Keynote Speaker: Rising to the Next Level

This year, the Event Coordinators’ Network welcomed Jim Hooker, cofounder of Stewart and Hooker and former associate senior vice president for Cultural Relations and University Events at the University of Southern California.
In his keynote address, Mr. Hooker spoke about “Rising to the Next Level.” He reminded us that it does not take a large budget to create a great event and having a large budget does not guarantee success. An event becomes great when it maintains consistently high standards and makes an emotional connection with the guests.
He also stressed that every guest at a university event is a potential donor. As event coordinators, our job is to create an emotional connection between that guest, the university, and the message of the event. Low-cost options for creating that emotional connection include hand-written invitations, greeting a guest by name without the aid of a nametag, or remembering a nametag preference (guest may want to be listed as Sue instead of Susan).
Once the connection is made, he said, it’s time to deliver the message. To maximize that message, eliminate distractions at all points: the temperature of the venue should be comfortable; nothing should be blowing in the wind or air conditioning; and guests should not have to strain to see or hear your speaker. If real estate is all about location, events are all about message, message, message. As event planners, we should focus on all the details of the event so all our guests have to focus on is the message.

In addition to these insights, Mr. Hooker offered these tips:

  • The devil is in the details — pay attention to the details and your guests will notice.
  • Read the Strategic Plan — the Institute has provided an outline of the future, all you have to do is read it.
  • Create a culture of service excellence — when everyone is involved in the culture, your guests will receive top-level treatment from the time they walk on campus to when they leave.