Build an Internal Event Team – EventIcons Episode 129

(electronic music) – [Announcer] It’s Wednesday
at five p.m. Eastern, so you know what that means. It’s time for another
episode of #EventIcons presented by Endless Events. The show where you get to ask the icons of the events industry anything. Use the question panel on the webinar to submit your questions,
or you can hop on Twitter. Submit your questions with #EventIcons. We’ll be answering your questions live during the entire show. Before we get started, the more people we have watching, the better
conversation we can have. So please help share. #EventIcons on Twitter and Facebook. Just tell your friends to watch at Now without any further
delay, this is #EventIcons. (electronic music) – And we are live with EventIcons. Welcome to EventIcons
where you get to chat with the icons of the event industry. Hello, I am Tahira. – And I’m Brandt. – Hello Brandt. Today we’re gonna be
talking about how to build an internal event team. And we just wanna remind you guys that you can ask questions in the question and answer box or in the chat stream, and we’re gonna pass them all on. So Brandt, tell us who
else we have here today. – That’s right. So for everybody that’s
just joining us today, we’ve got a totally new
platform that’s coming into play where we’ve got an embedded chat on the Endless page. We’re trying all kinds of new things. But today, we are gonna be talking about building that internal events team, and we’re gonna be talking with Sej Pandya who has over 10 years of experience as an event marketer
applying a performance marketing mentality to creating events efficiently and strategically. She has achievement in
both event execution and brand enhancement and is
highly adaptive to change. Don’t look for a playbook
because she writes it which often means assuming dual roles, creating new events, and building relationships from scratch. She has had tenure in large companies and been a key contributor
in managing complex events. Welcome Sej. – Thank you so much. I’m super excited to be joining you guys. – Well it’s perfect that you are actually adaptable to change because today we changed everything. – Yeah, yeah. So we’re trying out a
new platform for chat. We wanted to make it more open and more easily accessible for anyone who wanted no matter what
platform they were watching on whether it was Facebook or
joining us live on Zoom. So we wanted to make something
that was platform agnostic, so you could still join us in the chat. So we’re actually using a
new service called Chatroll, and if you go to, you’re gonna be able to see the chat there and join us and ask your questions as we go along. – Well I’m gonna ask the first question if that’s okay?
– Go for it. – All right, so Sej, what go
you into the events industry? – I have to say it started
back in college for me. I knew I wanted to do marketing. It seemed to be the only major that was of interest to me. So I actually started working at a bar out in college, and I
started managing the bar and doing all the events
there and bartending as well. And so that kinda led to me trying to find something more in the events world. And unfortunately when I graduated, couldn’t find a gig that actually paid. And so my dad was like, “Well
you’ve got school loans, “so here you go. “You’re actually gonna get
pushed right into banking,” and do investment banking like he was. And so I ended up there, and
then shortly after a few years of doing investment banking,
my passion just wasn’t there. And so I you know luckily
for me I had great bosses that were like you belong in marketing. And so I tried to do promotions
for clubs in New York. Just to get some sort of experience. And then from there, I ended up getting a contracting role at
JP Morgan to do events. And that was kinda like
the perfect shoo-in for me. And from there, I’ve just been taking off. It’s been great. – And so we know that if
you weren’t in the events industry, you wouldn’t be
doing investment banking. So what else might interest you? – I’d probably do cooking. – Oh. – I love to cook. I don’t have time to cook. I wish I had more time. Recently, a couple years
ago, my brother and I actually took a fine cooking class at the Institute of Culinary
Education in New York, and it was a week long program. It was so much fun. You know we learned all
these different techniques and knife skills, and all the
herbs, and the fresh herbs, and what goes together. So I enjoy cooking. I just wish I had more time. If I could, I’d probably become a chef. – Oh, see that would be amazing. So that also requires you to be adaptable. So how important is being adaptable in today’s corporate environment? Sort of the big question. – To me, it’s huge. I mean I think that it’s a dead giveaway. I mean you can’t be in banking
or in the corporate world without being adaptable to change. I mean the market is changing constantly. You know and events are usually the first to get hit when that market changes. So it’s you know being able to function and move forward when the
budget gets cut in half and how that affects the
event, and what you have to do to move forward. So I think you know with
that, it’s usually anytime there’s change at a bank,
I feel like the marketing department gets hit the most with that. – Well, and it’s certainly
not like your budget gets cut in half along
with the expectations. – Exactly. (Sej laughing) Exactly. I mean they want everything top notch, but then they wanna pay half the price. So you know it’s always a struggle, but I think it’s you know to be able to adapt to that is huge. It’s very important in any corporate world whether it be a bank or anything. – So I mean when it comes to aptitude, is that something that you’re looking for when you’re starting to
put your teams together? – Absolutely. I think you know you’re always looking for a certain skillset in events. I think, for me, it’s really
just being detail oriented and just crossing your
T’s and dotting your I’s. You know so I don’t think you have to have like a certain software
skillset, or you need to be proficient in Word or Excel
or anything like that. I just think you know being able to be more detailed and honing
in on all those little details that you need for
logistics and for events to me is very important. Everything else, you can
build, and it can come to you. – So and then that actually
kinda leads into what my next question was gonna be which is is it more about attitude versus aptitude? It sounds like you’re leaning
more towards attitude. – Absolutely. – Than havin’ the skills. – Absolutely. I think skills is
something you can build on. Attitude, you can’t. You know there’s certain people that have the go-getter attitude which
is what you really need in this kind of industry
especially in the banking world and just in corporate events in general. Like you have to be able
to go above and beyond. You have to be able to
wear your fancy suit and still get down on the floor to plug in the printer or batch printer
or like set up a banner and still be able to
run around and make sure that your executives to
the attendees are having the best experience. So to me, it’s not really your skillset because yeah you can be detailed, and yeah you can make sure you get all
your logistics down to the T, but it’s how do you handle
that when you’re onsite, and what do you do? – It really is an attitude
