Present: Manager, B2B Marketing, Events and Associations, LoyaltyOne
Past: CGI, Central 1 Credit Union, University of Toronto, Independent special event and wedding planner
Expertise: 12+ years strategic event management, consulting, multi-channel marketing, and communications experience
Specialty: Proven track record building solid, long-term relationships with clients and partners, contract negotiations, creating memorable event experiences tied to ROI, often on a shoestring budget
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a lucky guy. I always had amazing people in my life who have supported me no matter the direction I’ve taken my career. I have been (and likely always will be) passionate about my work.
I was born in Windsor, Ontario, but have spent most of my years in the Greater Toronto Area. I live with my partner of over seven years and we enjoy spending much of our downtime with friends and family, a pint (or two) on a patio, and experiencing new adventures in and out of the city.
Tell us about your work
My role focuses on managing strategic B2B marketing and events in support of LoyaltyOne’s various business lines with the goal to drive sales and ROI. My day-to-day activities include contributing to integrated marketing campaigns, negotiating sponsorships, managing conferences and trade shows, and overseeing our internal speakers’ bureau. My favourite part of my role is managing our corporate relationships with key retail and marketing associations to find opportunities for LoyaltyOne to support its members in ways that are mutually beneficial. I also work with some of the top minds in the loyalty, advanced analytics, and retail industry, so I’m constantly learning.
How did you get to where you are today?
Honestly – with a lot of energy and passion for my work, and amazing mentors and strategic leaders. Unlike many of your readers, I did not take the route that many corporate event managers typically do. For years, friends and family told me that I was the ‘consummate host’ and that I should make a move from finance services into what I enjoyed doing naturally – building relationships and designing event experiences.
I specialized in Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Toronto, but also made a point of volunteering a lot in my earlier years with special events around the city, mostly with the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) at their AIDS Walk Toronto, Fashion Cares and SNAP! events. I eventually moved up the volunteer ladder and was asked to participate on several steering committees and eventually fell in love with the profession. From there, I looked for jobs that would allow me to pay my dues in the event world, while also paying my bills. The best spot for me at that time was a corporate environment – and I have not left since. Thus far in my career, I have planned and executed over 500 event and marketing experiences locally, across North America, and internationally.
Why are you good at what you do?
I care about delivering experiences that have an impact. My experience has taught me to work hard and to bring fun and creativity into the mix whenever possible. I also like to continuously grow and blend my experience to make me a stronger and smarter team member at the office and from an extra-curricular perspective.
Also, not enough people focus on relationships. All relationships need trust, respect and rapport to provide value. No matter how tough an engagement may be, I try to never burn a bridge with a venue, supplier, client or partner. There’s always time to pause and provide an ear if someone needs one.
What are some of the challenges you face?
This is not new for your readers — managing multiple priorities especially in any environment where there are several stakeholders each with their own goals. Many of my challenges previously involved finding ways to measure success. Joining LoyaltyOne (a company so strongly focused on measurement) has helped me focus and refine my event tactics to better align with ROI measurement.
Is there anything you would change in our industry, given the chance?
There are so many amazing suppliers in our industry that excel at nurturing client relationships. However, I would appreciate transparency as it relates to services and pricing. A lot of the time services are only available as a ‘package.’ Where I could see some improvement is allowing planners to self-select and/or build service packages based on their needs. Who doesn’t love an “à la carte” services menu with fair and reasonable pricing?
Walk us through a typical day at work.
Email, email, and email… Did I say email? Since I wear both a corporate marketing and research and development hat in my role, it means a lot of collaboration and communication regarding content and tactics. Also, by working in an agile environment with many priorities, internal ‘clients’ and stakeholders, no day is ever the same.
What have been some of your biggest achievements?
Bringing together a few hundred sales representatives who had never met or collaborated before for their first company sales conference. It was a small win at the time, but very strategic, which helped the team measure success, foster collaboration, and set the stage to drive sales.
What do you like best about the meetings industry, particularly in your region or city?
What a network! The Greater Toronto Area (and southern Ontario in general) is filled with experts in all fields relating to the meetings and events industry. If you are new to the industry or find it hard to connect with a venue, supplier or a partner to help you support your goals, you should consider getting involved in groups on LinkedIn or joining key professional organizations like MPI, ISES or other relevant groups for you. Personally, I could do better at attending networking events, but I know confidently that I have a network available to support me.
How do you deal with the challenges of work-life balance?
From a work perspective, I live via my calendar, tracking tools, and spreadsheets like most planners I’m sure. However, from a life perspective, I think it’s important for people in the meetings and events industry to ensure that their friends and family understand the nature of the job. Some days will be harried, some days will be fun, but like any stressful job, you will be bringing some of it home. Helping to balance the stress with a good network and understanding is important… just not during conference season. (wink)
What are some of your most memorable events and why?
My favourite event that I’ve managed was a few years ago at the Art Gallery of Ontario while the Maharaja exhibit was in town. It was an annual client appreciation event for 350 Toronto executives from a variety of industries. I closed the AGO and hosted an ‘East-Meets-West’ reception with gallery tours, amazing décor from suppliers, music (sitar players!), client gifts, upscale activities, and incredible food and drinks. It came together perfectly.
I accomplished my goal of providing a unique space to nurture relationships, but also it was all dependent on bringing together some of the best suppliers in Toronto. Having an amazing network and suppliers willing to contribute to hear you and contribute to your vision was key. Also, spending a few days in one of the best art galleries in the world didn’t hurt to keep it memorable!