Resource:How to organize a year-long series of innovative and entrepreneurial events

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How to organize a year-long series of innovative and entrepreneurial events as advised by Brandon Nolte
How  does one student with a knack for E-sports at Southern Illinois University Carbondale go from being timid and not good at public speaking to a project manager for  a year long series of entrepreneurial events, begin his own website startups, and create an E-sports business concept? He saw something lacking in his campus and started to make connections to see his vision come true.

What he saw in his campus

Looking around at his University, Brandon saw there was not a lot of resources to expose students to entrepreneurship and innovation in the early stages of starting a business or developing a product. It came down to the question: how do I give students a chance to discover innovation and entrepreneurship, and with the right mindset, it ended in success.

What it comes down to

  1. Planning events- Events should build up to a final take away and ultimate goal with middle events to build a foundation of entrepreneurial skills.
  2. Keep the ball rolling- students have to feel motivated and often event managers try to instill confidence in students so that they are no longer afraid of the process.
  3. Analyze the impact- keep email lists and connections. Know how students react to each event and always try to improve the methods used.
  4. Do not forget why you started your endeavor- there is a need for entrepreneurship on campus. Every event is meant to improve your community.

How to start hosting events

  1. Define the challenge

    2. End goal was to have a product someone could launch
    3. Kicked off with a local entrepreneur that founded ‘Dip-N-Dots’
    4. One of the main points that they were trying to get across was that innovation and entrepreneurship is for everyone not just design and business majors

    “You don’t have to stick to the stereotypes. Anyone can be an entrepreneur. You just have to have the right mindset.” -B. Nolte

    1. Make sure that the year builds to something so people can feel proud of what they accomplished

    Define your reason for launching

  1. Make sure you have an end goal. With the right mindset you can become innovative
  2. Brandon’s campus had a mid-stage ecosystem. Brandon had a foundation of innovation and engineering programs to work with, but there weren’t enough new opportunities for students to get involved in innovation and engineering.
  3. Launching helped Brandon and his peers with public speaking
  4. Understand your mission. Brandon wanted to engage his campus and empower them to understand that entrepreneurship was not dependent on discipline.
  1. Organization

  1. Find partners and make connections with students and faculty

“Know your connections. Know the people who are the biggest influences for these events.” -B. Nolte

  1. Have a wide variety of events where people can learn a variety of skills
  2. Start building strategic partnerships before the year starts in your community
    1. always follow up with people
    2. build your network so the events have impact
  3. There were 4-5 people that were organizing everything. Brandon was the coordinator
  4. Always maintain an email list of people that are attending your events

i. List building is a key aspect to maintaining an ongoing conversation with  people within your community.

ii. Use the school's office of recruitment as an extension of your outreach efforts. They have direct access to incoming students who would be interested in being kept up to date about future/ current events.

  1. Try to be good about delegating tasks - use project management software
  1. Discover Customers for your endeavor

    1. Find the right people who are passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship -- Don’t know why innovation and entrepreneurship are fundamental for any major? Join us and find out.
    2. Build a fanbase/ early customer base
    3. How will your “customers” find value in your venture? Understand this relationship before you start recruitment
  2. Marketing

    1. Work with the 4 P’s. See image.
    2. Partner with people on campus who are known for their innovation and entrepreneurship skills
    3. Social Media front was not utilized by students on campus, but understand your audience and school community
    4. Before you market an event, make due diligence for dates. Don’t schedule events with school events(rush week, spirit week, etc). Be sure to download your universities scheduled events
    5. Work with teachers who support innovation and entrepreneurship to give students extra credit for attending events
    6. Work with your university: send emails to students about events from each college dean.
    7. Posters
    8. School website if it will be utilized by students
    9. If you find connections with people who are interested in innovation and entrepreneurship, keep in touch so they can spread information about your organization. Learn how to market through someone.


    1. Build a network
    2. Provide Pizza and beverages at meetings as an incentive for students. Ensure you have this in the budget
    3. Look more toward sponsorship within your university
      1. Alumni  
      2. Undergraduate student government
      3. Partner with other groups who get sponsorship
      4. Ask different school deans
  3. End

    1. Be sure to end on a high note event so you can showcase the student’s work for the entire year
    2. Showcase all resources for students
    3. Do an organization overview. Was this beneficial to students? If so, how many people were affected. Use this to get financial sponsors.
    4. Host a ‘Shark Tank’ like event, this puts more focus on students to want to achieve something and look forward to being able to showcase their work.
  4. Things to keep in mind

    1. Be sure to have a strong eboard group so you can delegate tasks.
    2. Use project management tools
    3. Understand your key stakeholders
    4. Use resources on campus
    5. Try having people pre-register for events
    6. Make a website - look at Mpowered
    7. Separate meetings and events
    8. Don’t try to do it all yourself

The Impact

  • 200+ students attended events
  • 12 students became involved in organizations promoting entrepreneurship and innovation
  • 150 students remained on the email list to know about future event

Written by:
Thomas W. Clifton V, Georgia Tech,
Susan Cooper, University of Oregon,
Dan Daffinrud, University of North Dakota,
Tara Maestas, Colorado School of Mines,
Emily O'Brien, University of North Dakota, and
Nada Saghir, Lawrence Tech.