Relationships

S.4 Ep.8: How to Standout in the Events Industry

Tell us about you. 

Growing up, my dad was a business owner, so I always kind of pictured myself owning a business or something that way. I started my first business out of my college dorm room in 2003. I had a bad t-shirt order and my roommate, Ryan looked at me, “Hey, we should start a business so nobody else has to go through what you just went through.” I was naive enough as a 19 year old, I was like, “how would we do it?” He goes over to our dorm room door, shuts it, and he pitches me the idea and I’m like, I’m in. That summer we worked hard. Thew next fall we started business, from there, by the time I sold that we had done about 500,000 pieces of apparel. 

It opened so many doors. What I liked about running an online custom apparel business was, I built it from the dorm room where people had no idea that I was in 19 or 20 year old kid. They thought I was like a 40 or 50 year old man. What I liked about it was I practiced my skill of customer service or customer care in a way that, I built it so I would never have to meet my customers. I learned the soft skills of phone and email just as it was getting going in 2003, 2004, or 2005. I fit a ton of experience into those few years in college and then just grew. 

I love Co-Ed Monkey, still buy shirts now. They have great customer service. 

I’ll step back quick and say in 2008, when the economy tanked, every business really struggled. I stepped back and I went into debt. It was bad, and I looked at my business and I hated life. I was a probably 20, $30,000 in debt and had no idea how I was going to pay it back. And I looked at the business and I hated it. I hated waking up in the morning. I hated answering emails. I hated every single thing about my business. I remember I sat at Starbucks, I kinda hit this low point and I call it my Starbucks experience. 

In business you’re always told like dream about, you know where you’re going to be someday. I pictured a corner office and all these things and what we would be building. And I realized that amidst all the busy-ness of business in the dreaming, the one thing I forgot to dream about was my customers and what they should expect out of my business. I thought about how much money I would make, everything and I forgot about the customer. So I call it my Starbucks experience because back then the internet at Starbucks was very bad. So I couldn’t answer my email, I couldn’t do anything. And I sat there with a white piece of paper and I just go, if I could build a company for my customer, what should they expect? That changed everything. I started dreaming and before I knew it then that changed everything about my business. I looked at it, there’s either customer service or there’s customer care. Services is reactive, cares is proactive. Once you find the thing that you do different. Once you find thing though, you’re one, two, maybe three things different than your competition. You double down, double down, double down. 

How do you stand out? How do you make your events stand out? How do you make your business stand out? 

Let’s break it right down to the event thing. I think today’s events, it’s not about putting on events, it’s about curating pieces that people will talk about. I think it’s about somebody that comes to your event. They go to how many events, how many galas, and they see how many MCs and MC is an MC. They’re all funny. The stage is now in the middle or it’s up front. You know like you can only do so many different things, but I think there are the little touches that make people go, how did they think of that? Like when the speaker says, I want you all at your table, I want you to stand up and shuffle around. Now I don’t want you to just to sit at your table anymore. And actually forces networking. It creates touch points, elbow rubbing moments where now you’re forced to meet people you didn’t come with. 

It’s like the flowers. You know how many events, especially if you’re talking about weddings, it’s like “who did those flowers? Who did that?” I think as an event planner, I would want people going “who did that?”. I’d want so many “who did that” moments coming out of my event because that’s what makes people go, I want to go back to their event. It’s not just coming up with something new, but it’s more thought and it makes that needle and thread through your brand and every event feel like it’s the same thing. 

It makes me start thinking about how do you create the standout moments in all of the elements of a show? 

A great thing that is totally under utilized the events space, cause I get to speak at a lot of events, and one thing I started offering to any place I speak at I say, “Hey, I love it coming into your event to do the keynote for you.” I go in there just like every other speaker. I do the speech for 45 or 50 minutes. And now what I like to say is, “Hey, I love the idea though of your people going back to their people and talking about what I talked about. So for you, I want to offer a webinar. You plan it, it’s going to be an hour long. They can invite anybody they want on it. We’re going to talk about what we talked about that day. And the event’s going to keep going.” Everybody gets pumped about that. 25% of them actually do it. These people already move on to the next thing and then they wonder why their event struggles later. 

