The recipe: a successful SASS event

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In the middle of the summer of 2011, the Student Arts and Speakers Series 2011 team was formed with its eight members, two co-chairs (with an additional “co-chair-in-training”), and a Bryant staff member. With a devoted committee in place, Rich Hurley and I had one goal in mind: to create a list of impactful and exciting speakers and events to bring to campus for the upcoming academic year.

We began our search by holding 20 minute conference calls with various agents and organizations that represent varied talent throughout our country and beyond. Big names came through, followed by bigger ones that were lingering in our thoughts, as we spoke to countless speaking bureaus that had exciting offers. After much discussion regarding logistics, costs, and with our mission at the front of our minds, we decided on a list of about 50-100 names for our first big speaker of the year. The next step: bring it before the committee.

In August of 2011, SASS had its kick-off retreat during which these big names and programs were discussed at great length. Each of the committee members offered great counsel regarding the different events and programs on our list, speaking of past experiences and recounting different stories they may have had about nearly all of the candidates. In addition and per our request, each committee member came to the retreat prepared with copious notes and research about some of the events and speakers we had been looking into. Also at this time, we were learning about each other, how we made decisions, and how each of us “ticked” in a TEAM setting – let me tell you, we were all learning a lot those few days.

We left the retreat with a solid game plan in mind, knowing that the next time we met would be the first meeting of the semester and that we’d be that much closer to the first event of the year. Between the time we left the retreat and that first meeting, we were endowed with great news – Cal Ripken, Jr.’s contract was signed and back in our hands, awaiting the “go-ahead” signature of Dr. Eakin. What did this mean for us? It meant that we had some serious work to do.

At the start of the ’11-’12 academic year, the committee was hard at work promoting the Cal Ripken, Jr. event. From posters to stress balls, all the way to SASS-decorated baseball cookies, promotion was in full force.

Thanks to Mike Banville, Alex Russo, and Emily Howe at the core of the promotions for the Cal Ripken Jr. event, ticket “sales” (even though tickets are free for Bryant University community members) far exceeded our modest expectations. Although it is pivotal in successfully planning event, promotion was not the only thing that made Cal Ripken Jr.’s appearance on campus a “home run.”

There were also many details that had to be handled behind the scenes. Leading right up until the event, SASS’s detail teams were tirelessly working to foster a successful and smooth event. The “website and poster” detail team, headed this semester by Mike Banville and Rocina Dalzell with much help from Alex Russo, were hard at work developing the SASS brand online and on campus through the distribution and placement of our infamous posters.

In addition, the “hotels and transportation” detail team, headed this semester by Courtney Tosone and Joey Flaherty, was constantly notified of any changes regarding Cal’s hotel and transportation plans. In addition, this detail team coordinated efforts with the Bryant University Bookstore to ensure that they were present at the event with copies of Cal’s book ready for sale.

Meanwhile, the “hospitality and catering” detail team, headed by Zach Suter and Emily Howe, were diligently making sure that Cal Ripken Jr.’s visit to Bryant would be suitable and accommodating. In addition to making sure Cal’s requests were met on the day of his arrival, this team was also responsible for the coordination with the Department of Public Safety and the Bryant University Audio/Visual department. Without this cooperation, a SASS event would be nearly impossible, and it is my firm belief that the success of an event is a deep reflection of these combined efforts.

All of these details and efforts would eventually lead to the pinnacle part of a SASS event – the arrival of our guest speaker. On the day of Cal’s arrival, the entire committee was tirelessly making sure that everything was in place. “Are there enough chairs in the MAC?”, “Are those lights too bright on the podium?”, “WHO IS HANDLING SETUP FOR THE MEET AND GREET!” These are some of the countless questions asked that day, but they are also among questions that were readily answered and taken care of, on behalf of the committee.

That day, 7:00 p.m. came rather quickly and before we knew it, Cal was mingling with University members such as President Machtley and his wife Kati, Dr. Eakin and his wife Marj, not to mention the twenty raffle winners who were lucky enough to get a photo opportunity with Cal. Before we knew it, 7:45 p.m. had arrived and seats were filling by the minute. Behind the scenes, the committee was anxiously awaiting the start of the program by completing last minute tasks and making last minute confirmations with all parties involved.

After settling all the last minute details, it was 8:00 p.m. and finally show time. I made my opening remarks, thanking the committee for its hard work and reminding the audience of the during-event etiquette, before finally introducing Cal who told his inspiring story and motivational anecdotes that stole the show.

The event could not have gone smoother – Cal spoke, answered questions, and even stayed after the show to sign memorabilia for the audience for a good ten minutes. The committee was nothing but ecstatic about the turnout and success of the event, as murmurs here and there indicated that the audience was beyond pleased. The show was officially a success.

Often people don’t notice how much work is required for putting on large scale events, much like the Cal Ripken, Jr. event. So when you are part of the audience on October 27th witnessing Matisyahu speak about his beliefs and sing about his faith, remember the behind the scenes work it took, the attention paid to each detail, and that it’s your fellow classmates that made it possible.

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