BUILDING A PIPELINE
FOR FUTURE LEADERS


If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that years of good intentions are not as impactful as months of action. To build a more diverse future for this industry and beyond, it’s become painfully apparent that it takes much more than a pledge. It requires an acknowledgment of personal shortcomings, of the roots of our experiences, and of the unique systemic barriers facing underrepresented communities. 

When we just look at event marketing, the issue of diversity becomes even more nuanced. Experiential is a niche discipline not widely taught in schools. There’s no clear pathway into events. And if breaking in is challenging for people who have experienced privilege in their lives, imagine the challenges facing people of color. Once they discover an opportunity and jump in, people of color often report that they’re the “only” on their teams—perhaps, in their companies. And because experiential is a team sport, people frequently gravitate toward what is comfortable and familiar to them, thus exacerbating the issue.

The clogs in the pipeline at the junior level need clearing, and programs dedicated to nurturing and hiring talent can help. Many of our rising stars benefited from diversity pipeline programs, mentorship experiences and career coaches.

Vanessa Santana, senior brand experience planner at General Mills, took part in Management Leaders for Tomorrow, a pipeline program helping Black, Latino and Indigenous professionals climb the corporate ladder. She was among a cohort of 300 eager individuals. “I’ve seen the talent pool. I know it exists. People tend to have their blinders on because they do what’s comfortable,” she says. 

“It was difficult for me as a woman of color to find me in this industry, to really see me in this industry.”
-Ellide Smith, Director-Trailhead Strategic Events and Programs, Salesforce

Santana, like many of her fellow rising stars, emphasizes the importance of empathy in tackling equity. “It means having a conversation—you and me, completely different backgrounds, but learning about what we’re passionate about and why,” she says. One of the reasons she joined her company was that it has a Black Champions Network. “Even though I might not see as much diversity in my day-to-day job, I still have a network of people who can champion me,” she says.

A lack of diversity at the top of the corporate ladder isn’t an issue unique to experiential, but it’s no less concerning. In an Event Marketer survey fielded in 2020, we asked the community what percentage of their executive team members they estimated identify as BIPOC, and 82 percent of respondents said between zero and 25 percent. Without people of color represented across leadership positions, young professionals lose the benefit of seeing themselves in their leaders, and seeing a path forward for their careers.

“It was difficult for me as a woman of color to find me in this industry, to really see me in this industry,” says Ellide Smith, director-trailhead strategic events and programs at Salesforce. “I go to conferences to network and learn, and it’s often never enough. It’s been difficult for me to find myself, so I can imagine how difficult it is for the up-and-comers—people who are trying to break in and they don’t see anyone that looks like them.”

“I find it frustrating when I’ve heard ‘it doesn’t exist at this level.’ No, these people exist, they just haven’t been able to get that title that you’re looking for and that’s an issue within the organization."
-Adaora Ugokwe, Head of Marketing, D’Ussé, Roc Nation

The industry often overlooks those middle rungs—middle management—and how they play a role in building a diverse pipeline. People are elevated to middle management based on performance, but not necessarily because of their talent management skills. They don’t often advocate enough for people of color, which can mean the difference between a diverse hire or not. 

“I find it frustrating when I’ve heard ‘it doesn’t exist at this level.’ No, these people exist, they just haven’t been able to get that title that you’re looking for and that’s an issue within the organization,” says Adaora Ugokwe, head of marketing at Roc Nation for D’Ussé. “It doesn’t mean that they’re not talented enough to do the job. They just haven’t been given the opportunity to prove themselves.”

We’re proud to present a new opportunity: for our rising stars to share their perspectives, for the industry to meet the faces of a diverse and equitable professional future, and for the thoughtful and inclusive leaders out there to know the impact of the hard work they’re doing. The next generation is watching and are counting on you to light the way.

Montinique Morgan

Experiential Marketing Manager

Anheuser-Busch

An achievement you’re most
proud of so far.

The New Year’s Eve Bud Light Seltzer event that we executed at the end of last year. Being forced into a virtual setting has made us think a little more creatively, a lot more strategically and being a part of that process, it really stretched my brain. It made me think about all of the different capabilities and all the different things that we can do in a pandemic and then, outside of it. A lot of the learnings from helping get that event off the ground are going to stay with me throughout my whole career.

