Rob Bezdjian, president of Zaven Global, is a corporate events and incentive trips specialist. He’s seen the reality of what it takes to organize and execute a memorable experience for groups.
Bezdjian is also a former manager at Goldman Sachs, the financial giant he worked at for eight years. That experience remains fresh enough in his mind—he left Goldman Sachs in 2016—that Bezdjian still considers himself a bit of an outsider in the events industry. He was a member of Connect Corporate's 40 Under 40 in 2018.
That perspective, he says, is a strength. With experience inside the industry, mixed with a newbie’s fresh eyes, may make Bezdjian the ideal candidate to take the MICE market mainstream. And with a business acumen from Goldman-Sachs, it’s hard to bet against Bezdjian’s next dream project.
His goal, which he has been working on for months—and taking meetings about, naturally—is to place the spotlight on the industry through reality television.
Not surprising to anyone who knows Bezdjian is that he has more than one idea. The two shows he visualizes focuses on different facets of travel and events. Marketing in today’s digital age is the overarching theme of one program following popular influencers. The second would concentrate on event operations, including site selection, site visits and day-of drama.
“One of top five highest stress jobs every year is event planner,” he says. “But we Haven’t really seen this industry talked about very much. This would bring free advertising to the industry and help the public see it really exists.”
With the heart of a businessman, Bezdjian seeks the buy-in opportunities for potential partners. Hotels, destinations and vendors have the potential to spotlight their properties and services—and especially with the influencer program, spread the word quickly.
Third-party organizations, in particular, might be eager to spotlight their services through the events operation show. Similarly, the corporations the planners are working for would gain another forum to showcase their product likely being highlighted at the event in question.
Going for Drama
Any event planner will tell you that it’s only a matter of when, and not if, something will go wrong. That should make for good television.
“We’re looking for natural drama,” Bezdjian says like a veteran TV producer.
The key to the influencer program is finding the right persons to cast. There’s a “love-to-hate” factor that must be accounted for. The number of the influencer’s followers is also important, as that wide net presents a chance for high viewership with minimal traditional advertising. “Viewership of 10% of 40 million followers tuning in would be a record-breaking,” Bezdjian notes.
Bezdjian is eying 14 influencers, who will be split into teams for a competitive format. The host would likely be an established influencer, along the lines of Paris Hilton. He estimated the contestants will have a combined 45 million to 75 million followers across Facebook and Instagram, platforms he would like to partner with the distributing network. The format also allows for partnerships with airlines, hotel brands, Fortune 500 companies and charitable organizations, Bezdjian notes.
While “Jersey Shore” or “The Real Housewives” series are comparisons for the influencer show, another popular program may foretell potential success with the behind-the-scenes show.
“We want to emulate ‘Househunters International,’” Bezdjian says. “It is wildly successful because you get someone emotionally invested, they will keep watching.”
He hopes viewers will have favorites for venues where an event should take place, or get involved in another aspect of production—say the F&B or décor. The key is finding the right host to stir the pot and ensure viewers understand how small decisions can have a major effect on events.
“Parts Unknown,” the popular show hosted by the late-Anthony Bourdain, ties both programs together. A wanderlust element should be an effective hook, says Bezdjian, adding millennials are known for seeking out authentic experiences.
In the end, both shows demonstrate the power of events and business travel. Bezdjian says the legacy culd be greater,
“We might drive more innovative people to the industry and see what happens,” Bezdjian says. “There has not been a lot of innovation in a long time.”