Splendid Ideas: Event Leadership InstituteMonday, June 27, 2011
This installment of Splendid Ideas focuses on a new company, the Event Leadership Institute, launched by industry veteran, Howard Givner. The Event Leadership Institute allows event pros to sign up for online classes on the specific topics they want to learn more about. Courses are taught by some of the best minds in the industry, including Sean Low, Jes Gordon and others. Today, Howard shares some of his insight into the event industry and more about his new venture.
Can you share a bit about your background in the event industry?
I ran a NYC-based event planning company, Paint The Town Red, for 20 years. We produced a wide range of events, including weddings, product launches, awards galas, investor meetings, etc. As we grew, we started to do more and more events overseas and started looking for a global partner to help us expand internationally. Coincidentally, in 2008 I was approached by the Global Events Group, the #1 event agency in Spain, who was looking to establish a U.S. presence, and I sold the company to them. The combined firm was the 14th largest worldwide, and won over 35 industry awards. After integrating the companies, I left at the end of 2009 to pursue other interests, which included consulting, developing the Super Planner iphone app, and now launching the Event Leadership Institute.
Why did you decide to launch the Event Leadership Institute?
The events industry has exploded in recent years, and the training and education has simply not kept pace with the demand. I’ve always been passionate about teaching, and wanted to create a vehicle to help disseminate the best practices for doing things to as many people in the industry as possible. So basically, I created the kind of resource I would have wanted available for me and my staff when I ran my event company.
How is the Event Leadership Institute different than other workshops and classes available to event professionals?
The first thing is the quality of our content, which is unmatched. For every 45 minute video class, we spend at least 7 hours helping our instructors develop their content. And I bring my 23 years of experience as a planner in helping shape each class, pushing instructors to expand in some areas, cut back in others, add charts or animations to explain complex topics, etc.
The second thing is our ease of access. Each 45 minute class is divided into around 12 chapters, each of which is a stand-alone video file, and viewers can watch them in any order they want. So if you need to know about Certificates of Insurance, you can go right to that chapter, without having to watch the rest of the class, or you can watch the rest later. The idea is to enable busy planners to get the answers they need right away so they can put them into action.
Aside from event trends themselves, in what ways have you seen the industry shift during your career?
For many years the battle was explaining the need to hire an event planner at all. It’s still a relatively new profession. That’s changed significantly, thanks in part to event planners becoming staples in movies and tv shows. Now, it’s pretty widely accepted that people hire planners for their personal or corporate events, and the battle is now to explain why they should hire you, instead of someone else.
What is your take on the increasing competition in and saturation of the industry?
This is what we all wanted, isn’t it? To have wedding & event planning become taken seriously as a profession, right? That broad acceptance dramatically expands the market of people willing to hire planners, but it also brings with it increased competition, especially since there are really no barriers to entry to being a planner. So people can complain about all the competition, but it’s not going away. Instead, professionals need to focus on differentiating themselves in the marketplace, on being smarter, more creative, and having better customer service than the competition.
What are the top three things today's businesses should keep in mind as they plan for the future?
1) Really understand your value proposition to your client, which ties into your pricing model. Businesses need to be able to clearly communicate exactly what benefits they bring to the table, why they’re of value, and how much that value is worth.
2) Have a strategic plan. If that sounds too corporate-speak, ask yourselves this: “What does success look like to you, three years from now?” Do you want to make a certain amount of money, be on tv, do celebrity events, etc.? Without knowing that you’re just spinning your wheels.
3) Listen to your clients. The things you think are important to them are not necessarily the things they’re most concerned about. The #1 reason for a really upset client in our industry is being embarrassed in front of people they care about (their boss, their clients, their family, etc.) The only way to determine what will trigger that is to really listen to them.
You can follow Howard on Twitter here and the Event Leadership Institute on Twitter here.
Readers of Think Splendid can access all classes at the Event Leadership Institute at a special discounted rate. You can sign up for monthly access for $20 with code 41827 or annual access for just $200 with code 41828.