Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Joy of Being a Mentor

Image Credit: Antoinette Oglethorpe Blog

I firmly believe that you get what you give. If you put positive energy out to the universe you get it back. I also believe that each person you meet in your life is a blessing and has a lesson to teach. At a young age I discovered that you can learn from other people’s mistakes and their success stories. I also learned how important mentors are to your development as a person and as a professional.

Throughout my life I’ve had many mentors. I’ve found mentors that are family friends, people in my industry, coworkers, bosses, business acquaintances, and friends I’ve made in Rotary. If you take the time to get to know people and learn about their life experiences you can pick up some very good lessons along the way. These people have made a big difference in my life, saved me from making a lot of bad decisions, and made me a better person. Now it is my turn to be a mentor.

Over the last few years I’ve been able to hire summer interns. It has been a rewarding experience for me and my first chance to act as an official mentor. It is very rewarding to share with them some lessons I’ve learned along the way. It has been a humbling experience being a mentor. There is so much knowledge and experience I want to give them, but there is so little time.

The internship is only during the summer event season, which is the most challenging part of the year for my job. They see me at my best and at my worst, all within a few short months. They work in the event trenches with me and they share the pain of working hard and being sleep deprived. They understand the big bags under your eyes and the different phases of tired because we all work so closely together. I’ve been blessed to have four bright and intelligent interns that I’ve enjoyed working with, I swear they teach me as much as I teach them.

The summer internship is a great opportunity for students to decide if they really want to pursue a career in special events and public relations. Within a few months they gain more experience than most event planners because of the diversity of events we produce. These experiences, and learning so much in such a short time frame can feel like drinking out of a fire hydrant. It is a tough summer with lots of hours, but it is well worth it in the end.

The interns gain the most from our life stories, not just the experiences working at special events. We often tell them little stories and then give them the moral of the story. Sometimes we even tell them to “write that down” in our best Van Wilder impersonation. The smart interns take notes, whether they are written in ink or just burned into their memory makes no difference. Life lessons are life lessons.

Alli Williams was one of my great interns. She is a University of Nevada School of Journalism graduate and worked with us over the 2013 special event season. Alli was quiet, quick witted, talented, and extremely creative. She had brilliant graphic design skills and was very dependable. Her portfolio that she developed in school is fantastic! There was one advertisement in particular that she designed for Geico that sticks in my memory years later. I swear she could have received a national award for the advertisement concept. Alli took a lot of my little life lessons to heart and she even wrote a blog post about them. At the end of the summer I just hope I’ve made a difference in their lives and based on Alli’s blog I think she picked up a lot of good life lessons during her summer with us at the Nugget.

Please read Alli’s blog post about being an intern at The Business Casual Life.  If you ever get the chance to mentor someone, do it! Being a mentor is a great experience!

Related Posts:
How to Impress Your Mentor and Get What You Need from the Relationship
5 Personal Development Lessons from Van Wilder

Communication – It Isn’t About You!

Image Credit: Toronto MBA Journal

I recently learned a valuable lesson from Chris Howard, the Value Creation professor for the University of Nevada MBA program. He taught me a new way of looking at communication styles. The biggest lesson that he really drove home was that communication isn’t about your style of communication; it is about the other person’s style of communication. Let me repeat that in a very direct way…Communication-it isn’t about you! It should be about the person you are trying to communicate with, not your style of communication.

There are four types of communication styles:
1. Driver
2. Analytical
3. Expressive
4. Amiable

Lisa Jansen Quiz Results

Image Credit: results

There is no style better than another, they are just different. Since learning about these communication styles I have changed some of my communication techniques. I took a test to determine my style. At the end of this post are links to two different quizzes to help you determine your style. There are dozens of quizzes online to help you determine your style. The two highest scores I received were 76% expressive and 64% driver. I wasn’t surprised by the results because as the instructor explained the characteristics in class I knew I was either an expressive or a driver.

I’m using this information as I plan special events and when I develop marketing plans. Now I’m analyzing my business contacts, my coworkers, and my customers based on their communication styles. My boss is a driver so I’m trying to be more direct with him, less small-talk, and always be on time or a few minutes early. I think it has helped us communicate better. One of my coworkers is amiable so I make sure to be extra warm and friendly to them, and realize that they appreciate small talk and genuinely getting to know their coworkers. Once I started adapting to their communication styles, I started developing better working relationships.

Knowing my communication style has also helped me see where there is a weakness in my communication methods. If I’m dealing with an analytical person I need to tone down my expressive side. I need to do whatever I can to speak in the analytical person’s preferred communication style to be successful. It makes everything so much easier when you think about communication based on the other persons preferred style.

