If you could do it all over again, what do you wish you'd known? In honor of Women's History Month, we asked women event planners around the world to give us the No. 1 piece of advice they wish they'd known when first starting their careers. Their answers were funny, moving, useful and inspiring for event professionals of any gender.
Heather Sharpe, live and virtual event planner, Sherpa Group Events, Vancouver
“Love what you do. Event planning is not as fun or glamorous as people think. You have to be an adrenaline junkie who loves spreadsheets, enjoys the thrill of details and can organize their way through a windstorm."
Marissa Pick, founder, Marissa Pick Consulting LLC, New York
“Take chances; if you fail, fail quickly and move on. The best leaders and brands learn from their failures. When shaping a negative moment, always find a lesson and how it helped you—these authentic moments humanize us.”
Beth Norber, vice president, Akire Productions, Los Angeles
“Find yourself a nice, comfortable pair of shoes, and buy 1,000 pairs in your size. Who needs to walk for miles on an event site in uncomfortable shoes that will wreak havoc on your feet when you get older?”
Rheana Coon, owner, Design Mode, Scottsdale, Ariz.
“Create boundaries—with your time, your staff, your clients. Don’t burn yourself out. Take time for yourself, and make sure that your employees do the same.”
Abby Borden, owner and principal, Table Set Go, Los Angeles
“You never know who your next client might be, or where a referral might come from. My career started by learning from others at large catering and production companies. I met a lot of people, many of whom I’ve maintained relationships with over the last decade, and it’s those relationships that let me love what I do. Past co-workers, vendors, clients, assistants—you never know who might be your greatest champion, biggest fan or perhaps future client should you go out on your own, freelance or move to another company. Be professional to everyone you work with, and always dress as if you’re going to an interview.”
Jen Bertolino, director of catering sales, Levy Restaurants, Boston
“Never stop learning. There is always more out there to help you grow into the best you can be.”
Carolyn Mack, director of corporate events and social media, NJ Transit, Newark, N.J.
“Don't allow people to diminish the hard work that goes into planning. Don’t allow the ‘how hard can party planning be; I do it for my kid’s birthday’ statement make you question your career in events.”
Tiffany Bardwell, events manager, Center for Internet Security, Albany, N.Y.
“Don’t take everything on, even though you’ll want to. Learn to delegate, and do it responsibly and effectively.”
Sarah Sebastian, owner and creative director, Rose Gold Collective, Miami
“1) All roads travel to where you’re supposed to be. Be strategic with career moves, but also know all experiences are meant to be key learnings and will connect to the bigger picture. 2) Bring everyone up with you. And not just because it’s Women’s History Month. It is Women’s History Month every month as a woman! 3) Don’t stop absorbing. The key to success—especially in our ever-changing industry—is absorbing as much new information and education as possible to become a beacon of knowledge. It never ends!”
Trish Simitakos, owner, Trish Star Events, Washington, D.C.
“Your kindness and quick adaptability to change are in fact your two greatest strengths. Don't let them convince you otherwise.”
Chantel Megaffin, senior operations project manager, Endless Events, Toronto
“Always negotiate. Women are far less likely to negotiate job offers than men.”
Casie Nguyen, independent event producer and creative director, Los Angeles
"Believe in yourself and your decisions. Don't be afraid to share your experiences, insights or ideas in fear of what others may think or because of failure. Believe in the value that you bring into each and every event, and stand up for your worth. Be confident in your decisions and take calculated risks when choosing projects, partners and opportunities. If you don't know something, ask questions, do research and find someone that does know—and ultimately, listen to your gut feeling. Everything is a learning experience. Your experiences and ideas are unique, valid and can only grow over time.”
Lizzy Williamson, founder, Two Minute Moves, New South Wales, Australia
“It might not feel like it at the time, but the big mistakes you make—the failures, the low points, the times when you feel like you can’t go on—you will use what you learned, the resilience you’ve built and the courage you’ve had to muster to do spectacular things. It turns you into the person you need to become to make the difference in the world you’re wanting to make.”
Alecia May, CEO, Eventistry by Alecia, Dunville, Ontario
"Dream bigger. The world is your oyster and there are plenty of opportunities for you. Dare to be bold and create the life you want, not anyone else’s. Inspire and educate those around you, including yourself. Live in the present moment and celebrate your wins."
Natasha Miller, founder and chief experience designer, Entire Productions, San Francisco
“Invest in yourself by learning, asking questions, and finding mentors and opportunities that allow you to explore the world so you can bump into your passion and life’s work.”
Anya Daniels, sponsorship and exhibition manager, DigiMarCon, Dubai
“I moved to a completely different country almost seven years ago as I wanted to do more international events. It wasn't as easy as I thought. Nowadays if I look back, I would definitely give my younger self three pieces of advice: 1) Worry less, especially about other people's opinions, and stick to what you are doing. 2) It's OK to be different from other people and not make friends. Keep networking and attending events and meet-ups, and eventually, those who find you interesting will come and stay in your life. This is how I met my husband! 3) Everything happens for a reason. Good or bad things—in reflection, that experience makes you stronger.”
Amanda Ma, chief experience officer, Innovate Marketing Group, Pasadena, Calif.
“Life is about the journey. Enjoy every step of the way. Don’t get lost in the destination. You want to be able to look back and say I lived a life with purpose and passion. I create, I learn, I grow and I do!”
Lisa Marks, owner, Brand Alive, Calgary
“Love yourself. Nothing else matters and everything else stems from this.”
This story was originally published on Connect's sister site, BizBash.com, here.
Illustration: Mary Long