Skip to Content

CFS Side Event Guidelines

Members of the PSM have the opportunity to host or co-host side events during the annual CFS Plenary Session.  Side-events are a great tool to highlight the work your organization is doing on agriculture, food security and nutrition issues towards a targeted and multi-stakeholder audience of international experts.They are usually highly popular and well-attended during the CFS week. They are also in high demand with a limited number of allocated slots that need to be balanced by constituencies.To make sure your event is approved and successful, IAFN prepared these guidelines and tips. We hope they will be useful for PSM members hoping to host side events at CFS. 

1. Process

Each year the PSM calls for suggestions from the private sector for side events. Since there are a finite number of slots, we use this as a chance to self-organise, select topics, and improve the odds of having private sector side events. This is an INTERNAL PSM process.

Afterward, selected events must still apply formally to the CFS. There are no guarantees. The PSM secretariat will do its best to advocate for those events selected through the PSM process. Applications are usually due in June or July, and notice of acceptance generally comes in August or September from the Secretariat.

2. CFS Side Event expression of interest

In 2019, CFS is asking that those interested in organizing side events fill out a preliminary expression of interest form. This form can be found here: The deadline to submit this form is 26 June 2019

3. Side-event content

Themes: Side-events are more likely to be accepted if their themes fall under the mandate of the CFS (food security and nutrition) and follow in particular the workstreams being discussed during the CFS Plenary session of that particular year. Bear in mind that the themes you choose should resonate well with developing country perspectives. While the CFS has a global scope, it focuses on hunger and malnutrition, and is meant to improve the livelihood of the most vulnerable populations and the countries that are most at risk. We encourage you to contact IAFN or check the CFS website to see which themes are discussed:

Country host: It is customary at the CFS to have a member state’s Permanent Representative (usually an Ambassador or Alternate) hosting the side-events. We encourage PSM members to follow this approach as it is a great way to build stronger relationships with member states and inform them of the work the private sector is doing in addressing food security and nutrition. Keep in mind that member states are organized in the CFS/FAO in Regional Groups, with rotating chairs. These chairs are Ambassadors. They are usually the most informed individuals on the CFS, thus active event chairs. They also have influence in the region they chair and can encourage their regional colleagues to attend the side-event. IAFN will help you identify the right individuals to invite if you are not familiar with the CFS structure.

Speakers: One of the distinctive features of the CFS is its multi-stakeholder nature, bringing the voices of not only governments but also many other actors: civil society, private sector and philanthropies, research, and international organizations. It is important that the speakers you will select can demonstrate that there are affiliated to these constituencies. It will be highly valued by the CFS Secretariat and the Member States. The following are the official categories of the bureau and advisory group composition (click on link for updated list of member states that are members of the CFS bureau, more active in the process):

  • Member States (including the 12 members of the Bureau)
  • Members of the Advisory Group
    • UN Bodies
      • FAO (Food and Agricultural Organisation)
      • WFP (World Food Programme
      • IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development)
      • Right-to-Food: Special Rapporteur on the right to food – Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
      • UN High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis
      • UN Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN)
    • CSOs/NGOs: Civil Society Mechanism
      • International Agricultural Research Bodies: CGIAR Consortium
    • International Financial and Trade Institutions: World Bank
    • Private Sector/Philanthropic Foundations

You do not necessarily have to select speakers from the particular members of each of these constituencies that are part of the advisory group but it is recommended that you use the same denominations. For instance, you can invite an NGO with whom you work in a project, even though that NGO is not a member of the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM).

We highly recommend that you hold a briefing call with all the speakers and the country host a few weeks before the event to make sure that the presentations are not duplicative and complement each other well.

4. Side-event format

Side-events are usually allocated 1.5hr as either:

  • Breakfast session: 8 to 9.30; (occasionally this is reduced to 60 minute slot – so check your assignment)
  • Lunch session: 12.30 to 2pm; or
  • Evening session: 6 to 7.30pm.

Because of the brief format, we advise the following:

  • Maximum of 5 speakers (including chairs)
  • Make sure speakers are presented and if not that their bios are available
  • Keep presentations brief and pointed (max 15mn)
  • Check all the slides before they are projected and be strict about their quality (visibility: font color, size; attractiveness: visuals vs. text; key messages)
  • Keep enough time (20mn min) for Q&A with the audience (it is usually a very dynamic crowd)
  • Check the mics before the start and connect with the hostesses who give them out during Q&A.