It isn’t hard to adapt to this mindset, it just takes practice. The first step should be determining your communication style. Then learn the characteristics for all four styles. Once you know the basics you will start to see signs on how to communicate more effectively. You can see signs everywhere! I’ve noticed them in emails, body language, choice of clothing, office decorations, listening skills, in the way people handle change, and risk management. There have been studies that show some people with certain styles tend to drive a certain type of vehicle or buy a certain color of car. I’m not that much of an expert so I won’t go that far, but if you do a quick Google search you can find several lists of these characteristics.

So what is your communication style? Take one of these free non-scientific quizzes online and find out!

Quiz 1:

Quiz 2:

Want to read more? Check out this blog: Keep Yourself Relevant

Nevada Would Welcome Gen Con with Open Arms

Gen Con

Image Credit: Gen Con Facebook Page

I’ve been closely watching the news out of Indiana this week about the controversial religious freedom bill. As someone that works in tourism I can see how damaging this bill could be to future tourism and convention business, as well as economic development in general.

I don’t want to focus on whether the bill is right or wrong. After eight years as a political television show producer I’ve mastered the art of agreeing to disagree so this blog is not the place to debate the issues in the bill. The real point of this blog is to invite business and conventions not happy with their political environment to consider Nevada and encourage you to pay attention to your political environment because it can have a tremendous impact on your business.

In this situation Marc Benioff, CEO of, is threating to leave the State of Indiana or limit future business growth. This would be a huge hit to their economy. In the convention and tourism industry Gen Con is threatening to move their convention because the new bill doesn’t provide the type of welcome environment that they need for their convention. This got me thinking we should get all the large properties in our area together to bring Gen Con to Reno. It also reminded me that the political environment that your business operates in can have consequences and it is important to be involved and pay attention.

Losing Gen Con would be a big hit to Indianapolis considering it is estimated that the event brings in $50 million economic impact. The event is billed as the “Best Four Days in Gaming” and is the original and longest-running gaming convention in the world. People come to the convention from all over the United States and from more than 40 countries. The event happens the last weekend of July, perfect timing right before Hot August Nights!

Gen Con Parade

Image Credit: Gen Con Facebook Page

Reno would be perfect for this crowd! We are welcoming, we have gamers locally, we have many different venues, and we love a good party where people dress up in costumes. Convention attendees would be welcome in Reno! They would find an affordable place to have their convention with a lot of different opportunities for entertainment. The convention is so big it could take over the town and we would welcome them with open arms!

As I did more research my dream of bringing Gen Con to Reno came to a screeching halt. It turns out the event is too big for Reno. With 56,000 unique attendees over four days we probably don’t have enough hotel rooms in the Reno/Sparks area, we have approximately 20,000 rooms. We might have more rooms by 2020 when their contract with Indianapolis is up for renewal.

In the meantime, I would like to encourage Gen Con to consider moving to Las Vegas, our bigger sibling city to the south. The weather is nice, and they are also welcoming and accepting of all people. Nevada is a great destination for conventions, we are happy to provide an environment that welcomes all attendees. The hospitality industry is what Nevada is world famous for and we know how to host world-class conventions. I know Las Vegas would welcome you with open arms. All of us in Nevada hope before you make any decisions you will come check out all the opportunities the Great State of Nevada has to offer.

Looking to book a convention in Nevada? Here are some helpful links:

Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority
Nugget Casino Resort
Travel Nevada – Nevada Tourism Commission

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Corks & Kegs

Corks & Kegs

Corks & Kegs

Reno is a great place to visit because there is always something going on. Well informed tourists, and of course our locals, know that you can come to Reno any weekend and find a wide variety of fun and affordable entertainment. This weekend alone there are Leprechaun runs and bar crawls in honor of St. Patty’s Day,  Micro Championship Wrestling, comedy shows, a monster truck rally, and for the foodies there is a wine and food tasting event called Corks & Kegs.

Corks & Kegs, the 2nd Annual Wine & Craft Beer Tasting event, will be held Saturday, March 14, 2015 at the Nugget Casino Resort. The event will feature world class wines & craft beer as well as appetizer sampling. There will be a silent auction featuring great prizes and live entertainment. Guests will enjoy appetizers while they check out the auction items. The menu for the evening was created by Chef Keith Sadanaga, one of my favorite chefs! The 8-piece swing band, the Brass Knuckles, will be providing live entertainment for the party. This is an event you won’t want to miss!

