College Program Alumni Speaker Series: Events

Last week I got to attend the first panel of this semester’s College Program Alumni Speaker Series (CPASS). The panel featured seven professionals from the Walt Disney World Company who did the College Program at the beginning of their careers. This panel specifically focused on those who work on events at WDW.

PANEL MEMBERS:

  • Jay Hatcher – Production Manager, Disney Broadcast and Music Production
  • Tobin Konecny – Catering Guest Service Manager, Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club
  • Paige McCalmon – Events & Operations Delivery Manager, Cast Activities
  • Joanne Morrison – Housing Event & Project Manager
  • Ronké Olatunji – Parks Catering Guest Service Manager, Epcot
  • Adam Pickett – Marketing Manager, runDisney
  • Donna Rowe – Volunteer Services & Community Outreach Manager, Disney Sports

The session started with each panel member talking about how they got to where they are, starting with the College Program. It was encouraging to hear that they all started out in the same roles that we have on the program. Each of them took unique paths to get to where they are today, based on what they wanted to accomplish in the company.

After we were caught up to speed on their work history- which was very interesting, but also very lengthy- they were asked to discuss some recent projects. Jay Hatcher talked about the augmented reality guerrilla marketing that Disney did in Times Square in January. They created a “hot spot” where visitors in Times Square could interact with an assortment of characters and see it on a big screen above the Disney Store. Though some of the interactions were prerecorded, once they got going, most of them ended up being live and on the spot. Because the event was such a success, they’re now coming up with ways to implement the stunt in other parts of the world.

As he spoke, it was clear how proud Jay is of this project. One of my favorite things about the presentation was the evidence that all of the panelists love their jobs very much.

After speaking about their current projects, the panelists began to talk about skills that are needed to work in events. Donna Rowe listed a few key qualities: a lot of patience, organization, detail oriented and a people person. She said, “everything has a timeline.” One of the most important parts of planning an event is to get things done according to the timeline, so that everything goes smoothly.

Tobin Konecny added that teamwork is essential. In events- or any job for that matter- you have to learn to work well with many types of people. Additionally, he said that “you have to be able to know what to do when things don’t go according to plan.” Something is bound to throw you for a loop, so it is important to be able to think on your feet in event planning. Be able to take a problem and turn it around so that the event can go on efficiently.

The panel was also asked to discuss some lessons they learned as CPs. Ronké Olatunji mentioned the “three-legged stool:” cast members, guests and the company. You need to have these three things balanced and happy in order to be successful. Joanne Morrison learned to always be positive. When you’re on stage, it is important to always be in character and perform. She also emphasized the importance of maintaining “relationships and reputation,” both are things that will help you in the long run of your career.

The final thing the panelists talked about was advice on how they got to where they are today. Adam Pickett reminded us to do what we’re passionate about. He also said to stay in touch with the people we meet if we expect them to help us in the future. Paige McCalmon said to “volunteer for everything” and “take what is handed to you.” If managers see that you are willing to do more, they will give you more to do. And finally, Jay said that “you can never meet enough people.”

I really enjoyed hearing from past CPs. I don’t know that events is my thing, but I will definitely take some of the advice with me.

Until next time, have a magical day!

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