of service, isn’t it? – Absolutely. – And how do you handle that? And so I think one of the
other things of course that happens when you’re
onsite specifically, again, it comes back to that sort of being adaptable and having to
you know make changes on the fly. Now a lot of people are scared of change, but you don’t seem to be. So why is that? – I’ve been through a lot of change. (ladies laughing) Personally, professionally,
I think I changed probably my major in
college like four times ’cause I just wasn’t sure what I wanted. And then even with my
career, you know I went from investment banking
thinking that was it, and I was gonna excel in
that, to going into events and then trying out and
maybe PR would be that side. So to me, it was just
trying to figure things out, and with that came a lot of change. You know I’ve stayed at a lot of companies for a long period of
time, but then there were some companies that I stayed
at for short a period of time. So depending on what it was,
and with that obviously came change of environment,
change of leadership, change of teams. And plus with the market,
the way that went, even within my teams that I was in, there was constant change. When the market crashed,
we were in the middle of a huge event. And I’ll never forget
like after that year, it was like oh guess what no more events. Like we’re only doing two events a year instead of the 20. So it was you know just
learning to go with it and going with the fly of things instead of sitting there and dwelling on the past kind of thing, you know? Like move forward, so gotta keep goin’. – I was just gonna say with that in mind, my question is then you
know if it seems like, and it certainly seems
this way over the course of the last 20 years, there’ve been less and less of that I’m gonna stick around with this company for 20
years, 30 years, 40 years. So when we start talking
about building a team, how do you do that if
there’s more and more of this pressure for people
kind of moving on from one thing to another both intentionally
and unintentionally for lack of a better term,
involuntarily, shall we say? – Yes, exactly. And you know I think that is a struggle. That’s always gonna be a struggle. It’s finding the right
people that wanna stay, and I think that comes
down to your team morale. I think that’s how you build your team based on the people
that you’re bringing in, and then how you’re moving it forward. So I think you know when you’re developing your team the right
way, you’re giving them the right professional
guidance that they need, you’re empowering them to be leaders and not just be order takers. I think that drives
people to stay somewhere. I know for me, I’ve
stayed at the companies that I’ve stayed at for
multiple years because of that, because of the good
management that I’ve had, the good leaders that were in my business, and then the team around me. I mean I think that’s very important. So if the energy’s there, and you have the right folks in place
that can help guide you, I think that makes like a huge difference in why people will stay versus would have that reason to look or
even get approached. – Well I think you know when you have great employees, they’re
always gonna get approached. – Absolutely. – But then it’s about am I
giving them what they need in the place that they’re in, right? – Exactly.
– And how does that work? Which is really important. So how do you help get
others past their fear of breaking out of their comfort zone? So you know when they’re
in a new workplace, a new environment, not
quite sure what to do, what are some tools? – So I’m a big component on listening. So I listen to how they are. I see how they work. I listen to them when they’re talking. I try to find something
in common with them. And so for me, it’s just
you know finding ways to connect with them, and then from there, I’m able to kind of
give them little nudges. I know with my team it’s always been I put it back on their plate. So when they come to me about something they’re unsure of, and
I’m like their soundboard. I’m like well what do you think? Or how would you approach this? Or What would you do to move forward? And then I kinda always give that not so gentle but gentle push to be like you know what go for it. Why don’t you present
this to our leadership, or you present this in the next meeting and see what happens? And you know I’ll always try to talk them off the ledge,
and I’m there for them. But I’m a big component
on pushing a little bit. I feel like people need that to get to the next level. – I think that what you just
said is really important because what happens so often is you get somebody who’s in your
position who then feels that they need to be the person who gets credit for every idea and doesn’t let other people present, and doesn’t want anybody else to know that somebody else had a good idea. Which is I’m definitely more like you where it’s we are in this
collectively and collaboratively, and there’s lots of
good ideas to be shared and where they come from doesn’t matter. – Absolutely, and I
always say to my children, it’s so funny ’cause then
I say it to me teams too. I’m always like teamwork
makes the dream work. (Tahira laughing) Even my daughters, they have it down pact, and they even say it all
the time ’cause it’s true. You know the event never
happens by one person. Nothing ever happens with just one person. So to me, it’s not about the credit. For me, it’s about
making my team look good because then they make me look good, which then makes everything
look good, right? – Absolutely, and you
know if you go onsite, and your people aren’t
really in that mind frame of I’m happy to be here, really nothing’s gonna go well. – Exactly, exactly. – It’s important to set that stage. Brandt? – I was gonna say that’s the kinda thing that like it would be easier to determine once you’re down the way. Is there any way as you’re looking to hire that person while you’re
still building the team to kind of filter for
that mentality, right, to kind of tell as early on
in the process as possible that this is gonna be the kind of person who’s gonna be able to you
know work with the team and rising tide lifts all
boats, and all the metaphors that we wanna use? – Absolutely, I think for
me it’s definitely hard. I’ve hit or missed with people on my team. I’m not gonna lie. I mean you know people can do really well in the interview process,
and you think they’re great, and then a little bit of time goes on, and then you’re like wait a second. What just happened? Like there’s a complete 180, and that’s definitely happened to me. But I’m also like big
on giving people benefit of the doubt, so you know
I’m like that strike one, strike two, strike three type of person. So after that, I think you
know you can talk to them. You can figure it out. But for me, the interview
process, it’s their energy level. You can tell when a
person’s very passionate about talking about something
versus when their faking it. And I don’t know if everyone can or maybe that’s just with me, I for
one know I can definitely see it when someone’s faking
it through an interview. ‘Cause you can tell
when their well versed, and they’ve memorized
exactly what they’re saying versus when they’re very
natural, and you know they’re talking like a normal
person and not like reading off a script. So to me I feel like that’s
