Unfair Advantage

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October 2014 Articles:

Alumni Advantage is a newsletter for current students written by members of the National Professional Advisory Board and their colleagues. It provides insider advice, insight and inspiration so that when our graduates enter the real world, they are ready to rock it.

Communication Studies Paved the Path for Event Management Success
by Meredith Imes, photos courtesy of Meredith Imes
Reba McEntire and Meredith Imes

Reba McEntire and Meredith Imes

The arena goes dark and the excitement from the crowd builds causing the energy in the room to consume me like a dense fog. My heart races until the lights on stage flash like firecrackers piercing through the fog, resulting in the fans erupting in overwhelming applause. I am not an entertainer, but I am the Assistant Director at the United Supermarkets Arena, and planning concerts like I just described is just one of my job duties. As a Texas Tech University graduate of the Master of Arts program in Communication Studies, I use what I learned in the classroom daily.

Concerts involve loads of logistics and several different groups all coming together and working toward the same goal -- to have a successful concert. On a typical concert day, we can have up to 21 different groups involved in the final result. It is essential that communication before, during and after the event is concise and effective. I found that my communication skills are especially helpful when last minute changes are involved. For example, one of our shows had an artist scheduled to have three different meet-and-greets prior to the show. We had 110 people gathered to meet the artist and the artist still had not arrived. I was not getting full disclosure from tour management on what was going on, and I had guests in the group demanding to know what was happening. It ended up that the artist was sick so my communication skills were necessary to communicate that information to the fans waiting to meet the artist, our security staff who were in place, and our upper management. Each message had to be specifically crafted and quickly delivered due to the time constraints of the show.

There is a great deal of pressure placed on our full and part-time staff because each event happens only once. A basketball game, volleyball game, concert, convention, graduation or any other event we host has to be as perfect as possible because we will never be able to replicate the same event. Due to this quest for perfection, we face insurmountable stress. The skills of working under pressure with deadlines that I acquired during my time in graduate school are constantly used at the office. I learned in the classroom the importance of time management and prioritizing the most immediate needs of the projects that were due. I am still prioritizing projects today in the form of events and event details.

George Strait and Meredith Imes

George Strait and Meredith Imes

We require many part-time staff members as well as stakeholders to produce a successful event. In an effort to keep our staff on the same page, we provide multiple channels of communication for delivering our event information. We have emails that go out prior to the event with all of the event information. We also provide an event detail sheet that includes all of the details for the event the day of the event, and we have an event briefing where we meet with our part-time and full-time staff to talk with them face-to-face about the event. We’ve found that by using the different channels along with focusing on repetitive information, we are able to cut down on confusion and have a well-prepared event staff. Communication is key in event management and having everyone on the same page empowers our staff to make informed decisions during an event resulting in overall success.

During the final semester of my undergraduate degree work, I was trying to decide if I should go to law school or graduate school. I chose graduate school because I had a deeper passion for communication studies and that has made all of the difference. I did the same thing with my career. I chose something that gives me energy and pushes me to be better daily. The passion that I felt for communication studies made all the difference, when the nights were long and the papers seemed unending. That passion is the only thing that kept me moving. I feel the same way about my career. There are days when I put in 17 to 18 hours during an event and I have to be back in the office early the next morning. I have a wonderful job, but when fatigue sets in and I want to give up, my passion is what drives me to finish the job. You are faced with many choices when you get ready to graduate. Take time to figure out what makes you hungry to learn more and go further. That should be the career that you choose.

My time in the graduate program in Communication Studies prepared me for my career today. Next time you come see your favorite artist sing, watch a three point jump shot, or attend any other event that we host at the United Supermarkets Arena, keep in mind that there is more that goes on behind the scenes to make that event a success.

Meredith Imes is the Assistant Director for the United Supermarkets Arena at Texas Tech University. She is responsible for the coordination of special events at the arena as well as suite holder relations and the arena guest services program. Imes has been in the facility management business more than ten years and has been part of planning numerous special events including George Strait, Aerosmith, The Eagles, Kenny Chesney, Elton John, Kelly Clarkson, Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Lady Raider and Red Raider Basketball games, as well as many others.

