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Student Activites, The Facts|February 14, 2011 11:10 am

Event Planning in the Cafeteria

Though most entertainers would prefer being in an auditorium with an elevated stage under the spot lights, with audience members in designated seats facing them, and with audio equipment that amplifies the acoustics of their act, chances are – that will not be the location in which they perform on campus.   In most cases, the likely venue for your entertainer to perform will be your campus cafeteria.  The cafeteria is not the ideal concert site for any entertainer but is one of the most common locations for acts such as musicians, jugglers, hypnotists, and speakers.  Cafeterias tend to trade spotlights, assigned seating, and acoustic design for kitchen noise, poor seating arrangements, and wide open entry and exits that permit students to come and go as they please.  Needless to say, the cafeteria leaves a lot to be desired in comparison with an auditorium.

As a student activities planner, know that the cafeteria is not the ideal location for acts, however if you work hard they can be successful.  The biggest problem stems from student activities committees assuming that they can have a successful event by just hiring an entertainer, placing them in the cafeteria, and saying “play.”  If your committee does this, know your committee is making a mistake and possibly wasting money and the preformers’ talent. Trust us, their have been many of poor performances and thousands of wasted dollars across campuses because people didn’t do the leg work to assist the act in being successful.  Below is a checklist of action items that can assist in making your cafeteria shows a success.

1.  Acknowledge that the cafeteria is not an ideal venue.  What can better this situation?

2.  Compare your cafeteria to an auditorium.  Does it have a stage?  Proper electrical outlets and cords?  Lighting?

3.  Know the seating arrangements in the cafeteria.  Could the seating be better arranged for the show?  Do all the seats face the stage?

4.  Ensure students are well aware of the event to be taking place in the typical cafeteria space, especially the week leading up to the show.  Nothing is worse than receiving student complaints, having students heckle the act, or people walking out on a show just because they feel that their personal lunch time was interrupted.

5.  Create ambiance in the cafeteria.  Add posters or table tents announcing the event, who the event is presented by, and information about the act.  Also, dress the tables up with event gear and don’t forget to provide information about your organization and how to join.

6.  Ensure to reserve the tables that are closest to the act for your organization and students that intend to stay through the act.  If the audience looks interested and the tables are full, students will stay longer and the event will look much more successful than scattered randomly about the dining hall.  This also allows students that are going to eat and run to sit further from the act and have easier access to the exit.

7.  Know your cafeteria manager.  This person is a great resource, particularly when dealing with events on their turf.  You never know, they may be able to donate foods like ice cream or create a menu for the day that better fits the needs of your event. It is always good to ensure them that your organization will clean up the leftover event materials!

8.  Make sure to limit distractions during the event.  Turn off the dining hall background music or any TVs in the room.

9.  Find an Emcee for the event.  Who will introduce the act and close the event?

10.  When the act finishes, that doesn’t mean it is all over.  Allocate time for students to meet the act and get autographs if they choose to do so.  Also, ensure people from the organization will be around to help clean up.  You don’t want to have one unlucky person left with the broom.

The bottom line is this:  Acts cost money and are presented to better the student life on campus.  Allow these acts to do their job by creating a campus that welcomes the act and increases their likelihood of success.  Remember, a little planning and a few small changes will make big differences!

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