Proceeds from the event benefit the Perry Foundation.  The foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit foundation and a great organization to support. The charity is committed to providing education to Nevada’s post-acute care provider and regulatory community through community awareness and donor support. They are a statewide organization that serves elderly in all Nevada communities. The foundation focuses on improving the quality of care to residents of our state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Corks & Kegs starts at 5:00 p.m. in the Rose Ballroom at the Nugget. Tickets are $45 in advance and can be purchased at or by calling 800-648-1177. The day of the event ticket prices are $55 and can be bought online, by calling the Nugget, or at the door.

If you want more information or would like to sponsor this event please call Robert Kidd at 866-307-0942 or email

Corks & Kegs is one of the many great events our community has to offer this weekend. If you find yourself bored at home, it’s your own fault! There are always plenty of opportunities for fun in Reno.

Image Credit 

If you plan a special event in the Reno/Sparks area and would like me to post about it on Mad About Events Blog. Please contact me.

Brew HaHa 2015 Interview Mashup

BrewHaHaThis is our 2015 Brew HaHa Interview Mashup video. The clips essentially tell the story of Brew HaHa in less than 14 minutes. Special thanks to the local media that let us come on their shows, talk about Brew HaHa, give out free tickets, and share our beer! We couldn’t make this event a success without you!

Warning: The video doesn’t have the best sound or video quality. It was shot and edited on an iPad. You can watch the full interview videos on the Event Videos & Interviews Page of Mad About Events Blog.
Special thanks to… Stacey Spain, Sierra Arts Foundation; Breanna Reinhardt, Nugget Casino Resort; Wilson, Pigeon Head Brewery; Charlie Johnson, Brewer’s Cabinet; Jim Brant, New West Distributing; Mark and Two Bald Guys; Fran, Common Cider; Matt Weaver, Morrey Distribting; KTHX 100.1; Wild 102.9; KBUL 98.;1 KOH 780; KNEV 95.5; KOZZ Max Volume; The Bandit 92.9; The Wolf 94.5; KNEWS Radio; KTVN 2; KRXI Fox 11 KOLO 8 Good Morning Reno; The Daily Sparks Tribune; Reno News & Review; and Reno Gazette Journal

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Sponsor Brainstorming Experiment

Brainstorming. You love it, you hate it, or you just tolerate it. It can be tricky to have a successful brainstorming session. I was recently assigned the task of hosting a brainstorming session for sponsorship development. My boss thought it would be a good idea to have the whole management team, which is approximately 50 people, work together to brainstorm sponsorship ideas for the two biggest events I plan. I wasn’t convinced it would work, but I wanted to do the best we could, so I did some research.

Like all good researchers I went to Google and typed in “How to plan a brainstorming session.” I received a lot of good information, including good rules for brainstorming sessions. The most interesting search results were that people do better alone brainstorming, and then the contradictory results that people worked better as a group brainstorming. There was a fascinating article in The Wall Street Journal by Jared Sandberg back in 2006 called “Brainstorming Works Best if People Scramble For Ideas on Their Own” which caught my eye. The article pointed out some very obvious flaws in the concept of brainstorming. For example, people are self-conscious and don’t want to speak up, creativity can’t be scheduled for a certain time of the day, someone hijacks the topic, someone tries to prove everyone else wrong, people go out of their way to impress superiors who are present, or someone talks over their colleagues and doesn’t know when to stop. The article presents findings from Professor Paulus, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Arlington. He found that usually group brainstormers perform at 50% of the level they would if they brainstormed alone. Brainstorming is very important to many businesses. I’ve never heard that it was so ineffective.

Other search results mainly focused on the effectiveness of brainstorming, especially if everyone builds on each other’s ideas. So I decided to use my brainstorming session as an experiment to test these two theories. At our weekly management meeting we sit at tables of 5-6 people. This is the perfect size for a brainstorming group.

My experiment…

Each person that came to the meeting received two pieces of paper, one for each event. The CEO gave an introduction and told the meeting attendees that we were going to have a brainstorming session. I started off the session telling them about the two theories and that we were doing an experiment. I could see the relief on many faces when I told them we would start off with brainstorming alone, that was a big sign.

I started the session by telling everyone that I would not give them a list of current sponsors because I wanted them to think of this as if we were starting from scratch. I also wouldn’t tell them if their suggestions were past or current sponsors in honor of saving time. I told them that at the end of the session all of the lists would be taken back to my office and I would send proposal to potential new sponsors. I then told them the sponsor levels but that was it. Then I gave them 3 minutes to brainstorm silently. After the 3 minutes they were given 2 minutes to discuss their list with the other people at their table. Before they started I had my friend in the sales department read the rules. The Rules: go for quantity, be visual, hold off judgment, build on top of each other’s idea, focus, and go for crazy ideas. They were told to work together to come up with the top 3 sponsors. Then we went around to each table and they told us their top 3 sponsors.