kind of like a big thing. So it’s really just
like that energy level, that passion that comes through on the interview process. In person is obviously way better. Over the phone, I’ve
gotten duped so many times. And then you meet the
person, you know in person and then you get a different
vibe, and you go from there. – And ultimately, when
you’re building a team, it really is about how
can you connect in person. – Exactly. – And I think that is
definitely an important part of the process whether it’s
somebody that you’re hiring on a permanent basis
or somebody that you’re just bringing into for a shorter term. So what we’re talking
about today of course is how do you build
and internal event team that’s gonna be around
for the longer haul. So you wanna make sure
that you can have that kind of goin’ on. – Absolutely. – Yeah, so that you know that someone’s gonna have your back
basically when you’re onsite because things are gonna happen. You’re gonna need them to step up. – Absolutely. – So let’s talk a little bit
more about events now, Brandt. – No yeah, I’m sorry. There was an interesting comment
came in via Facebook page that was saying the most important piece of equipment for events was
apparently an air fryer. (Sej laughing) I just you know I got a
little sucked in by that. So I was trying to decide. How exactly is, okay, all
right, we’ll go with it. So thanks for dropping your comments there on the Facebook feed. Also a reminder, we are
starting a new platform. We’re experimenting with Chatroll. So if you want to drop
your comments or questions there in the chat and
talk amongst yourselves there too which is really convenient about that particular platform. Please go ahead and do so there. You know back one of the
questions that I have is regarding you know a lot of our events use icebreakers as a way
of kind of like getting to know you in a really
short amount of time. You know so when you’re
building these kinds or relationships from scratch,
what is your approach? I mean what are some tips for people that are maybe not
comfortable with that getting to know you phase and getting
it done really quickly and so we’re all ready to go. – I will say I’m not a fan of icebreakers. (Brandt and Sej laughing) I think they’re just so, it’s very putting people on the spot. And for some people who don’t like it, they get really uncomfortable,
and they like freeze on the spot, and that’s
like the last thing you wanna do. I like small settings. So I think you know you
get to know somebody when you’re in like a smaller setting when it’s like either a meeting, or you do one on one chats with folks, or you set up meet and greets. Like I know when I’ve put together teams, big things for me were like here’s a list of people that I think
you need to talk to. And you know do it on your own time, set it up on your own
time, but do it, you know? And it’s like I don’t think you need to set up 15, like it
could be like a 15 minute, 10 minute chat with these people whether it be on the phone or in person, but you get an idea. And then I always tell my team, it’s like figure out your elevator pitch. You know like what are the top few things that you wanna make sure
that the other person knows about you. You know whether that be your skills, your strengths, maybe something
interesting about you, or maybe you’re a big foodie. Whatever is it, there’s always something that can find some sort of connection. So to me it’s just you
know, again figuring out and working one on one
to find that connection. – Maybe you’re really into air fryers. – Or air fryers. Listen I love french fries,
so I’m totally all about it. (Sej laughing) – How does it work? I do not understand
this air fryer concept. Now I need to know. Now that it’s come up, I need to know. Can I take it onsite and make french fries without having a boiling pot of oil in the staff office? – Hopefully whoever asked that question will give us that answer. – That would be amazing. – We do have another question
coming in from the audience, and that is what happens
when an internal events team all of a sudden gets asked to produce an external facing event
such as a brand activation? You think they need separate
skills, inbound sales versus outbound sales? Do they need to be separate? That kind of thing. – I think the skillset stays the same. I mean it really comes
down to are you willing to go the extra mile to
figure out what it is that you need to do to get that done. I mean internal, external,
yes, are very different, and I’ve done both. Both sides of it, and
they are when it comes down to it very different
from the experience, the brand activations. But to me, it’s you know
essentially the bottom foundation is the same. But it’s just going a little bit above and understanding your
audience, understanding your goal, and then trying
to get to that goal. So it’s really just knowing those details that can help you get to that point. But to me, I think it’s all pretty much the foundation of itself is the same. I hope that answered it. – If not, please let us know in the chat. Just to push a little bit
more on the icebreaker thing. I know you said you’re
not a fan, and you like the small group thing. But just to push a little bit more. How do you get people to
start to get past that, get to know each other
faster ’cause a lot of times we’re having to put these
things together pretty quick? Unless you’re building
obviously a more permanent team, sometimes you have to
pull somebody from here, and somebody from here,
and somebody from there. So I mean do you have an techniques other than trying to
get into a small group to help people come out of
their shells a little bit? – I like going out to lunch or dinner. I will say that’s where– – Food ones.
– Fair enough. – And it’s super easy. Like you go out to a
nice lunch, you sit down, you’re sitting at a table, everyone has like a glass of wine, or you’re at dinner, you have a glass of
wine or whatever it is. And I feel like people
are out of that corporate or that building and office environment, and they open up a little bit more. And that’s an easy way for people to get to know each other. It’s social, it’s an activity. It could be even if you don’t wanna do lunch or dinner, you do like some sort of activity like a scavenger hunt. I mean those are awesome. It’s a great way to know people. But you know when you’re short for time, and you’ve gotta get the
team going and rolling, I say lunch or dinner is the quickest way to make that happen. – And if you were going out with a team, what would be sort of your ideal size? – Like five to six I think. – It’s so interesting that you say that ’cause I was just thinking
about you know we’ll quite often do that. We’ll go out, and it’s
usually like you know let’s say four to six people quite often if you’re doing that. But when we’ve set up our
events, we always have these large tables of
eight, or 10, or 12 people where it’s actually entirely impossible to talk across that. And so you know here we
create you know these internal events, and we have
these galas, and we have you know any kind of event. You have a gala dinner, you have awards, you have just a networking dinner really the purpose is
sometimes just feeding people or entertaining
them, but we’re not really giving them that opportunity
to really network and connect in that same meaningful way. It’s interesting. – Yeah, and it’s funny ’cause
