Whether you’re new to event planning or an experienced event organizer, the Office of Event Scheduling and Support (OES) is here to help! Review our step-by-step guide to event planning with helpful tips and tricks to make your next event a success.
The event management system (EMS) is now open for January Term bookings on campus. Study rooms and small conference rooms may also be reserved through express reservations.
Event Planning Checklists
Use our checklists along with the detailed step-by-step guide below to help plan your next event of any size:
- Lectures & Lunch Talks Checklist
- A quick list perfect for anyone planning a short event with a speaker or a panel
- Conferences & Multi-Day Events Checklist
- A streamlined list for faculty & staff planning a large event with many moving parts
- Student Conferences & Multi-Day Events Checklist
- A comprehensive list of everything a student organization needs to consider when planning a large event, all in one place
3-6 Months Before Event
Gather Information Before Booking a Space
Before you book a space, ask the following questions:
- What is the objective of the event?
- Identify the event topic and potential speakers.
- If you are inviting a guest speaker, review the Speaker Outreach guidelines before issuing an invitation. In the invitation, request their general availability if possible.
- What size of an audience are you expecting?
- What kind of space do you need for your event format?
- Popular HLS spaces include small seminar rooms, tiered classrooms, outdoor spaces, the Pub, and the multi-purpose Milstein Conference Center spaces.
- If you are interested in the Milstein Conference Center spaces, what would be your desired room setup?
- Setup options include theater, banquet, reception, hollow rectangle, U-shape, and fair-style tables. For alternative setups, please reach out to OES to discuss the best room options for your desired setup.
- What dates would suit your event?
- We recommend brainstorming a few dates before booking a space in advance of a new room release. To determine dates, consider the availability of your various stakeholders along with any campus-wide activities or previously scheduled events that might present a conflict with your event. Learn more about event blackout dates and the room release schedule.
- Will you be providing travel and accommodation for any guests?
- What is the budget for your event?
- What is the objective of the event?
Book a Space
Visit our Book a Space page for more information about booking an event space through the EMS WebApp. New spaces are released throughout the year, so check our home page for new release date announcements.
Using an outdoor space? Make sure you have a rain plan.
Book Hotel and Travel Accommodations
Harvard Travel Services offer a variety of services for events involving travel and hotel accommodation.
Booking at Nearby Hotels
Review Youth Program Requirements
Hosting an event with minors under the age of 18 unaccompanied by their parents or legal guardians? Familiarize yourself with the Youth Program Registration process and requirements, which may include additional training and background checks.
2 Months Before Event
Review License Requirements
Check if a City of Cambridge License is required for any element of your event. If so, start the process as soon as possible.
Review Crowd Manager Requirements
Check if Crowd Managers are required for your event. If so, identify your crowd managers and make sure they are certified.
Order Rental Equipment
If you need equipment not stocked by OES (e.g. ADA accessible staging, translation equipment, or additional lighting), coordinate logistics with OES before placing an order. Review our information about additional event costs, including rental equipment.
Advertise & Open Pre-Registration
Identify your advertising channels (e.g. HLS calendar listing, departmental publications and communications, social media, or physical posters) and make a plan for each channel. Remember to communicate essential event details including subject matter, date, time, location, and pre-registration information.
Order Catering (for more than 200 attendees)
If you are planning an event for more than 200 attendees, reach out to HUDS to start your catering order as soon as possible.
HUDS catering is required in the Milstein Conference Center and Caspersen Student Center. Catering orders in these spaces will need tables for food and beverages, which may reduce the seating capacity. Consult with HUDS and OES to confirm catering setups.
Harvard Law School is dedicated to building a healthier, more sustainable campus, and we encourage event planners to consider the environment when planning events. Learn more about sustainability at HLS.
If you would like to request additional compost or recycling bins for an event, you may do so by adding setup services to your event in the EMS WebApp. You can also visit the Office for Sustainability’s Sustainable Meeting and Event Guide.
4 Weeks Before Event
Schedule an OES Meeting
Your OES coordinator will reach out to you to answer questions and help with the event planning process. For large events, feel free to reach out to us early to schedule a meeting with your OES event coordinator. They can help create room setup diagrams, plan event logistics, and answer any event-related questions.
Depending on the space you have booked, lobby spaces may be available for a registration table setup. Reach out to OES to discuss your options.
Linens for tables can be ordered from HUDS.
Sign Holders, Easels, & White Boards
OES can provide indoor sign holders or easels for your event signage. White board easels with hooks for flip charts are also available on request. We do not provide signage, flip chart paper, or flip chart markers.
Our indoor sign holders can fit 11″x17″ paper signage in the vertical direction. Our easels can hold regular poster boards.
While rare, some events require additional support from Harvard University Trades (e.g., electrical work, banner installation, or after-hours support). Reach out to your OES event coordinator to arrange work orders for these special requests.
Request Classrooms & Seminar Room Setups
Classrooms and seminar rooms have fixed setups, but in some cases, we can add additional furniture for panel setups and catering. Review the room details in the EMS WebApp for more information about the additional furniture that can be added to each room.
Order Catering (for fewer than 200 attendees)
If you haven’t already, start your catering order with HUDS or your outside caterer. Remember, HUDS catering is required in the Milstein Conference Center and Caspersen Student Center.