A skill or area of events you think is chronically overlooked or undervalued.

Definitely empathy. Right now we’re talking about getting back to “normal” but what does that look like and do we really want to go back to it? We’re thinking about sanitizing, being inclusive, making sure we have a livestream for the people that may not be able to attend, making sure spaces are accessible for people that may have disabilities. But I think that these are all things we should have been thinking about before the pandemic. If we get outside ourselves and think about how we can reach others, cater to others, be more empathetic, more inclusive, and more humane, it’ll make the industry better for everyone. 

The industry has had to evolve quickly over the last year. Despite the limitations that exist right now, where is the opportunity for brands?

Working with organizations to foster diversity. I have been a part of the T. Howard Foundation which creates different opportunities for diverse students as well as the Verizon Adfellows program, which is a DE&I program for the marketing and advertising industries. These organizations opened so many doors that would have been closed without them. People of color shouldn’t have to seek organizations like T. Howard or Verizon Adfellows in order to receive equal opportunities within the industry. Diversity is such a huge opportunity. Brands are always searching for disruptive, innovative ideas but fail to realize those ideas live within Black, Brown, and other marginalized groups.

What has been your experience with diversity in the industry?

I remember at my last position, I was the very last person to see a racially ignorant piece of creative—I was just supposed to send it to print, not approve or evaluate it. By simply pointing out what others missed, my insight completely changed the campaign and potentially the reputation of the company. So to answer the question, I haven’t had the best experience working in the industry. I’ve encountered a lot of ignorant perspectives and whitewashed ideas. Though, working at AB has definitely given me hope for richer content that connects with more communities.  

What is your dream role?

Something that allows me to throw free festival experiences. One of my favorite music festivals is Afropunk, which first started as a free event for a niche group of Black people. It has grown into a paid ticketed event, but it sheds light on the many layers of Black identity and expression, which I love. I want to create free spaces for my people to feel safe and seen, to feel free to express their true selves. 

Advice you would give young people thinking about a career
in event marketing?

Be you and think of your core demo as your friends. Dig deep into who they are, pick up on insights that mean something to them, and provide solutions that they’ll enjoy. Your ideas will be richer and you’ll have a lot more fun creating them.

Felice Archbold

Senior Manager-Experiential

Complex Networks

An achievement you’re most
proud of so far.

I’m very proud of ComplexLand, a free, new-to-world, e-commerce-enabled digital experience accessible to anyone in the world with a laptop or mobile device. We saw a white space within the influx of virtual events, so we leaned into the offerings from our annual live event, ComplexCon, and quickly pivoted to create an experience we knew our consumers would love. We had more than 100 brands, artists and restaurants involved and more than 40 product drops and releases throughout the five-day experience.

Editor’s Note: Archbold drove music curation for the event, as well as the food & beverage strategy—a component that was IRL and included unique “virtual food trucks” created by partnering with culture-shaping restaurants and delivery platforms.

A skill or area of events you think is chronically overlooked or undervalued.

Self-care. Event executions can be brutal on the body and the mind. I think it’s vital for teams to practice self-sustainability to get through the intense hours and extended screen times. 

The industry has had to evolve quickly over the last year. Despite the limitations that exist right now, where is the opportunity for brands?

There’s an opportunity for brands to leave their comfort zones in favor of integrating tech-forward experiences. And then, there’s an opportunity right now to get ahead of the hybrid event model. There’s a dual path we’re navigating. While hybrid events are not entirely new, now is the time to reimagine the landscape of what’s possible through agility and experimentation. 

What is your dream role?

To innovate within the creative tech, emerging NFT, and blockchain technology space. Blockchain technology within itself is disruptive, and the use cases that can be applied to the event industry are endless.

What would you change about
the industry?

Sustainability. When IRL events come back, I would love to see brands and agencies implement sustainability practices across all events and experiences. 

Does the experiential industry need more diversity? What are some of the next steps needed to make change?

