Entrepreneurship

S.3 Ep. 21: Breaking into the Event Industry’s “Micro-Communities”

This week we have a crossover podcast with Will Curran of EventIcons and Endless Events. He shares his journey in the events world and how he used the different event communities to grow his career.  Listen for advice on connecting with those in the tight knit communities that exist in our industry!

Tell us your story.

Started in high school dj-ing backyard parties. Had an obsession for buying cooler speakers and lights, eventually got burnt out when I got to college. I saw these massive high school dances that looked live raves or concerts. By the time I graduated college I had about 75% of the dances. Got burnt out again competition entered and couldn’t beat us on quality so they beat us on price. Started to lose business, we pivoted into corporate A/V and production. Everything we learned from setting up sound systems for big high school dances could be applied to what we do inside of a ball room. Before I knew it, we took the corporate world by storm. Took a lot of what we learned on the marketing side and applied it to content and built a name for ourselves in the content world as well.

You’re tied to the industry associations, talk about the value of being involved in associations and organizations.

I am on the younger side of the industry, when I got involved, I went to my first ILEA meeting and feeling completely outsider-ish, there was a lot of clicks, I was the youngest there and no one felt like there was value there. When we started the company we weren’t involved in any associations. I remember talking about joining and being like no it’s not a value, instead we will take the money and make a blog post. For the longest time I wasn’t involved in any association at all. I didn’t know there was any value in them. It took, out of the blue, when my ILEA chapter reached out for me to be on the board. I wasn’t even a member. I knew the value was being in the board, so I was like I guess I’ll do this. My name is in all the emails sent, that was the value, getting my name in front of every person we were emailing. When I joined I realized there was a lot of value in the deep relationships you built with the board, but also in the ability for you to short cut meeting people as well. You end up getting some perceived authority inside the association as well. I did that for about a year and then I got personally asked to be the president of our ILEA chapter. My first answer was no, I don’t have time. They convinced me. I decided to do it, reshaped my chapter to the thought process that was more focused on tight relationships. We were small we had 10 members, so tiny. I basically became president and reshaped things how I thought it should be and I learned about associations as well. If you look at it as a sales opportunity you are not going to get the full true potential. Instead the opportunities you get are what you put into it. Volunteer on the board, it really helps you a ton. 

Now we got involved with IMEX and partnered with them to do content with them. That’s more of an event than an association. If you put value into something you’re always going to get value back. There’s always these micro communities in these associations that you don’t realize exist. There are always these micro communities you can be attached to and get involved. 

What are lessons you’ve learned along the way?

If you just go in trying to get a sales opportunity it’s not going to go anywhere. Associations are different than they were. It’s where you are going to enhance relationships you have. You need to continue to do the marketing and traditional sales, use associations to build a deep relationship. 

Never let someone say that this is the association to join. Far to often people want to say which one is the best one to join. I do think there are stronger chapters in different areas. Even the small ones also can drive just as much value. 

Don’t be afraid to blur the personal and the professional side of things as well. All the super deep relationships that have benefited me the most were people I was like yeah I guess I’ll let you see me drunk!

What are things you’ve learned along the way to grow a team and lead.

I definitely have a different management approach now, and probably different than most people will have. Our team is fully remote. They where whenever wherever they want to work. I have a huge amount of autonomy I give to my team. We don’t ever get to work over the shoulder of our employees. That is a small tip people can get. Give the autonomy to your team. If you hire responsible people and give them autonomy they flourish. 

Embracing and understanding technology and how you can use it to lead better is also important. I saw this issue when I was in an association. Everyone was using email and we were doing in person monthly meetings. I said no, we’re using slack and were doing weekly video calls instead of these long three hour monthly meetings. I noticed a lot of old school managers pushed back. When it came to the management side, I noticed younger generations of people, or tech savvy peopled thrived to use more efficient tools and more efficient ways to be managed. 