5. Audience and Etiquette

It is important to keep in mind that side-events are open to any and all who are in the FAO building. It will attract the hundreds of CFS registered participants, and also the FAO staff present in their offices. Make sure that your event is tailored for a very diverse but also very informed audience. You will be speaking to experts and practitioners who will likely ask pointed questions to your speakers. There may also be very diverse and controversial views in the audience. A spirit of cordiality and open-mindedness is encouraged but there may be palpable tension.

When Member States are present in the room, make sure to respectfully address them by the diplomatic protocol “Your Excellency” and acknowledge the country representatives in the room “Distinguished Delegates”.

6. Date and time allocation

The CFS secretariat will impose a date and time and will try to make sure that those do not change. Where possible they attempt to schedule side events with similar themes or organized by the same constituencies at different times.

7. Speaker registration

If the panellists or invited guests are not CFS delegates or staff, they will need to register so they can get in the building. We recommend that you have them register through the PSM, so make sure this is done ahead of time (as soon as their participation is confirmed). For this you will need their names, affiliations and a recent passport sized photo in jpg format to be sent to

8. Refreshments

Side Event organizers are responsible for paying for catering. Catering is basic and occurs outside (not in) the meeting room. To ease coordination with FAO, the IAFN secretariat coordinates all orders and then bills out the individual amounts.

9. Publicity Material for Side Events

The information that was provided in the planning sheets will be used for the Side Event Timetable and Side Event Brochure which are produced in English only. Hard copies will be available in the Atrium and at the Document Desk. Electronic versions will be posted on the CFS website (example from past years:

Space for Side Event background information will be available in the CFS Information Marketplace during the week. Make sure you send any collateral material that you would like displayed at the marketplace to IAFN office at the FAO by September 31st. You can bring with you any supporting material that you will display in the meeting room. Space is limited so please only bring material that is relevant to your Side Event.

Mailing address:
Private Sector Mechanism
Morgane Danielou
Room E-125
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153 Rome
Cell: +33698985619

IAFN will also be promoting your event actively and will use several marketing documents:

  • Flyers (to be distributed to CFS participants on site)
  • Webpages
  • Agendas (to be available in the room to your audience)
  • Distribution lists (PSM lists)

To make sure that these materials are accurate, please make sure that your event title does not change otherwise there will be discrepancies between the official schedule and the invitations that will be sent out by IAFN. Please try to limit last minute changes to unpredictable occurrences. Feel free to share these material to your own networks to further disseminate your event.

10. Nameplates for Panelists for Side Events

A template for the nameplate for Side Event panellists is provided. Please print your nameplates in colour on A3 paper and bring them to the Side Event Room 15 minutes before the start. Plastic nameplate holders will be provided.

11. PowerPoint Presentations

Please send all your speakers’ presentations a week before the CFS session. If this is not possible, make sure to bring any PowerPoint presentations on a USB stick at least 15 minutes before the start of the event. A laptop and projector will be provided. Make sure you test with the speakers all their presentations before the start of the event.

12. Photography and Social Media

The official FAO photography service will dispatch a photographer to take pictures of your events. These pictures are available on the FAO website the day after the event. We encourage you to use those for your post-event communication. They are of high quality. You are free to live tweet during your side-event as long as you are conscious of the public nature of the event and are reasonable about positioning and messages. Feel free to use: @CFSupdates and #CFS42.


Interpretation is available at a cost. If you have requested FAO interpretation, you will be charged even if you decide to cancel your side event.

14. Punctuality

Please make sure that your side-event starts and ends punctually. Delegates are expected to be in the CFS Sessions on time and should not be delayed by side-events that over run their allotted time.

15. Attendance Sheets

Blank attendance sheets will be provided in the room. You are kindly requested to circulate them during the Side Event and hand them over to one of the IAFN organizing team members or you may leave the completed attendance sheets in the room after the Side Event with the nameplates and we will collect them.

We hope that you will have a successful event,
The International Agri-Food Network team