to me sit down dinners, I’m kind of especially for
events like I’m not a pro sit down dinner. I think the heavy receptions
with the pasta stations give more opportunity
for people to network. And yeah I mean, yes,
they’re drinking more, but at the end of the
day, they’re still having conversation with more than just the two, three people around them. And that gives it you know more room for like networking and people getting to know each other better and faster. ‘Cause when you’re sitting down at dinner like even with a team
setting, if your team is too large, and you’re sitting down at dinner, you’re really talking to the person across
from you or next to you, and that’s like a triangle, right? So it’s like you aren’t
really getting to know the whole team. – Yeah. – We’re kind of wandering
into event design, but that’s okay, right? This show is about whatever
we want it to be about. But why do you think it is that is? Why do you guys think, I mean I think it’s a great point, Tahira. I mean why do you think
it is that we still have these tables of eight to 10, and then expect people
to have somehow networked over the course of that? And then I guess the followup is how do we break out of
that and actually do a better job about that? – I think to me it’s old school mentality. – It’s locked in. This is what we’ve always done. – Yeah, yeah, and I know
like at least from my end, I’ve come from that where
some of the positions and events that I’ve done for those folks it’s been like no, we’ve
always done a sit down dinner. We need to do the seating arrangement. We need to do this. And I think it depends on the setting. I mean when you’re entertaining
really high end clients or CEO type level client,
yeah the expectation is like a formal sit down dinner. And with people who
know each other, I think that makes sense, or
clients that have been a part of the company
for like years and years, and they’re just used
to this group of people. That’s totally okay. But I think for me, again,
when I go into an event, and I always ask for the objective. Like what is your objective? And when they say, “Hey, you
know what it’s networking. “I want people to get to know each other. “I want people to network.” Well then the first thing I say
well guess what we’re doing? We’re removing a formal dinner. Like sit down dinner, not happening. We’re gonna keep this
casual, and whether that be buffets, open seating, high top tables, whatever it is, let’s keep it networking. Because the concern is
always like no one’s gonna get like full, and they’re not gonna eat like a proper meal. Everyone will eat if you
give them enough food. You present enough food
which let’s be real in events I think we
over compensate on food. But you know I mean they’re
fed, and they’re happy. – And also they’re
adults, so if they can’t figure out how to go and feed themselves, you know at what point is
it (electronic stuttering) responsibility, we get the
evaluation back that says oh there wasn’t enough food. Well there was. You know if you didn’t choose
to have it at that time, then you know. It’s different if you’re
serving five canapes. Then that’s a fair comment,
but yeah when there’s you know buffet stations
everywhere and opportunities for different types of
seating arrangements where people can have that. Yeah, there’s definitely a point. And I think the other
thing with the tables too, it’s also just venue inventory, right? I mean that’s what people have. You know it’s how do we maximize capacity? Well if we’re maximizing
capacity just to have people sit down who, again, can’t really talk to other people,
you know I think it’ll probably take about 30 years for us to make that shift where there’s actually you know smaller tables available, or different, more opportunities
for different things. But I think it’ll get there. Now one of the things that we talked about at the very beginning of your introduction is this idea of building
events from scratch. So what kind of events
are we talking about? – So a few that I’ve put together, and some of them were repeat events. But there’s a couple
that I’ve done recently at my prior role where
it was you know we want to entertain our top
clients, what can we do? And so it was like well what’s your goal? Again, you know like
what’s your objective? Where do you wanna get at?
What’s your end goal with this? Like do you want to entertain them? Do you want to educate them? And it’s a little bit
of both, okay, great. We can make it work. So to me, it’s like I
did a multi day event, and it was an off-site. So with their top clients, and we went to a ski resort, and it was perfect. It was you know we selected the clients based on knowing that they were skiers and that they would love to go to Vail. Like who wouldn’t like to go to Vail? And from there, it was
like how do we build in an education component too? And how do we educate them on the products and what we offer? So it was a mix of both. So they had the opportunity
to network with dinners, receptions, but then they also had the opportunity to learn. So it wasn’t so much that they were sitting in a conference room all day. So we kinda broke it up. So it’s like hey you know
what let’s during breakfast let’s do a session. Let’s do like maybe a session after that, and maybe end at lunch,
and then have activities happening the rest of the day. And then keeping it
very casual on that like the next morning where it’s like okay maybe we do another
session during breakfast. And then we just end it
after that or continue with the activities. So I think it’s just finding ways to mix and match what works. So again, going back to like
what are the objectives? So if we’re looking at
they wanna do education, they wanna do networking. Well then you’ve kinda of gotta find ways to mix them both. So to me, it’s always like I wouldn’t want someone to sit in a
conference room all day ’cause I know that’s like boring. People lose interest. People lose their
attention spans in a matter of like 20 minutes. So it’s just finding that
balance between the two and finding ways to not just network with drinking and eating but also finding activities that they can do that would you know help them network and get to know each other a little bit better, so whether the be golf,
skiing, or whatever. – It’s really that power of play. So the opportunity that
when we put ourselves into a different environment
or put our guests into a different environment, you do have a different conversation. – Yes, absolutely. – And particularly, when you’re talking about your sort of high worth clients, I mean that’s where you want to be able to get to know them a little bit better and in a space that
they’re comfortable in. – Yep. – Good tip coming in from Facebook from Roseann suggesting that in addition to having the buffets
and things like that, making sure that the foods are bite sized, so that we can shake hands safely. (Sej laughing) – I like that. – I think that’s a great point. I can’t have a bunch of heavy, oh let me put my pasta dish on top
of my, oh nice to meet you. – Well and also if you don’t have tables, then you really have to
have food that’s fork-able. You can’t stand up and have your plate float on air. (Tahira laughing) – I have to say that all these places. They need to, there’s those plates with the little drink holder things at least for the wine glasses. – Those are good.
