Event Management Lessons From Dad

In honor of the Westchester Digital Summit and other major conferences taking place in the upcoming months, I decided to republish this post from after last years event.

Growing up, I thought I knew everything. Seriously, just ask my friends or family. Parents nodding in agreement about their own kids can breathe a sigh of relief. Somewhere during, or shortly after college, I realized how little I really knew. I also realized that the things my father taught me growing up make a lot of sense.

My father never forced his wisdom on me. This is evident by my rooting for the perennial loser Mets and Jets and him basking in glory with the Yankees and NY Giants. Dad is a master in leading by example. This is highlighted by the way he has run events for the better part of my life. Here are some of the lessons he has taught me that have helped me through countless events, and the many twists and turns that come with them.

1) Do Your Homework: I know, the last thing you want to hear as a kid. Most of the events my dad produces now he has been doing for 10+ years. As a child, I distinctly remember my dad in preparation for a new event. He would bring me to various similar events, local and further. As a child with infinite energy, I was all over the place. Dad was focused — he would methodically take into account the set up, flow, types of vendors/sponsors and attendees. He would network, see where the value was and incorporate this knowledge into planning his own event. I rarely attend an event now, of any subject, without coming away with a minimum of 2-3 pieces that impressed me. Many of these I incorporate into events I plan today.

Example: While working at Jackson Lewis PC I was in charge of managing their Employment Law Conference and Golf Invitational. Between caddying and assisting in the running of golf events for years before, I was able to bring a lot of best practices to the three-day event.

2) Stop Selling Sponsorships: Dad is the sales guy who was great at his job because it never felt like he was selling. Dad is a relationship guy who puts an emphasis on value. When he started his own business, with zero clients, he leveraged the relationships he had built during his time as Managing Partner of WZFM to get things off the ground. When it came to events, he would add value around those relationships. He was meticulous in reaching out to, working with, and following up with sponsors to see where he could add value for them. Often times he would go above and beyond because with my father, it was never about one event. It was about building relationships so that sponsors would come back year after year.

Example: My father has been running a Kid’s fair for nearly 20 years. After the event he goes to vendors and speaks with them individually while handing them a survey to fill out. Most of those vendors sign on 365 days in advance of the next years show. They know the product is good and they have trust built on the relationship. There is no selling going on.

3) Shit Happens – Stay Calm and Act Natural: Anyone who knows my dad knows that he is about as calm as it gets (golf course excluded). With events, something always goes wrong. It can be something as small as an AV problem or something as large as two presenters having to go to the hospital at the same event (true story). Whatever it is, you have to roll with the punches. The more prepared you are, the easier this is to do. Be up front with your crowd,

Example: At the inaugural Westchester Digital Summit event, we called one of our presenters about 15 mins in advance of his presentation since he had not checked in yet. When he answered, Silverback Social CEO Chris Dessi asked him if he was on his way or if he needed us to send a car for him. Turns out he was in Chicago and had the dates mixed up. In those ten mins we moved a presenter from a breakout room to the main stage, made an honest announcement to our attendees and the show continued on schedule. Our speaker was flexible, our attendees understood, and we had the team in place to act appropriately when the news was delivered.

4) There is No “I” in Event: Having the proper team and staff in place are the difference between a good and a great event. My dad had my mom and they were an unstoppable duo. However, this doesn’t just mean the team you work with to produce the event. This means AV, security, food and beverage, photographers etc. The support these people provide behind the scenes goes a long way to the success of the event and the marketing of future events.

Example: Thankfully I have never had a bad experience with an in house hotel AV team. I have had some truly great experiences when I have outsourced AV to pros like Corporate AV. AV is not my strong suit so to have a team in place that is prepared, attentive, and able to provide this service for digital based conferences has been a big weight off my shoulders and allows me to focus my attention elsewhere. Skyline Genesis, Inspiria Media and Veekast are two other companies who we have partnered with who have been integral pieces of all of our events.

Other Notable Lessons from Dad:

  • Learn to love to read
  • Place an importance on health and wellness
  • Listen to your mother
  • How you do anything is how you do everything
  • You learn more when you listen