Yes, and not just top-down, but across the board. From key decision-makers to on-site teams, including producers, vendors, talent, and the creators, when making critical (and creative) decisions, the room should look like the diverse consumers you’re trying to reach—each providing a unique and valued perspective.  

Who or what inspires you most?

The concept of building something from the ground up is what inspires me most—an experience, a product, or life in general.

Chardia
Christophe-Garcia

Executive Director-Audience
and Community Marketing

Forbes

An achievement you’re most
proud of so far.

For(bes) The Culture is something close to my heart, and it was founded a few years ago by Rashaad Lambert with the purpose to build opportunities for Black and Brown professionals. Prior to the pandemic, there was no one leading marketing directly to help build this community. I volunteered to take on this task and worked nights and weekends to help assess their needs and create a marketing plan to clean up the processes. The first step was rebuilding and redesigning their current website. I was able to shape a clear plan and launch a new site that collected all-important member data, highlighted member events in one place, reinstated the community’s mission and showcased all member benefits with ease. My role has since expanded to include full ownership of community marketing and we just wrapped For(bes) The Culture’s first virtual summit, with more than 3,000 registrants signed on to participate.

The industry has had to evolve quickly over the last year. Despite the limitations that exist right now, where is the opportunity for brands?

To be thinking about 2022… and where your audience is now, and where they will be. I’ve been a New Yorker my whole life. I’ve always commuted, and I never thought I’d want to work from home—ever. Now that I’ve been doing it, I can’t imagine going back full time. During a year of major uncertainty, my team hosted more than 65 events within six months convening an audience of more than 50,000 of some of the most senior global leaders across 188 countries, while also giving access to young trailblazers who may not always get the experience to participate. Event professionals need to take a step back and look at the landscape and what’s to come and what’s changed among users and attendees and not wait until someone has already laid out the roadmap. Don’t be afraid to be the first.

Does the experiential industry need more diversity? What are some of the next steps needed to make change?

There is so much engagement, so much life and so much untapped potential in this market. As an organization, it’s important that DE&I is woven into the fabric of your organization on a multidimensional level. At Forbes we’ve developed a dedicated Representation & Inclusion practice, enhanced our initiatives with our For(bes) The Culture Community and recently launched Forbes EQ, a space for businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations serving underrepresented groups to share stories and expertise with the Forbes.com audience. This can’t just be a talking point. Action is needed and the world is shifting. If you aren’t putting money or backing behind the infrastructure within your corporation and within your event strategies and content, you’re not only missing out from a moral standpoint, you’re missing out on a business standpoint. 

What is your dream role?

I’d like to one day become an entrepreneur and build something that’s 100-percent mine. While I love working with a team and collaborating, I could focus on things that I’m passionate about and create something without the restrictions that come with working under any corporation. 

Advice you would give young people thinking about a career in event marketing?

Focus on jobs that will teach you transferable skills. A lot of college students have the misconception that if you go to school for one subject, that’s the field you will work in. But that’s just not the way the world is set up for everyone. When I was trying to break into media, a recruiter told me, “You’re not going to get that job, you have to know someone.” And that’s what a lot of young people are being told. There’s no easy pipeline for some of us. So, get your foot in the door somewhere and work your way up. There are different routes into events, and many event professionals work in a different space within the company and then pivot onto the events team.

Vanessa Santana

Senior Brand Experience Planner

General Mills

An achievement you’re most
proud of so far.

I have many, but the most recent is a project called #BlackVoicesCreate for Gushers, one of the snack brands I work on. The murder of George Floyd took place ten minutes away from me in Minneapolis. That, coupled with the global pandemic—frankly, was a lot to deal with. Being the most junior and only person of color on my team, I had to find strength to not only show up, but mobilize and influence my team, my leaders and my brands to act. Knowing that my brands truly service teen consumers, the most multicultural generation, we need to be sure we’re showing up for them. I voiced my concerns and ideas, creating an action plan in response to the suppression Black teen creators faced on TikTok. The campaign has since won awards and generated eight million views on TikTok. Through this, Gushers partnered with and donated $400K to the NAACP Youth & College Division making the brand one of the first at General Mills to take bold actions toward racial and social justice.

