Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How to Keep Growing

-By Clint Upchurch
While working in retail in the 80s in Los Angeles, several of my associates had jobs as "cater waiters," and it seemed like a fun job. I started doing the same and found that I had a natural talent for designing food stations and tablescapes, as well as managing people. In no time, I was hired directly by a successful catering company that had a corporate take-out division and a busy full-service division, mainly serving the social events community. I was tasked with running the take-out division, which included sales to corporate clients, writing orders, hiring and scheduling delivery drivers, as well as being a manager for the full-service events on the weekends. As I got older and started a family, working six and seven days a week was not as appealing as it once had been. One of my catering clients, a full-service event production company, asked if I would be interested in talking to them about producing corporate events. This sounded appealing as it was mainly a Monday through Friday job, and included much larger events, as well as some travel. After working there for almost eight  years, I was asked to join the Extraordinary Events team, affording me the ability to expand my skills with a highly respected company, known the world over, and continuing my education of layering new standards and practices as the industry grew and evolved. So, I have been in the events industry, in one capacity or another, for more than 27 years.

I know you might be thinking, "Didn't that transition take you out of your comfort zone?" There's only one thing that challenges my comfort zone these days - the rapidly growing trend of integrating social media and guests' live interactions during an event. It seems like the quickest moving trend in our industry. But, as soon as I learn and understand the necessary elements, they are suddenly outdated! So, I stay in my comfort zone by educating myself on a constant basis to the latest app! And, as I've always done in growing from catering to international events, I surround myself with the experts in the field. Not only does that allow me to sell the latest trends, but if affords me that opportunity to grow and learn.

Why am I focusing on my own experience? Because I want to provide a template for those considering a change!

Want to Make a Change in your Career?

If you are striving to make a change, join professional organizations or groups that are focused on the type of events you want to do. If it is weddings that interest you, join a wedding industry association and surround yourself with professionals who are at the top of their game and willing to share their experiences with those new to their industry.

That holds true for any event genre. Conferences, discussion groups, and professional organizations that support every niche market are just a Google search away! Attending industry meetings and conference is invaluable. Not only are the networking opportunities endless, the education and ability to learn from the icons in our industry are priceless.

Tips to Relationship Building with Experts, Clients, Vendors and Team Members

Okay, the point of joining those professional groups is to build relationships with expert individuals. That relationship building carries over to clients, vendors and your own team members. I have a networking style that is a little more laid back than some may agree with, but it is who I am and has served me well over the years.

In our world, there are so many salespeople selling to a finite number of customers. I find it distasteful (and think my clients do as well), if in the first few minutes of meeting a potential customer, salespeople are "selling" their company without finding out the needs of the person to whom they are "selling." I take the time to find out what a person does. I ask questions about the culture of their company, how they want their customers to view them, and if we are talking about a specific event, what they want the attendees to experience and take away from the event.

I even go so far as to have a legitimate interest about their life in general. . . where are they from? What interest them as a  person? What is their dog's name? This isn't something I do to appear to be interested in order to get the sale; it is something that connects us as humans - both professionally and personally. Nobody wants to be "sold" to and only be regarded as a customer. Most of my "customers" also transition into being a part of my life outside of work. This same school of thought holds true for both vendors and colleagues. I know that I am way more willing to bend over backwards and support someone when they are part of the fabric of my life, and not just there for a commission check, although that is part of it!

All genuine relationships help in every aspect of my work. One think I learned early on is to never write off anyone as someone that I don't "need" - or someone not worth forming a relationship with. Of course, we are all here to make a living, so prioritizing and spending time forming relationships with those that can be most beneficial to you is wise. Ignoring someone who at the moment might not transition into a customer is not a wise choice. With the current state of our industry, people are constantly shifting from one position and employer to another. You never know when the person who can't hire you today will be in a position to hire you tomorrow.

Action Item

Be genuine in your relationships with people; let the positive and unique qualities of your personality shine, and never stop educating yourself in all aspects of our rapidly changing world and industry.

