London, the host city for the Summer Olympics, is preparing to be the center of much of the world’s attention. Starting Friday and running through Aug. 12, the Olympics will be the ultimate stage for athletes to compete for medals and worldwide excellence.
But the international spectacle is equally exciting for people who attend the events, get to experience the host country’s culture and food and meet new people from around the world. Nicole Matthews, an event management specialist, is in London now. She, too, is preparing for the Olympics, albeit to help a select group of visitors enjoy their Olympic experience.
The University of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) graduate (’00, MA, Educational Leadership) is helping to coordinate event planning for a major, longtime Olympics sponsor’s international VIPs.
“I’m thrilled for this opportunity, being part of a huge-scale event experience,” said Matthews, who is principal and founder of her own San Diego-based business, The Henley Company, LLC. “The company I’m working for is one of the five Olympic rings of sponsors. I’m going to be working in London, a city I adore, and it’s going to be the center of the world for the next few weeks. It’s so exciting.”
Matthews, who has worked in England shortly after her USD graduation, has relatives there and is a fan of the British Royal family. She said that the chance to do what she enjoys for a living at the Olympics is a result of a tried-and-true method.
“I just kept asking,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do it. I knew that because the Olympics were going to be in London, I’d have to create my own opportunity. I emailed everyone, told them what I was looking for and it led to several introductions. I feel so blessed. This is such an amazing opportunity and me getting to this moment is the result of so many great people.”
Matthews initially created The Henley Company, LLC, in 2004, but she took it full-time in 2007. She received the International Special Event Society’s prestigious Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) designation, one of only 250 professionals to be recognized. She teaches courses in USD’s event management certificate program (she graduated from it in 2005) and is an adjunct professor at San Diego’s Mesa College.
Upon her return from London next month, she’ll return to her event management and concierge firm, which specializes in event, travel and lifestyle experiences for busy individuals, executive families, corporate clients and associations. Matthews, who has 14 years of field experience, calls her program “Experience Recess,” which, she said, means “helping clients put more recess” into their busy lives.
“I’m a big believer that recess isn’t just something for kids,” said Matthews, who labels herself as Chief Experience Officer. “My clients are successful, but there’s a misconception that this is only something for the über-rich. What we do is very affordable. We provide our clients the luxury of time.”
She keeps her business clients’ names private — citing a “trust” relationship — and her pre-Henley Company resume includes event planning for groups as small as 12 to a fireworks show in Reading, England for 5,000. She enjoys seeing it all come together.
“No matter if the event is big or small, my favorite part of event management is the set-up and the anticipation leading up to showtime.”
Executing the plan is important, too, and the Olympics, much like soccer’s World Cup or the NFL’s Super Bowl, is much more than just a sports experience. The competitions comprise only one aspect of the Olympics. There are lavish opening and closing ceremonies, daily opportunities to see city attractions, concerts and exhibitions, medal-awarding ceremonies and, of course, special parties.
“I see the Olympics as the ultimate recess (for my clients),” Matthews said.
And she’s ready to put forth a gold medal performance.
— Ryan T. Blystone
A new USD Changemakers television commercial debuts July 24 on www.sandiego.edu. It will be shown in eight U.S. cities — San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Chicago and Minneapolis — during NBC’s Summer Olympics coverage.
Photos courtesy of Nicole Matthews