Click here to check out "How to have better brainstorming sessions" blog by Emy

Click here to check out “How to have better brainstorming sessions” blog by Emy

It was very interesting because the brainstorm for the first session went well. They came up with more ideas and they gave me a lot of good leads. The second round where they had more time as a group and less time brainstorming alone surprisingly didn’t go as well. They were all so talkative after sharing their top 3 suggestions in Round 1 that I couldn’t completely gain control of the room and get everyone to silently brainstorm for Round 2. I even called people out for talking to their neighbor like a teacher would, and it barely had an effect on them. Their lists were also shorter for the second brainstorming session. The event we were brainstorming sponsors for is about 10 times larger than the first event, so it should have been easier to come up with sponsor ideas. The quality of suggestion in Round 2 was also not as great as the quality in Round 1.

After going back to my office and analyzing the results I came to the conclusion that having them brainstorm alone for a longer time would have benefited us more. The results were much better for Round 1. The next brainstorming session I host I plan on using a similar method to Round 1 but I will give them more time to brainstorm alone since it received the best results.

Additional Reading: How to Have Better Brainstorming Sessions

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9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Planning a Special Event

To plan or not to plan...that is the questionHas anyone ever told you that you don’t have to pursue every great idea you’ve ever had? No? Well I will! Just because you have a great idea for an event doesn’t mean you need to go out and do it. There are a few important questions you should ask yourself before launching a new special event. I know from experience as an event producer and as an event sponsor that if you can’t answer these questions you have no business pursuing your event concept. After answering all these questions if you still think you should plan your event, then charge full steam ahead.

1. Do you have the resources and capabilities to plan this event?

If you don’t have the resources or capabilities to plan the event you have no business moving forward with the event. As an event producer you should never count on anyone else to do all the work or provide all the resources. It is extremely poor form to consider yourself an “idea person” and then expect everyone else to do the heavy lifting while you take the fame and glory. It is also poor form to approach a sponsor and expect them to pay all the bills for whatever party/event you are trying to plan. If you come into my office and ask me to sponsor your event, then tell me if I don’t sponsor you won’t plan the event, game over.

2. Is there a demand for this type of event?

Just because you like the idea doesn’t mean others will. You must ask yourself if there is demand for this type of event. If there is no demand, don’t plan the event!

3. Is this event duplicating another special event? Is this event unique? What makes it special?

If I get one more donation request for a crab feed I might scream. If you are starting a new event, try to come up with something original. You want to plan a unique event that will be an attraction. Don’t do the same old thing!

4. Has anyone else planned this type of event that you could learn from? What can you learn from them?

Several years ago I decided I wanted to plan a western theme bar crawl through downtown Reno. The Reno Santa Crawl was just becoming a big hit and I thought it would be a great event in June to attract tourists and locals to downtown Reno. I studied Santa Crawl online and I found the contact information for the event planner. I emailed him and asked for some advice. This is when I became friends with Matthew Goedert, one of the best event producers in Reno. Matt and I became friends over email and then we started having regular phone calls. He gave me great advice and I learned a lot from him. I firmly believe that if you don’t know something, you better ask someone.

5. Who is the competition?

When it comes to planning events there are several types of competition in my mind. You need to ask yourself who you are competing with for sponsors. Who are you competing with for event dates? Who are you competing with for event locations? One of the worst mistakes I see event planners make is not doing their research on the competition. Do your research, and if you find out you are about to plan your event on a weekend where there are several other special events, think again! This could make or break your event. You may lose out on locations, sponsors, and most of all event attendees.

6. Does this event attract the audience you want to attract?

Remember the western theme bar crawl I mentioned in #4? Well #6 is where I made a fatal mistake in my event plans. I was planning this event to get people fired up for Reno Rodeo and raise funds for one of the injured cowboy charity group. I had several bars signed on to the event, I had marketing materials designed, I had a Myspace page because it was early 2000s, I thought I had a lot of support, but I didn’t do my research. I thought for sure Reno Rodeo would support this event. I was on the Reno Rodeo Community Support Committee and we were all incredibly excited for the possibilities. Everyone I talked to wanted to be a part of the event. So the committee sent me down to present the event to the Rodeo Executive Board. I was a Wrangler Volunteer at the time and I didn’t do enough research on the board. Had I done my research, I would have known I was going to go down in flames when I presented at their board meeting. The catch with this event is that Reno Rodeo had been working hard to support their foundation, and the foundation mainly supported kids’ organizations. The last thing they wanted to do was have their name attached to an event that promoted drinking. It was the complete opposite of their charitable mission. I was trying to attract the wrong audience. They were more interested in attracting families to the rodeo and especially kids, a bar crawl was the wrong event.