Clint Upchurch is a Senior Account Executive at Extraordinary Events. He has a passion for incorporating branding and messaging with his events so that attendees have a full understanding of why they are there and experience the event instead of merely attending it! He may be reached via

Monday, August 19, 2013

President Obama Joins Mayor Garcetti and Extraordinary Events in Support of Special Olympics.

Extraordinary Events Senior Account Executive Chris Clark and team helped produce a major press conference at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in advance of the 2015 Special Olympic World Games. The conference included speeches from local dignitaries, including newly elected Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The press conference was highlighted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama who were announced as Honorary Chairs of the 2015 Games.
"When 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from 170 countries march into the Coliseum in two years, the spotlight will not only be on Los Angeles - a city that stands for diversity and inclusion - but will shine brightly on the mission of Special Olympics in highlighting the talents of those with intellectual disabilities," Mayor Garcetti said.  "Along with my support and that of the City of Los Angeles, I am proud and honored to acknowledge the commitment of the President and First Lady to this great event.  I am also excited that this unique event will be a major contributor to our city's economy, generating more than $400 million in economic impact."

In a video statement, President Obama said: "Michelle and I are so honored to serve as Co-chairs of this inspiring event.  Special Olympics has a tradition that started more than 50 years Eunice Kennedy Shriver's house.  Today, that simple day camp has grown into one of the biggest sporting competitions in the world for people with intellectual disabilities.  The athletes coming to these Games represent the grit and determination that's at the very root of the American spirit."

The Mayor noted that the Games - to be held July 25 - August 2, 2015, and featuring 25 Olympic-style events in venues throughout the Los Angeles region - will be the biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games, and the largest sports-and-humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Being Left-Brained

Being meticulous and detail-oriented are critical assets for any event producer. I’m often teased because I am such a left-brain person, which means I thrive on logic and order. Some might say it is difficult to keep order in the constantly evolving details of an event. For me, it’s the only way. I was born this way!

My pursuits in both academics and the corporate world have allowed me to fine-tune these innate traits. In college I took great notes in class, highlighted reading passages and kept everything very organized. As I started a career in entertainment, I continued these habits and implemented new techniques, such as to-do lists, to keep track of my ever-growing responsibilities. Starting with tracking all prime-time scripts and rough cuts in the NBC Standards and Practices department, to managing the busy schedule of a development executive at WBTV, my organizational skills had no choice but to thrive.

Making the switch from entertainment to events only aided in the growth of these skills. My first job in events was managing all logistics for the Oscars’ Governors Ball. Among other responsibilities, making sure every vendor and crew member underwent a thorough background check was a responsibility with which I was tasked. That was a critically detail-oriented job with very little room for error, as I’m sure you can imagine. Even now, as an Account Manager/Producer at EE, the buck stops with me. I can’t afford (literally) to make mistakes or let anything fall through the cracks; otherwise, I will be letting my team and clients down. What do I use to prevent mistakes? The tools and techniques I’ve mentioned above, plus a few more: checklists, follow-up and organization within every element of my workload. You see, without these safeguards to keep the hundreds of details under control, you’re going to fall on your face in this business!

Techniques to Stay on Top of Details 

If you are looking for solid ways to get and stay organized, here are my suggestions. Please understand that these are techniques that I use and to which I am very dedicated!

- Throughout the day as I receive emails I immediately categorize them. If I am waiting for someone to respond to me, the email gets color-coded to that particular project. If I owe someone an action, not only does it get the appropriate color-code, but I flag it. Then, for those items that are handled, I file them away under the proper project folder or sub-folder. I have a ton of folders!

- I create a to-do list, which I am constantly revising and consolidating so that it is easy for me to have clear and concise activities throughout the day. As I take action, I make notes beside each activity. I mark "SE" next to those of which I have sent an email and "LW" for those of which I left a message for (or left word). Once handled, I check off the action and move on.