It’s because they’re not doing the little things that separate them from every other brand. 

So the question is how do you set yourself apart from being lazy? I think one of the big things you talk about that I really enjoy and maybe you could go deeper on this is how do you make your yourself stand out as an individual? 

I think it’s holding yourself to a standard and going, when people hear my name, what do they think about me? Maybe it’s not all what you want, but I think we can strive for that. My team at CloseSimple, that’s my real estate software, we basically created like a pizza tracker for the home closing process. Before this there was nothing. What’s been really fun is we’re instilling culture now in our people and we’re having them read the Gary Keller book, the guy who founded Keller Williams One Thing. Now my entire team has their one thing. Each person has a different one, which is different than in traction, the rocks that they might be doing. This is my one thing for my job, not for company, but for my job that’s going to push the company forward. 

It’s clarifying what your one thing is. If you can only accomplish one thing this week that’s going to actually create momentum for you to do other things, what is that? If I’m going to do an event, what’s the one thing I can do leaving this event? Outside of the typical stuff, there should be a checklist. If I’m going to be exceptional and something that people actually want to be a part of, what’s something additional. 

What other books do you love? 

I think a great book, just one of the best books of all time. If you’re looking for that next idea, how do you stand out? Made to stick. It’s why do some ideas stick and some don’t. It’s unbelievable. Chip and Dan Heath, brilliant guys. If you want to get the book awesome. I love the book, but this is one of the rare audio books that you listen to and are like, it’s better audio than reading. 

Super power: I am amazing if I’m at a conference or business, looking what people wear, sizing them up exactly and knowing like where to shift the conversation based on like what they’re wearing. Often it’s going to start with what they’re wearing, it creates the conversation. 

Cause: Venture 

bill@billsvoboda.com 

closesimple.com 

Insta: Charlesevaneide

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S.3 Ep. 28: Magic, Networking, Events, and More!

This week we sit down with Twin Cities’ Brad Gudim, an event veteran.  Listen to how he used events to gain exposure and now creates opportunities for those starting out to meet others!

Tell us about you and your story.

Well, the story is, I have been in events for a long time. When I was a little kid, I got an interest in magic. A guy pulled a quarter out of my ear and it just got me interested in the magic thing. So that was a hobby for me. My entrepreneurial brain kicked in and thought if I do magic shows in the garage and charge the kids a quarter and sell them a popcorn and Kool-Aid, I can make some money, so I was producing events. I would hang a sheet in my garage and play a super eight movies on there and used to do fundraisers for like muscular dystrophy and you get the little kit and turn the riding lawnmower into a train and tie a bunch of wagons behind it and charge kids a quarter to ride the train. I was the kid that bought by the candy and resell to the kids at retail. I graduated from Fridley high school, which is close to here and that was in 1975 and I tried the job thing and I got laid off and then I decided to go back in and be a full time magician. I didn’t want to chase after event planners. I created my own event back then it’s called the great Minnesota event show. It was done at international market square and it was a place for event planners to come and find all their resources for doing events. I would invite all the people from the corporations and then they’d fill out a little form that says, my name is Tammy from 3m we got a budget of $15,000. I go, there’s a lead. If they weren’t a magic lead, I’d just throw them away. But it built my database up. This was back in the 90s.

So you started this event for marketing, when did you realize there was something to it?

I started doing it with other companies too. There’s a trade show company that make trade show displays and their common market is they want to reach exhibit managers cause they’re the ones that buy the displays. They were just going to do an open house and invite their past clients and whatever. But what we did is we brought in other people that were complimentary and not competitive. So we brought in a cater that did an edible floral display. We brought in a photographer that took pictures of that, brought in a printer, and then the postcards were the invitation to the event. All of these different people that involved with this synergistic event are non-competitive and actually complimentary. So an exhibitor manager very possibly could use a trade show, display, a printer, a caterer, a photographer, and they’d all kind of work together. So it’s a little team that’s already there and the synergistic group of people are all inviting the same avatar of person. So you’ve got multiple people and that way you can fill a room much easier than trying to do it yourself.

How did that evolve into what you’re doing today?