What is your dream role?

My dream role, besides being a cmo, is to be working in the global cause-marketing space, like the Global Citizens Festival, for example. I want to be at that intersection of building social equity, driving human empathy and brands connecting people. 

And what drives your passion
for causes and people?

It’s mostly because of my life experience and exposure. I was raised among diversity my entire life. I was exposed to so many different cultures and environments. I speak Spanish and Portuguese, but I’m also a Black woman. I’ve traveled globally and domestically. Early in my career, I often worked with white men who have seemingly nothing in common with me. But I always learn and I’m fascinated by how people can be so interconnected and also live in their silos. It has given me a passion for building bridges and being a connector. 

What would you change about
the industry?

I would love to see an actual acknowledgement of the lack of diversity and systemic barriers in place across industries. Entering the workforce as a younger Black, Latina woman and being around no one else that looks like you or shares your experiences can be challenging. Yes, there’s a need for diversity at the top, but when I talk about this with industry peers like myself, we recognize the gap that exists within middle management, where folks are promoted for being great individual contributors but often lack the cultural competency to effectively manage, advocate for, embrace, and relate to diverse talent. 

Advice you would give young people thinking about a career
in event marketing.

Discover your superpowers by putting yourself in those positions. I attended a lot of events and applied to many programs from high school to college—networking events, conferences, galas where I might be the youngest person. I would volunteer at an event. I was also interning at Fortune 500 companies from the time I was 18. I put myself in these environments to see, learn, build relationships. Then I quickly learned what I loved and what I was good at.

Who or what inspires you?

My long lineage of powerhouse women. My mom is a single mom, and is the reason for almost everything that I’ve been able to accomplish. She raised me with strong values, and gave me space to learn and grow, even while being an immigrant to this country. My Abuela—Spanish for grandma—who’s the “head queen” of our family, was also a single mother and raised four kids in the Dominican Republic and somehow figured out how to make it on her own. And all her kids are wildly successful. When I think of my lineage, I’m inspired and know I can do anything because it’s in my blood.

Mahiri Wise

Program Manager-Cloud Developer
Relations Events

Google

What you are most proud of so
far in your career:

I inherited a program, Google Cloud Developer Days, that was supposed to be a 50-city road show where folks could touch and feel our products, and meet with each other and our experts live. Because of the pandemic, we had to shift quickly to a digital format which resulted in 10 single-day events allowing us to expose over five Google Cloud products and solutions.  With the assistance of our DevRel Advocates, our production partners and our field marketing team, we were able to deliver it successfully, under budget and meeting our original deadline.

A skillset or area of events you think is chronically overlooked
or undervalued.

The human aspect. We all have great task management skills, but we forget about the ability to connect with people—all the stakeholders, from production to marketing to the attendees—and understand where they’re coming from. Keeping people at the center of all our activities is what provides a lasting, positive experience for everybody involved. 

What would you change about
the industry?

What I call “wait your turn.” The event industry can be very flat and leaders stay for long periods of time. And that’s because those of us who do events are really good at them. We love our jobs. We stay. But it doesn’t create opportunities for others to come in and be creative. There has to be a way for the best idea to win.

How do you know your voice
is heard at work?

Because I can throw out a suggestion, get feedback from stakeholders and leadership, and then see that suggestion come to fruition. At Google Cloud, we’re encouraged to take a risk on our own idea. We’re there because we are the expert in the room. And I have seen that across the board, where people are given the autonomy to take a risk and fail, but also take a risk and be successful.

Does the experiential industry
need more diversity? 

Yes! If you look at sports, entertainment, technology and at industry events, you’ll see there is much more work to do at the leadership level. But I’ve also been to some great events where they have red, yellow, green badges that identify how much you’d like to engage. It could be a 12,000-person event and the 20 Black people who are attending, we all find each other. And you realize that’s a really small number. It’s as if these communities haven’t been thought of in the marketing strategy or they haven’t been thought of in terms of creating safe spaces at conferences. 

What do you think is needed
to make change?

