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The Special Event Company Team

Transform Your Vision into Reality with Our Experienced Event Planning Team

The Special Event Company Team
Matt Franks

Matt Franks

Chief Executive Officer

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Matt Franks has over 25 years of experience in live events and communications, collaborating with a variety of well-known brands worldwide. As the CEO of The Special Event Company and Group Director of Events for DRPG, Matt is responsible for the global full-service offerings. Starting his career in hospitality, he has always had a passion for making a difference to others, and that’s why the events world is a perfect fit for Matt; it allows him to harness his ability to design memorable experiences that land with impact.

Over his 19 years with DRPG, Matt has held various senior roles across all key service lines, providing him with a solid foundation for leading our live teams in the growth and delivery of our services. Recently recognized as one of the Eventex Top 100 Most Influential People in the Event Industry and a member of the Conference & Incentive Travel A-List Alumni, Matt is a well-known and respected figure in the industry.

Sally Webb Berry, CSEP

Sally Webb Berry, CSEP

Non-Executive Director

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Sally formed the company in 1987 originally in London, England then moved to the US in 2005. Over the past three decades, she has produced events in over 30 countries throughout Europe, USA, Africa, South America and Asia.

Her personal accolades include International Event Producer of the Year by Event Solutions Magazine, Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Live Events Association (ILEA), Business Leader Magazines Top 50 Women Extraordinaire Award,  Special Event Magazines Top 25 Greatest Industry Influencers of the past 25 years. In 2018 she was the recipient of the Special Events Industry Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding contributions to the Special Event Industry.

Sally is the founder of AEP, Academic Event Professional Conference, now in its 15th year and she chaired the Special Event Industry Certification (CSEP) examination restructure committee. She is a founding board member of Roger Daltrey & Pete Townshend’s Teen Cancer America organization.

She lives in Cary, NC with her husband Grant Berry, who is a professional caddie on the PGA Tour.

Susan Fishel, CPA

Susan Fishel, CPA

President

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Susan joined the Special Event Company in 2015 as Chief Operating Officer and was promoted to President in 2021.  Her exceptional leadership and financial knowledge has been key to the growth of our Company as our markets continue to grow, change, and evolve. 

Susan began her career with KPMG as a Certified Public Accountant and has held leadership positions in several industries including events and tradeshows, financial institutions, non-profits and more for the last 30+ years.  Her expertise extends across business strategies, organizational development, operations, corporate finance and employee enrichment.  Her dedication and enthusiasm to our team is contagious and strives to make The Special Event Company the best it can be. 

Hunter S. Gray

Hunter S. Gray

Vice President

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Hunter Gray has more than 20 years of communications and event production experience across U.S. and international markets serving a diverse client base. Since 2010, he has worked with The Special Event Company as Creative Director, Chief Strategy Officer and most recently Vice President. His strong background in communications and video production served to lead TSEC’s mid-pandemic-transition from primarily live events to virtual communications. Hunter was instrumental in the design and fabrication of a custom 5,000 square foot studio space which now serves our customers creative and communication needs.  The resulting effort has expanded  business offerings, providing a full-service event and communication solution while also serving as our new corporate headquarters.

Sara Ellis

Sara Ellis

Director of Finance

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Sara Ellis has a background in business policy and procedure and more than fifteen years of experience in the event industry, including eleven with The Special Event Company. In Sara’s role as Director of Finance, her primary responsibilities include preparing client and vendor contracts, creating, maintaining and reconciling program budgets, and managing company financials. Before joining TSEC, Sara got started in the events industry with pharmaceutical meeting planning and charity events while traveling with the PGA Tour. Sara holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Go Heels!!) and is a native of Dunn, N.C.

Ciara Connolly

Ciara Connolly

Director of Operations

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Ciara Connolly joined The Special Event Company as the Director of Operations, with over 23 years of global experience in building and creating event management teams. As a seasoned and award-winning events professional, Ciara’s background includes operational excellence and best practices. Ciara was previously based in NYC and London, and locally with BASF Corporation for eight years in RTP. 

