Monday, April 18, 2011

My Devil Wears Prada Moment

Last Wednesday (April 13th) was an exciting day for my organization as well for early childhood education.   U.S. Secretary, Arne Duncan drew a crowd on behalf of Ounce of Prevention Fund to talk about the need for more funding and attention to early-childhood education, the focus of the Ounce of Prevention Fund.

After months and months of long grueling/stressful days at the office, a venue change, and 800+ RSVPs and donations, the long anticipated event had finally arrived.   This is my favorite part about planning events.   The anticipation, the heightened stress and final touches, that in the end all play a role in the day-of aspect of an event.   This was my third luncheon, which one would think would be easy breezy, but to the contrary it was nothing but.   Instead it was new, exciting, nerve-racking, and so much more.   This was our largest annual luncheon to date and was at a brand new venue, in addition to having the worry that attendees could go to the original venue and miss the event!    

International Ballroom at the Hilton

My day-of role at the luncheon was to take last minute RSVP changes in the early morning, assist volunteers, and any other last minute needs until the strike of 10:30am when the photographer would arrive.   From the moment the photographer arrived, I was on babysitter duty.   One of the biggest stressors of an event of this caliber is to of course give attendees the best experience but to capture photos of the people that are there.   Photos are key because they are displayed in publications, event recap webpages, new articles, and so much more.    My job was to get photos of the "key/ top priority" people.   No big deal right?   What can be so hard about that?   Let me tell you- it is EXTREMELY stressful and exhausting.    

Think Devil Wears Prada.  You know the scene where Andrea and Emily have to tell Miranda Priestly who is who before they come up to shake her hand.  This scene.    Well in a nutshell, that was me but with a nonprofit twist.   Into the late hours the night before the luncheon, I was rushing to make my quick version of my "Look Book."   Photos of the key people I did not know what they looked like so I could be ready the next day.   I wouldn't have a moment to lose because from the second guests start arriving to the end of the event program, I would be on photo duty.  

This was my third year working with this photographer at this event, so overtime my strategy has improved but this particular event rose the photo stakes to a WHOLE new level.  More people, new venue, and one photographer.   So picture me running through crowds upon crowds, looking for the key people (based on memory), carrying a $1,000 camera lens on one shoulder, clipboard with a notepad and pen in the other hand, wearing an ear-piece like I am from the CIA in one ear all the while smiling in between camera flashes.   In addition to capturing the names from guests after each photo while trying to direct the photographer to the next photo.    

After an hour of intense photography, I wanted to keep getting photos before the program was about to start (and my ambitious self wanted to get just ONE MORE PHOTO).   I decided to pull my photographer over to a group of people talking near a table.  I quickly asked them for a photo, putting the tall slender man in the middle.    I knew one of the woman right away (thanks to my look book, the other woman I did not know, and the tall slender man in the middle looked familiar.)    After the shot I wanted to make sure I received everyone's names (even though I definitely knew one of the women, so I asked anyway, even the gentleman).     To my surprise, it was our President's husband.    My one slip-up.    My Emily moment without an Andrea at my side to be there to help me before I dared to ask.    The one woman I recognized said a comment which immediately made me embarrassed!    How could I have not known that?    I have met him countless times!!   I didn't have a response to the woman's comment.   I simply smiled and eventually joked saying "Of course I know who you are Mr. Spouse (name to be kept private)."   I put on my best smile and pointed in the direction of his table.    

I wish I had a mirror so I could have seen my face when the woman called me out.   All I recall is me freezing in place, with I am sure, a look of sheer horror.    The moment you know you have been busted/caught in the act of doing something bad.    That is a moment I will never forget........ a reminder to myself that I always need to be prepared!    Prepared for anything.

The funny thing is, I LOVE it (despite my hiccup).   I love the intensity, the stress, the race against time and having the opportunity to meet the people who are there because of my organization and the work we do.   I get to hear what people think, meet the main speakers (which meant meeting Honorable Duncan).   What is there not to love?   Aside from The Devil Wears Prada being one of my all-time favorite movies, I enjoy and relish in having my own Devil Wears Prada moments from time to time.   They come with the territory and somebody has to do the risky jobs right?   

Now back to the event.   U.S. Secretary, Arne Duncan drew a crowd of 800 to the annual Ounce of Prevention Fund luncheon — an event planned for the Hyatt but moved to the Hilton on Michigan Avenue, because there were so many attendees.  

Honorable Duncan, dressed in a dark blue suit and speaking in his quick but casual style, gave a shout-out to his mom, brother and sister and numerous friends from his hometown.   He spoke personally about what education has meant to him and returned repeatedly to the goals of the administration "not to be satisfied with the status quo."   Before Honorable Duncan spoke, my organization showed a video we produced on teacher quality.   Teacher quality was one of our key talking points for this years luncheon and it was a huge success.  

The room was beautiful and the decor was perfect.  Here are some photos from the decor of the event.


Wall Banners

Reception Drink Station

Reception Room

What do you like about planning an event?   Do you appreciate the little aspects more of an event after helping put one together?   Have you ever had a Devil Wears Prada moment?  I would love to hear a story/stories from you.  Email me, post a comment, tweet me- I'd love to hear!

"A million girls would kill for this job." ~ Emily Charlton, Devil Wears Prada

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