We need to be focused on pipeline programs. While at AEG, I partnered with executives to create a job shadowing community benefit program to give underrepresented high school students insight to entertainment and events jobs they never knew existed. A lot of folks who work in sports and entertainment, their mom was a director or worked in marketing or their dad was a salesperson. So they learned that these roles exist. They may have gotten those roles through their parents. This limits the opportunity for someone else who may not be in that sphere to come in, learn and grow.

Advice you would give young people thinking about a career
in events?

Find a problem and be the solution. And then, never be afraid to pack your suitcase and go find the next opportunity. That’s what a mentor shared with me. Sometimes we can get tied to a company, the name of a company, but that doesn’t necessarily mean growth in your events career. In events, just like in sports, you have to move to the next team to get the next job. 

Who or what inspires you most?

Shout out to my parents. They are two people who don’t give up on anything. I work every day to build on the foundation they have given me and to exceed even their wildest dreams for me.

Natacha Diaz

U.S. Experiential Lead

Oatly

An achievement you’re most
proud of so far.

Establishing Oatly’s event strategy and booth assets is one of the things I’m most proud of. And that is because we are a very small team, we are grounded in sustainability, and so we had to be really scrappy and smart with not only our funds, but our materials. We came up with a modular booth system that we could take through the entire year with minor reskins or graphic changes, and not having to reinvent the wheel each time. We see brands that are constantly trying to outdo their last show or outdo last year, it’s always a brand refresh, constantly changing and chasing trends. It’s been refreshing to remain consistent and deliver on what we set out to do—provide an awesome experience with our product.

A skill or area of events you think is chronically overlooked or undervalued.

Sustainability. The amount of waste that we have at most shows is incredible. And we’ll see what COVID does to this, but you do have this expectation at industry shows to have endless supply of product. You don’t ever want to be left in a position where you have to tell someone, ‘Sorry, I’m out.’ So you overstock yourself. That’s one area. But another area is: Are we innovating? I’ve only worked with one company, a partner on the event, where they provided reusable ramekins, and there was a level of logistics involved with that. It wasn’t as easy as pulling out a paper cup. But you felt like you were doing something good because it was for a limited amount of time. It’s a matter of thinking creatively and starting small.

The industry has had to evolve quickly over the last year. Despite the limitations that exist right now, where is the opportunity for brands?

During COVID, we’ve been forced to look internally and really think about what’s important and what’s valuable and reevaluate the status quo. Many companies rely on what they’ve been doing for X number of years. But the opportunity, I think, is looking at this as a fresh start where you can be more creative and meaningful with your time. Why are we doing this? And is this the best use of our resources and our time and our employees, and their wellbeing?

What is your dream role?

I kind of got my dream role with Oatly, which sounds corny, but the key thing for me when I’m looking for a job is the ability to come in on the ground floor and build something up. And also working for a company that has an established mission. That purpose and that mission and having that North Star is what makes the role I have now a dream. Any other role for me would have to check those boxes.

Does the experiential industry need more diversity? What are some of the next steps needed to make change?

My first instinct is to say that every industry has a diversity problem, but therein lies the opportunity. The first step is to recognize the areas for improvement, and have the intention and will to change things up. I think it all starts with recruiting practices. How are job descriptions written, are there any biases in what candidate you are looking for and are you widening your search to include those with different experiences. And then it boils down to every individual. Everyone can make the choice to uplift someone and take them under their wing. On a personal level, I’d say throughout my career I have benefited from mentors. I may not have been qualified on paper for something, but I had someone who believed in me who was able to coach me through processes, guide me and uplift me. 

Who or what inspires you most?

Humanity inspires me the most. I do what I do for people. When I went from the fashion industry to Chobani and then to Oatly, it was because I would be making people’s lives better through unexpected experiences and physical spaces. And you know, people are complex, they’re resilient. If you think about everything that we’ve accomplished in this year and how we’ve been able to keep going and find ways to think creatively, we’re all an inspiration. 

Adaora Ugokwe

Head of Marketing, D’Ussé  

Roc Nation

An achievement you’re most
proud of so far.

