As the Stadium Event Services Coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, my role is to assist in planning the private events held at Nissan Stadium. Our events team – six of us total – are broken into two segments: major events and private events.
Stadium Event Services Coordinator
The interview with Skylan Morris was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the Stadium Event Services Coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. What does a typical day look like for you?
Oh, man! A typical day always looks very different in my world! That is one thing about my job that I love. Every day includes me working with different people and with different events.
As the Stadium Event Services Coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, my role is to assist in planning the private events held at Nissan Stadium.
Our events team – six of us total – are broken into two segments:
Major events: We consider anything a major event if it involves a ticket for entry and a specific seat (example: CMA Fest, football games, full-stadium concerts).
Private events: A private event is deemed anything that doesn’t fall into the ‘major’ category and all internal events (events hosted by departments in our Titans staff – i.e. ownership, community relations, season tickets, etc.). So, I am responsible for assisting with all the latter!
The exciting part about my job is that absolutely no day or event is the same. We’ve planned and hosted weddings, fundraisers, tradeshows, corporate meetings, video shoots, marathons, birthday parties, funerals – you name it and we have more than likely done it! If we have a group that is interested in our venue and we have the means to make their concept work, we do exactly that!
Our private events team is split into sales and service. Once our sales team has locked in an event, meaning that a contract has been signed by both our venue and the client, I am then introduced to the group and run with the event from there. I get to help our clients decide what they want their event to look like. How do they want the setup/what kind of atmosphere are they wanting for their guests? Do they want any décor or lighting? Do they want music? Do they have any A/V needs? What food and beverage needs do they have?
On the back end, I am working with our internal teams to confirm that all pieces of the event are being communicated with the right people. I’m directing that the room is set up as desired, that security is scheduled to get guests into the stadium, that the event spaces are scheduled to be cleaned and that any cleaning staff are scheduled if needed, working alongside our catering team for their food/beverage setup and anything they need, that all A/V and electric needs are set up and taken care of, etc.
I’m fortunate because my role allows me to meet a lot of people around town, but also allows me to work consistently with members inside our organization and third-party vendors. Once all planning is complete, I then serve as the contact on event day for all our internal teams and the client. I am always on-site for the events that I have planned.
Describe your most successful event coordination experience. What did you do that made it so successful?
I consider my most successful events the ones that I feel I was able to gain a good and trusting relationship with the client. It’s important to me that I remember the role that I get to play with each event. These events are these clients’ babies!
As much work as I put in on my side to bring the event to reality, they’ve done just as much on their side to bring the idea into existence in the first place. So, it’s always important to me to try to offer nothing short of a positive experience for them both during the actual event day(s), but also during their planning process. Not to mention, there is only so much you can control on an event day. Regardless of any small issues that may come up on their event day, as their event coordinator, you want to know they’re walking away with as encouraging of an experience as possible.
About five months into my employment with the Titans, I was informed that my fellow event coordinator had taken a new role with an organization closer to her hometown. She had been working on an international tradeshow for more than a year that was coming up in just a couple of weeks and I was now taking it over. Let me add that this was the largest event that our venue had booked to date on a private event side, so as you can imagine, the nerves were high! I only had a couple of days to play catch up with my teammate before she was leaving, so I immediately started working with her to try to get informed of everything they had planned so far.
Once she left, I was constantly coordinating with the client to make sure there were no cracks in expectations. In talking with the client following my co- worker’s departure, I could tell that she was a little uncomfortable, as she had every right to be after working with my co-worker for so long and her event coming up so soon. Here I was jumping into conversations that had started a year ago and now was the one responsible for putting all the final, missing pieces together. Picking up her concerns in our conversations, I started to over-communicate every little detail for her and, on the back end, was having double the conversations with my internal teams to make sure everything was in place. I was sending her some of my personal, internal planning documents. I was looping her in basically every conversation I had surrounding the event, even if it wasn’t imperative for her to be included.