In addition to her facility management career, Imes teaches as an adjunct professor at Texas Tech University in the department of Communication Studies teaching classes such as Training and Instruction, Small Group Communication, and Business and Professional Communication. She has also been selected as one of Lubbock’s top 20 individuals under the age of 40 and has contributed several articles to
Facility Manager, a trade publication for those in facility management. She also, along with other team members, has been awarded the Chancellor’s Team Award of Excellence for Quality Service for her work at the United Supermarkets Arena.


Five Important Lessons That I've Learned Since my Graduation from Texas Tech University (in 1982)
by Charlene Stark, photo courtesy of Charlene Stark

1) Passion will provide the highest level of energy and creativity for your career. "Following your heart" is a phrase that you may have heard. For some, finding their passion is difficult. We all can get a sense of what feels good and what doesn't. I encourage you to listen to your feelings and find work that you enjoy. If you don't like a job, look for learning experiences that will help you find the next job. Once you're in a situation that you enjoy, you'll wake up wanting to work and have the energy to achieve more than you might expect.

Charlene Stark

Charlene Stark

2) Confidence comes from experience. At Texas Tech, there were students who had a "presence" - when they walked in a room, people paid attention. I didn't have that gift and sometimes felt intimidated or insecure. That "presence" may have initial impact, but may not equate with success. What I learned as I gained experience is that success and confidence come from doing what you say you're going to do and stretching yourself beyond your comfort level. Bold ideas and tireless execution will achieve success and provide self-confidence while you build a reputation of results. With a results-based reputation, you may never have to look for a job - the opportunities will come to you.

3) Follow-through is important. As CoMC advisory board members, we often share advice and make introductions for students and recent grads. These are enjoyable experiences for us as board members and rewarding when we develop long-term relationships. What continues to surprise me is how few students follow up after the advice or introductions are made. For me, "linking in" on Linked In does not replace a thoughtful email that lets me know how my advice or introductions were helpful. As a result, I forget the earlier conversations and the Linked In connections are meaningless. Mindy Shepperd and Kristin Reilly are two recent grads who stand out. Not only did they stay in touch with me throughout their initial job search, they have stayed in touch with me years after their graduation. They are at the top of my list of recent grads that I would (and do) recommend for jobs. I encourage all students and grads to maintain relationships (beyond Linked In) with alums and professionals who invested time in you.

4) Stay connected with people who believe in you. Life and careers can be tough. Having one or two people who believe in you is a blessing. Maintain those relationships and remind yourself of their belief in you when job searches or jobs aren't going well. Tough times seem to go on for a long time. They are temporary if you persevere. Having people in your life who encourage you will provide you with the energy to persevere.

5) The Texas Tech community is valuable. I had no idea in 1982 how important my relationship with the Department of Mass Communications (now College of Media & Communication) would be in my adult life. Red Raiders are special. I rarely meet people who consistently have the kindness, sincerity and humor that I see in Texas Tech Media and Communication grads. In the last 14 years, my fellow advisory board members have helped me while I lost my dad to Alzheimer's and I reinvented a new career for myself. Serving as chair of the advisory board provided me with an opportunity to give back to a college and group of people who have shaped my life for 36 years. I have received much more than I have given.

Embrace each opportunity that comes your way. Your life can be a wonderful and exciting ride.

Charlene Stark

Charlene is the founder and president of Hope for the Brave. Along with founding board members, Jerry Hudson and Kirk Dooley, Hope for the Brave builds capacity for nonprofit service providers serving military veterans and their families. Prior to Hope for the Brave, Charlene served on the management team of NetSpeed (acquired by Cisco Systems) and was an initial member of the team that developed Dell.com. She was recognized as an outstanding alum by the College of Media & Communication in 2000 and has served on the college's national advisory board since 2000. Most recently, she has served as chair of the advisory board from 2012-2014.