Updated: Jan 3, 2021
While I am an Event Producer, I did not formally study or major in "event production" in college. This is something I hear often from fellow professionals in the events, hospitality and tourism industries. It's one of those fields that people tend to fall into by chance and rise up the ranks through dedicated, hands-on experience. A common thread I see across my event industry colleagues is a passion for live experiences, driving them to continue in this unpredictable line of work (even if they don't hold a specialized academic degree in the subject).
My story follows this thread. I majored in Art History at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY (about a 30 minute drive outside New York City). When I tell people my major in college their first reaction is often something along the lines of, "Oh! So you wanted to go into work in art galleries or museums... I guess that relates to events because gallery openings and exhibition launches are types of events, in a sense...? What a great correlation!" ...But the funny thing is that I did not plan it that way at all.
My love for events came from leading student activities on Manhattanville campus through the Office of Campus Life, and also as a Resident Advisor in the Office of Residence Life. As the Co-President of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) I produced and directed Manhattanville's first Drag Show in 2013, which became an annual tradition at the college. As a junior and senior in college, I booked talent from the hit TV show RuPaul's Drag Race (Shangela in 2013, Latrice Royale in 2014, and also an incredible drag king from the west coast, Landon Cider, in 2014). Through this experience I learned how to orchestrate the countless moving pieces of a large-scale event, ranging from budgeting, coordinating fundraising strategy, stewarding sponsorships, leading marketing tactics, booking A/V, designing space layouts, mitigating risk, negotiating talent contracts/tech riders, supervising a planning committee, and much more. This led me to realize my passion for the magic of event production, from the early planning steps all the way to the exciting day-of event rush.
I told my story in more detail in July 2020 during an Alumni Career Chat with Manhattanville College's Center for Career Development (Instagram: @mvilleccd, Facebook: @mvilleccd, Twitter: @mvilleccd). Thank you to the Manhattanville CCD office for this opportunity (special thanks to Teagan O'Connor and Olivia Marriott for guiding the conversation).
Check out the below video recording if you'd like to hear more of my story about how I got to where I am today, and where I see my career going in the future.
See below for some time codes organized by topic, if you'd like to skip around.
@ 1:50 - I describe how I ended up in a career in the events world
*Please note that the recording skips a bit from 2:40 - 3:40. It stops skipping shortly after that.
@ 5:00 - My thoughts on the future of events during this uncertain time of COVID-19
@ 7:07 - The most defining events/experiences in college for me
@ 8:40 - My role in producing the first and second annual Manhattanville Drag Show (in 2013 and 2014), ranging from the ideation stage, development, fundraising, production/talent management, and creative direction
@ 12:00 - How Manhattanville helped prepare me to work in events - from my academics (Art History/Studio Art), to my invaluable study abroad experience in West Africa in 2012 (and how that led to my interest in event production)
@ 15:30 - Most challenging and most rewarding moments in my career so far.
@ 17:25 - We discuss the challenges in separating the sense of self-worth from the perceived level of productivity, and how that correlates to my understanding of "success"
@ 19:30 - My favorite parts of event production (sneak peek: elevating a person/cause and making them feel special!)
@ 22:12 - I talk about people I look up to, and why/how those people have impacted me
@ 26:05 - Most useful piece of career advice I've ever received (hint: don't feel so tied down/limited by your major when choosing your career)
@ 32:15 - What skills I think are necessary for success in the events industry, and how I think the requirements within the field are changing
@ 36:20 - We discuss the power of connection
@ 39:43 - "If you had to do it all over again at Manhattanville, what would you change or do differently?"
@ 41:40 - How working in Residence Life in college helped me with de-escalation techniques on-site at events
@ 43:37 - We talk about resources I recommend to students interested in a career in event production (shout-outs: the podcast 'Event Brew', Priya Parker's book, 'The Art of Gathering', and Parker's podcast, 'Together Apart')
@ 47:43 - I talk a bit about where I see myself going in my career in the future