My brain, because of the magic works kind of different than most people’s because I grew up with seeing behind the scenes kind of thing. So, especially with stuff like Facebook now to be able to, I mean I’m getting into the marketing part, so I use Facebook events, and then connect that with Eventbrite and you can boost the audience on Facebook and find whoever you want on a marketing level. Now it’s just like I want everybody that’s a meeting planner that lives within a 10 mile radius that has a birthday in December and I’m going to invite them into your restaurant and we’re going to have a party.

Tell us what you are currently doing now.

I’ve got a four expos. Two of them are scheduled and have dates. One is an event planner expo for the vertical market of the events industry. Another one is a business expo for a horizontal market of all businesses and they’re set up more as a networking thing with a lot of booths. The way I set it up is there’s booths are on the perimeter and then tabletops in the, in the center and it’s open air. There’s not a lot of pipe and drape that blocks your view. So it’s more of a social type of thing. And then got a thing, I call it synergy first Thursdays. And that is so that people can just put that in their head that it’s the first Thursday of every month. Now they just got to find out where, and this is just a casual happy hour, get together and just talk about events. Some of them are in the event profession, they might be planners, they might be suppliers, but then there’s just businesses in general that want to do an event, maybe a golf tournament or they want to do a a retreat and they don’t know where to go to get these things. So these events are to be able to go and have a happy hour and grab a pizza or something and then get to meet the person, live in person and go, I like that guy. So all you have to do is throw a happy hour and then find that those ideal clients that you want to make the connection with and then put them in the room.

Super Power: Keeping things simple

Any great pieces of advice for somebody who’s just starting out in the events world?

Yeah, I’d say get out, get to a live event, let go of the likes, the follows, and the shares, and start getting smiles, handshakes and hugs. At least get on video and talk to people.

Google Magic Brad

Insta: Themagicbrad

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S.3 Ep. 25: Be a Boss at Bossing

Dustin Westling is a team leading guru! Listen to how he hires, inspires, and leads a team.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a life long hospitality professional. My background is in hotels, convention centers, public attractions. I found my place in this industry and over time transformed into the business I have now. We have a full service production design company in Calgary. We have an amazing team of project managers and designers that work on events of all shapes and sizes. Things are always moving and shaking. I also am a partner I a photography business. It is a 15 year old event photography company across Canada. 

How do you move into starting your own company and managing a team?

One of the things that I think you gain from the industry, you’re trained for service. I believe to truly be successful in this business you need to understand the elements of service. There’s no better way to understand guest experiences than literally serving them. So much of what I learned in the hospitality world, I’ve brought to my business. 

What are key practices on ways listeners can succeed in inspiring a team?

Hire the right people. I have a unique process when it comes to how I find my future team members. I use our industry association a lot to hunt. I’m not a big fan of sitting behind a desk, I will meet the candidate at a coffee shop downtown and we will go for a walk. 

I am a big fan of education. I think our industry has come a long way when it comes to formal education, We have a long way to go still. Education varies from university, trade school, college, it’s too varied and theres some work that needs to be done there. 

Pet Peeves: Division between teams

Cause: Search Foundation

Superpower: Calm during a crisis

Insta: Dustin Westling 

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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

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S.3 Episode 18: How to Win in the Expo World!

When you know there is a strong need for an event how do you go about building it? How do you stay true to yourself and your own brand? This week Ashley Hawks of Forever Bride joins us to talk all about how her and her small but mighty team created the Forever Bride Market.  You will be surprised by the amount of detail and perfection that goes into it!

Tell us about you.

Born and raised here in the twin cities, so total Minnesota girl. My start in the wedding industry, started when I was really young. My mother owned a bridal shop here in the twin cities for 25 years. She launched it when I was five. I remember she, worked high up in the JC penny world back in the 80s when JC Penney was like the thing. She was in the fashion world for years and that was her specialty. And then in 1990 she decided to open her own bridal shop, Mary Kay’s bridal. I mean it was a dream come true. I mean I was a total girly girl and we’d go there after school and she would give me these little Dixie cups and I’d crawl around on the floor and the carpet, this horrible mauve pink carpet. Everything was this mauve pink. And I would crawl around picking up these tiny little pearls and diamonds that I thought were real. Well when you have, you know, 800 gowns in this massive bridal store, you know, and she saves everything. And so, you know, I’d go around collecting all these little beads and stuff cause we did alterations and so it was nice being able to give these little Dixie cups of beads to the seamstresses and kept me busy after school. And then I upgraded to vacuuming and cleaning millions of mirrors on a daily basis.

