The EventCheck Knox blog presents a Q&A series called “Get to Know a Planner.” Regular entries will feature planners and experts answering questions about themselves, what makes Knoxville so popular for events and how they solved a big challenge.
We continue this series with the spotlight on Lila Honaker, communications and development manager for the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation.
How and why did you become an event planner?
In most ways, I fell into it as I never really set out to be an event planner. I’ve always had an interest in and enjoyed creating experiences for people, and they’ve always been an extension of my career in marketing.
I remember when I was in middle school, I asked my mom if I could host a ‘Home Interior’ party because I very much wanted to plan a party of my own after going to several with her. I planned every single detail, and my mom was happy to sit back and let me run with it.
I love community and shared experiences, and events are the perfect way to bring those things together. The feeling you get from a really well-constructed event can be everlasting and knowing you made it happen is very rewarding. From a branding and marketing standpoint, events offer a special touchpoint to build and grow relationships with customers, donors and supporters.
I’ve taken up event planning outside of my career, too, from hosting a house concert series in my home to coordinating the wedding of a friend and all sorts of things in between.
What do you like the most about event planning?
I love the details – thinking through every aspect of the event, every possible scenario and finding the small touches that have a big impact. And I love the adrenaline that comes during a big event, when there are so many moving pieces and parts to keep moving. It’s exhilarating!
What makes Knoxville such a busy area for events?
There’s a large sense of community in Knoxville, which I think is why we have such a small town feel for a city our size. I think we, as Knoxvillians, use events to help create and strengthen that community. We have so many wonderful buildings, outdoor spaces, music and energy – it all makes for great events!
What is the biggest challenge you overcame before or during an event? And how was it resolved?
Recently, we celebrated the 15th Anniversary of the Mighty Musical Monday program. We decided it would be a great opportunity to pay tribute to Dr. Bill Snyder for his many decades of service to the theatre, including creating and producing Mighty Musical Monday since 2001. The hardest part – we wanted it to be a surprise! Dr. Snyder knows everyone in this town, so it was very hard work keeping it a secret.
Thankfully, we had a fantastic task force of volunteers who helped us reach people who needed to know about the tribute portion of the event since we weren’t publicly announcing it, produce a video with audio interviews with some of the folks closest to Bill and execute the event.
For large events, a core team to help make it happen is invaluable. Large events simply cannot be done alone.
What is one of the most memorable things that happened during an event?
Perhaps my most memorable moment to date at the Tennessee Theatre is the first time we hosted Kids’ Movie Day in 2015.
We had almost 800 children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley and the City of Knoxville Parks and Recreation Summer Camp program visit the theatre for a free screening of the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
It was the first event I had worked at the theatre that was all children in attendance. Their faces when they walked into the theatre for the first time were inspirational.
From the chandeliers in the lobby to the Wurlitzer organ, seeing this place through the eyes of a child reminded me how incredibly special it is, and I was so proud that we were offering this unique and memorable experience for these children who may not otherwise visit the Tennessee Theatre.
What do you like to do when you’re not planning events?
I love music, and it’s hard to find me not listening to something at any given time – whether it’s listening at home or in the car or out on the town for a live show. I spend a lot of time hiking with my dog, who is my best mate! It’s fun exploring the outdoors with her.
Traveling the world is something I just love, and I would be off somewhere every month if I could! My favorite place I’ve ever visited is Glacier National Park. It’s absolutely, unbelievably gorgeous and a must-see for anyone who enjoys natural beauty.
In addition to her work as a planner, Lila Honaker serves on the marketing committees for Visit Knoxville and Knox Heritage. She has been on the host committee for many Summer Suppers for Knox Heritage. Honaker also volunteers with SCORE Knoxville to assist with marketing and social media training for nonprofits and small businesses.