– I think those are awesome. More places need to get that. – The other question that
came in from the chat is how can an internal events team enhance their town halls? – Technology. (Brandt laughing) – All right, like what? – So actually, I love technology. I think anything that
can make things easier and drive people to engage
more, and I feel like technology is the only way to do that. So there’s a few ways that
I’ve done that in the past. I’ve used apps that enhance
networking through the apps. So there was able to chat with other folks that were in the room. You can contact them that way. And then we had, I tried this one thing which ended up working pretty well. They were handheld devices that actually turned into microphones. So it wasn’t like just
hey you know what we’re gonna run around with
mic runners everywhere, and let me try to
squeeze through 50 people to get you the microphone, and then you forget your question. It was like hey just press
the button, and there you go. Like once your light goes
on, then you can speak to it or ask the question. So I think technology makes
it a little bit different. Another aspect of it is
we did like a Twitter wall type of thing. It was called Live Poll, and people were able to text their questions in and text in comments. And that was pretty cool
’cause then some of our leaders were able to look on the screens and say, you know I mean we had comments like oh your shoes are awesome. Or I really like your shirt which was you know kind of add a
little humor to the room, but at the same time, a lot of folks who don’t like to raise
their hand for questions were able to do that as well. So for me, I think you know technology adding in a little bit
more networking ways for people ’cause I think
for town halls especially you know a lot of these people
never really get together. So it’s how do you get that
group of 200, 300, 400 people to kind of get to know each
other a little bit better because they’re always
behind their screens, or behind the computers, or on the phones. It’s like we’ll add a
networking component to it whether that be the lunch prior to starting the town hall or a reception after the town hall. And I’ve done it both ways, and I think both ways work really well. – When you’re talking
about technology too, I also like where you know you have the question apps where
people can actually upload the questions as well. So then when you can only
ask three or four questions in a certain timeframe, it’s nice to see which ones are gonna
actually give the most people the responses that they’re looking for. – Absolutely, and a great way
to capture that too, right? You have takeaways from your town hall. Like you get all those questions put in, and you don’t get to all of them which we know is always
the case for a town hall sizes that large. Like you’re able to take
that back and then answer back to your employees after the fact. And I think that’s huge
because then they feel like you know what my
question did get answered. – Depending on how big the group, you can do something like a catch box or something like that
where you’re throwing the microphone around. – I did do that once. I experienced that once. – I feel like there’s a story here. – There is a story. Someone threw the microphone, and it hit somebody in the head, and it just it was, yeah, we kinda canceled
that after the first one. – Yeah, you probably wouldn’t wanna do that at a sit down dinner either. – No, definitely not. – All that glassware. – Not a good idea. – Glassware, beach balls, glassware, things you can throw around,
generally a bad idea. So how else are you seeing brands really just evolving their events now? So we’ve talked about a
lot of things already. So you know from updating town halls to more emphasis on networking. How are they doing that? What’s working? – I think it’s really focusing
more on the experience as opposed to like the detailed logistics. You know I think for folks it’s like you know everyone’s
always so eager to get on making sure all the details are done, and everything’s done to the
T, and everything’s perfect. But then it’s like have you
ever taken that step back and been like okay so what is going to be the customer experience here? What’s the client gonna feel like as soon as they walk through the door like how is the registration
process gonna be versus when they find their table? Just simple things like that. It’s really what I’ve been seeing is that everyone seems to be
focused on the experience. And I think that is a huge thing. I think that’s the most important thing ’cause people aren’t
gonna walk away and say, “Oh my God, the florals,
they were so beautiful,” and like, “Oh the food was great.” I mean, yes, those are
very important things, but at the same time,
it’s like what do you want them to feel? And that to me I think is
what I’ve been noticing more and more across the board. It’s like how do I want my client to feel? Are they gonna walk away saying,
“Oh my God, so and so put “put on such an amazing event. “They were really thoughtful
with their content, “their speakers, just everything overall “was just so smooth, and I learned “and got a lot out of it,” type of thing. So I think that’s what
I’ve seen a lot more of. Everyone’s not asking the question of all right so what’s
our menu, and what are we gonna put on the tables, or
what’s the backdrop gonna be? But it’s more like okay what are our customers or clients gonna
feel when they leave? – So now we need to be
experts in contracting and risk management and
taxation and legalities of events, and we also need to understand all of the you know
what is our centerpiece, and how do we set up a room,
and what’s a room flow? And now we also need to
be experience experts. So how are over taxed marketing
and event professionals creating events now,
and let’s take it back to the people and those teams? – Well we work quadruple roles. (Sej laughing) I mean to be quite honest,
I mean I know for a fact like my team and I you know we do the job of, I don’t know, like
three or four people. We’re the ones making
sure that you know every other person that’s supposed to be playing a role in the event whether they be the communications person,
the digital person, the leadership folks, they all have a role as well, and it’s just making sure that they are on top of it. You know I mean they say
events is oh it’s easy. Anyone can do it. And it’s not at all. You know, and I think
for planners and teams, it’s really just showcasing it and letting other people know that
hey we’re not just here to like order centerpieces and get your food and beverage done, right? Like we’re making sure this entire project is done from start to finish
with every detail covered including the talking
points for the leadership and making sure your comms
team is on top of that, or making sure that
our website is perfect. You know and fortunately, I feel like in this role like you sign up for that. You sign up for it. You’re kind of in that hey if I’m going into events especially
for our corporate company, I’m gonna be playing the
role of three people. – And I would say not even
in honestly just a corporate company, I think any
agency, anybody that we know who’s an event professional
is really doing that. So aren’t we tired? – All the time. (Sej laughing) – I was gonna say it
occurs to me that the vast majority of good planners whether meeting or social or you know whatever have always been looking at the experience as a whole. You know I know it’s
the keyword that we’ve been using for the last
year in all of our articles and things, but you
know really experience, the idea that attendees might be looking at the experience as a whole as opposed to any one, individual part
really you know I think for the best folks have
been around for awhile. – Absolutely, and I agree 100% with that. I mean I think for me especially that has always been my end goal like what is the experience gonna be? But now I feel like you have more and more other outside parties within your company focused on that where before it was like what’s my talking points gonna be? Or what’s my presentation gonna look like? Oh, I need to make sure I have 50 slides. It’s like no, no, no, no, you don’t. Like you know you’ve gotta take it back. So I think from the events team side, yeah, I think the team, the events folks are always focused on what that experience is gonna be. But I think when you get
like the comms people, you get all the external parties that are playing a role or have a role in the event planning process, they’re
never focused on that. They’re just focused on
their one part of that event. And so then they lose that thought process of like what are they gonna feel like when they’re watching or
looking at like a 50 slide deck for like an hour, right? So it’s like am I gonna look
at like 50 million graphs that make no sense to me. So now I feel like they
focus more on the visual aspect, and so it’s like a whole team as opposed to just the events guys like screaming and shouting,
“Hey the experience “is gonna be like really
not good if you keep “putting all this down their throats, “you know and like
don’t give ’em a break.” – Well friend of the
show Hans Etman chimed in and said that another