Jim Hooker

Jim Hooker

Executive Director, Academic Programs

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Jim Hooker is an award-winning event strategist with over 27 years of experience producing world-class academic, corporate and entertainment events. In 2012, he launched Stratelyst Creative to assist academic institutions and non-profits in accentuating the value of high-touch, emotional relationship building between the organization and its constituencies through events. His clients included the University of California (both Irvine and Davis), Partners In Health, the University of the Pacific, Caltech, Boston University, Williams College, Georgia Tech, Arizona State University and many others. Prior to joining The Special Event Company, Jim was the Executive Director of University Events at The University of Texas at Austin, as well as having served as the head of events at the University of Southern California for 10 years.

Lee Branscome

Lee Branscome

Director of Business Development

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Lee Branscome brings years of executive business development experience and has garnered multiple awards for revenue production throughout his career. As Director of Business Development, Lee will create new business opportunities for The Special Event Company by fostering valuable relationships in the business community.

Lee graduated from Chowan University in 2012 as a 4-year letterman on the Men’s Basketball Team and has lived in Raleigh since 2016 with his Fiancé’, Alyssa.

Kiku Vives

Kiku Vives

Senior Executive Producer

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Kiku Vives is an accomplished event strategist with a distinguished track record of conceiving and executing a diverse array of events. Originating as an entrepreneur in Spain’s sailing and team building events sector, Kiku has evolved into a seasoned professional overseeing the complete event lifecycle. From establishing objectives to implementing post-event campaigns, he demonstrates a keen ability to manage budgets with precision.

 Having served as the Senior Events Manager in the high tech, auto and advertising industries, Kiku has successfully overseen high-profile global events. These have included (amongst others) large-scale customer events, global event roadshows, partner events, technical trainings, developer events, as well as incentive programs and global sales kick offs; all of which boasted remarkable virtual and in-person attendance, accompanied by substantial trackable ROI.

 Kiku’s solid foundation in business management, economics, and marketing, coupled with his extensive experience, equips him with a well-rounded understanding of the industry. His fluency in English, Spanish, Catalan, and proficiency in Italian make him a versatile professional, capable of navigating global events and working with diverse stakeholders.

Jonathan Chevalley

Jonathan Chevalley

Executive Producer, Technical Services

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Jonathan Chevalley is a highly experienced executive producer specializing in corporate events and technical services. With a diverse background in production, he has worked in various capacities, including Audio Engineer, Monitor Engineer, Technical Director, Production Manager, and Tour Manager. His dedication to providing quality service and professionalism ensures that every client and show receives the utmost attention to detail.

Over the years, Jonathan has contributed to some of the most high-profile events in the country, such as the Presidential Inauguration, Concert for Valor, July 4th at the White House, and numerous other concerts, festivals, conferences, and special events. This wealth of experience has helped him develop an unparalleled understanding of the intricacies of event production, making him an invaluable asset to any project.

Jonathan’s commitment to excellence can be traced back to his service in the United States Army. As an armed forces member, he completed two tours supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. This experience instilled in him the importance of discipline, teamwork, and resilience—qualities that have carried over into his work in the production world.

As an executive producer, Jonathan oversees all aspects of technical services for corporate events. This includes managing sound, lighting, staging, and audiovisual solutions to ensure that each event runs flawlessly and exceeds client expectations. His hands-on approach and comprehensive understanding of event production enable him to anticipate and address challenges proactively, leading to seamless and memorable experiences for all attendees.

Jonathan Chevalley’s unique combination of technical expertise, industry experience and unwavering commitment to excellence has made him a sought-after professional in the event production field. As he continues to work on high-profile events and forge strong relationships with clients, Jonathan solidifies his reputation as a leader who consistently delivers outstanding results.

Kevin Moore

Kevin Moore

Executive Producer, Creative Services

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Kevin Moore brings 16 years of production and design experience to The Special Event Company.