Utilize the internet to learn about more leadership styles. Don’t rely on just traditional seminars and even reading books. Sometimes books can be really delayed. They take years to be published, where if you read a blog post that’s going to be a lot more time sensitive and time appropriate. 

Don’t be afraid to look for people in unconventional locations and roles. A lot of time we get stuck.

What advice do you have for newbies?

Avoid sinking yourself in just the events industry. Don’t always focus on reading publications in the events industry and limiting yourself to what everyone else is looking at. One of the number one tips I hear at the end of our podcast, the most common one is: get inspiration outside of the events industry. Go for a walk, go to museums, and I hear that all the time and see it very true as well. When I look at the trends in the industry and publications we are all talking to ourselves so much. 

Document your work. We are in this day and age where we do so many awesome things but don’t have much to show for it. I should tell myself this tip. We don’t take a lot of photos of our events, but we all do so much awesome work. Invest in learning photography/videographer or partner with one. Early on in your career you’re going to live and die by your work. That was one thing that helped us early on. We had so many professional photos taken. We always took them to our sales meeting the next week and always those pictures alone would sell the show.  As much as you think, I’m not good at marketing, when you’re starting off you have nothing to lose. It’s all on youtube. If you’ve never done something before, people criticize it but they have nothing to criticize because it’s your first work. 

Cause: Search Foundation

Pet Peeves: Ignorance and lack of desire to remove the ignorance

Super Power: Speed, presenting ideas fast.  

Willcurran.com

Insta: Charlesevaneide

EideComCreative

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Twitter: The Meeting Minds

S3. Ep.16: Decor, Design, and Entrepreneurship

Halfway through season 3, done with the ILEA Live episodes, and new music: we drop an episode on a Wednesday and bring in a special guest.  Elizabeth Partyka is no newbie in the events space. She owned a business for many many years before joining the quest team. Listen to hear her story!

What is Quest events?

A decor and scenic company based out of Dallas Texas. We have 26 locations nationwide. We have a lot of stuff. We have one in Canada as well. 

What do you do?

We started out as a pipe and drape company, in the last several years we’ve moved into offering a wide variety of scenic options. 

You have a unique story, why don’t you tell us that?

I had my own decor company for 15 years, we did ceiling draping, chandeliers, lighting. A year ago quest approached me they needed a sales manager because they opened here recently. They acquired my business and now I’m moving more into the A/V world outside of weddings. I have been able to move into more large scale events. 

How did you build your company into what it was?

It grew organically, in my early 20’s. I worked at a local rental company since I was 15 went to college.  My friends were getting married, I did their weddings, a few proms asked if I could help and it grew organically. 

What do you guys do now?

We are the premiere provider in scenic stuff. If people aren’t familiar, when you look at a stage set, the back drops, we have different tiles, fabrics. Basically anything you need for a gala, conference. 

What trends are you seeing?

A lot more customization. All of our products you can brand and put pictures on them.  You can have branding everywhere. 

What conversations should people be having for their event?

Start with a realistic budget or planners looking to say I have xyz dollars, or this is the look I’m trying to achieve what can you offer me and what will it cost. How do you engage the audience? How much branding do you want?  A lot of our clients request renderings, we can go in and plug in our products, lighting, seating. It’s a great way to help new planners or sell it to the client. 

Pet Peeves: Touching and Moving stuff around

Super Power: Always listening. In one conversation and can listen to another

Elizabeth@questevents.com

Insta: Charlesevaneide

Insta: EideComCreative

Insta: meetingmindspodcast

Twitter:The Meeting Minds

S.3 Episode 7: “Happily” Save the Planet With Events!

Sarah Shewey is a pioneer woman of the experience economy. She is the Founder & CEO of Happily, a platform that rapidly assembles experiences for the fastest growing brands in the world with the largest network of freelance event producers. She is also the co-founder of TEDActive, the founder of EXP, a co-founder of The Margin, and the board president of dublab. An environmentalist, Sarah has spoken about the importance of sustainable event practices on NPR and publications around the world. She also co-invented the world’s first underwater projector.

