Tag Archives: Event Planning

Saying Goodbye to NuggLife

Resigning is never easy. And resigning from a job you love is heartbreaking.

After four-and-a-half years and five event seasons, I decided it was time to try something new and to leave behind my beloved NuggLife. I had reached a new level of burnout after Rib Cook-Off and I was constantly dealing with illness. I was working six to seven days a week and a lot of overtime hours. It was supposed to be my slow season, but when your company sells, life changes. In the last four-and-a-half years I’ve been through two back-to-back company sales, which is extremely challenging. There were so many signs, and I knew it was time to move on and find a job that would offer me a better life balance and normal working hours. So, with a heavy heart and just a smudge of anxiety, I decided it was time to try something new.

I hadn’t started seriously looking when my mother sent me the job listing for the Assistant Vice President of Community Relations at One Nevada Credit Union. I was honestly trying to resign and be unemployed over the holiday season, but this job listing was exactly what I was going to be looking for. It was a perfect opportunity! I applied and after several interviews, I received a great offer. I started working at One Nevada on December 5, 2016.

My new job duties at One Nevada include developing public relations programs, marketing, sponsorship development, and event planning to engage with members and build community awareness about One Nevada Credit Union.

Before leaving the Nugget, I gave four weeks’ notice. My last day was December 3, which was the night we held the inaugural Nugget Christmas Tree Lighting event and kicked off the 12 Nuggets of Christmas charity event. I gave the company a lot of notice because I wanted to make sure this event went well. I am a huge fan of the Nugget. I’m grateful for all the opportunities I received while working there, so I didn’t want to let them down and leave them right before a big event. I worked with a fantastic team and I will always be grateful to them for their support and friendship. It was hard to say goodbye to my coworkers that I absolutely loved and adored. We had so many great memories together!

My Last Week at the Nugget and the Last Supper

My last week of work was crazy. You would never even know I was leaving. I was taking care of business as normal and making sure that we were ready for the tree lighting and the 12 Nuggets of Christmas event.  Even though we were busy, my team found time to have a going away lunch for me, Tim and Adam, who were also leaving at the end of the week. The Marketing Department tradition is that we walk down to Great Basin Brewery together for lunch and we take a group photo. This isn’t just any group photo, it is the Last Supper picture. The people leaving have plates held behind their heads just like halos. We all make a funny pose. I was so bummed to be leaving my coworkers, but I was glad we were able to celebrate together one last time. Below is the picture from our Last Supper of NuggLife.

My Last Day Working at the Nugget

Like any good workaholic, I made sure to put in a whole day for my last day. I started at 9:00 a.m. and I didn’t finish that night until nearly 11:00 p.m.

It was an exciting day because it was event day. I love event day! The excitement, the butterflies, the burst of weird event energy, it is always a good time. I started the day off by going through all the event details. I was responsible for the tree lighting ceremony and also for making sure the 12 Nuggets of Christmas was planned. Everything looked to be in order. The checks were printed for the charities, and everyone knew when and where they were supposed to be each night of the 12 Nuggets of Christmas event.

The tree was magnificent! It was a towering 105 foot tall White Fir from Klamath Falls, Oregon. The tree was a gift from the Marnell Family and the Nugget to the community of Sparks. After a whole week of a sign company using cranes to decorate the tree, we were ready for the lighting. The ceremony began at 5:30 p.m. It started with Reno High School students singing Christmas carols. Mrs. Clause and Engine 39, the 39 North Downtown community train, delivered almost 300 unwrapped toys for local children in need. Then our general manager gave a welcome message, presented Toys for Tots with a $2,000 check, and we had the crowd countdown to light the tree. When the crowd gave the sign, my coworker’s two sons hit the big switch for show, and our Elf Greg hit the power box for real, and with a big pop the tree lit up. It was gorgeous!

The event went well, but if I was planning it again, I would add a big stage and have the general manager and an MC host the event. I would also add a DJ spinning high energy Christmas tunes and a few portable heaters. It was freezing out there!

After the ceremony and a lot of photos were taken, it was time to have a celebratory drink and then head back to my office to pack up. After I was gone, my coworkers told me that was the cleanest that office had ever been, even in the decade before I worked there.

I’m officially a recovering workaholic. It is a bit odd to go from working so much and in such an intense environment to working a normal schedule in a calm work place. I love my new job, but it is definitely different. I’m adjusting, but sometimes I miss my old coworkers and the high energy felt working in a casino. I’ve been going through files and old pictures trying to get organized and get my life back together at home. I’ve been finding a lot of souvenirs that bring back memories of NuggLife.

In my new role at One Nevada, I will continue to blog about event management, public relations, marketing, customer service, sponsorship relations, and community relations. I will also tell a few stories and share some memories of my crazy days at the Nugget. Now I can tell the really good stories! Stay tuned!