Imaginative storytelling and using different mediums to bring a story, event, or product to life is his passion and what fuels him to constantly push the limits of what can be produced for our clients.

He started his career editing feature films, working alongside site veteran editors, and learning how to manage the entire flow of a film’s post-production process. This helped develop the critical skill set of keeping the project’s big picture in mind while diving into the detailed task that ties everything together.

Kevin is a very experienced video producer in live event and conference video production and content development for CE and non-CE events. Working in partnership with schools like Stanford, UMPC and the University of Baltimore, The Rand Institute, and the largest CE event for chiropractors in the United States featuring 25 speakers, 60 vendors and over 3,000 attendees.

Kevin has conducted and filmed over 2,000 interviews over his career and is a master at making anyone feel comfortable in front of the camera.

Building a unique concept from start to finish while keeping the client’s message at the forefront, whether in videos, print, soft goods, digital presentations, or interactive experiences, drives Kevin. At the same time, he makes sure the story is delivered in a clear and unified fashion.

Tracy Adams

Tracy Adams

Executive Producer

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With 20+ years of experience in the events industry, Tracy brings a level of detail to planning meetings and events that are unmatched. Tracy excels in asking the right questions and getting clients to open up about their programming needs; she leaves no stone unturned. To Tracy, the details always matter!

Having owned her own social event planning company for several years, transitioning to the corporate world was a challenge for which she was ready. As Executive Producer, Tracy plans multiple programs simultaneously, including budgeting, sourcing, coordination, organizational/communication skills, and leading teams. Tracy is versed in live and virtual events with any level of client she’s assigned, including executives and senior management. Tracy has been called the “one who gets things done.”

Tracy hails from OH and is a graduate of Bowling Green State University (Go Falcons!) and has called NC home for the last 25 years. She and her husband are huge foodies and can be found checking out new and exciting area restaurants during their downtime.

Keri Gloth

Keri Gloth

Executive Producer

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Keri Gloth, the Immediate Past President of ILEA Raleigh Durham, is a passionate and energetic Executive Producer here at The Special Event Company, bringing 12+ years of experience to our team and our clients.
Keri thrives on empowering teams, leading event strategies and processes, building trust with clients to help create the most
memorable, authentic, and engaging experiences, and making a positive impact on everyone around her.

Keri was born and raised at the Jersey Shore and is a proud alumnus and former cheerleader of Coastal Carolina University. Go Chants! She currently resides in Raleigh, NC with her husband, super fun two-year old son, and their two labs.

What else gets Keri up in the morning?! Peloton and fitness, being outside, college football on Saturdays, a good kitchen dance party, leadership and motivational-focused books or podcasts, tracking sharks via the Ocearch App (don’t knock it ‘til you try it!), traveling, and of course, making memories with her beautiful family and friends.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” -Jennifer Lee

Joy Matheny

Joy Matheny

Senior Producer and Marketing Manager

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Joy thrives on building meaningful relationships with our clients. Her 15+ years of professional experience have given her strong project management, relationship, organizational and communication skills. She enjoys telling stories, crafting messages, and seeing a detailed event come to life – from content to décor and entertainment to overall experience.

As Senior Producer and Marketing Manager, she can leverage her passion for marketing and communications through the development and execution of experiential events, while showcasing the team’s involvement and execution.

A proud native of Cary, Joy is a graduate of Queens University of Charlotte where she studied corporate communication with a concentration in studio art. Prior to joining The Special Event Company, she provided strategic thinking and oversight for a PR firm on projects and accounts by writing, pitching media, and providing direction and execution on social media.

She also worked for a private business and social club, planning and executing their member events and managing the Club’s marketing and communication efforts.

In her free time, Joy enjoys spending time with her French Bulldog, Butterbean, traveling to places with turquoise blue waters, enjoying a good country music concert and exploring the ever-growing foodie scene in the Triangle.

Maryann Smith, CMP

Maryann Smith, CMP

Senior Producer

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Maryann Smith, CMP, is a valuable asset to The Special Event Company, bringing over 20 years of progressive experience in the food and beverage industry. As a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), Maryann’s expertise exceeds her extensive experience organizing food and beverage. Her certification demonstrates her commitment to maintaining the highest standards of professionalism and knowledge in the field of event planning.

