HOW TO… Organise a Ball or Event
Before we begin…
You’re not alone! If you’re planning a ball or large event, book a planning
meeting with Zoë, the Society Development Coordinator in the Activities & Sports
Zone. For balls, you will be given a spreadsheet to help you plan your event, taking
into consideration any expenses or income, such as sponsorship and ticket sales, and
Zoë will also set you up a BALL-account, an additional B-account. For large events,
you should first pick up an Event Planning Form from the Activities Information Desk.
If you are planning a ball or event you’ll need to pay in all your ticket money first in
order to pay your venue.
Tiny societies don’t panic. You can ask other societies to host events with you. Last
year, FIVE societies joined together to host ONE spectacular ball! Geek Chic,
organised by Maths Soc is a collaboration of many societies for a spectacular social!
Six steps to organising a successful event...
1. Setting Objectives and Outline Planning
First and foremost, you need to consider your objectives: why are you hosting this
event? Perhaps it’s purely for fun and entertainment, it could be to raise money for
your society or for charity, to champion a campaign or a cause, to recruit new
members, to engage the local community. Whatever it is, always bear your
objectives in mind because whatever they are, they will affect your plans.
Organising events takes time (at least 6 weeks) and need lots of people power. As a
committee, you need to plan exactly what your event is going to as early as possible.
Some committees have Events and/or and Publicity Officers to take the strain off the
Have an ‘initial planning meeting’ to fix the following details:
- What? A massive event might not be appropriate for your society, perhaps a
smaller social in the Raynor Lounge, or a society meal would be more successful
than a ball for example. Consider as many ideas as possible, bearing in mind what
you can afford and what has worked in the past.
- Who? Who you want to come will influence how big the event is. If it’s a case of
getting recruitment, it needs to be heavily aimed at lots of students. Or perhaps
you want a more exclusive event, only for society members. The most important
thing is that you always try to keep a realistic sense of numbers (booking the
Octagon Centre for a turn-out of 30 people isn’t a good idea!). ‘Who’ might also
involve who you’
- When? Check semester dates so that you’re sure you’re organising the event at a
good time (e.g. in term-time when there are no exams!) You can’t always avoid
clashes with other events but sometimes it’s worth checking that there aren’t
any massive Union events which are going to compete with yours (e.g. it’s
probably best not to hold a charity event in the evening of the RAG Spiderwalk or
you may get a poor turn-out of attendees).
- WHERE? Your event can be wherever you like, but there a quite a few options
within the Students’ Union. The Union always tries to accommodate events and
staff are always on hand to help you and negotiate deals. Read the guide on
‘How to Book Rooms’ in the Zone Online to find out your options. If you’re
organising a ball, read the ‘Ball Venues’ guide in the Zone Online.
2. Health and Safety
As the organiser of an event, you are responsible for the health and safety of
everyone who attends. So if the event is dangerous and someone gets injured, then
you could personally be held responsible! It sounds scary but you just need to think
of reasonable ways to ensure the event is safe and sound.
So if you’re hosting any event, make sure you read the following guides:
- How to Run a Society or Committee Safely
- How to Organise a Safe Social
- How to Do a Risk Assessment
If you’re hosting a one-off big event (e.g. fete, a festival or a bar crawl), an event
which will involve members of the public, or an event/trip abroad then you’ll need to
complete a Risk Assessment and send it to Zoë, the Society Development
Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org). A Risk Assessment template is available on
the Zone Online for you to complete and send to Zoë. If you’re stuck, then Zoë will
You don’t need to complete a Risk Assessment for a ball if you’re holding it at one of
the recommended ball venues on our ‘Ball venue’ sheet.
If you’re holding a big event and require First Aid cover, then contact the St. John’s
Ambulance Society (Sheffield Links) for a quote on providing first-aid cover:
Food safety regulations mean that the Union cannot allow societies and working
committees to cook and sell or distribute food either on or off Union premises.
