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Big Lecture - Chocolatiers Wiki

Big Lecture

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Turns out running a large event is a lot of work. Here's the breakdown of what has to happen if you're running a large lecture-type event and expect over 100 people. Please skim the whole thing before you start planning the event, since some of the things here are slightly out of order, even though I tried to put them in order of when things are due/the natural order of "things you must get done before other things get done." For this purpose, I've tried to indicate right at the beginning the timescales on which you should be doing things, so if you don't have a lot of time, just the first one or two sentences should give an idea of what the issue is and when it should be started or done by. (Important things are in bold, so you can also just skim the bold parts.)


What the Event is About

Make sure you know what the lecture will be about, enough to give a good description of what will happen at it, and when it will be given (2 to 1.5 months before the event) You need to know all these things to do anything else organization-y (which is really a no-brainer). However, sometimes the people you're talking to for the event are slow to respond, which means you should start organizing between 2 and 1.5 months in advance. (By "organizing", I mean "talking to them and getting concrete details about what's going on.")

Reserving a Room

Reserve a room about a month to three weeks in advance. Use the Schedules webform to reserve a room. (Note: Not all the room choices will be on the dropdown menu, so I generally list the rooms I want in the last section with a note that they weren't all offered on the dropdown menu.) Since Schedules won't give you your first, second, or third choice without some wrangling, make sure you provide a very clear description of what you need out of your room up front, on the webform (example: "It should be car-accessible and on the first floor, since a lot of supplies will be unloaded into it. It should have desks for every chair, since chocolate will be tasted. The lecturer will want to give a powerpoint presentation, so there should be an LCD projector and screen..." etc). That way you have a greater chance of at least getting a functional room. Also note that large rooms aren't open until 6 pm on weeknights.

Make sure to reserve the room for about two hours before and after the actual event. This gives you time to set up and clean up. Think about not only how long it will take to set up, but how long it'll take to let people in. If it will take an hour and a half to set up, it may also take an additional half an hour or more to let people in if you have a long line. You want to be all set up at least half an hour before the lecture is due to start so that people can come in and sit down and the lecture will start on time. (This time thing is also important in considering when you should tell your admission fees volunteers to be there and when you should tell your guest lecturer to show up -- see item #8 about admission fees.)

Event Cost

The cost of the lecture itself (needs to be started at least two weeks ahead of time). If you need to pay out of the club's account for the lecture, to an outside company, you need to pick up the "contract for an event on campus with a non-MIT-affiliated guest" -- that form is also in the Student Activities Office. Fill this out (but DO NOT SIGN IT), make a copy, and then deliver it to your guest at least two weeks ahead of time. This gives them time to review the contract with everyone, sign it, and then fax it in (if they can't fax it, have them give it back to you and you deliver it to the SAO). This should lead to the SAO getting you a check which you can then mail or deliver to your guest. (Note: You should start this even more ahead of time if you don't have anyone authorized to view the club's finances. Those authorizations expire fast, so someone, usually the treasurer, should be on top of that. If not, it'll take a couple of days to be able to view the finances.)

At this point, also decide if you're going to charge admission at the door to help offset the cost of the lecture. See item #8 below for more details on admission fees (I put it there because most of that stuff actually gets dealt with just a day or two before the actual event).

If you want more money, consider co-sponsoring with someone. LSC will do publicity for you if you co-sponsor with them, but they won't give you money, and you have to start talking to them at *least* a month in advance. Other groups on campus are good, especially departmental groups -- MIT-France was great for the Richart lecture. Think of any angle you can use to get a co-sponsorship. Also ask other people for ideas.


Start publicity! (Also at least two weeks ahead of time.) You have an event, a date, a time, a location, and hopefully you're able to pay the lecturer. At this point, start nagging your publicist to make posters (email them several times a day if you must), start spamming the chocolatiers list and dorm lists, and tell all your friends about it. Try handing out flyers in Lobby 10 too -- that works surprisingly well. Also contact the MIT news office (, and see if you can get something on the homepage ( Your publicist should handle this for you, and if not, I'll give you a whip to use on them. :)

Register the Event

For a large event, you'll need to register it at least 5 *business days* in advance. You pick up event registration forms at the Schedules office, 5-111, and they have to get signed by Schedules, SLP, and the CPs. SLP is the "information" room in the corner of Lobby 7, and the CP registration form signers are in the basement of the Student Center, also way in the corner (follow the signs for "MIT Police Detail Office"). (Note about the CPs: they're hard to track down, because they will randomly just not be in that office. This is why you should start the registration form signing process early; the office is only open between 10 AM and 3 PM on weekdays in the first place, and then they're randomly not there on top of that. If you're having a lot of trouble, go to the main police station on Vassar Street.)

