My Top Takeaways from The Event Planner Expo

Last week I had the great opportunity to attend The Event Planner Expo 2019 at various locations in Manhattan. On Wednesday, October 2, we listened to so many amazing speakers and panelists at the top of the industry, and on Thursday, October 3, we got to attend an amazing expo hall with over 150 exhibitors. Here are the top themes that I heard at the conference.

 

Embrace change. Jason Feifer, Editor-In-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, started the conference off by telling everyone to embrace change and always be reinventing yourself. At first, I was confused about why they were focusing on entrepreneurs so much, and then I realized that so many event planners are entrepreneurs because they are creating their own companies and constantly have to be creative in order to keep up with the needs of their clients. Feifer explained that it is easy to get stuck in your old ways, especially when that way was very successful for you in the past. But it is more important to play the long game even if it hurts. Sometimes this means discarding what worked yesterday in order to reinvent yourself for tomorrow. Feifer says, “Resistance is for losers. Want to win? Change.” In a later panel, Laurent Lootens, owner of Lapin Quotidien premium event agency, also tells event planners that it is time to change. When it comes down to it, most corporations see “party planners” as the bottom tier and we will be the first ones cut from the budget. Now it is time to evolve and look to the digital space. No one knows how to entertain people better than event planners. Now we can take that skill and become the best digital marketers by creating new ways to engage audiences on social media and through other digital platforms. In a later panel titled “Branding & Experiential Events,” the panelists explained that people don’t want a thing, they want an experience. This is why experiential marketing has become so popular in many corporations.

Jason Feifer, Editor-In-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, giving his keynote speech. ​

 

Expand your reach. As the keynote speaker, Gary Vaynerchuk, put it, "if you do not produce content, you’re in big trouble.” I was surprised to hear that social media was mentioned in almost every panel throughout the two days I attended the conference. As young millennials and Gen Z professionals, social media is a part of our everyday life, and yet it is shocking to see how many companies are under-utilizing this tool. The panel titled “Marketing Concepts for All Industries & Events” talked about how social media is such an important tool to expand your reach beyond your normal demographics. Although it is important to know who your target audience is and make content for them, it is also important to get more organic reach. Gary Vaynerchuk’s keynote focused mostly on urging everyone to get their business on social media. It is free advertising that most people are highly underestimating. First, it is important to identify how you communicate best. Are you better at writing an engaging caption or filming a video or podcast of yourself talking? You must look at your relevance and be self-aware before you make content. Then it is important to get that content out there. He claims that you should be posting on Instagram at least 10 times a day. Don’t let the fear of getting a certain number of “likes” scare you from producing content. Tik Tok has the potential to become the next big platform, but so many people avoid it because they believe their audience is not 14-year-old girls. However, kids are the number one driving factor in getting their parents to make a purchase. Thursday in the We Work VIP Lounge, Larry Milstein, the 24-year-old founder of PRZM, also claims that Tik Tok is the next big thing. Milstein has advised many companies on marketing for the next generation, and he claims that businesses should be on all social media platforms.

Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, giving his keynote speech.

 

Talk to one and impact the many. YouTube star, Amy Landino, focused her keynote on the power of video and social media. She claims that video is the digital handshake since it allows people to get a positive impression of you. Her trick is that she created her one perfect viewer in her head and talks to them while she is recording her video. This allows her to be relatable and allows the videos to be an experience for the viewers. And although she speaks to one type of person in her head, it allows her to impact so many people of all different demographics. Thursday in the We Work VIP Lounge, the founders of Midnight Market events claimed the same thing with social media. They focus their social media at young women just like them, and yet it reaches a bigger audience that way since they seem more relatable. Although you may be targeting a young millennia woman, she may bring her boyfriend to the event or even mention it to her retired parents. This kind of engagement also promotes people to share your event on their own social media. These referrals are the best sales tactics. Social media is also the place to show your brand’s voice. Marketing Panelist, Nicole Rose Stillings, Founder of Rose Rockers, claims that Instagram is your new business card. People go to a company’s Instagram to see what they stand for and who they are as a company. Larry Milstein makes a similar point by saying you need to find new ways to engage your audience in order to break through all of the noise on social media. Don’t just post advertising content, post stuff that shows your company’s personality. Most importantly, be authentic. Young entrepreneurs, Daniela Grafman and Lauren Goldberg, also claim that Instagram is the ultimate brand and what we stand for, but they also encourage us all to be authentic and be real! We need to give ourselves permission to be simple in our posts or not post as much as we should. Find what is right for your brand.

Amy Landino, YouTuber and Co-Founder of Aftermarq, giving her speech.​

 

Follow your passion. Rae Majors-Wildman, CEO of RMW International, was not only a speaker at the conference, but also hosted many of the panels throughout Wednesday and Thursday. I really enjoyed her talk about how company cultures are changing. Companies need to create that entrepreneur atmosphere in order to keep their employees engaged, especially with the increased trends of freelancers, flexible work schedules, and shared workspaces. After the conference on Thursday, I asked Rae Majors-Wildman what advice she had for graduating students entering the workforce and she said, “the biggest advice I would give you is to really follow your passion. We have our whole life to work, so you might as well work doing something that you enjoy, that you love, that you’re actually contributing, because when you do that it doesn’t feel like work. So follow your heart.”

Rae Majors-Wildman (left) interviewing Liron David (right), Founder of Eventique, in the We Work VIP Lounge. 

 

One of the biggest takeaways from the conference was that it’s all about the experience, no matter what industry you are in. If you are a young business owner or in the events industry, I highly recommend attending The Event Planner Expo next year. You can check out their website for more information: theeventplannerexpo.com

At the conference, I got to experience so many new things happening in the industry. Here are some highlights from the expo:

The backgrounds for your parties are getting more creative than ever! If you are looking to host an engaging experiential event, the possibilities are endless.

 

WeWork, one of the sponsors for the event, has public shared workspaces for all of your employees or freelancers to go and do their work. This concept is becoming so popular. Other companies are playing off of the shared space idea too. Stay22 is a map that lets you view available spaces to rent and host an event, or find AirBnbs to stay in while you're away for a wedding.

 

Robots are entering the event planning field! This interactive robot is just one way of engaging your audience using technology. This was a great idea brought by this team bonding event company, Simple Creations.

 

I was very pleased to run into the Lancaster PA Tourism Alliance ​in the expo hall and get a little taste of home with these whoopie pies from Pennsylvania. Lancaster is a beautiful area to get away and host your next event! "Everything you need, even the WHOOPIE!"

 

Drawing Booth is such a fun take on the old caricature artist at your party. In only a couple of minutes, their artists can sketch your face on an iPad and print out copies of your sketch. What a fun way to remember an event! There are so many new photo booth ideas with new technology that can take your event to the next level.

 

The possibilities are endless with new technology, unique venue spaces, fun catering ideas, amazing entertainers, and so much more! I had a great time meeting so many vendors and event professionals at this expo.

All photos courtesy of the author