How do you make the most out of the relationships you make with people in the events world? We had Jessica Barrett and Beth Plates sit down and talk about ways that they have fostered relationships to create successful events.
Welcome back, we have two people from two different businesses. I’m going to start by introducing Beth Plates. The other is Jessica Barrett.
We’re here to talk about relationships. You are both good at building relationships with key people, how do you define a successful relationship?
Jessica: In the industry I would define that as someone that I trust and I know will deliver. It’s on an intrinsic level, not something I have to worry or question they will pull through even if it’s crazy. No matter what it will work.
Beth: I agree I have to reiterate the trust factor is huge. You almost develop your own language or no language at all. You start reading eachothers minds. You understand that’s the direction it’s going and you end up clicking and look at eachother
Jessica: And when you can look at each other when something is not looking and figure out how it’s going to look and roll with it. No one’s looking at it like it’s your problem not mine.
Beth: Exactly, you’re in it together, you’ve got a partner that has your back.
How would someone who is newer start to develop relationships?
Beth: First of all volunteering. At events, put yourself out there. Especially if you are looking to gain experience. It’s huge to go to non profits and work their galas, golf tournaments. See behind the scenes how it works. That’s where you will meet people, like minded people that want to be apart of and support these organizations. That’s when I got my start it was volunteering and helped immensely. Professional organizations as well.
Jessica: I would agree with that. That’s one of the first things I say to people when they are looking to burst into the industry. Every gala is looking for volunteers. It gets people in the industry and gives them an opportunity to see you working and if they want to work with you in the future. If they have a job available it’s a warm introduction. You get to see people from so many facets.
It’s easier to sell yourself if people see how you work and how hard you work. They would feel more comfortable to have coffee with you. You have to be able to contribute.
Jessica: The professional organizations are key, that’s the easiest way to get into the door and talk to people without having a job. You could still be working at Caribou but go to the night of the hour and start talking to people and building those relationships before you have a leg in the door.
How are you supposed to start attending these events? Do you need a pitch and cards?
Beth: I think it helps if you have somewhat of an elevator pitch. If you are new and show passion and sincerity, people are going to understand if you don’t have it all figured it out.
What about when you are working for a venue and it’s highly sought after and everyone wants to have something to do with it, how do you develop the right relationships?
Jessica: It helps that I have been in venues for a long time. I’ve been in venues for 14 years. I had a lot of pre existing relationships before I started Machine Shop. Honestly it was integral to our success, we hit the ground running because I could reach out with people we worked with in the past before I had our website and asked them to see how it would work for them. And getting other people involved. A lot of times its people hired by clients and and we get to see them and get to know them and see if they fit. We don’t keep a public vendor list on our website because we like to match our clients with the best vendor for them.
I’ve had some vendors reach out to get on our list, it can be a catch 22. You cannot get into the space unless someone hires you and you’re not going to get hired unless we refer you. There’s other ways around that, like if we work together on something through ILEA. If you’re connected in the industry you hear about what’s good and what’s bad.
The word of mouth portion is so much stronger than being on a list. Tell me more about friendships. How do you cultivate those friendships and develop them into something real?
Beth: I believe with events, we work such interesting hours, an interesting industry. We are up at 3 am before an event or we are cleaning up at 3 am. Or sometimes both for the same event. You’re working together these long days shlepping together. Our clients are looking to us to be resourceful and as you are bonding with your person at the venue, or A/V team, or event planner you are putting your heads together to be creative and it cultivates a very eclectic relationship.
You become friends with these people.
It doesn’t really matter how good you are if your attitude sucks.
Jessica: Yeah that’s one of the things i go back to. We may book something once and get away with a lot, but if you want to have that repeat business those things won’t fly. You can only get away with that once or twice or people feel burned.
I love that in the event space there is so much competition that it forces everyone to bring their A-game. Not only are they great, but they are also great people.
Beth: I think Amy Zaroff said it well in one of your podcasts, “we’re better together.” as a group we kind of raise the bar in what we are producing.
Jessica: And putting Minneapolis on the map, I think it is really shifted in that last couple of years. That has been amazing to be apart of.
We do events all over the country and some clients go from city to city, and I keep telling them they have to come to Minneapolis. They are now starting to listen.
We have a lot of listeners asking how to do I be better. How do you do that?
Jessica: For me, I’ve been trying to refocus on, before I do anything I isolate what are our goals and objectives in this so you know everyone on your team is working on the same thing. As long as you know what those goals or objectives are you can return to that and say “are we meeting those? Are we making choices that will lead us there?” That will always lead to being better and doing better. Be very clear about those things. People don;t think about the logistics of how you got from point A to point B.
One of my pet peeves is when people walk in the door and assume they know more about the space. It’s good to touch base with the people that know alot and come in with an open mind because there might be things that can go a lot better.