Stay connected with Sarah Shewey on Linkedin.

Tell us about you.

I got into events because I was the super fan of Weezer. They dropped off the face of the earth and there was rumors Weezer was coming back.  I organized online in the Weezer fan forum, a Weezer after party for their first concert. I’m an over achiever so I got yahoo to sponsor and we brought in fans and randomly Sofia Coppola showed up. I rented a venue, it was a legit thing. They got word and apologized they couldn’t make it. After I graduated college I went across the country and I moved to Boston. I fell into a job as a freelance event coordinator. That became Boston’s best party of the year.  I knew I was an entrepreneur but I didn’t know what industry or product I would build.  After those two experiences I started to take the events industry seriously. 

Your main thing is Happily, what is it?

It is a lot of things, it is really a place where anyone can find freelance event experts.  We specialize in producers, coordinators, assistants. There are over 50,000 in our network.  It’s like air b n b for events. It’s my full time job.

How does your process work?  

You create an event and then you create multiple gigs or jobs.  Then we calculate the cost.  Then we surface all of the people that are local in the area.  You can see all the profiles and you can request an interview and hire them through there.  You can pay them through there and invoice them. 

Who is on this?

Right now our focus is planners, we are starting first with production managers and people that are organizing. We get a lot of requests for example of do you know people that know VR? Technical teams and freelancers is on our roadmap to bring to the platform.

What was the fact that you dropped before we started recording?

Sustainability, it’s really important, if not the most important area of innovation in the events space.  It’s important because events are the 2nd most wasteful industry on the planet, after construction. When you add sporting events and concerts, you’re building all this stuff and throwing it out.  We know how much plastic and crap is out there. I think that for me, once I found that out, it was really important for me to take a look at the entire supply chain and process, and how can we reduce waste and get ourselves off this horrible list of offenders?

How do we do it?

It’s crazy how small things can make a huge impact. For instance, take meat off your menu or reducing it by half, it can save millions of gallons of water on a 100 person event. Beef in particular.  Create opportunities for people to jump in on a live stream instead of jumping on a plane to get to an event. Obviously an in person interaction has it’s own special brand of magic, but live stream allows people to hear information and create accessibility around the world. It also reduces carbon foot print. 

You are co – founder of the margin, tell us about that.

It makes space for people of color at gatherings. I started it with a friend of mine and we met at a women’s conference in the Bay Area and we were the only people of color there. We started to talk about behind the gender conversation there still are not safe spaces for people of color when you are feeling like the other. It’s hard to say hello and make friends. 

What are other things you want people to know?

Just know about happily and the platform. I really am an event nerd and rat.  The last few years I’ve been on a technology kick and it’s been a wild journey that keeps improving and getting better.  We’d like people to beta test and give us feedback. We are so offline so it’s been cool to share those things with people in our space.

Superpower: Communicating to people nonverbally

Cause: DoveLove

Insta: Charlesevaneide

EideComCreative

Twitter:The Meeting Minds

S.2 Episode 5 Special Edition: Growing your Business and Events to be Successful

This week’s episode Charles was asked to speak at an event for those in the wedding industry.  Listen this week as he shares strategies and ideas that will grow your business and events, guaranteed. 

Episode 15: How to Succeed as a Corporate Events Planner

Kelsey from Lynn David Events joins us to talk about her experience in corporate events. She shares her story getting her to the point of starting her own corporate event company.

 

 

Tell us about you.

 

I have been a corporate event planner for 13 years. I absolutely love it. I love partnering with organizations to bring their dream to reality.  I spent the last 8 years working for an amazing company, John Wiley and Sons publishing company. Its 215 years old. Thomas Jefferson was president when they opened their doors. I was able to manage 150 events a year, just me with them. I got a really well rounded education and experience. Everything from a 700 person conference all the way down to an 8 person board meeting. Runs the gamut of everything. I’ve taken what I learned from them and struck out on my own this year, and started my own event planning company (Lynn David Events). I named it after my children, Neva Lynn and Brooks David, my 3rd baby.