You were a model in the fashion world. Tell us a little bit about that.

I was a very ginormously tall young girl. But when you’re in fifth grade and you’re almost 5 10, that’s a lot. It’s very aggressive. So my sweet mother got me into modeling and I loved it. I’m surrounded with these other giant tall women and I was making money and I got to travel. I started traveling actually when I was 14, all by myself. Got in an airplane and flying around.

I learned a lot about, both about the wedding industry cause I got started modeling wedding dresses and going to bridal fashion week and things like that. So I was still within the wedding industry. When you’re young, a lot of these designers would let me stay at their house, you know, with their families and I’d get to know, a lot about the business and the behind the scenes. I just became completely obsessed with the industry and then of course as years went by I’m going to date myself a little bit, but the internet started to become a little bit more powerful and social media came out. I really became obsessed with how businesses made it through that transition. I remember being one of the very first Facebook users.

So what are you doing? Where did that lead you and what are you doing now?

About seven years ago, I partnered up with these two incredible entrepreneurs. One is present. We’re business partners. I met Charles and Mike years ago through my mom’s bridal shop again. We sat down and they started sharing this vision that they had for the wedding industry. It revolved around the community and telling people’s stories and really just creating a different experience for businesses to get their name out there and to really connect with people and build quality relationships while still using social media. It was a perfect fit for me. I mean, growing up in a bridal shop and knowing how hard it was to run ads and magazines and we would do the bridal shows and the industry was evolving quickly and I wanted nothing more to be a part of this and to be on the cusp of something really big and different. That was in 2012 when, when I left everything. I was modeling full time.I think I had like four other jobs, you know, Jack of all trades, master of none. That’s gotta be, I think the best piece of advice that we can give people listening right now is even if you are absolutely good at like three or four things, just pick one. It took me what, almost two years to fully quit modeling when I was building Forever Bride. I couldn’t let go of that chapter of my life. And it wasn’t until I retired. I remember going into the agency and we’d joke that you’re hanging up the strapless bra cause that’s like a whole part of the modeling world. It wasn’t until that point that I started taking myself a little bit more serious that my customers started taking me more serious and it just, it kind of put that fire on my butt. This is it. This is my one thing. I just dove deeper and it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.

You were doing this digital thing for long time with Forever Bride. How did you come up with this event? 

When we started building Forever Bride it was digital,It’s social media, it’s smaller networking events, really community focused. When we were putting together the early vision of the company, wedding fairs or wedding expos were not a part of it. And in fact, at one point I vowed that we would never do wedding shows ever.

Why?

Well, I grew up going to these things. They were, they were at the convention center in the middle of winter. I’m the daughter of the owner, so I’m in charge of schlepping all these dresses at 4:00 AM through the snow and these parking garages. It was a ton of work. And then we’d set up, we’d be there, talked to hundreds of people, not really much traction would come from it and then you pack everything back. It was exhausting. It was a ton of money. It was a ton of work. Think of collecting emails. I mean back in the 90s you don’t collect emails. Right. You know, it’s more handing out brochures and business cards and hoping that they come back or giving your phone number saying, would you like to schedule an appointment? They are walking around that day, they’re getting ideas. They’re talking to people. They don’t have time to open their date book. They don’t have iPhones to open their date book and schedule an appointment or Oh yeah, we’ll totally come in maybe sometime. 