Two stand out for me. One was with San Pellegrino, where we were launching a new product  and needed an “a-ha moment” to bring it to life. Working with our agency partners, we came up with an idea that was awesome but at the time I had to go to my boss and ask for an incremental $600K. I made a case as to why we were going to be able to deliver, and I got the incremental money. That was an awakening of self in being able to be a leader and to have a voice and be vocal about making decisions for the brand. The second is the Hennessy Fellows Program in partnership with Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the first time Moët Hennessy ever committed to a 10-year program and $10 million for graduate students of HBCUs. While the program focuses on providing financial assistance for internships, I was able to convince Moët Hennessy and LVMH to each hire a candidate from the first cohort—two jobs created.

Editor's Note: Ugokwe got her start in events working as an ambassador on Vitamin Water street teams. Her streak in beverages continued with San Pellegrino, Perrier, Belvedere and now cognac for
Roc Nation.
-Editor's Note

A skill or area of events you think is chronically overlooked or undervalued.

The ability to be organized and multitask. People see the pretty side of how an event came together, but they don’t have any idea of how much organization and time management it takes to actually get events off the ground. I’ve worked for organizations that are just like, “Oh, we’ll do an event. It’ll take two weeks.” People don’t understand the time that it takes to put together a well curated event and to do it well.

The industry has had to evolve quickly over the last year. Despite the limitations that exist right now, where is the opportunity for brands?

We have an opportunity to be challenged to think about doing things differently than we’ve always done them and still bring meaningful experiences to consumers while delivering against our KPIs. 

What would you change about
the industry?

That more grace be given to women and people of color. This industry attracts women, but there aren’t enough opportunities at the leadership level. We want to arm talent with the support to have a speaking chair at the table, and leave them unafraid of behavior causing them to be labeled with stereotypes by their gender or race, or worse, to worry that it will affect their progression. People don’t consider all the skills that it takes to execute activations —the organizational skills, the people skills, the negotiating skills—and how those skills can then translate up the corporate ladder.

Does the experiential industry need more diversity? What are some of the next steps needed to make change?

It needs diversity on all levels. I was the unicorn—literally, the only Black female in a lot of rooms for many years. And it’s so hard to say where to start because qualified people are literally all around us, right? There are people who are doing experiential on their own and they’re not with an agency or they’re not with a brand, because no one’s given them that opportunity. As marketers, we’re always curious, always looking for inspiration. So if you have the ability to tap someone who’s not in your network, someone on Instagram, ask to bring them on for a project. It would be a mutually beneficial experience. And then you get the chance to get outside talent, outside ideas, outside thinking to make your program better, because often we only talk to ourselves.

Advice you would give young people thinking about a career in event marketing?

Not everything will be an instant gratification moment, but every moment of effort is building to something more. Whether it’s a successful program, a project you don’t realize will set you up better for something down the road… Get ready for long hours, tough conversations and maybe even a lot of sleepless nights, but know that it’s going to be rewarding to see the final result, and see how consumers react to the event or interact with your brand. And I think that’s what’s kept me on this side of marketing, that I can see the results first hand and know I helped bring this to life. You learn to love Excel spreadsheets, all the tedious processes, but at every event I always take a moment to stand in the back and just look at the beautiful space and all the people enjoying it and remember that’s why we do it.

Ellide Smith

Director-Trailhead Strategic Events and Programs

Salesforce

An achievement you’re most
proud of so far.

An event for an automotive client for 200 top executives in Anchorage, Alaska. We made it our own with a “family fun” day where attendees chose two activities that ranged from tile making to emergency avalanche procedures to a Northern Lights watch. We even felt an earthquake during the event. I felt like I had conquered a lot that one week, and as an experience builder, it offered the best of both worlds: the planning and the creativity.

The industry has had to evolve quickly over the last year. Despite the limitations that exist right now, where is the opportunity for brands?

This is the time for people to test things that they have been holding back on. At this moment anything goes, so let’s try it all. I describe myself as having a growth mindset. I’m OK with trying something, making a mistake, learning from it and evolving, or just saying no, that didn’t really work so let’s go in a different direction. That’s exactly what brands should be saying. Everything is on the table. 