If you wish to hold a bake sale then you’ll need to visit the Activities Information
Desk for guidance beforehand.
It’s so important to keep a detailed budget as the last thing you want is for
your society to get in debt. Here are our top tips:
- Book a budgeting meeting with Zoë, the Society Development Coordinator if
you’re planning a ball or big event (this is compulsory for ball planning). If a
major social event like a ball or party is not planned properly with help from
Union staff, a significant debt can be quickly generated. So please take advantage
of all the advice offered!
- Create your own spreadsheet of costs to calculate how much you’re paying, and
how much money you expect to receive (e.g. through ticket sales/sponsorship)
- Calculate worst-case scenarios (i.e. highest costs and lowest attendance
numbers). This is better than being massively optimistic and being disappointed.
- To cover your expenses, ensure you sell the tickets for more than cost price
- Don’t forget hidden costs like security, prizes and free tickets
- Ensure that the VAT is included in the venue price
- Find out exactly how and when the venue wants paying and if there’s a deposit
- Pay in your ticket money to your account as it’s collected (for guidance about
carrying money, see ‘HOW TO… Be a Treasurer’)
- Don’t forget: The treasurer needs to countersign every cash and cheque claim
- Remember the 2pm Friday deadline for payments to be made on a Wednesday
- Remember that your A-account money can go towards publicity.
Paying bands, entertainers and other societies
Note: societies cannot pay anyone IN CASH for work done for their society.
Union Payroll: Many entertainers are on the Union payroll. If so, they will be able to
fill in a timesheet (available from Payroll staff at the Finance office).
Cheque: If entertainers want to be paid on the night, you’ll need to attach a Bands
and Entertainers’ Receipt (available from the Activities Information Desk) filled in by
the entertainer and their invoice to a Society Claim form well in advance. Speakers
and trainers, on the other hand, need to sign Section Two of the cheque claim form
before it is submitted. Don’t forget the deadline to bring all the paperwork to the
Activities Information Desk is 2pm Friday for the payment to be ready the following
Societies: Societies can charge fees to other societies or external organisations for
providing services (e.g. a performance or a workshop) as long as the money is paid
into the B-account. If individuals in a society are paid for work done by their society,
this is seen as freelance work. The activity wouldn't be covered by Union insurance
and the individual would need to pay tax on their earnings. For societies who offer
services, look in ‘Useful Contacts’ in the Zone Online.
2pm Friday - deadline for all society claims to the Activities Information Point
2pm Wednesday - cheques can then be picked up or posted out from Finance
How are you going to advertise your campaign?
Read the guide on ‘How to Publicise your Society, Committee and Events’ in the Zone
Online to find out all the possible marketing channels you can use.
5. Operational Planning
Operational Planning involves considering all the tasks which need to be completed
before and during the event to ensure that it is a success! So write them all down
and make sure that they’re delegated to committee members. Tasks to complete
might include things like: room bookings, organising technical help, ordering food,
submitting Finance forms, selling tickets, advertising the event, completing a Risk
Remember to SUPPORT each other. If someone is struggling, help them. If you’ve
been delegated something and you’re stuck … ask for help. It can be stressful, but
that’s what the Students’ Union staff are all here for...so ask us if you’re stuck!
• This is essential for development of the event and your skills
• What went well? And what not so well?
• Write a report on the night, even if it’s just bullet points
• Collect everyone’s thoughts as soon as possible
• It’s also useful to hand over to the new committee so they know what worked
and what didn’t.
Any questions? Contact the Activities Information Desk:
email@example.com 0114 222 8620
For extra info:
* Broke? See ‘HOW TO… Get Funding and Sponsorship’
* See ‘Useful Contacts’ for societies who might be able to help you.
* See ‘Ball and Union Venues’ for a wide range of locations.
* For charity and fundraising events, see ‘HOW TO… Work with Give it a Go