With her excellent understanding of food allergens and safety guidelines, Maryann ensures the well-being of attendees by creating safe and enjoyable dining experiences. Her ServSafe Certification and Fare Check Food Allergy Certification highlight her dedication to maintaining the highest food safety standards.

Raised in Cary, North Carolina, Maryann’s local roots and education at North Carolina State University (Go Wolfpack) in Public and Interpersonal Communication with a minor in Anthropology provide her with a well-rounded understanding of effective communication and cultural nuances.

Maryann has successfully planned weddings and large corporate events for a Chapel Hill-based restaurant group throughout her career. She further honed her skills as the Catering Director for a large corporate portfolio at Flik Hospitality, a high-end sector of Compass Group. Over the course of eight years, Maryann served as a trusted partner in planning large corporate events and providing exceptional catering services.

With Maryann’s expertise and CMP certification, The Special Event Company can deliver top-notch event experiences, ensuring the highest standards of professionalism and expertise in every food and beverage planning aspect.

Nicole Taffi

Nicole Taffi

Associate Producer

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Nicole comes to The Special Event Company with over 15 years of business development and hospitality experience. With a background in hotel sales and event production, she has created and managed budgets and logistics for countless events throughout North America, including VIP customer events, small business festivals, sales kickoffs, virtual events and trade shows, corporate incentive programs, and helped rework the framework to grow an advisory council program for a global tech organization.

Having learned early in her career that people do business with those they like, know and trust, Nicole prides herself on being a trusted advisor to help create and strengthen existing client relationships. She’s truly never met a stranger! 

A native of Upstate New York, Nicole has resided in North Carolina for 13+ years. She loves spending time with her friends and family, traveling, and spending time on the North Carolina Coast as much as possible. 

Matt Arnold

Matt Arnold

Associate Producer, Creative Services

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Matt is a relative newcomer to the event world. He has worked as a contractor on events for the last few years and decided to move full-time into the event world, joining TSEC as a Producer starting in 2022.

He is a high-energy worker who performs on task no matter the job size. He volunteers at Chapel Hill High School as a mentor for FIRST Robotics team 4829, the Titanium Tigers.

He mentors business development and strategy students and helps develop community relations and business sponsorships. Matt is an avid sports fan. In his free time, he enjoys playing and watching almost any sport.

Hampton Short

Hampton Short

AV Technician and Systems Engineer

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Hampton has a diverse background in production in Recording Studios, TV broadcasts, Live Events, Musical Theater, Virtual Events, Hybrid Events, and Esports productions.

He is continually working on his depth of knowledge in Audio, Video, and Networking.

He looks forward to working in the changing landscape of clients’ production needs, pushing for innovation and new experiences.

Meridith Walters, CSEP

Meridith Walters, CSEP

Creative Producer + Stage Manager

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Meridith Walters comes to The Special Event Company with an extensive background in corporate marketing and public relations, including prominent roles with VF Corporation and Thomasville Furniture. During that time, she worked on events for New York Fashion Week and High Point Furniture Market, as well as numerous trade shows and retail activations.

Her entrepreneurial spirit eventually inspired her to launch a commercial and event photography studio. Meridith has served more than ten years on the Board of Directors of the International Live Events Association, including a 2-year term as the President of the Raleigh-Durham Chapter, while concurrently earning the esteemed Certified Special Events Professional designation (CSEP).

Over the past ten years, Meridith transitioned from photography to event production, specializing in program development, stage management, and live entertainment. With more than two decades of experience in the live events industry, clients note Meridith’s infectious positivity, unbounded energy, and steadfast reliability among the significant assets that she brings to every production.

Planning And Executing Successful Events Is No Simple Task

With a tried-and-true operation and a passionate team of professionals, we provide a streamlined, easy process for every client. Experience the difference of a well-executed event.