Beth: And to your point, it’s respecting the knowledge you have. That’s where I’ve see the most success with events is when you regard those individuals who are working within the space as an expert or the A/V team as the expert. You can collaborate or question but also respect that they have years of experience and a team of experts they have brought on, they may have a difference of opinion. We are there looking out for our best interests.
Jessica: Right they all want to see this be successful. No one is trying to sink your ship. There is a paranoia that someone is going to sink the ship and they are going to tighten the screws on it. I learned a long time ago with A/V companies, I never ask a lot of questions until they are done setting up because a lot of times if you get into the mix they are like “We are not done yet.” Unless it’s something that is for sure not supposed to be there. I let them do their job and usually when they are done the questions are resolved.
The point of respect was interesting. Every corner of the events business the experts you bring in you have to give them the respect that you chose them to do this and they know more about what they are doing.
Beth: The outcome is grander. Most of the time if you are hands off and let people do their best work, it’s better than you expected.
Jessica: One of the things I love about working with Beth is that when we have initial meetings you love getting input and haven’t made up your mind about every detail.
Beth: You as a venue, you have so much more access to some resources because everybody wants to get into your space, and be seen in your space. Not only are you great about putting together a great venue but you are a great resources, you are full of names and numbers of people that are creative, undiscovered and I look to you as a friend to bring those to the table.
Jessica: I love having a relationship where I can give you my options. Sometimes in the venue we see things that are similar time after time. It’s fun to bring in new elements and try new things. There’s always ideas in the back of my head. I have to convince someone to do it so I love when people are looking for options.
Talk about empathy
Beth: Taking into consideration who you are working with, your partners are not just business partners but they are humans who have things going on in their lives. You have a life outside of work. Occasionally we have that personal life that sneaks in but its recognizing it, it goes back to relationships. You realize people are putting in 100% but there are things that come in in life.
Jessica: That goes back to trust. If you trust them you know they are going to do what they need to do. You can give them the grace when they need it. We struggle with that because it has become a 24 industry, the world has become a 24/7. People expect you to have things turned around in 15 minutes and if we have a relationship where we trust each other and I send you a message I trust you will take care of it.
If you want to add to your reliability, you also need to take on more responsibility.
Jessica: With our team there’s no such thing as that’s not my job. I don’t care. I have cleaned vomit more times than I care to admit. I’ve never turned around and said clean this up. If you are the closest person there you just do it.
If you’ve taken the responsibility for something follow through on it.
We tell our guys not to tell a client they can’t help them, but instead to assist them.
Jessica: When people start out there’s a fear of admitting you don’t know something. That’s why you hire experts, even if it’s the most well oiled machine there will be hiccups you don’t know the answer to. It’s ok to say I don’t know but let me find out. Let’s figure this out together.
Tell me about mentoring, how do you find a mentor or become one?
Beth: I think a great way to mentor is to take interns. Sometimes it does require a lot of work on your part as well. If you have the right intern, some will stay on. Some interns I’ve told they will have to hire me someday when I’m too old to do events. Someday my interns will hire me. It’s a great opportunity to have a fresh perspective on something you’ve done for years. It makes you rethink the process on why you do something. It’s a way to mentor the next generation.
Jessica: It’s ok to ask, but to ask with a humble attitude, “I know you’re busy but do you have time to sit and have coffee with me.” 99% of the time if people ask to have coffee with me I’ll say yes. If you ask for an informational interview and if you click and have a great relationship that person can become your mentor.
When you ask someone, make sure you’re making it convenient for the mentor. Show up on time, bring value, and be prepared. Don’t waste the mentor’s time.
Jessica: Absolutely, those are more relationships you are forming. No matter where you end up that’s a person you have the second nature conversation.
There are a lot of great industry organizations, talk about their value they bring.
Jessica: I am on the board of ILEA MSP I am the director of strategic sponsorships which plays well into this conversation, it’s all about relationships and building relationships. It’s been amazing. I got involved 4 or 5 years ago, it was kind of transformative for me. It helped me expand my circle of people. I don’t get to spend time with people who don’t do events at my space. I got to work with caterers, producers, and one of my employees, that’s how I met her. We were working together at star Awards. Our first conversation was me overhearing what they had planned and being like “what’s that?” But now we’ve formed a relationship and when I was looking to fill a position she was one of the first people I thought of.
Our chapter here in MSP is super active we won for the 5th year, Chapter of the Year. We are are hosting ILEA live next year which is really exciting. It’s been all over the place but it’s coming here in August.
It’s been interesting when we are talking with the ILEA live board of governors, they were really surprised to hear how much sponsorship we have here. They struggle with that other places. We have such a robust industry of people who are willing to give and have an excitement for that.
You can contact Jessica Barrett at
You can contact Beth Plates at
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