What is your dream role?

I’ve always wanted to be a part of planning of large-scale events like Super Bowl or the Grammys. Because in my career I grew up in the luxury hotel space, I’ve seen star power in action and I love the complexity of it all. When I go to Beyoncé concerts, I am always sitting there thinking about the production team and what they’re doing to figure out when the concert will start and the rigging.

How do you know your voice is heard at work?

Sometimes it’s as simple as being able to speak in a meeting without being interrupted. There have been instances where as a younger person in the room, or in having a different perspective at the table, it has been difficult to get out what I have to say. What I’ve learned is, I have a voice and I need to speak up at all times. And then I also know that I’ve been heard when I see implementation of my ideas and I’ve received support from executives and my comrades and collaborators.

Does the experiential industry
need more diversity? 

I don’t think industries in general are diverse enough, but I definitely don’t think our industry is diverse enough, especially when you get into corporate roles or agency roles, you tend to find a certain demographic in those spaces, whether it’s based off of race or it’s a lot of women and not a lot of men, or in some spaces there’s an age factor. I find it interesting when I go to planner conferences and the entertainment comes on at night. I went to one and it was the Bee Gees… and it wasn’t for me.

What are some of the next steps needed to make change?

I happened into this industry by accident. No one ever told me that meeting planning was a real career, no one ever told me that working in hotels was an actual career and that I didn’t have to be the housekeeper. It starts by outreach and education. And that’s where mentorship comes into play, but then we also have to be more supportive of diverse candidates coming up and through the ranks. There’s a barrier of diversity in corporate meeting departments. How do we get past that? Those are higher paying jobs. When you think about career longevity, that’s where we need to be.

Advice you would give young people thinking about a career in event marketing.

I like to say you give your blood, sweat, tears, and bone marrow to this industry. But it’s worth it. I wish that someone would have told me how to prepare for that. You’ll get to a point where you’re comfortable and you’re at ease and then everything will flip on its head again. I was comfortable and at ease and then 2020 happened. And now I’m learning a completely new aspect of my job that I would’ve never thought that I would have needed to learn. That’s this industry. Being adaptable and flexible is what you have to be.

Glover Campbell

Client Marketing Manager, Event Experience

Vanguard

An achievement you’re most
proud of so far.

I’m most proud of the system I have put in place for making the best use of client data from our events. The pivot to virtual presented its immediate challenges to everyone across different industries, but it also created some great opportunities for marketers. The most significant was the ability to seamlessly capture data, which ultimately helped us test and learn quickly and extract relevant insights that helped the organization move the needle on certain key objectives. Kudos to my small but mighty team which has been super agile over this past year. We learn and grow every day as the event world is continuing to evolve.

A skill or area of events you think is chronically overlooked or undervalued.

I think the ability to be agile is undervalued by anyone looking from the outside in on the event world. Things change daily, sometimes hourly. And as a unit, the event team needs to be able to adjust and execute and not get caught up in the weeds all the time. So it’s that type of agile mindset that is undervalued by anybody who has not lived and breathed it.

The industry has had to evolve quickly over the last year. Despite the limitations that exist right now, where is the opportunity for brands?

In 2021, certainly in 2022, brands are going to have the opportunity to reimagine everything. Literally, everything from experiences and engagement to audiences, marketing strategy, content, and even speakers, which I think is pretty cool for anybody in the position to influence the connection with audiences. I think we’ll see more brand-side and agency collaboration later this year and into next year, for sure, as hybrid events emerge.

How do you know your voice
is heard at work?

We have weekly brainstorming sessions, which are a great opportunity for not only the immediate event team, but also our cross-functional partners, such as our writers and our designers, to share best practices or an article that’d we’ve read, or our ideas on what’s working, what’s not working. Those are the opportunities where I’ve felt I can bring my ideas to the table and prove their value.

Does the experiential industry need more diversity? What are some of the next steps needed to make change?

