How do I prepare for the TPM interview
In the second part of our interview, Edda Mammen, who has been in charge of the university's graduate ball since 2017, answers questions about this year's event:
How can you imagine the preparation and follow-up work for the past graduation party?
The strategy is similar to preparation in martial arts. You train to 120% precision so that 75% of the technology is in place in an emergency. Forward planning and detailed documentation are the be-all and end-all of good preparation. The Onoldia Hall has already been booked for the next three years in advance. I started rough planning in March of this year. How many guests can we accommodate, what costs should we expect and what will the ticket price be? Then I start to acquire service providers for the big posts at the event. This is mainly the catering. The most important part of the event, because the catering is always the biggest criticism of our guests. Unfortunately, we were unlucky that our long-term catering partner had to give up the business. So, of course, a big constant has turned out. Financially too! I have contacted many service providers and negotiated offers. If the price-performance ratio is right on paper, it doesn't necessarily mean that the catering on the day of the event will be a success.
After that, the update of our website and the setup in the online shop was due. The tickets for the graduation ceremony can only be bought online. Advance communication for ticket sales is a difficult topic. With the means available to us, we try to provide comprehensive information as possible. This means that as many graduates as possible should know about ticket sales before they start. You can only buy tickets while stocks last. Of course, I keep getting critical or pleading emails from graduates who have not received a card. Unfortunately, we can't change that yet. Sometimes that's tough. You can imagine that I received a large number of e-mail inquiries relating to the event, ticket purchase and, above all, the seating arrangement. I also have to monitor the receipt of payments and approve our orders.
In the late summer I prepare the course and assign tasks to the individual teams. From October on it’s really going. The closer the day of the event approaches, the more intense the task density becomes. Seating arrangements, printing certificates, shopping trips and online procurement - the list of tasks is endless. The smallest changes, such as a change of participants in the guest list, affect many parts of the event. This is time-consuming and of course has the potential to make mistakes.
After the event you have to tidy up and cash out. Our service providers want to be paid and the graduates ask for the download link for the photos. I also email guests an online survey to get feedback. One to two weeks after the graduation ceremony, I hold a joint feedback session with the students to reflect on the guests' criticism and our own comments. Then we analyze the content and financial success of the event. And of course there is an inventory at the end.
When is the most stressful / intense time of the event and why?
The day of the event itself. You have to know that we work up to 24 hours on this day. And not only doing mental work, but also having to work hard physically. In my experience, my students completely underestimate this burden from the bank.
The most stressful time is the opening of the buffet. It's around 8 p.m. Usually we already have a 12-hour day behind us. 480 people storm the food counter and the bar at the same time. Everyone is very hungry and thirsty, but certainly no patience. For us, this means a high level of physical strain. When it comes to crockery, cutlery and glasses, the Onoldia Hall is designed for 500 people. With two to three courses that a guest completes at the buffet, we have to clear the plates and cutlery from the tables, wash them systematically and put them back up again. This is a feat on two floors. My students often have no experience in gastronomy and are quite overwhelmed by the stress at first. If there are problems with the catering, this can have a negative effect on the mood of the guests and thus also on sales. When the buffet draws to a close and the mess in the scullery has been brought under control, it feels like the decisive battle has been fought.
This is followed by what is probably the most intense point in mental terms. When you slowly emerge from this tunnel, the motivation low sets in. From midnight we finally have the opportunity to take a deep breath. The brain starts up again and you feel hunger and pain in your legs and back. It is incredibly important for me and the students to bite through this low. Because the day doesn't end until around five in the morning. At this moment you can see who has the mental strength - and that shouldn't sound exaggerated. For my part, I only take very short breaks and mostly keep moving. Once you sit down, it is even more difficult to get up afterwards. After two o'clock in the morning, the low in motivation is usually over.
Do you still have stage fright or does it go away over time?
I never really had stage fright. As soon as the event starts, there is no turning back. No second chance. Every event is unique. Then it turns out how well you have planned and prepared. When breakdowns happen, you have to react quickly and be decisive. To do this, you need the ultimate overview and an energetic team. I know my way around that.
Stage fright is actually greatest in the days leading up to the event. Then I work 120% and try to show the students everything in as much detail as possible. In return, I expect absolute attention. I am sure that the students will find it completely over the top. But afterwards they see it with different eyes.
At what point in the evening are you satisfied?
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