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Making Meaning at Memorable Events

Bringing people together for a wonderful occasion is both terrific and terrifying. But it’s a familiar charge for our Alumni & Parent Relations team, who between them plan some 75 events a year. We checked in with their staff to discover their top tips for creating the most meaningful of events.

It’s important to create an atmosphere, says Billy Falk ’08, associate director of the team. “Think about how you’ll create excitement and passion for the reasons you’re coming together. After that, the devil’s in the details!” Yes: “Make a plan!” says Chris Betcher, who primarily organizes events on campus. First, define your goals. “Pinpointing what you hope to achieve and identifying your guests are critical to figuring out what your event will look like.”

No matter what type of shindig you’re organizing, you will likely have people of various ages in attendance. Your event should reflect that, says Betcher. If children are coming, serve some kid-friendly foods. Plan both indoor and outdoor activities for tots to teens, and recruit the teens to help with games for the younger set. Adults might enjoy sporting activities, card games, a speaker or an off-site outing. Don’t forget to tap people to help!

Susan Korntved, who holds down the reception desk in the alumni house, says once you’ve got your guest list together, make sure all the information goes out properly. “It’s really important to give people hard deadlines as to when to respond. You can get people to RSVP – it can be done!”

Nametags make everything a lot less awkward, Korntved says. Family members might bring along guests that others in the clan have not yet met, and it can be more awkward to forget a family member’s name than that of a colleague or new acquaintance. Preparing nametags for SNC events falls to her lot. “It could be that you’ve never met them; it could be a very long time since you’ve seen them. Or, it could be that, like me, you have a very poor memory!” 

Memories – the making and sharing thereof – are big reasons to connect. "And memories can best be shared with storytelling," says Todd Danen ’77, director of the office. “Start telling and listening to stories with people you’re targeting for this particular event. I enjoy the camaraderie that occurs even before an event occurs. Once storytelling occurs – that sort of brings the fascination into it. It’s a big part of what’s bringing you together for your event. 

Brooke Rai coordinates regional events, usually held some distance away. The right venue is the most important thing, she says. But that can mean planning for a venue she’s never seen: “I make good use of Google Street View!” Rai doesn’t just have a Plan A and a Plan B; she typically has plans C and D, too. Her No. 1 tip: “Arrive early!”

The whole team agrees on its final recommendation: When the last guest has left, take some time to reflect on your successes and any hiccups that occurred. Jot down notes for the next event. Then, congratulate yourself on a job well done.

March 20, 2018