In a first, the Academic Event Professional Conference made its debut at Los Angeles-based University of Southern California on Monday in conjunction with The Special Event. The conference is a forum where collegiate event planners learn from their peers to hone their skills.
Keynote speaker Dennis Cornell, associate vice president of university relations and chief of protocol at USC, stressed to audience members the importance of making an emotional connection to event guests. Effective events create a "highly personal moment" that triggers goodwill and, in time, donations to schools, he said. "You can't depend on scriptwriters to give you that," he said.
He urged audience members to be "brilliant on the basics," and to stay on message. He said that "save the date" cards are often a wasted expense, and that invitations are not marketing pieces. Guests should be greeted personally and seated strategically, he said.
He urged attendees to think of their events as well-crafted theater, with rising action, a climactic moment and a resolution. "Build your event," he said.
"The only institutions that last are churches and universities," he told attendees. "You are part of that legacy."