The Special Event 2014 kicked off yesterday in Nashville, Tenn., with a TED-style Opening General Session featuring four different speakers who offered tips for ensuring success and satisfaction in career and life.

Produced by T. Skorman Productions of Orlando, Fla., the Opening General Session included a presentation by speaker Dawnna St. Louis, who cautioned business people against letting their competitors set the rules of the game. It's wiser, she said, to focus on creating an experience for clients; this has been the secret to success of such success stories as Google and Starbuck's.

Don’t be afraid to be bold, St. Louis said, asking attendees, "Do you have the guts to shake things up?"

Speaker Andy Core urged attendees to break bad habits not by trying to change their lives, but by changing their day. This technique involves making little changes that yield big results. "Use patterns, not willpower," he said.

Core added that people who believe their activities are not just items on a to-do list but instead have meaning are more likely to reach their goals.

The annual conference and trade show runs through Jan. 10 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center.

TABLETOP GALLERY WINNERS NAMED

Also at the Opening General Session, Special Events editor Lisa Hurley announced the winners of the Tabletop Gallery competition:

Tabletops Below $1,000 Each: "Opulence in Orchid" by A Magical Affair, Franklin, Tenn. (show above).

Tabletops $1,000 and Above Each: "Liftoff" by Architectural Holidays, Amenia, N.Y.

For photos of all the Tabletop Gallery finalists, click here.

EDUCATION PROGRAM CONTINUES

The education program at the show offers tracks in business and professional development, design, event management, event tools and resources, foodservice, sales and marketing, and wedding trends. Yesterday's highlights included "Making More Green: Catering to Vegetarian and Other Special Diets," "What Comes after the WOW" and "For 'C' Level Executives Only."


The Opening Night Party, themed "South of Somewhere," took over Nashville's sprawling Tequila Cowboy nightclub for an evening of music, drinks and tastes from local caterers. Above, one of the many acts at the club, which include country, rock and pop.

HIGHLIGHTS TO COME TODAY

The show continues today with sessions including "Technology and Special Events," "Law School for Event Pros: Legal Issues in Social Media" and "Weddings: Having a Niche is Not Enough."

Today also brings the Masters' Brunch at The Rosewall, the Wedding Galleries and the Wedding Event at the Omni Nashville. (For images of last year's Wedding Galleries, click here.)

Tomorrow will bring Michael Cerbelli's The HOT List 2014 and the Gala Awards and Celebration. For images of this year's Gala Award nominees, click here.

For more information about education sessions, showcasing events and exhibits, visit The Special Event.

Photos © Special Events