Sunday, December 5, 2010

dickens week

It's time to take a short break from weddings and switch gears to ... fundraising dinners?

For those of you who don't know, I've been working for the USC Thornton School of Music as a Development & Events Coordinator for the past 5 months, which basically means that I help plan fundraising events, and anything related to donor stewarding -- aka making donors happy.  I love my job (which I know doesn't happen with most first jobs) but I definitely feel really blessed to have it.

Our biggest event of the year is The Charles Dickens Dinner.  No one really knows why it's called that, so just roll with it. But it's a festive holiday-themed dinner that honors individuals who have made a significant impact in the world of art and philanthropy.  The evening is highlighted by costumed carolers, a musical tribute by student performers, and the awards presentations.  This year is our 24th year, and we'll be honoring James Conlon, David Bohnett, and John C. Herklotz.

One of the perks of my job is interacting with VIPs like USC President C.L. Max Nikias, Randy Newman, and many USC Trustees. The other day I got to drive Danny DeVito and his wife to his car.  I think it's fair to say it made my night.

Dickens is by far the most challenging event I have ever worked on, but it has also been a huge growing experience. 

If I had one piece of advice to give to anyone planning an event, it's to follow-up.  Even if you trust that person completely to finish their job, it doesn't hurt to give them a courtesy reminder.  By phone, email, once a week, every day -- whatever it takes to ensure that everything get done.  I think I probably called Chick-Fil-A about every other day last week about whether or not they could donate sandwiches.  And who doesn't love Chick-Fil-A?

As an event coordinator, it's your responsibility to ensure that everything is in place when the event happens, that every detail has been thought through and every problem anticipated.  Someone "forgetting" is not a good enough excuse for a component falling through.  The challenge with new events is knowing what to anticipate.  Having never fully attended a dinner, it's hard to know what could go wrong, whereas with weddings, I've been to enough to know common mishaps (i.e. forgetting the rings -- trust me, its happened).

So as I prepare for this huge milestone in my event planning career, I will be tested emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually, and it is my hope that I act with grace, patience, peace, and joy in the midst of probably one of the most high-stress, pressure-filled environment I've been in yet.  Part of the reason I'm in this profession is to help minimize that stress for everyone involved and to create a positive environment that enables people to perform their job with ease.  So this week, instead of complaining, demanding, or yelling, I will smile, laugh, and enjoy and take advantage of the opportunity to showcase this supernatural peace I've been given.

Stay posted for pictures and a post-event update!

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