I definitely think it’s important for every marketing organization to make sure that they are building for diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s important to build teams with diverse backgrounds, skillsets, cultures, ethnicities and genders, and also make sure that we’re not only hiring diverse teams and diverse managers, but also hiring diverse vendors and agencies who share similar values and demonstrate the importance of having strong DE&I practices. Experiential marketers have the opportunity, call it the obligation, to make sure that we’re selecting diverse speakers and curating content that’s appropriate and sensitive to audiences. And all the stakeholders play their unique role. Change can start today with the individual and their scope of work. You can develop an action plan with every stakeholder on the team.

Advice you would give young people thinking about a career
in events.

Exposure is huge. There are not that many college programs out there focused on experiential marketing. I would say attend events and conferences and hear different people speak and make note of different titles to understand the opportunities that are out there. 

Who or what inspires you most?

Other industries, from entertainment to CPG. I work in the financial services industry and it tends to be a little bit more conservative compared to other industries, but I’ll study marketing efforts in tangential industries, such as the credit card industry and other consumer-centric  industries and take inspiration from outside of my little bubble and apply it to my work in the b-to-b sector.

Anna Nicholson

Senior Event Planner

Verizon Media

An achievement you’re most
proud of so far.

Our DEI task force that I lead for our global events team. It was born out of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer to hold our global events team accountable to the commitment for driving change. We have OKRs that are set in place to ensure accountability across the board and to make sure we are moving the needle on all variables that we can control as a team, which is a lot. This is ranging from hiring diverse talent and agencies, sourcing minority-owned vendors to pushing the envelope on sustainability efforts, as well as making sure mental health is a focal point for our team.

A skillset or area of events you think is chronically overlooked
or undervalued.

Strategic thinking and marketing skills. Oftentimes people think of event planners just as ‘executionists’ rather than holistic visionaries. Understanding the business, knowing the ins and outs of the products, identifying the latest trends, baking out a comprehensive digital marketing plan—those are all a part of our day-to-day roles and responsibilities.

The industry has had to evolve quickly over the last year. Despite the limitations that exist right now, where is the opportunity for brands?

This is a pivotal time to attract loyal customers. The last year has been pretty painful, but it has also opened a window of opportunities for brands to genuinely meet consumers where they’re at and where we still are, which is at home. And within the comfort of home is where I feel like the message is likely to resonate even deeper. Brands also have the unique opportunity to take a firm stance on social issues. Nowadays people really do care about what brands they support and where their money is going.      

What would you change about
the industry?

I don’t necessarily think it’s one thing I would change, but something I would love to see amplified throughout the industry is more diversity, which is why I love that we’re here. And not just thinking diversity as in race, but considering gender, age, geographical location, background, and experience. Diversity across the board. When you have diverse perspectives and experiences and thoughts, your results are way more innovative and revolutionary than if the exact same people are in the exact same room, thinking about the exact same concept. 

How do you know your voice
is heard at work?

When talk turns to action. Our vp of b-to-b marketing held a forum after all the events that happened last summer, including George Floyd’s murder, and the Black Lives Matter movement, where anybody who wanted to speak had the opportunity. It was an important and vulnerable conversation, with people truly taking the time to listen. I found the courage to raise my hand and say, ‘Hey, I think it would be great if we could implement X, Y, and Z on certain initiatives to really make sure we’re holding our entire team accountable.’ Immediately after that, there was follow up, plans put into place and the right group of people were brought in to make sure we were following through on those actions. That’s a perfect example of being heard at work.

Who or what inspires you most?

There’s a quote that I have written down that I try to live by every single day by Nipsey Hussle and it’s, “The highest human act is to inspire.” So I feel like from the top down, my mom is my biggest inspiration. She raised me and my sister as a single mom and she sacrificed so much to be able to give us the life that we wanted and felt like we needed. Giving people the opportunity to be their best version of themselves is a core value that she instilled in us, and is one I try to bring to work and also to the individuals that I mentor.

Feature By: Rachel Boucher
Graphic Design: TJ Sydnor


ADDITIONAL LISTENING
AND READING


Check out our Experiential in Color playlist on Spotify featuring the honorees’ favorite “walk-up” songs—the music that speaks to them.


Top agency executives share insights on the action steps they're taking, and the progress they're making, toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion.