Adding Special Touches

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Four Simple "Wow" Ideas

Four Simple "Wow" Ideas

  1. Serve lemonade with black gum drops to create “wow” factor.
  2. Home Depot has seasonal centerpieces. Place in a liner pot to save money and pre-set the table to make an impact.
  3. Ensure you have comfortable seating for longer programs.
  4. Consider a picture taking area for your entrance. This will be a fun activity for guests, as well as a marketing piece for you.

The Art of Making Events Special

Making your guests feel special doesn’t have to take a lot of money and time – it just takes some creative brainstorming and a genuine desire to understand your audience.

Here are some ways that the Special Events and Protocol team adds special touches. Perhaps you'll find some ideas to inspire your next event.

At Commencement, we try to make the families of our graduates feel special and loved by producing a short video thanking them for all their support during their student’s Tech career.

We also listened to each graduate’s unique story or request and did all we could to make their visit exceptional, whether it was sending Buzz in the stands for a photograph, arranging special seating for their grandmother, or securing a unique memento for them after the ceremony.

When brainstorming what we can do to make an event more meaningful and special, we ask what would be most important to our target audience and most pleasantly unexpected?

A colleague at Perdue University once recounted a time she was asked to pick up a major donor from the airport. She relayed that she could have easily picked him up herself without any major fanfare, but knew this donor loved his alma mater and all things old gold and black, so she brought the mascot with her to welcome him back to Perdue.

That decision, however easy and cost-free, made a huge impact on her donor, who continued to generously give to the university.

Whether it’s coordinating a special ride in the Ramblin’ Wreck for a retiring colleague or surprising an award recipient with his/her family members at the awards banquet, we can all make those we serve feel a little more valued both during and after they’ve left our events.

A Small Act = A Big Impression

Here is a wonderful example of customer service and attention to detail: 

At the Dean Griffin Day Luncheon, each guest was greeted to an individually wrapped goodie, adorned with a handwritten thank you from the Student Ambassadors.

These special students, who at the time were engrossed with finals preparations, papers, and projects, took the time to personally thank over 250 faculty and staff for their dedication to teaching.

The Student Ambassadors demonstrated a simple lesson that I think we can all keep in mind as we plan our events - taking time to create a personalized experience can yield some of the largest rewards.

Details that Create Emotional Connections

By 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.

  • 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.
  • 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, 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.