Event Planning Guide

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*This guide refers to in-person events. In response to the spread of COVID-19, all Duke events are being hosted virtually until further notice.

Please read this guide carefully before planning an activity on behalf of a Duke Law department or student group. If you have questions about the planning process, contact the Events Office (, 919-613-8548).


An event is defined as any meeting, lecture, seminar, conference, social event, etc. that is scheduled to take place in any of the Law School’s classrooms, Loggias, Noble Plaza, Alumnae Courtyard, Beber Gardens or Star Commons, and/or involves outside speakers, outside guests, catering service or will have food served, audio visual needs, housekeeping needs, or parking needs.

Eight steps to a successful event:

  1. Develop an idea and gather information
  2. Select a date and location
  3. Submit an event request form
  4. Plan a budget and secure funding
  5. Determine special needs, complete the event manager questionnaire, and arrange for catering
  6. Publicize event
  7. Finalize all details and execute plan
  8. Follow up and wrap up any loose ends


This is the first and most critical step when planning an event. Some things to consider during this part of the process:

  • What type of event do you want to do?
  • What is the purpose of your event?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Who will present the program portion of the event (if applicable)?
  • When and where will the event be held?
  • If funding is required, what are the potential sources for funding?
  • Is there a competing event on the same day?


Selecting a date:
It is important to avoid conflicts when scheduling events. Please consult the Law School master calendar and select several potential dates for your event. Check other calendars as well, since religious holidays may not always appear on the Law School calendar. Lunchtime events are not permitted when a named lecture is scheduled by the Dean's Office.

Selecting a location:
Decide how many people you think will attend the event and what type of space would be most conducive to your planned activities. Visit the classroom technology page to see the capacity for all classrooms as well as images, detailed floor plans, and the audio-visual capabilities.

Note: All final room assignments for events will be confirmed at the discretion of the Events Office and will be based on availability, projected audience, and scope of event.


Requests for special events may be submitted from the Events Office website. Once a request has been received it will then be processed and confirmed, generally within two (2) business days. Event confirmation will be in the form of an email to the request submitter and will solidify date, time, and location. Once an event has been confirmed, the Events Office will make the space reservation and post the date and time of the event to the Law School master calendar.


Before arranging for travel, catering, printing, and other expenses, it is wise to write an event budget that includes all anticipated expenditures. Make two versions of the budget, one that is ideal and one that reflects the absolute minimum that can be spent. Present the ideal budget to the sponsoring departments, and if the sponsors determine it is too high, present the lower budget. Determining a range of prices for each expense in advance will help you to do the most with the funds you have and avoid miscommunication with sponsors.


Speaker Travel: While Duke does not customarily offer an honorarium to its guest speakers, it is common practice to reimburse the speaker for all travel related expenses associated with their trip to Duke including airfare, hotel, meals, mileage, etc.

Publicity (posters, flyers, brochures, programs, and printing and mailing invitations): Publicity prices can vary drastically; determine your needs while keeping cost in mind. Publicity printed in black and white is the most cost effective, but for larger events, publicity printed in color may be more appropriate.

Catering Costs (food, drink, bartenders, servers, additional labor, linens, paper products, and/or china rental): Food costs can be one of the most expensive parts of an event and it is often difficult to determine pricing. Of course, all of these depend on the vendor and the menu you chose, as well as service, rental, and disposable costs, but these are some general cost breakdowns to use in determining the budget:

  • Breakfast – (assorted pastries, juice, coffee) $7 - $10/ person
  • Lunch – (boxed/bagged) $10 - $14/person
  • Lunch – (buffet) $14 - $18/person
  • Receptions – (no alcohol, hot appetizers, etc.) - $20 - $25/person
  • Receptions – (wine and beer, hot appetizers, etc.) - $30 - $50/person
  • Reception – (desserts/coffee only) - $20 - $25/person
  • Dinner – (buffet) - $30 - $50/person
  • Dinner – (plated) - $30 - $75/ person

Parking Fees: All visitors who drive to the Law School and park require a parking pass. If an event requires a large amount of parking spaces, other costs may be incurred. Please see the visitor parking guidelines for more detailed information.

Duke Bar Association Funding: (for student organizations) Please see the DBA website for more details on how to request funding from the DBA. If you are a student group, please refer to the general accounting information for student groups.

Co-Sponsoring Events: Co-sponsoring with other groups is encouraged, because it increases the number of interested students, heightens awareness, and decreases the cost to each organization. You may wish to contact another group at the Law School, elsewhere at Duke, or even in the Triangle community. Groups that are part of national organizations, like the Black Law Students’ Association and the Federalist Society, may also be able to obtain funding from a related national group.

Firm Sponsorship: Duke Law has a Blueprint Benefactors program for firm sponsorship. This program was created to manage annual law firm sponsorships and allow the Law School to pool resources and efforts and to recognize our sponsors in a more consistent and visible manner each year. The Blueprint Benefactors program will be managed by the Alumni & Development office. To seek firm sponsorship, you must contact the Alumni office at


The Event Manager Questionnaire is an online questionnaire designed to both gather data regarding special needs for your event and notify the supporting departments of those needs. Complete the event manger questionnaire for your event no more than 14 days, but no less than 10 days, prior to your event date. Once your questionnaire has been submitted, it will generate an email to the supporting departments notifying them of your needs. The supporting departments will then follow up with you to confirm that your request has been received and collect additional information as needed.

Catering – Arrangements for catering must be made by the group or department planning the event. The planner should notify the caterer of the event as soon as possible and orders should be placed well in advance (at least 2-3 weeks prior to the event). Final guarantees can be submitted 72 business hours in advance of the event. Please read the catering guidelines for more information regarding policies and approved vendors.


It is important to publicize your event through several channels to ensure desired attendance. The following are effective publicity outlets:

Calendar and Duke Law Daily: The Special Event Request requires a title and a calendar description. Here you will have the opportunity to provide a brief description of your event as well as URL. Once these have been completed, the description of your event will be added to the master calendar. Calendar items are automatically added to the Duke Law Daily and appear starting two days before the event. The Daily is sent every morning classes are in session to all Law School students, faculty, and staff.

Fliers/Posters: You may post fliers and posters on designated bulletin boards around the school. Please refer to the publicity guidelines for details and specifications.

Plasma Screens: Images of event posters may be submitted for rotation on the plasma screens throughout the school. Please refer to the publicity guidelines for details and specifications.

Media Coverage: The communications office may assist in promoting your event to the media; you must contact the communications office one month prior to your event to discuss options. Contact Communications at

Additional invitations: If you are planning a major event and would like to invite alumni, contact the Alumni and Development Office at


The final step is critical and must not be skipped even though the finish line is in sight. Double check, triple check, and quadruple check! In the days before your event, continue to review your checklist and make sure all items have been completed, all details have been confirmed, and that everyone involved has a clear idea of what they are expected to do, where they are supposed to be, and what time they need to be there.


After an event is over, it is still not complete until all the necessary follow-up has been completed and all loose ends have been tied up. Following an event make sure to:

  • Clean up all event-related materials and return any borrowed items to appropriate sources
  • Secure any receipts from speakers for reimbursable expenses
  • Initiate the reimbursement process and request to be notified when the person is paid
  • Secure invoices from all vendors and initiate the payment process; request notification when vendors have been paid
  • Send thank you notes to speakers and/or special guests
  • Document event process and make notes for areas for improvement, in order for the next group to benefit from your experience