 

How do you become successful in corporate meetings?

 

I think what separates a novice event planner to one that will go the distance and succeed is understanding that as an event planner you have a responsibility to understand the corporate goals and objectives and how the events support those goals. Ways that you need to do that is really be apart of the leadership discussions don’t be shy to ask to sit in on meetings, the non confidential ones of course, ask questions. So many corporations hold the same conference every year or convention just because that’s what we do, that’s how we do it. But why? What are you trying to achieve? What is the overall corporate goal or objective that this one event is trying to satisfy? How can you change this event to make it better and better? What are you trying to get the attendees to walk away with?

 

How do you set yourself apart and how do you add value?

 

Once you can understand what the goals are and why you are holding these events, the executives will look at you in a different light. You’re not just executing on this event every year, you’re playing into their goals and objectives and they’ll see you as more of a team player for the company. Then you are able to have those strategic conversations and look as more of a strategist in the company. What’s the goal of the event and you can better allocate your budget to achieve that goal instead of googling it and saying “30% of your budget should be spent on food and beverage”. What’s the goal? Are you trying to elevate the event to be looked at as educational experience, playing in that realm, then you will want to spend more money on a quality keynote speaker that people will recognize. What if you are trying to launch a new product or elevate a new brand? Then you will want to spend more money on A/V and production to really make that that product or that brand come to life, really play up the colors of this brand. But you also need to know your audience right? So if your audience is a bunch of foodies you’re going to want to still maintain a very healthy budget for the food and beverage while you’re trying to elevate your brand. Or take brand elements and put it into the food and beverage, like putting the new logo kind of showcased on top of the cheesecake would be adorable like ways to achieve your objectives but also strategically spend money to do so.

 

I feel like I almost can remember, to like the day, the turning point in my career when I was stopped being looked at like a party planner “oh she’s an event manager, she’s strategic”.

 

How do you sell a keynote to your organization?

 

Bring it back to the overall goals and objectives. You gotta think the executives your leadership team they’re getting pressure from higher ups from the CEO from maybe a board to achieve these goals and objectives and if one of them is to really become a player in education space or to build attendance and the attendees really value content and education it is a drop in the bucket $100,000 for a keynote speaker that’s going to maximize attendance and really put yourself, the company,and the event as a major player in education or content that’s a drop in the bucket.

 

What else do you have?

 

I think one of the biggest tips I can give anybody starting off in the corporate event space is you really need to create mutually beneficial partnerships with suppliers and vendors, and I want to repeat mutually beneficial.  Because I feel like early on in your event planning career, you think the way you succeed is you negotiate the cost down as far as possible right? And you need to understand you want your partners to make money you want them to look at you like a partnership where they are really caring about the project and also making a profit on it so they’ll  want to work with you again. Having a partner is a one off you’re creating that long term relationship that this is what you do. You should interview suppliers whether A/V or production or what have you, that share the values that your organization does and somebody you want to be in the trenches with. Tell me one event planner that has been at it, at an event that didn’t have something go wrong, and the reason why they’re always  fine in the end, it’s because of your partnership. We’re in this together and we are succeeding together. You want to have someone you click with that’s going to also look at you like “I’m your partner and I’m excited about this event excited about the next hundred events we partner on”.

 

For new planners in the corporate realm, it’s a very  controversial topic among event planners but I believe you should be transparent about your budget to your partners. So many people think “but that’s my power. How can I negotiate, how can I get the price down, how can I get more for less?” You can’t have a good partnership unless you’re transparent, open, and honest about the budget and  the scope of the event. If you do that right away you’re already going to be in a better spot when the event actually happens because you’re going to get the quality you’re going to get the equipment that you need and you’re going to be within budget because the partner that you decided to work with at the beginning they signed up to be that budget.

