during the event planning process. So, be sure to take note of everyone’s strengths early on and delegate tasks accordingly so no one person is left to manage most of what needs to be done. In hindsight, since much of the event I lead the planning of was planned in the month leading up to the event, I handled quite a bit more than I maybe needed to just because I felt rushed and needed to make up time since I felt I did not have time earlier on to handle it then while managing my existing workload; which impacted how remaining tasks were delegated among everyone else. So, going forward, I know I am definitely going to do this earlier so we do not have to rush later; and break this down into smaller sections to make it more manageable across the days and weeks leading up to future events.

     Next, communication and organization are key. Luckily, neither of these things were a problem for my leadership team as I have always prioritizing good, effective communication and organization. But, I acknowledge that I maybe did not communicate as much as I needed to when it came to managing my heavy workload versus contributing more time to event planning earlier on; which is an approach I will be adapting for future events. So, this is something I would definitely recommend everyone to do while planning events because, without good communication and organization, teams cannot effectively work together towards their common goal of getting the event off the ground and making it be successful. Also, be sure to have regular check-ins with your team members to ensure that if they need help, then you can help re-delegate tasks among the rest of the group to prevent any last-minute surprises from upsetting your workflow leading up to the event.

     Lastly, remember that even the best-planned events can have their glitches, especially when conducted over Zoom. As I am sure everyone has experienced this year, even the best-planned virtual events of any size can have their share of glitches. This happened during my event recently when, even though everything was displaying properly on my end from Google Slides once I switched into present view, no one else could see my screen because I thought I had enabled the screen sharing feature and actually had not. Oops. So, while it was a minor, understandable mistake, I will admit that it was admittedly still a little bit embarrassing, but not earth-shattering. So, I quickly remedied my mistake and the event ended up being a success as everything else worked out perfectly. Thus, in trying to plan a successful event of any size, remember to give yourself room to be human as you can only plan so much.

Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

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