Once on-site, I sat down with her and ran through every last detail. I wanted her to feel comfortable and to know she was in good and capable hands regardless of the last-minute switch. All my gestures proved to be noticed and ended up offering the client peace of mind and allowed her to trust me in taking care of everything I needed to be with their tradeshow. The event ended up going better than I could have asked for and the client left with us having a good, trusting relationship. I think this event will always be special for me, too, because it allowed me to really show my capabilities to both the Titans and to myself. It forced me to just jump straight in and trust that I knew how to do my job and how to problem-solve, as needed.
What steps do you take to handle last minute or unexpected setbacks before and during an event? How do you maintain a calm forefront in situations that may be the opposite?
One rule of events is knowing that there will ALWAYS be something to change or come up last minute. You can plan down to every single second of an event, but you’ll still have something come up!
Mindset: While you can’t always control something from happening surrounding an event, you can control your headspace. I’ve found that if I show up on an event day with the expectation that something will be changed or added, I feel like it is much easier to not be thrown off guard when it does. I’m not saying to come into the event with a pessimistic mindset in any way, but rather, just prepare yourself to have a good attitude and roll with any punches if they come. Personally, I think this helps just keep your attitude in check and your stress low.
Be proactive rather than reactive: With most clients, you can normally pick up on things that set them off or send them into stress. You can normally pick up some of their styles, as well – if they’re heavily interested in A/V inclusions, if they are super specific about food and beverage inclusions, etc. When I have clients that I can gauge things like this, I try to go ahead and communicate that with my team so we can be prepared for anything that may come up along those lines. Maybe the client has been back and forth on exactly how many tables she wants in one area. So, to be proactive, I ask our operations team to go ahead and store a few extra tables and tablecloths that I can easily add if it gets brought back up on event day. Maybe the client has been very nervous about the presentations and videos working. So, to be proactive, I work with our A/V team to be onsite a little earlier to do an extra run-through of the run of the show. There’s no way to avoid all issues or changes that may come up on event day, but there are definitely small things you can do to ‘be the hero’ by simply taking notice of your client’s questions and concerns during the planning process.
Communication with internal teams: Me and my fellow event planner host a meeting each week with all parties involved in our events – housekeeping, security, catering, A/V, and operations. In this meeting, we thoroughly go through each of the events we have coming up for the next week. This meeting offers a time for each group to ask questions, offer any concerns, etc. It also allows me and my co-worker to walk through the minute and important details for each event. This meeting provides everyone with the opportunity to go through their personal to-do lists and ensure each group has completed what was necessary to be prepared for that event. On event day, everyone within those parties stays in contact via phone and radio. From the meeting the week prior, all parties are aware that the event is taking place and can be somewhat on ‘standby’ for anything unexpected.
Communication with clients: The more transparent you are with your client, the better you are prepared for the daunting unexpected. I try to walk through every detail of their event with my clients prior to their event date. One, I think this allows some of those ‘last minute’ questions and requests to pop up. Maybe the client mentioned something that I forgot to add into my notes. Or maybe the client wants a change that they thought they had already communicated but hadn’t. Two, this allows some of those proactive triggers to show again. If there’s anything the client keeps checking on or mentioning, I can make note of that to make sure I have a plan in place for the event day. I always try to reach out with final reminders the week of an event, as well. This allows the client to have recent documentation of the venue’s procedures, what is permitted, etc. Sometimes in events, the planner, unfortunately, cannot always be the ‘yes man.’ So, I think it is really important to make sure the client knows the boundaries of what is physically possible or allowed in a space/venue so some of the setbacks or changes can be avoided.
When it comes to staying calm, I think it all boils down to mindset. Remembering to take a second to breathe, remind yourself that you’ve got this and that you’ve got a whole team ready to help is really important. I remember hearing once that you can’t expect a client or guest to be calm if you aren’t, and I don’t think that could be any more true.
When coordinating events with your clients, how do you ensure all their needs are met and their concerns are addressed? What steps do you take to be certain they will be satisfied with their event?
As I already mentioned, communication is key while planning an event and on event day to make sure that everything is prepared and going as planned. Every client is different in how they like to prepare for their event day. Some clients want to participate in several walkthroughs and onsite meetings. Some want to take the lead on all of the décor details and want me to only take care of the venue inclusions. Some want me to plan every aspect of their event. So, I think it is important upfront to communicate who is doing what.
At Nissan Stadium, we try to be a one-stop-shop for all our clients. Our goal is always to be able to take care of everything for the client, so they are simply having to show up and enjoy. But of course, not everyone wants that, so communicating where each piece is falling helps ensure there’s nothing that falls through the cracks.
I am always on-site for event days to be a go-to for my client. As we already addressed, an event that has nothing come up is rare. And that doesn’t mean that every event has some major issue come up (hopefully that is very rare!), but there will always be questions, shifting things around, etc. I try to gauge from the type of event and the group I have been working with as to what my presence looks like on event day. Some events are a little more personal to where I try to just show face every half an hour or so to check-in, make sure everything is on schedule, etc. Some events are more production and schedule heavy or have a large number of guests so I won’t leave the event floor.
Regardless of which scenario the event calls for, I always make sure the client has my phone number so they can call or text me if they need something and can’t immediately see me. I also always like to connect my client to each party assisting with their event. I always introduce them to our A/V team and the catering manager onsite. This way, the client has a face and a name that they can feel comfortable asking a question to if they need, and I think it just creates a more personal experience. As their event coordinator, I want them to always be able to come to me, but I want my Titans family to feel like theirs for the day, as well.
Finally, what strategies do you use to encourage clients to use your services again? Additionally, how do you and your team identify new business and event opportunities?
There is no better marketing for events than to host a great one! Not only are you trying to impress your client at an event, but you’re also trying to impress the guests. People are going to leave the event and talk about it to others, and a good experience can lead to a potential new partner!
We’ve had countless groups host their event with us because they were a guest at an event with us that they enjoyed or heard a positive experience from. And remember, a positive event doesn’t always mean that there were no hiccups. A positive planning experience and a positive attitude fixing those hiccups on event day go far from unnoticed. It’s important to remember that you are selling your services, venue and yourself during each event. The sell doesn’t end just because the event is booked at the venue!
My team is very fortunate that we work at a unique and Nashville-known venue. Being the home of the Tennessee Titans and serving literally as the backdrop for downtown Nashville, we are extremely lucky that our venue does a lot of its own selling.
Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t like to be able to pop out for some fresh air during your event and have a football field casually there to greet you?! But also, our event sales team is always working hard to find new partners around the city.
They are continuously reaching out to local businesses, attending networking events, etc. to gain those relationships around town. Our team also tries to create fun and unique opportunities for guests to come to see our spaces. For example, we hosted a Fall Showcase last fall where we partnered with some of our third-party vendors and dressed up several of our spaces. Guests could walk through the stadium to see each space while enjoying some fall-inspired snacks and cocktails. It’s something we’re hoping to make an annual event based! We’re always looking for unique reasons to have someone be able to experience our venue!
Additionally, we are really lucky to have the contacts of our counterparts at other stadiums. We communicate with other NFL stadiums and their event teams all the time. We’re able to all bounce ideas off one another and learn of events happening in other cities to look for or try for in our own. The NFL family is an awesome one to be a part of!
Hayley's Final Thoughts
Skylan is a seasoned event management professional who knows how to give her clients the positive experience they’re looking for. There are so many elements that are involved in the event planning process and Skylan accomplishes each and every task that is set out, not to mention being proactive if a problem were to occur! However, events are much more than just executing a plan. Events are about creating a personal experience for the client. Skylan is able to do this by making her clients feel comfortable in that they can come to her for anything they need. Skylan says Nissan Stadium does a lot of its own selling but I believe it is her and the events team that keeps clients coming back time and time again!