Plan, Design & Order Program Materials
Identify any printed materials or collateral needed for your event and make a plan to meet any graphic design or printing deadlines. If ordering conference swag (e.g., pens, tote bags, etc.), identify your vendor and place an order.
Visit the Office of Communications graphic design page for more information about their event-related services.
Visit the HLS Copy Center page for more information about their on-site printing services.
Request a HUPD Detail
While HUPD details are not required for most events, they must be requested if you plan to serve alcohol to more than 100 people or if you will have a speaker or guest in attendance with their own security.
Review Protest & Dissent Guidelines
For events with controversial speakers or subject matter, please review the HLS Protest and Dissent Guidelines.
If you anticipate protest or dissent at your event, notify OES at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will work with you and any other relevant offices to ensure your event runs as smoothly as possible.
Submit License Applications to the City of Cambridge
While rare, certain event activities may require an event license from the City of Cambridge. License applications can take up to three weeks to process. Learn more about the application process and license requirements.
3 Weeks Before Event
Request Audiovisual Support and Recording Permission
Order audiovisual support from Information Technology Services. Visit our Service Providers & Partners page for quick links to ITS service information.
Arrange VIP or Guest Parking
If you need on-campus parking for guests, vendors, or VIPs, order parking passes through Harvard Transportation & Parking. Parking arrangements for large events are also available and should be arranged ahead of time.
Submit Vendor Insurance Paperwork
If you are working with an outside vendor, submit their general liability certificate and proof of workers’ compensation coverage to your OES event coordinator at email@example.com.
2 Weeks Before Event
Finalize Catering & Linens
If ordering from HUDS, review your catering confirmation and confirm the order numbers.
Common catering needs include:
- Food for guests
- Linens for panel tables, registration tables, catering tables, or guest tables
- Beverages for speakers
Finalize Room Setups
Review your EMS room confirmation and communicate any additional setup needs to your OES event coordinator by requesting services in the EMS WebApp.
Common setup needs include:
- Speaker chairs and panel tables
- Registration tables
- Catering tables
- Sign holders, easels or whiteboard/flip chart easels
- Coat racks in the Milstein Conference Center
Arrange Vendor Deliveries
If using an outside vendor, coordinate delivery logistics with the vendor and your OES event coordinator.
Arrange Nursing Room Access
Access to the WCC Nursing Room can be arranged for event attendees. There are two options for access available to event organizers:
- Before the event, the HLS event organizer may request nursing room access for the duration of the event on their HUID and ferry event attendees to the room. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the request form.
- Before or during the event, an event attendee may request a temporary nursing room access card through the Office of Event Scheduling and Support. The form can be requested from email@example.com in advance, and the key card may be collected on the event date from Holmes Hall 1, 18 Everett St, Cambridge, MA 02138.
Submit Crowd Manager Certificates to OES
1 Week Before Event
Finalize Participant Numbers & Close Registration
As your event date approaches, lock in your expected attendance and finalize all of your service orders to match that number.
For large events in rooms nearing their capacity limit, close registration to help ensure you will not need to turn away participants at the door.
Prepare Event Materials
Collect everything you will need for the event day, so that’s ready to go.
Common event materials include:
- Directional signage (sign holders can be requested from OES)
- Name tags
- Registration lists
- Program agendas, guides, or info packs
- Branded collateral for attendees
- Pens and any other office materials you may need
Schedule an OES Event Check-In
The Office of Event Scheduling and Support is happy to check in at the start of an event to answer any questions and make sure you have everything you need. Arrange a check-in through your OES event coordinator, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day of the Event
Complete Fire and Building Safety Checklist
If your event needs a crowd manager, meet OES two hours prior to the event to complete the Fire and Building Safety Checklist.
Set Up Materials
All room and service setups arranged with OES, HUDS, and ITS will be executed according to the instructions on your confirmations and room diagrams.
Once the room setup is complete, event organizers are welcome to set up their own materials. Please do not move any furniture in the room.
- Classroom spaces are available for the event organizer to set up 15 minutes prior to the event time. If you need more setup time, please arrange this with OES in advance.
- Milstein Conference Center spaces are available for the event organizer to set up 45 minutes prior to the event time.
Questions or Concerns?
For security, call 911 or HUPD at 617-495-1212.
For setup or general questions, call OES at 617-495-3129.
For AV, call Information Technology Services at 617-495-0722.
For HUDS catering, call HUDS at 617-495-5538.
After the Event
Load Out Materials
Congratulations on your completed event!
At the end of the event, please make sure to remove all of your materials from the room in a timely manner to help prepare the room for the next class or event.
If you brought your own catering, please dispose of any food waste. Leftovers you would like to share with the community can be brought to the Student Org Workroom on the 2nd floor of WCC. Visit the DOS website for more information about the Freefood Listserv.
Return Nursing Room Access Cards
If a nursing room access card was signed out for one of your event attendees, please make sure it is returned to the Office of Event Scheduling and Support in Langdell 162.
Debrief with Your OES Event Coordinator
Tell us how it went! We love to hear when things went well, but if something unexpected came up, let us know so that we can help plan for it in the future.
We look forward to working with you on your next event!