10/27/16 | The Sports/Entertainment/Event Management program at Johnson & Wales University’s Providence Campus is the School of Hospitality’s largest, enrolling more than 900 students.
Each year, event management majors put their skills into action by organizing the SEEM Leadership Conference, which brings together trailblazers and emerging leaders from across the industry to share their career successes, advice and best practices.
The 2016 edition made some notable changes from the previous year’s conference. The schedule was shifted from April to October to take advantage of the Fall Career Fair. The addition of an elevator pitch competition afforded hospitality students and recent alums a forum to hone their presentation skills prior to the Fair, which took place the following day.
Every year, the organizing committee taps the cream of the crop to speak and share their insights. Previous guest speakers have included such luminaries as former Patriots offensive guard Joe Andruzzi, whose eponymous foundation helps cancer patients and their families focus on recovery, and Gary Lombardi, the senior VP and GM of TD Garden in Boston, Mass.
This year’s conference included keynotes by Dusty Rhodes, president of Conventures, New England’s leading special events company, and Jeff Mann, general manager of Live Nation Entertainment — as well as Megan Duclos (Alex + Ani), career transition consultant Mia Hall and Brittany Abber '14 (Columbia Records).
We asked student organizers to share their takeaways from the conference — the priceless advice, the last-minute challenges, even things they might have done differently. What follows is a selection of their lessons learned.
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE
MARISSA PETERS '18, Educational Programming: “Dusty Rhodes had a piece of advice that really stuck with me: In our industry no job is too little. She talked about how serving in a restaurant [can become] an essential part of your personal industry growth — and how you can use it to market yourself. The skills you take from the job go hand-in-hand with everything we do in the event industry. You learn to network, hone customer service skills, public speaking, as well as how to manage multiple tasks.”
VICTORIA WOODARD '19, Operations: “My favorite moment was waking up at 5am that morning and getting to see all of our hard work pay off. … I loved every second of planning this conference and watching it come together.
“My second favorite moment was having keynote speakers like Jeff Mann tell us what an amazing job we did planning the conference, how professional everything and everyone was and how he put our conference on the same level as those run by larger universities with this major. All of the positive feedback we received as the SEEM team was a great feeling for us all.”
MARISSA: “I loved the personal connections we were able to build with industry professionals. I was able to connect with one of the alums who spoke on the panel. She got me increasingly excited about my career and was able to guide me in a particular direction as I prepare over the next year and half to head out into the job market. She was a huge inspiration to me and someone I hope to keep as a mentor in the years to come.”
MARIA KANELLIS-BENNETT '17, Marketing & Sponsorship: “I was responsible for the SWAG bags, T-shirts, alumni event decor, helped do the timeline for social media, and set up and break down. My favorite part of the conference was seeing the room fill up with the centerpieces on the tables and the photo booth in the background. I love when everything comes together.”
ADVANTAGE TO MOVING TO THE FALL?
RILEY ROBAR '17, Operations: “I think the transition to the Fall added excitement to the SEEM and JWU Community. Other than graduating seniors looking for entry-level positions, most students in the spring are looking forward to the Summer. Contrast that with a Fall start — just one and a half months into the term — and students are more excited to participate in the conference. [Pairing with the Career Fair] gave students a better opportunity to connect with internships during the winter and spring terms, rather than just summertime.”
VISION/ADVICE FOR NEXT YEAR?
VICTORIA: “One piece of advice I would give to the incoming SEEM team is that it is NEVER too early to start anything. We had to do a lot of last minute touches to things that were very time-consuming. If we were to have started some of them earlier on in the process when everything wasn’t moving at such a fast pace it would have been easier for all of us.”
RILEY: “We had students and representatives from other JWU campuses come to our conference, and they thought it was such a great event I will be shocked if more don’t come next year. More than 20 SEEM-related companies attended the Career Fair, but I envision us getting more. We can develop a better plan in time to recruit more companies and hopefully transition into a larger space.”
MARIA: “Brand the event. Meaning: logos, message, mission statement, decor, and choice of speakers. Our event will stand out if it’s special and different. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope because the worst thing people can say is no. Which isn’t a bad thing — it teaches you what you can and can’t do. Dreams are only accomplished by those that dare. I dare, every day!”