way to perhaps measure it is paying attention to how you want them to be changed after your event. So I would think that
would be the same again whether it’s an internal
meeting, external meeting, public or private,
– Absolutely. – corporate, or just a party. You know you wanna know in what way have you changed your attendees. Another comment just folks
agreeing with you on Facebook that casual is a better
way for people to connect. Amaury from South Florida it looks like was agreeing with you on Facebook. – Great, thank you. – So we had a few recent shows about KPIs, key performance indicators. You know we just talked about the fact that you know everyone’s now looking for experiences which are of
course difficult to measure. So how are you clients really looking at measuring the success
of their events now? – For me, I mean I think for the companies I’ve worked at it’s been survey results. And you know it’s
unfortunate that we don’t always get the numbers that we want, but I think the folks that do wanna voice their opinions will do it regardless. And I think the handful
of folks that we do get, they are it for us. Like that is what drives the
event for the following year. Whether it be you know simple things like oh you guys should
think about doing something differently or adding this
type of topic into it. So I think our questions that we ask are very thought provoking, so it’s enough to get some sort of real feedback that we need to help
drive next year’s event. So for us, it comes down
to the survey results, obviously who attended
the event, so the numbers, whether we invited like 1,300 people and only like 200 showed up, well then we gotta rethink what we’re doing there. You know like I guess it just comes down to numbers and survey
results for us as that. And then of course for the sales team, it comes down to how
many deals did we end up closing from that event? And I know for me in the past
in some of my previous events that we’ve actually been able to close pretty big deals for the sales teams out of some of the events that we’ve done. So I think it’s like a
mix of a bunch of stuff, and I think however the
department or the company tracks it is very important. So that comes down
obviously to their customer system that they use. – And also then the event marketing team having an understanding
of what that system is. – Exactly. – You know what exactly
are you being measured on versus we had fun. So now I think that’s really interesting. I wanted to just go back to what you said about you know when you had sales teams who are closing great deals at events, and I think that that’s
sort of, you know that’s what everybody wants. That’s the dream. The ideal is that we host an event, and you get the million dollar,
$5 million, $10 million, $100 million deal out of the event. So what do you think are the factors that help lay the foundation
for that to happen? – Well I think that comes
down to the opportunities that they have networking. So you know you’re
throwing them in a big room and having like 500
people, and it’s super loud and dark and not really
conducive for talking or having conversation, that
kind of defeats the purpose. I mean at that point, I understand you’re just doing it to do it, to have an event because
you have to have one. I think that you know takes away from, again, the experience. So to me, it’s like
how do we add some sort of experience to it, or some sort of like not just networking
reception, but maybe we can do something different
like a scotch tasting or cigar roller or something to add to the environment, so
it’s you know that gives them some more engaging
topics to like talk over. So like whether that be okay we’re doing a scotch tasting, and
we’re all just standing around, and people are
talking and networking. And that causes a bunch of other different types of conversation. Then one thing can lead to another. So I think you know, again, it just comes back to like what are
you gonna throw in there? So for me, I know one event
that I did, it was great. We were in Boston. This was years ago, and I selected the Cheers bar which I mean for Boston that kind of suits the place
and the location perfectly. And a great way was to just add to that, I had lookalikes from the show that were sitting at the bar
as the clients walked in. And these lookalikes were amazing. And they were able to
get their pictures taken. They got merchandise credit. So it was just like one
of those like oh my God this was so cool type of event. And then you start talking about the show, and then the show leads to another thing. So it’s just trying to
find ways to get them to be talking, and then I
feel like the sales team, at that point, should do
their job kind of steer that conversation to
the direction they want. – How do you get people
to take that first step? So often when you’re dealing
with sales and marketing, they’re like you know I wanna
get X number of hot leads out of this event. And you’re like okay
well we’re gonna take ’em and do a cigar and scotch tasting. And they’re like, “Well
that sounds very expensive. “So how am I guaranteed to get “X number of hot leads out of that?” How do you kind of help
’em push past that fear of making it worth it? – Well to me, it’s inviting
the right people, right? Then I push that back on them. I can make the event be the
best event in the world, but you need to invite the right people that you know are gonna
come, or that you know that are prospects or clients and
know what they’re into as well. So like to me it’s like
learning your client that you’re inviting
and seeing what’s gonna come out of that. So I push back always with sales on that ’cause it’s one of those
things like you should know your audience better than
I know your audience. (Sej laughing) To me, like whatever I
can do to help with that, I’m always for it. And I know in the past I’ve
done like either VIP packets, or like briefing memos which has write-ups for all the clients and has
some information on them, fun facts, whatever it is we need to know so that they’re prepared, and
they have the information. But then, again, it has
to fall back on them to know that these are the
right clients that we want. These are the folks that
we want, and this is how I’m gonna get the leads based on that. – Yeah, and you know what the reality is is that you’re not gonna
close something at an event. It’s going to be one of the touchpoints that can probably have the most impact which is why I think
that the understanding of the power of face to
face events is so important and people understanding
that when they’re investing what might seem like an
exorbitant amount of money at any time, that it’s not. What it is is actually an investment that’s going to give you
the opportunity to take a phone call plus an
email plus a conversation, and now you’re going to put
them into an environment where they’re not forced to talk to you, but where they’re open to talking to you because you’ve created a space
where they’re comfortable. You’ve created a space
where the conversation can naturally flow, and
then it is up to them to take that and really
massage that opportunity and to grow it. And then to go back into their CRM system, their customer relationship
management system and track that, yes, this
happened with this event. And you know I think that
those are some of those metrics that everyone’s looking
for but also can be a little bit, let’s call
it lazy about you know going through the invitation list and then helping you
identify who should be there and making that extra
phone call to make sure that Joe’s gonna be there
and carrying it through. So you know we are but one
cog in the wheel I think. And so when you start looking at how do you build that team? You know having your team understand that our role is this, and this is how we interact with these other roles. – Absolutely, and I will add to that. I think one other thing, at
least for the events side of things, could be a
takeaway whether that be some item that they get
from the event itself or post event. So I know a couple things that have worked is having us either have like a picture that was taken with a celebrity or a picture that was taken with somebody or a signed jersey, whatever it may be. And then having the sales team take that personally to the
client and then starting a dialogue that way too. Which I feel like that’s
always another good touchpoint in a way to kind of get in with the client and making
sure that turns into a lead. – Absolutely, and I think
that giving them something that they can follow up with, so valuable. – Absolutely. – I’m just gonna bring it
back around a little bit to the internal team discussion. You know once you’ve created the team, and you’ve got it all taken care of, and you’ve got the
people you want in place, and you’ve put together the
greatest event of all time, how do you keep those people there? You know we touched on, at the beginning, you know we’re in a