If you can't get away with billing your event as "academic", then you may also have to get Cambridge City Hall to sign, giving you an "Entertainment License". (I suggest finding a way to bill your event as academic. This shouldn't be a problem if it's a lecture -- just make sure to make this clear by putting the title of the event as "Lecture on..." or something like that.)

After everything's signed (and yes, you sign as the event host/sponsor on the form), drop off the carbon copies of the form with all the relevant offices. Just take the whole form around and each office will tear off their color.

Police Detail

If you are expecting over 100 people, you will need a police detail (you will be doing this around the same time that you are registering the event). The CPs will tell you about this when they sign your form, and they'll write down the amount that the police detail will cost. To pay them out of the club's account, you should take your copy of the registration form to the Student Activities Office (W20-5), use their copier to make a copy of the form (make sure to set the copier to "normal" or "dark", its default setting is "light", which makes the copies come out unreadable), and attach that to a Student Expense Voucher (the kind you use for reimbursements). Fill out the voucher to ask for a check made out to the MIT CPs, for the amount they list on the registration form. You can pick up that check and then deliver it to the CPs later on. (You can also pay the CPs out of your own pocket and then get reimbursed normally, but they only accept checks or money orders.)

AV Equipment

Do you need AV (for microphones, Powerpoint presentations, etc)? If so, place an order at least five business days in advance (two if it's during normal working hours) You can place an order on this page. Note: Once you have an order, any order, the AV office will be able to easily deal with anything else that might come up at the last minute. Just placing an order for something is all you need to do. If you have any questions for AV, the office is in room 4-017 (basement of building 4) and they're very nice people.

Admission Fees

Admission Fees (you need to decide this when thinking about the cost of the lecture, but the actual work doesn't have to get done until just a few days beforehand). How much are you going to charge? Will you give a discount for students? Who will get in for free (members of LCS should be included in this)? If you have ticket sales or an admission fee, you are also going to have to recruit volunteers to take money. (A manila folder works well for storing money. If you're not handing it over to the lecturer right after the event, and it's a lot of money, the CPs will provide a cash escort so that you feel safe walking back to your dorm.) You only need one or two people to take money, but you may end up needing more volunteers to reassign to other tasks that come up at the last minute, so get three or four people. Offering them free admission (and member points, of course) is a good incentive. And if people are getting in for free, and the volunteers don't necessarily know these people (chances are that the volunteers won't know all of the full members of LCS), provide a "guest list" with names so that the volunteers can check people off. Also provide a pen and some scrap paper for this purpose (you never know when you're going to need some scrap paper).


Lecture Details miscellany (a couple of days beforehand, or even day of). You need to consider:

a) Someone should probably give an introduction for your guest. Who will do this, and what do they have to make sure to say? Don't be like me -- start this *before* to the night prior to the event.

b) You should probably give your lecturer a small token of appreciation. MIT LCS shirts work well for this purpose.

c) Be sure to tell your guest to bring "more than enough" chocolate if the event has a tasting component, because evidence suggests that more people will show up than you expect. (At least, it does as of 2006.)

d) Make sure to get all relevant phone numbers before the event, and be sure to agree that everyone will be carrying a cellphone!

e) When you go to start setting up, make sure that you bring along your copy of the event registration form, the room confirmation, and the AV confirmation (if you got AV). These will give you legitimacy if the room is locked and you have to call F-IXIT or a janitor to unlock it for you. Even if the room isn't locked, be on time so you can meet up with the AV guy, the CP, etc. and find out what they're going to be doing.

f) Since a little extra publicity never hurts (okay, it usually doesn't hurt much), put out a signup sheet for our mailing lists (like the one we use at the Activities Midway) so that people can sign up to hear about more events.

Phew, that was long. My apologies. I hope your event goes well!

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