Taylor Anne Walz, events manager for the Office of Institutional Advancement, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the planning that goes into Inauguration Week!
TMU: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role here at TMU?
TW: My name is Taylor Anne Walz and I am the events manager for the Office of Institutional Advancement. It’s a position I had the opportunity to step into here as a work study and something after graduation in May transitioned into a full-time position. It’s been really exciting, and I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot of different things doing events. It’s really helped with my organization skills and other leadership skills, so that’s been awesome.
Are you from this area?
I am from Bellevue, Kentucky, where I went to St. Catherine of Sienna for grade school, Newport Central Catholic for high school, then came out to Thomas More and am continuing my education with a Master’s in Ethical Leadership.
So, the next big event here on campus is the inauguration of President Joseph Chillo. Tell us a little bit about the details of that day.
This is something that we are really excited about. It’s a huge event and there are other events that go along with it throughout that week. So, the inauguration itself has two events within one day. So, we will be having an inaugural mass which will start at noon in the Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel, and there is an RSVP for that online. Also, there is the installation ceremony that will start at 3 p.m. in the Connor Convocation Center, or the CCC. So, in order to find the links for both of these, you can go onto our website and then you go to the inauguration page of the website. Underneath inauguration events, there is a list of all of the events that will be taking place and on each of the events will be a link and you can RSVP for each of the ones you would like to attend. The other events that will be going on that week will actually start on Friday, Sept. 20 with the TMU Night at the Reds, where you can buy your tickets online on our website. Then, you can also come to the inauguration Mass that is being held at the Cathedral in Covington at 10 a.m. on Sunday Sept. 22. Then, we have our inauguration ceremonies and our mass on Sept. 25. The mass again will be at 12 p.m., in Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel and the installation ceremony on Sept. 25 at 3 p.m. in the CCC.
So, give us a little bit of a behind the scenes look at what it takes to put on an event of this size?
This is actually nothing like anything I’ve ever done before. It’s nothing like any of the other events we’ve done on campus before, and it’s something so important because it’s our chance to get President Chillo in front of a large group of people and allows us to really celebrate the fact that he is taking us into the next steps as Thomas More University. So, we had to, of course, create a committee, and this committee consisted of people that were in different areas at the University so that everyone could be on the same page and we could divide and conquer a lot of the things that need to be done. So, one of the first things that needed to be done was setting a date, a time, and making sure we had all of the different spaces reserved. From there, we needed to make sure that we started getting RSVP cards out there and invitations and save the dates. Obviously, save the dates went out first, and that went out to a really large number of people. Those had to be sent out probably three months before, maybe four, just so that we could get on people’s calendars since it is a weekday and, possibly, people may need to take off work and other things like that so they can attend the event. Then, we need to make sure invitations go out no later than eight weeks before. This is in order to get all of our RSVPs and everything back in so we can know how many people that were going to have at these events – and that’s just the invitation side of it so that we can make sure there are going to be attendees at this event. The other things that needs to happen is that I need to make sure that I have chairs, decorations, and that I talk to a florist and the catering companies. I need to talk to facilities so I can make sure I have everything set so it looks the way we want it to. Then, I need to make sure that there is a duties list and make sure I am talking to the President’s office so that Charlene and I are on the same page with everything. She knows different things to do because she’s been through this before with our past president. And she has been a great abundance of knowledge when it comes to these types of things, and I don’t know what I would, or the rest of the committee would do, without her doing a lot of the things she has been doing for this event. It’s going to be a lot crazier around here as it gets closer. We’re about two and a half weeks out right now, and that’s crazy because I swear it was just June. So, it’s exciting that it’s coming so close and we get to see everything roll together.
Could you give us some of the daily tasks necessary for development of an event so when there is not a huge event like this going on what are some of the things you do on a daily basis.
I’ve had the opportunity this year to plan out every single event from August. It’s been great being able to have everything set. So, I’ve set dates, times, we’ve set up when invitations are going to go out, and when social media releases are going to go out. If it’s the type of event that needs a press release, we determine when the press release is going to go out. We’ve set up jot forms we use to allow people to RSVP. We can also have a payment method through there, so we need to plan out if a payment method needs to be added. All of these events aren’t just done within one department or within Institutional Advancement. Some are the Institutional Advancement’s office events and some are alumni events. It just depends also on what your audience is going to be at these events as well, who your attendees are gonna be. But once you have the date set, you need to make sure your rooms are booked if it is on campus, and if it’s off campus then you need to make sure that their space is available and that you sign the contract with them so that it doesn’t allow for any mess ups with our corporate partners. You do this because if they’re having a huge event that day, then a lot of our people that are supposed to be at our event might be going to their event instead. That is something that is at the very beginning, so on a day to day basis when an event is coming up and not quite here, every single day I am checking our RSVP list and if I see that were not having the number of people we thought we would I’m then taking that list apart and making sure that the correct people were invited. I’m checking to see if they got their invitation because the mail doesn’t always work and sometimes electronics can be really crazy. So, the best way to get a hold of them is to give them a call. So, sending out phone calls is really important as well and making sure that your keeping everything super organized. So, I am checking in almost every single week with our photographer, just to make sure were still on your list for this week and our timeline of events or checking in with the caterer saying, “This is our number as of right now – I will let you know as soon as I can at least two weeks before so you can have all of the food delivered to their space on time so that we can have the right amount that we need.” A lot of the time venues need to know the set up two weeks before so they can set it with their facilities people. It is important to stay on those types of tasks. Other things need to be done on a regular basis, so it’s better to get things done in advance. So, maybe I’m creating place cards and giveaways and other things like that ahead of time so that when the day comes, or the week comes, were not stressing and it’s not super crazy.
What is the best part of setting up an event of this size and most stressful part?
In my opinion, the most stressful part is when your start to realize the number of people you were expecting doesn’t match up to the number of people that have actually signed up for an event, or have actually RSVP’d, or paid, or other things like that. You think about all the work that has gone into it. Other things to think about it: I know other people are going to want these people here, the event needs to look huge, what am I going to do if other people aren’t coming to those types of events? Also, the day of can be super stressful, and the best part is once the event is going and you see the people mingling, you’re seeing people enjoying themselves, the smiles on their faces, and the networking that is happening. That is the best part of events. The best part of events is once it is going on, in my opinion, because it’s all happening at that point. What happens happens, and what goes goes because everything that is supposed to happen is going to happen as long as I planned it in the correct way, then it will pan out the way it’s supposed to.
We look forward to seeing you at President Chillo’s inauguration on September 25 at 3 p.m.