different age where people move kind of from company to company with much more speed than they used to. You know is it recognition? Is it rewarding team members? You know how do you keep the team together and make them feel happy and rewarded? – To me, you know I know a lot of people say like incentives. People love to get money. I agree money’s always great like bonuses and all that fun stuff. But to me, it’s like, again, going back to like that whole empowerment. It’s making them feel empowered. That they were a part of something so big. I am not one to take credit. Like if I know that you know, for me, I never say I put on this amazing event. It’s always we. We did this, and like so
and so, this was her idea. It was so great, or this was his idea. Like we collaborated together and came up with this thought process. So to me it’s just constantly giving them some sort of
gratitude and thanking them for everything that they’re doing, and just kind of giving them
that positive reinforcement throughout the process
even when things get hairy, you know when things get really ugly ’cause we know that that happens naturally when you have all these folks in one room. And it gets like 24 hour,
48 hours within the event, you know nothing ever goes 100% smooth. But when you I think
as a leader of the team are calm and collective,
and you’re constantly showing your team that hey
you know what you’re doing a great job. Like don’t worry about it. We’ll figure this out. And it’s not just like an I and you thing, but it’s a constantly we thing. And I think that you know
when you’re always saying that to the team, makes
like a big improvement in just their overall attitude. – Well and it has to
be genuine and frequent not just when we’re done,
oh thanks that was great. No, no. – Yeah. – Yeah. – I mean to me it’s a
constant, ongoing thing. Like I think that’s one of the things that I have to say like
the teams that I have managed in the past, we’ve formed such great relationships because of that whether that be me sending
out motivational quotes like leading up to the
event, or me just being like you got this. Like you know don’t worry about a thing. Like I know you have this under control. When my teams would go
off-site without me there for smaller type events, I would send something nice to their
room whether that just be a bottle of wine or
chocolates or something that I know that they love. And I’d work with the
hotel to get that done. So it’s small things like that that I feel like can really change a
whole person’s like day. Like it could be a small
little token of appreciation. Like you know that they’re into pens. Okay so you got them a really nice pen. Or like they’re into a certain thing. You know it’s just showing
those little things. And it doesn’t really
have to break the bank. It could just be really little things. – Well and I think at the end of the day now that you know we’ve been doing this for a long time as we all
have, you know those people that we’ve worked with over the years, they’re still our friends. And you know exactly who
you’d work with again, and who you would potentially choose not to work with again. But it all comes down to those moments of you know that event really worked, but that event worked
because of the people that were on the team. And it’s really such a critical thing. And the reality is that people are gonna move on for different reasons
whether they’re personal or professional, and
whether it’s just time. So now can we tell your secret? – Absolutely. (ladies laughing) – Would’ve been awkward if you said no. (ladies laughing) So Sej, tell us what you’re gonna do now? – So I’ve officially left
the corporate banking world after 15 years to start out on my own to do marketing and events. It was something I’ve
wanted to do for years, and I’ve you know I’ve had
a lot of old colleagues, old managers that always said to me like, “You should do this. “This is definitely something
right up your alley. “You belong in your own world.” “Like you have that high energy. “You should do it.” And luckily for me, I mean I
was able to make that work. And of course, you know
it always comes down to making it work financially. But then at the same time, I had a lot of opportunities that kind of worked itself out and a little
bit of pushing on my end, but a little bit of also coming in on the other end, my network. To me, networking is huge. I’m big in the industry. I love being all over it. So any opportunity that I ever had to offer my consulting or offer guidance, I was always doing it,
and I was never charging. And then a lot of folks were like, “You need to think about
what you’re doing here, “and think about really stop giving out “free advice and stop
doing things for free. “Just think about starting
your own company.” And so it’s just been, for me, I’m like you know what I’ve been
wanting to do this. Let’s see if I can make it work. And I was able to. And so, yeah, I’m gonna be working with a couple startups, a roofing company, a couple of hairdressers. So it’s a good mix of
clientele that I have. – So stay tuned for episode 145, How to Build an External Events Team. – Exactly. (Tahira laughing) – Well I feel like you
know now it’s gonna be you’ll just be building
your own event team, and that’s pretty cool. So you can take all those lessons that you’ve you know been
honing for a long time and really create the space
that’s your own to create, and that’s awesome. Congratulations. – Thank you. – Absolutely, congratulations. And good luck with the endeavor. We did have one more Facebook comment that came in from Sid who talked about, it’s a pretty good question. It’ll be a good one to
kind of close this out. I’m gonna shorten this up a little bit. Basically it was a corporate event where they spent the whole
day working on diversity awareness and education
for the management teams, and then at the end of the
day, the CEO basically got up and said, “Okay everybody,
thanks for coming. “Back to business as usual.” Which in Sid’s opinion kind of blew the whole day of education. You know would it have been
better to have had the CEO scripted to avoid making that mistake, or maybe was there a
better way that somehow from a planning standpoint, we could’ve prevented that from happening? – Absolutely. I think that is, for me, I
know with our executives, I am big on putting
together talking points. And no, they don’t need
to go off the script and read exactly word for word, but I think you know
working in conjunction with the communications team, coming up with the messaging, coming up with, again, what do you want them to walk away from making sure there’s a
takeaway I think is huge. So it’s really just
pushing back a little bit. And you know some of the executives I know even in my past, like it’s been hard to get them to like
break out of their shell ’cause shockingly enough even some of them have a hard time speaking in public or not really big on wanting to do it, or never stick to their points. But for me, I think having some sort of talking points or briefing document for leadership to move
forward with is big. I mean to close an event after spending I don’t know how much money probably doing something like that. You know it’s definitely
not the right message you wanna have those folks walk away from. So I think you know working
with your comms team, or even if not, if you can’t even work with your comms team or chief of staff to the executives, whatever it may be, or even for the events
team, maybe it’s coming up with like here’s the
objectives of the event. Let’s make sure that we close out with something strong, you know? – Absolutely. So if you could just pick only one thing, one tip you have for event
planners, what would that be? – Let’s see always be ahead of the game. You know sometimes it’s
very hard to do that, but to me, it’s going a
little bit above and beyond of what’s being asked. You know they could say I wanna do this type of event, and
you could just do it. But it’s also like coming back and saying how ’bout something like
this, or giving some options. So to me, it’s never just
like doing what’s been asked. It’s going above that and actually asking questions back, and it’s not just being like that order taker
but being that person that adds some sort of value. So to me, it’s just always
going above and beyond. It’s like how are you
showcasing your value so that you’re not just an order taker, and you actually have a seat at the table because the next go
around your first time, you may just be an order
taker, but when they see that you’re adding the
value or you have input, and you have real good
input, next time around, you’re gonna be at that table making sure that you’re a part of
that agenda building. Or you’re a part of that
whole event as opposed to just logistics. – I think that’s really critical. So one of the things I
always talk about is that you know asking the beautiful question to someone that aren’t
just a simple yes or no like would you like some chicken? Yes. You know or how ’bout if
instead of having chicken, we talk about a whole new format. And I think one of the things that we get stuck with as event planners is that, we kind of do it to
ourselves, and you said that I think pretty much, but is that idea that we need to appear to be the expert, and so we don’t want to
ask too many questions because what if we’re not
appearing to be the experts if we ask them questions? And we need to get over that and ask those really great questions? – Absolutely. I mean I’ve had opportunities where it was like oh here’s the agenda.