 

What else do you have?

 

What I didn’t understand early on in my career which I would love just to make sure that all your listeners do, is not every corporate event  planner has a very clear career path outline for them by their organization. I mean maybe you’re blessed to be working in an advanced division for a company where there’s  40 other event planners and maybe it’s a little bit more clear where you can go in the next 5-10 years, but I didn’t have that. I was really the only one corporate event planner. My advice is you need to know that you can look outside the organization for professional development, opportunities, education for networking and you’re not on an island.  You’re able to turn to organizations like MPI or ILEA or what have you, to seek out professional development to network with your peers. It’s an incredibly giving industry like you’re saying with you know somebody that might be a competitor as an independent planner I have been amazed by how all the other independent planners in the Twin Cities are so willing to help.

 

I think breaking out of the walls of your office exposes you to so many things in the industry because you know if you’re doing the same 5-10 events every year and you really are kind of craving new ideas, you’re craving like new technology going to industry events going to these annual association meetings and talking to other planners about what they’re doing, it sparks so many great ideas and not only introduces you to new people like new suppliers it can maybe bring in technology for you. You can also talk to people openly. I encourage people to not get stuck in the walls of their cubicle. The industry is very giving and you can seek elsewhere for networking and education.

 

What else have you got?

 

Also breaking away from your office, getting out of your typical 9-to-5. What’s incredibly important and if you’re a planner you understand that there’s events always held by different venues our national sales manager, Hilton, Loews, Omni, Independence they all hold events and invite planners to them over the course of the year and I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities because the whether again you’re you are in a division of 40 event planners, or you are a team of one what’s incredibly important is to stay up to speed on the other different venue options out there and hotels are changing every day.  They’re changing flags, they’re renovating, there’s new hotel popping up, there’s new venue a special event spaces in every market. So many times I’ve had someone from the corporate leadership team come to me and is like “we wanna hold an event in three months, we wanna wanna have it in Nashville”. You don’t always have time to hop on a plane is scheduled to be great no I got a handful of properties that I have on the phone with them.

 

Large corporations often have event teams and planners inside, how often are those people also contracting external planners to plan things?

 

It’s actually becoming more and more common.  So as you know event plans for a year or budgets they ebb and flow from year to year based on the plans and those goals and objectives for the corporate organization so you don’t always want to hire another head to be a full-time employee.  We don’t know if we’re going to need that additional person the next year, so a lot of times they’ll save one or two head counts on their team to contract out other planners like myself and other amazing ones in the Twin Cities. But what’s great, is good quality independent planners, can be an extension of your team in any capacity if you need that ,if you need them to understand the product the clients the attendees whatever so they can actually interact with your guest they can do that, if you need them just behind the scenes doing the grunt-work that frees up others on the team they can do that, there are resources out there.

 

How do you choose the right independant planner?

 

I think really going out and being a part of these associations and networking like we  discussed before. I think that’s incredibly important because you get to know who is in your industry and as we were talking about everyone has their niche, right, like what they’re really good at, what they focus on, what they really excel at, what they bring to the table. You can get to know someone and see if you have a need and you have someone as a resource who would fit what you’re looking for.  

 

As you gain experience in this industry, you can’t do it all, and you don’t want to do it all. As you get more experience you become more self aware and figure out what your passion is and what drives you, you’re able to focus on that one area that you can bring purpose to.

 

What other tips do you have for being great and succeeding as a corporate events planner.

 

As corporate you have to think every company has a brand identity and that needs to be brought to life and consistent through the events. If you went to a target event and it didn’t have red you’d be like who is this?  Everyone has a brand a core identity, brand personality, but also quality and consistency needs to be in events.

 

 

You can contact Kelsey at kelsey@lynndavidevents.com

 

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