- I use calendar reminders to do just that... remind myself. Whether it's to follow up with someone I've "SE" or "LW" or to remind others to deal with a requirement, these calendar alerts are very helpful. For matters that aren't critical, or if I'm in the middle of something, I can always "snooze" an item to remind me at another time.

- I use both my notebook and my email inbox to make sure I've handled all of my responsibilities each day. Overdoing it, you think? Not at all. Using my lists keeps me stress-free because I know I have everything taken care of or on deck!

Tips for Developing a Detail-Oriented, Organized Work Ethic

Okay, some of us are just born this way. But, if you aren’t, here are some ideas for you.
-Be efficient. Really listen to people and what is is they need from you, whether it is a client or a vendor. This way you can minimize time and use of resources. If you don't really listen, you can end up going in circles with someone and that is just the opposite of efficient.

-Be very clear and concise when you need something. Don't leave things open to interpretation because it takes too much time to resolve unclear communication.

-Pick up the phone (if you want to save about 20 emails) and nail down everything at once rather than the incessant back and forth messages. You can always recap with an email afterwards.

-Start with a notebook and make "to-do" lists.

-Consolidate lists once a portion of items are done so you can stay organized.

-Don't let things slide; stay on top of them.

-Ask questions. We all know what assuming does, right? Don't worry that you might be bothering someone or causing others to think you don't know what you are doing. Especially if you are new to events, people in the business know you need to ask questions and don't know everything. Get clarity about what is needed.

-Use downtime to deal with non-critical issues. That reminder you've been snoozing for the last week (yes, that happens)... do it! Remember, bosses don't forget those things... so take care of them and keep things moving forward.

The Importance of a Positive Attitude

-Keep things in perspective. This can be a stressful job if you let it be. Don't let the job consume you. Remind yourself that what you do is important, but you aren't performing brain surgery.

-Be active and eat healthy. Doing both of these things helps to alleviate stress and clear your mind. What you put in and out of your body does affect you.

-Keep a good work-life balance. Enjoy your work and do other things you love outside of it. 

-Appreciate your colleagues, team members, clients and vendors. Recognize that people are different and embrace their differences. Focus on the positives.

-When you find yourself going down a negative path, STOP! A bad attitude affects your work just as much (if not more than) it affects others. After all, what could be better than meeting new people, planning spectacular activities, tasting great food and beverage and getting to travel?!

Having a positive attitude will set you apart. Negative people are off-putting; people like to be around happy, positive people. With a positive attitude, others will enjoy being with you, your management team will notice and you will get more opportunity and rewards as a result. It becomes a chain reaction. We are in the business of celebrating life and work, so we are lucky professionals. We are bringing great experiences to our clients and guests and a negative attitude has no place here. If you can’t seem to avoid that path, perhaps you should think about changing your career. The saying is true…”When you find something you love to do, you’ll never work another day.” Working in a field you love allows you to have fun, and fun is infectious. You will find more people wanting to work with you and more opportunities as a result.

I am fortunate to have found a company with colleagues I enjoy and a leadership team that gives me the freedom to do my job. These factors combined make it easy for me to be positive and effective!

Great Advice on Time Management from Brian Tracy

Brian Tracy and Andrea Michaels are the co-authors of Bushido Business – The Fine Art of Modern Professionalism.

Action Item

Use my tips and see if they make a positive difference for you!

Mandy Bianchi, Account Manager at Extraordinary Events, graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Northern Arizona University. She joined the EE team with a variety of experience in both entertainment and event production, beginning her career as an NBC page working at the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Before EE, her experience ranged from the 2008 and 2011 Oscars Governors Ball to branding installations for Godiva and L’Oreal, and non-profit events such as the 2010 Virgin Unite - Rock the Kasbah. Aside from her efficiency, it is Mandy’s zest for life and dedication to her work that has solidified her reputation among colleagues and peers as a woman who gets the job done and enjoys doing so. She may be reached at mbianchi@