Years into building this and we did smaller networking events for our clients and it started out just as these little happy hours and they turn into these beautiful events with some food and some cocktails and you know, photo booths, things like that. And our vendors, my clients started coming to me saying, Hey, when are you guys going to do an expo? I said, Oh, that’s so sweet, but we’re not, that’s not my style. It’s, I don’t really think it’s your style. No, no, no, no, no. Not like, not like one of those, but like a Forever Bride expo. I’m going. Okay. So then if the seed was planted and through social media, our brides, we have this, this loyal following, we had brides messaging us through social media saying, Hey, do you guys ever do a wedding expo? No, that’s so sweet. We have a website you can sign up and when you have two different groups of clients asking you the same thing, you have to step back and go, okay, well there’s gotta be something to this. And I knew that if we were going to do a show of this size there’s a couple other shows here in the twin cities that are very big and they do a great job. Very well established, great reputation at the time we didn’t know if there’s room for another show. 

There’s a lot going on in the whole expo world. If I did it, I wanted to make sure that this is going to be really profitable for my clients because not only am I putting in a lot of time and money, but I’m going to expect them to put in their money as well. So I started doing some research and we started surveying our customers. Hey, if you were to go to a wedding fair, what kind of things would you want to do? What are some things that you like about the shows in town? What are some things you don’t like? There’s no limit to the amount of information that you should be gathering when doing something new and different. Then sometimes you have to step back and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Like if I was to get married again and I’m going to get my butt off the couch on a Sunday afternoon and drive somewhere and get all my girls, what are my expectations? It wasn’t I’m going downtown and it wasn’t being surrounded with thousands of people in a very like state fair like atmosphere. I love popups like local popups where you’re meeting these local artists and you’re talking to small businesses and you’re shopping and maybe trying some great food. 

The idea of the farmer’s market is how we explain it to new people that we’re working with. It came from, I went to the farmer’s market with my husband and my kids. A couple weeks before the idea came and we were at the Minneapolis farmer’s market walking around and my little girl is just the cutest tiniest thing you’ve ever seen. And she was looking at these flowers and you know, we look but don’t touch. And we had walked away the florist, came running back and had this giant sunflowers big as her head on this huge long STEM and didn’t speak English but handed it to her like, you know, you keep it, keep it, her face just lit up and I’m like, are you sure? She goes, yes, yes, yes.Well now guess who we go back to buy our flowers every time. It was such a simple gesture and it meant so much and she actually grew those sunflowers. It was, it was just such a personal thing.

Tell us more about how do you design an event from the ground up that that is inspired by these ideas you had. How do you design a show like that?

The very first thing is numbers the entire show has to be about numbers. I don’t care how beautiful the dream and the vision is in my head, it comes down to figuring out all the small details, financially figuring out, the venues, a huge part, but, but literally it comes down to numbers. If we’re going to do this many booths, how much revenue do we need to produce? You know, your first couple of shows probably aren’t going to be hugely profitable at first, but what is the longterm goal? It literally was just a ton of math and numbers. Run the numbers and then basically you have to sell like hell There’s no substitute for selling. You have to sell the idea and the vision and you’ve got to get a lot of people on your side. 

And what was your strategy for doing that different than the other people that you talk about having in town and how you wanted to be able to differentiate yourself and then hitting the ground running, selling. , how did that work for you?

So we were lucky enough to already have really great businesses that we have built a relationship with. So for me to be able to come to them and say, Hey, I’ve got this vision. I know it’s a little crazy, but here’s our plan, and I wanted to make sure that they felt very secure in my plan. I wanted to make sure I had everything all presented where it wasn’t me going, well I’ve got this idea and we’ll try it and we’ll see. No. This is how we’re going to execute it. This is the results you are going to see. And I’m going to hold your hand every step of the way. Cause a lot of these businesses maybe haven’t done a fair in the past. Over-communicating, making sure that they felt comfortable of what was expected out of them. It just came down to trust finding people that really trusted in me. Over promise, over deliver. I mean I went above and beyond to make sure that every single vendor that was there felt taken care of. Of course you got to promote the thing. What’s the point of having a beautiful event and all your clients, they’re ready to show off their stuff if nobody shows up. 

I think it’d be interesting to get more in your head about like how do you find partners that are willing to help you pull this off from the venue to the different sponsors who kind of do different activities and things. So how do you, how do you figure that all out? 