This is what we wanna do. And I take a look at it,
and I’m like wait a second. So you’re gonna have these people sit for five hours no break, no nothing? We’re just not gonna like
let them stretch their legs? I mean it’s a simple
thing like that, right? And then it’s all of a
sudden like oh my God, we didn’t even think about that. Oh we gotta rework the entire agenda. The time’s all off, you know? – Or, so and so doesn’t believe in breaks. I’ve heard that one before too. – Yeah, I’ve heard that before too. – Yeah. – That’s crazy. (Tahira laughing) – All right, well Sej,
it’s hard to believe, but we’re already at the end of the hour. It always flies by way too fast. But before we go, do you have any cool resources you’d like to share, websites, blogs, books gadgets? Doesn’t have to be event related. It could be a life hack
that’s really working well for you right now. What have you got for us? – It’s a person that I truly admire. It’s Gary Vaynerchuk. He is a marketing media guru for me. I’ve read all of his books. I think not just, and I follow him on all his different handles. He just has a lot of great advice just for anybody not
just to do with marketing or events or anything focused on that. But for me, it’s just how do you get ahead of the game, or how do you do more, and how do you push yourself? And it’s like that
motivational type of person that I kinda really go towards. So he would be my go-to. But then there’s always the industry stuff that I love reading. So the Smart Meetings,
Event Marketer, BizBash. I think are all three
big, major like industry magazines and publications
I follow heavily. – Be forewarned Vaynerchuk
if you’re gonna listen to the audio book or something like that, despite the fact that all of his books are usually about work or
marketing or something like that, it’s not necessarily safe for work. That dude swears up a storm. – You know what we had him
as a speaker last year, and it was, he knocked the socks off of my entire clientele. But I will say I thought I was
gonna get fired after that. But after that, we had
about 20 of our top clients come and ask us who that
guy was and his information ’cause they absolutely loved him. – I’ll definitely second the
recommendation on the books. It’s all really good stuff. – Yeah. – All right, well I
think that’s gonna do it for another episode of Event Icons. Sej, thank you so much for joining us. Tell folks where we can
find out more about you, follow you on social media,
follow your first steps into the new, unknown world. – Absolutely, I’m on social media as diary of an event planner. So you can find me on Instagram that way, and outside of that I
have a blog on Medium, but it’s all linked through
my Instagram account. – Nice, well thank you
so much for joining us. And Tahira, always good
to do a show with you. – Just hang out. – Yay, I get my Tahira time.
– Same with you. – And where can people find out more about what you’re up to these days ’cause I know you’ve had
some changes as well? – Oh just on a little
sabbatical enjoying it. Really enjoying the time
that I’ve been taking to do what we talk about all the time is use the power of travel and have been traveling around a lot,
Australia, New Zealand, Bali, (Tahira muttering) live at
Connect and IncentiveWorks. Life’s been good. So
is where I’m keeping track of what’s going on. And it’s been good. Thanks for asking. – Yay. And I’m Brandt Krueger. You find out more about
me at We want to thank all of you for joining us on EventIcons today. Cathy, Reid, Jose, Hans,
Cathy, Sid, Amaury, Roseann, Jamie, Taran, and
all of the Endless folks that joined us in the
inaugural version of Chatroll. Thank you all for joining
us and all of your fantastic questions that you sent. We had a lot of good engagement today, a lot of good questions today. So thank you all for joining us. I wanna remind you that EventIcons is recorded live each
Wednesday at five p.m. Eastern. You can watch behind the
scenes on Facebook Live. And now you can chat with us on Chatroll during the show. So we’re gonna keep trying
that out, see how that goes. It seemed to work pretty well. It’s a nice way for people to chat back and forth with each other. The show is then released the following, (Brandt coughing) excuse me. – It’s released the following Tuesday (Tahira laughing) right before we do our
next Wednesday show. So thank you again very
much for joining us. And keep listening– – It was a question to
whether or not my voice was gonna hold out. I had a really nasty chest cold last week. – It was good though. – And I almost got
through the entire ending. But we do definitely
want to thank you all. Let us know what icons you
want to be on the show. Use #EventIcons, but be sure to sign up at That’s the best way to join us so you can see us live and see all
of our wonderful guests and get ’em those questions. Thank you so much for joining us, and we’ll see you next week on EventIcons. (electronic music) – [Announcer] Thank you for joining us for another amazing
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be posted and available by next Tuesday. Also let us know what you thought
about this week’s episode. Share your biggest takeaway and
join the social conversation sponsored by Little Bird Told Media. Just tag your post with #EventIcons. We’d love to hear from you. Thank you again for joining us. We’ll see you next Wednesday
at five p.m. Eastern. Right here on #EventIcons. (electronic music)

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