Now I work at a casino. My goal is to plan events that attract gamblers and entertain adults over 21 because gaming is only legal for those 21 and older. I want to plan events that will attract people that like to gamble or like live entertainment that have extra spending money and like to have fun. I work hard to attract the right audience and I’m thankful that I learned this lesson early in the game.

7. Will this event be supported? Why?

Before planning an event you must ask yourself how hard it will be to find sponsors and supporters in your community. You need to make sure the community you operate in will support your event. When you approach sponsors ask yourself why they should support your event, but don’t pretend to completely understand their needs and business. If you can’t come up with any good answers, your event isn’t meant to be.

8. Why might this event succeed? Why might it fail?

There are so many reasons why events fail or succeed. You need to determine what it will take to succeed and always consider worst case scenarios. A very smart venture capitalist once told me to expect the unexpected. When you practice this thought process you start determining risk and consequences. In my own event planning experience I’ve found that city ordinances and government regulations are becoming more and more challenging for event producers. I’ve had several event ideas that I didn’t pursue because regulation made them unrealistic and they had no chance to succeed. If you can’t afford the risk of paying a lot for city services, insurance, and other expenses you should not proceed. Make sure you consider how these and other factors out of your control might affect your event and what you can do to ensure success.

9. Can this event grow and be self-sustaining?

It is important to consider whether your event has growth potential. In some cases you also need to be able to manage extreme growth. Events are expensive so you need to make sure that your event is capable of being self-sustaining. It is hard to launch new events. If you aren’t making a profit after the first three years, it might be time to cancel the event, or restructure. If your first year is a huge success, make sure you have enough funds available to prepare for extreme growth in the next few years. If your event doesn’t grow and can’t be self-sustaining, don’t pursue the event anymore. It is a waste of your resources and sponsors resources.

After considering all of these questions if you still feel like your event is a good idea and worth pursuing then by all means chase that event dream. If not, walk away. There is strength in walking away, especially from bad ideas or good ideas that are just unfeasible.

Did you find this blog helpful? Want some genuine and honest feedback about your event idea? Email me and I’ll be happy to give you a free consultation on your event concept.

Matt Weaver’s Brew HaHa Interview

BrewHaHaI’ve always thought my job would be perfect for a reality show, as long as I could remain anonymous and they would somehow protect the guilty parties that make my job insane.

I have a fascinating job! I kick-off the year with a big New Year’s party on the casino floor, then host one of the biggest beer events on the west coast, plan a country concert music series in June, set off fireworks over the 4th of July, celebrate classic cars in August, and then I’m in charge of the biggest rib festival in the country over Labor Day weekend.

The craziest things happen when you produce events. When I interview potential interns I ask them how well they handle random people and situations, because that is the life of an event producer. For the last few years I’ve been trying to figure out a way to capture some of the fun and document the craziness, without making a deal with Bravo TV of course, so I decided to buy an iPad and find a way to document my life as an event manager on my own. If I get enough video views I might just have to upgrade to a real camcorder.

This was the first interview I’ve taken since I bought the iPad. The interview was taken at Brew HaHa, the annual Sierra Arts Foundation Fundraiser that was held this year on Friday, February 13 at the Nugget Casino Resort. My friend Matt Weaver from Morrey Distributing was a good sport and let me interview him.

Here are a few lessons I learned from my first interview…

1. I need to buy microphones. Sorry the audio levels are awful. We tested several locations at the event for the interview and it was just too loud. Finally we decided the entrance hallway would be best. We had to yell at each other the whole time, which was a little awkward and made me want to end the interview after two questions.

2. Try not to watch what is going on behind you and act natural. Watch out for those girls having too much fun around the 40 second mark.

3. I wanted to capture the essence of why the distributors and the brewers support this event, but I wasn’t able to do it justice because it was so loud and hard to host the interview in those conditions. I’ll have to try again next year.

4. If you are going to do interviews after working 15 hours you must add lots of eye makeup to hide the dark circles under your eyes better.

5. I need to learn how to edit video. I am using iMovie and I’m clueless! I look forward to developing iMovie skills as I develop Mad About Events Blog. Until I develop more skills I better try to do one take interviews. Editing may not be an option for a while.

If you enjoyed this video make sure to follow Lisa Jansen’s YouTube Channel. I will be uploading more interviews and video taken at events.

Special thanks to the lovely Bre Reinhardt for being the iPad camera operator.
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