As event professionals, we often reflect on our past experiences and wonder what we could have done differently. Hindsight is 20/20, and it’s natural to have moments of regret or wish we’d known then what we know now. The Brew Crew isn’t immune to this phenomenon. As experienced event profs, they would have lots of knowledge to share with their younger selves, but because they cannot, Arianna, Deanna, and Will share their advice for event professionals with you. With the caveat that they speak to their former selves in the third person and the benefit of hindsight, the Brew Crew brings valuable advice for event professionals. Tune in to today’s Event Brew episode to find out what they have to share.
Don’t Let Networking Scare You
Deanna starts today’s conversation with some advice for event professionals about networking.
“When you go to an event, I know it seems overwhelming to talk to middle-aged people who want to sell you something or be condescending because you’re young,” explains Deanna. “You have to put on your big girl panties and get over it. If you want to broaden your career options, I suggest you start networking. You’re very good at making friends, so go to these events and talk to people about their kids, their dogs, or where they went to college. It’s just a conversation with people and checking in with them every once and a while.”
Will adds to Deanna’s advice. “You’re going to go to your first ever ILEA meeting, and you’re going to be so afraid because everyone’s in their cliques,” he says. “Do what Deanna said. Networking is not just about selling your services and being professional; it’s about building lasting friendships that turn into business relationships.”
Arianna agrees. “I recommend that you create space for something to be intimidated by in the first place. You’re at risk of being so busy just surviving the job that you don’t take the time to look at the long-term implications of this career. So I advise that you pull back and make space for thinking intentionally about your career. Make relationships that show you where you can go.”
Prompted by Arianna’s advice, Deanna raises a point about curiosity. “You need to be more curious. You have to take some risks and challenge yourself. You’ve boxed yourself into what being an event professional looks like. You want to grow on a linear path, but sometimes growth will be lateral. It won’t be a promotion or taking on more responsibility. It might be moving to a different organization with different resources. It’s great that you’ve got a great position, and it’s cozy, but you need to stretch yourself a little bit.”
Will’s next piece of advice is to “be edgy.” He encourages his former self to push the boundaries of being a “professional.”
“Don’t think there’s this definition of what ‘professional’ is,” he says. For example, “cussing on a podcast or in a presentation, or talking about cannabis in an Event Brew episode. I’ve learned that the more I’m willing to put myself out there and be edgy, the more people care about you.”
Deanna raises an interesting point about the power and value of young event professionals. “I think we often don’t realize our voice holds just as much power as other people,” she says. “Don’t let the fact that you’re inexperienced hold you back. New people fail to realize that you bring a fresh perspective to a situation. When you have an opinion, speak it. Many times, a new person can come to a situation with so much clarity. So don’t be afraid to use your voice or question the norm.”
“Fast forward to 2020, you realize you can have a voice in the industry,” she continues. “You can be on a podcast, have a LinkedIn presence, and have a website. People will listen to it and look for your content. The fact that you haven’t worked at some Fortune 500 company with a fancy title means nothing.”
Know Your Worth
This next piece of advice is for all the entrepreneurs listening, and it comes from Will. “Pay yourself a salary,” he says. “You’re going to think, ‘I’ll just pull money out of the company account as I go along. When times are slow, I’ll take less; when times are good, I’ll take more.’ Pay yourself a consistent salary. It sets the expectation that you need to make that salary to keep yourself happy. I wish I had started paying myself a salary a long time ago.”
Deanna adds to this tip for W-2 employees. She says to her younger self, “You need to negotiate. You might think, ‘This is great. This is going to meet my needs.’ That’s not what it’s about. It’s about market value. Your value on the market is higher than what you’re being paid, and you need to negotiate when you accept jobs. Be a little more proactive with your annual raises and performance reviews. I don’t know if Chris Voss has written ‘Never Split the Difference’ yet, but if he has, read it. People pleasing will not get you as far as you think.”
“Along the negotiation line, understand that doing the work around career development is part of the job,” adds Arianna. “You’re not taking time away from the project if you pause to research it. I always felt like I had to grow and develop on my own time. I didn’t understand that sometimes it would be legitimate to be paid to learn. Take every learning opportunity.”
Young event professionals can easily get caught up in perceived social capital. But certifications, event names, big companies, and fancy titles are not the only things that make event professionals valuable.
“The CMP is not all you think it is,” says Deanna. “Before everyone comes with their pitch pitchforks and tiki torches, I just renewed my CMP. There’s some value in it. But where I’m going with this is it’s not the be-all and end-all. What’s more important is the experience on your resume and how you demonstrate that value.”
“You need to do a much better job of tracking what you’re doing, what projects you’re working on, and when you’re getting additional responsibilities that aren’t necessarily apparent because your job title stays the same,” she explains. For example, “I’ve gone from 30-person seminars to hundred-person conferences. I launched a new conference that didn’t have any event history. You need to track your accomplishments and tell people just how awesome you are.”
“Document, document, document,” says Arianna in agreeance. “Document impact, scope, and connection to the overall business objectives. If you are in the trenches and you’re producing, producing, producing, you haven’t pulled back to see just how much you have done and just what that net impact is.”
Arianna continues: “Deanna, what you said about understanding that just because you’re not working at a Fortune 500 doesn’t mean you haven’t done some really big things ties into something for me. I know that I’ve had some impact that I’ve only learned how to speak to in the last decade. So understand how to speak to your impact or to speak to increasing ticket prices from $99 to $349 with no drop off in overall attendance. Understanding how to speak to the number will do you what the large company and event names might have otherwise done.”
Deanna steers the crew toward a moment of gratitude as the Brew Crew wraps up this reflective episode. “I feel like we’ve said our advice, but I will say thank you to young Deanna for going into the event industry. That was a kickass decision, and you won’t regret it one bit.”
“I want to thank 2020 me,” adds Arianna. “You carved a space for yourself and exponentially increased your thought leadership and access to really interesting people and ideas. This has been such an interesting time in the absence of experts. You become one because you paid attention, and I hope you don’t go back to swimming in imposter syndrome. Your ideas are valuable because you pay attention to human behavior, and events at the end of the day are containers for human behavior.”
“I’m happy I got into this industry,” says Will. “I always thought to myself, ‘What would I do if I wasn’t doing this?’ And I realized this industry is what I want to do. It can be something you can do career long. There are so many opportunities to touch the industry. I’m just glad I never left.”
And with that last piece of gratitude from Will, Arianna concludes this episode with one final word of advice. “I hope we carry advice forward to our future selves too. It’s not just about looking back, but it’s about taking what you learned and being your own best teacher,” she concludes.
What advice would you give your younger self? We’d love for you to share your thoughts, so make sure to send us an email. We read every email! We’ll catch you here next time for another episode of the Event Brew podcast.