For event producer Liz Hart, no challenge is too daunting and no detail too insignificant. Help erect a temporary theme park to entertain 14,000? No problem. Cue an Olympian to light a torch in a packed arena? Got it.
In a relatively short time, Hart, who earned her communication degree from Virginia Tech in 2007, went from planning her high school prom to serving as director of the media studio for the recent Democratic National Convention.
For her considerable accomplishments within a decade of graduation, Hart has received the 2016 Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
Her firm, Liz Hart Event Consulting and Design, specializes in live event and broadcast production, event décor and styling, stage management, and story development. Her clients range from national political figures to top entertainment companies, high-profile charitable organizations, and event production companies.
“Every evolution of my career has called on what I learned at Virginia Tech,” Hart says. “I chose the university because the communication department was willing to help me design a dream curriculum for special events, everything from multimedia journalism and marketing to visual design and theatre.”
For Hart, events offer exquisite vehicles for communication. “Successful events involve storytelling,” she says. “What do you want to communicate? What do you want your audience to experience? For me, starting with an empty stage set is like painting on a stretch of white canvas or writing on a blank page.”
Hart’s credits include the Vancouver Winter Olympics, New York Fashion Week, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and television specials ranging from a Justin Bieber roast to an HBO special that brought artists and celebrities together to honor U.S. veterans. Hart has also been a producer on the official livestreamed Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop every year since 2012.
Her work extends beyond major events planning into the political arena as well. As an advance staffer, her international work spans more than 20 countries. In 2014, she served as director of message events in Vice President Joe Biden’s communications office at the White House, crafting events and press logistics around administration policy.
Yet Hart’s greatest challenge came early, less than a month before she was slated to graduate. Immediately after the April 16, 2007, shootings at Virginia Tech, she was called on to help her university community as a member of Hokies United, an alliance of Virginia Tech student organizations that band together to assist those in need.
Within a day of the shootings, Hokies United had organized a candlelight vigil, spirited 32 Hokie stones from a nearby construction site to erect a Drillfield memorial for each victim, and built whitewashed plywood memorial walls on which condolences could be written.
Hokies United also granted interviews to hundreds of media who requested student reactions. Hart, as the alliance’s director of media relations, had the sad role of serving as the student body spokesperson.
“We were struggling with shock and grief, but at the same time we wanted to help the university,” she says. For years afterward, Hart and her classmates would gather on the anniversary of the tragedy to help each other heal.
“April 16 was a devastating part of our university’s history, yet not its only history,” she says. “We’ve been changed but not defined by it.” Hart adds that her experiences in 2007 will always be part of her life’s tapestry.
“When I went to interview in Vice President Biden’s office,” she says, “I saw, on the wall above my chair, a photo of the vice president gazing at the Hokies United plaque. It felt like an alignment of the universe. I knew I was making the right decision to work there.”
Her instincts have always served her well, Hart says, as has her zest for the next great adventure.
“I’m prepared and constantly open to new possibilities,” she says. “I wake up every day ready to meet someone interesting or be able to help with something unexpected.”