A lot of the people that we work with, relationships and their reputation and just having a brand in the community is really important to them. So businesses that only care about awards or we did so and so celebrities wedding and those types of recognition, they might not be a great fit for something like this. I really wanted to work with businesses that truly care about the customer, that really love what they do and get excited about it because that type of energy and passion is going to translate into a really great expo because when you’ve got brides walking around, they want to talk to people that are excited about their brand. They don’t want to talk to someone who was hired to hand out brochures all day long. Really sitting down and meeting with people and finding the right customers that want that personal connection. I will give you one piece of advice for our marketing strategy. I think this applies to any industry. When you’re having an event of this size, there’s a lot going on and it’s really easy to go down the rabbit hole with your advertising we’re going to have this and this and this and this is going to be there. And it can be very overwhelming to the person who’s deciding if they want to come or not. 

I think the most powerful thing that we have done is focused on a couple of specifics and leave the rest of the imagination. For example, we do a make your own floral crowns station. It sounds so silly and so simple and yet this, this little idea that we had from the very first show is now one of the main reasons, according to our surveys that we send our brides, is one of the main reasons people come to this. Do you come to meet vendors or to make a floral crown? Oh, I come to make the floral crown. And then they just happened to book their photographer, their venue, their caterer. We’re incorporating a couple of new pieces into the show just to keep the experience there. You have to create experiences for your customers to keep them engaged, to keep them excited, to differentiate your show from something else. And then you have the ability to use social media. Cause if they’re taking pictures and they’re posting things about your brand and they’re using your hashtag, they’re doing the advertising for you. And that’s usually why we do two shows back to back because then there’s all this hype, there’s all this excitement. We ride that wave of social media that the brides created for us into our next show.

One of the things that I’ve learned that’s really important is it’s not about me. It’s not about my brand. It’s not about, you know, what I can do or how great I am or what awards I’ve won. I want to make sure that it’s all about my vendors and that it’s all about the bride. I want to make sure that, that the person who bought the ticket and drove out on a Sunday afternoon is feeling like a celebrity. I want her to feel special. I want her to know that all of this is for her. And if she feels special and she feels like this is just a beautiful experience that’s not only there to help her plan her wedding, but I want to create an experience that’s really fun and memorable for the people that she brought with.

How do you help consult your clients on what’s going to help them stand out to the bride? 

We send out so many emails here’s great articles about this and here’s ideas for this we try to hold their hand as much as possible and there’s always one person that shows up with a table and a chair. Do you know that I actually don’t allow chairs at my event? People go to rent their all ala cart items like linens and tables and things like that, I don’t allow chairs. If you want to bring your own, that’s fine. There’s so much psychology that goes into these things. Standing with your arms crossed and then you wonder why nobody came to you and people should not have to come to your booth. I send articles even about the psychology of like what to dress, you know, how to dress and what to expect, you know, and telling people too, you should make sure that your booth speaks for itself because no one is going to come up to you and go with, so what do you do? You should make sure that the bride goes, Oh, that’s a florist. 

What tips do you have for people that have booths at expos? 

Besides wearing comfortable shoes and having a pocket full of breath mints? I’d say one of the best pieces of advice, get there as early as possible because the networking opportunities are huge. Plus you don’t want to look like that business that’s not prepared because you’re running in last minute. Even though your customers aren’t seeing you scrambling, all the other businesses are. And it makes you look bad. So A, get there early. B, use that opportunity to network because when the show is over, everyone’s too tired. They want to go home, they want to go home. They don’t want you to coming over and going, so what do you do? No, get there early and look amazing. I don’t know what is wrong with some people, go get your nails done. Whether you like it or not, people judge and they judge instantly, not only about you but about your brand. 

Any final thoughts for people in the events industry that you want to leave with?

You are what you eat. You are a 100% representation of the books that you listened to, the people that you surround yourself with. The people that you spend time with, are you spending time with a bunch of complainer’s? You know, be aware of what you’re listening to. Be aware of you know the places that you’re going to, people that you’re associating with, even the businesses that you’re associating with. You know, and if you want to get somewhere in life, if you want to put yourself in your business in a certain arena, put your butt in that arena.

Cause: weliftup.org

Superpower: Making people feel special

Pet Peeves: The term girl boss, calling yourself an entrepreneur without being able to spell it.

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