With no budget, resources or platform, several UC Irvine meeting and event planners gathered in the summer of 2009 to form the UCI Events Council. The only sure things were the economic downturn and the founders’ enthusiasm. They wanted to establish a group resource for both experienced planners and newcomers – a forum for sharing best practices with campus peers.

Ann DiPlacito, Angela Duby, Ivonne Martinez-Sheperd, Carlin Motley, Cecilia Preciado, Jessie Steward and Tanya Zabalegui collected email lists, surveyed staff for topics of interest, and began the logistical, marketing and creative efforts to inaugurate the council. They worked after hours, met during lunch and set up a simple website.

In January 2010, they launched the group with “Greening Your Events,” which drew 25 UCI staff members. A year and a half later, at the most recent get-together, “You Want It When? Interactive Case Studies for Event Professionals,” attendance had blossomed to 75.

Council meetings take place quarterly at free campus locations over the noon hour, with complimentary lunches often provided by event industry sponsors. UCI planners network and hear guest speakers on topics such as “Engaging Event Participation Through Social Media,” “The Alumni Perspective on Campus Events” and “The Importance of Networking.”

“We always take away a few new contacts and several golden nuggets of information to make our jobs more efficient,” says Steward, director of special events for University Advancement. “This group was needed and is a cost-effective way to get the best out of our campus resources.”

For example, members have begun providing volunteer services at each other’s events – which saves sponsors the cost of hiring staff and lets helpers observe their colleagues in action. They’ve also discovered how something as simple as a linkable event logo in the signature line of emails can boost visibility.

So what’s next? On Tuesday, Sept. 13, the first-ever UCI Events Council Vendor Fair will be held in the Student Center’s Pacific Ballroom from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. More than 30 event vendors – all invited on the recommendation of campus planners – will showcase their products and services.

They include florists, rental agencies, graphic designers, transportation providers, photographers, audiovisual and lighting experts, printers, and companies that specialize in promotional items, balloons, linens, displays, banners and signage.

Twenty university employees have volunteered to coordinate the private exhibition for UCI staff.

“I’m delighted to be part of this group,” says Ellen O’Bryant, psychology & social behavior department administrator and a member of the fair subcommittee. “It has given me a pathway to explore new opportunities for campus-community collaboration.”