Reno-Sparks 2015 Citizen Special Event Survey


Photo Credit: RSCVA & UNR Center for Regional Studies

The Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority (RSCVA) partnered with the City of Reno and City of Sparks to collect opinions from locals about special events. They wanted to hear from residents in particular because if they aren’t drawn to special events in the community the events probably won’t be attractive enough to draw tourists from out the area. The other goals were to share the information with event producers so they can use them to enhance their events, and use the information to solicit new events. Special events play a valuable role in our community. They add to quality of life and generate economic impact for the region. It is important to have a combination of residents and tourists to support special events.

Nina Brown, RSCVA; Francine Burge, City of Sparks; and Alexis Hill, City of Reno were the leaders for the survey project. They did a fantastic job! The survey was funded by the RSCVA, City of Sparks and City of Reno. Survey analysis was provided by Center for Regional Studies at University of Nevada. The survey responses are going to be incredibly helpful to all of us event producers in the region.

The results of the survey were shared with event producers at a meeting this week. There was a lot of good information, way too much to review in one blog post.  There were a few results that were very fascinating to me. I will elaborate in future blog posts, but for now I’d like to highlight a few results that caught my attention.

Reno…Always Tardy for the Party!

The survey asked “When you go to an event, how far in advance do you make the decision to attend?” The top two responses were when first notified of event and the week of the event. Very few responders made plans further than a week before the events they attended. Event producers constantly talk about how Reno-Sparks ticket buyers usually buy tickets the day of the event and it always makes us nervous because we can’t forecast event attendance. The survey results just proved that we were right in our theory that they don’t plan ahead. It also made me think we should boost all of our advertising big time the week of the event to get as many locals to show up as possible.

Traditional Media Isn’t Dead

Everyone is crazy about social media and e-newsletters. If you want to attract millennials that is where you should be. If you want to attract customers 35 and older, you might want to consider spending some money on periodic publications, TV or radio. In the Reno-Sparks market that seems to be where most people over 35 years old get information about events and activities to attend.

Reno-Sparks is Price Sensitive

When it comes to spending money at events or on tickets, customers in the Reno-Sparks area are very price sensitive. They want to attend free events but not pay much for them. This is a pretty hard business model to follow. I couldn’t help but wonder if this community culture was caused by the heyday of the casinos when everything was comped because gaming was so profitable. Did everyone get used to having great experiences, the best entertainment, and low cost food and beverage subsidized by gambling? Why aren’t people willing to pay for the experiences that the special events offer?  How can we make sure to price events correctly and offer enough value to keep customers coming back? This section of the report gave me a lot to ponder.

I look forward to delving deeper into the survey and applying the knowledge to the events I produce. Stay tuned for more blog posts about the survey results. There are countless morsels of good information to share that event producers can use to improve their events and give customers more of what they want. I can’t wait to apply some of the lessons learned this upcoming event season!

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The Business Cycle for Event Producers

Business Cycle - MadAboutEventsBlog.comThe business cycle is one of my boss’s favorite discussion topics. If you want to be successful in business or be a successful event producer you need to know about the business cycle. You better pay close attention to your performance and financial statements so you know your business cycle stage.

Business cycles are often described as periods of expansion and recession in the course of business. The cycle happens over and over. There are three main stages to the business cycle. The stages are growth, stability and decline.  It is important to have good accounting so you know what stage your business is in at all times. If your business slips into decline and you see the trend in your numbers it is important to find a way to grow, or you may just go out of business.

The business cycle also applies to special events. Many long term events stay in the stability stage for a long period of time. Events are able to maintain the stability stage a lot longer than most businesses. I’m in that situation with one of the events I produce. The event saw rapid growth but then over the last three years the numbers have been very stable. They are great numbers, but we aren’t seeing much growth. I don’t want to see the event get in to the declining stage, so we are trying to add more value and new experiences for event attendees.

Another event I plan, Nugget Star Spangled Sparks, is in the decline stage. This year is the 17th annual event. The event saw nice growth the first ten years. Then the event became stable. Sponsorships weren’t growing, revenue from food and beverage wasn’t growing, it was all stable but no real growth. This was pretty good considering it was the great recession. Then over the last six years revenue has slipped and the event has been hit with rising expenses. Even though the economy has improved, the event’s financial statement has not. This has pushed the event into the decline stage. The event has lost a few sponsors and seen event production expenses rise. Now we are faced with the reality the event is in the decline stage.

The decline stage doesn’t have to last long. This is the time to come up with new ideas and adapt to the business climate. That is why we are adding more daytime activities to Star Spangled Sparks. For example, this year the event will have a Patriotic Bike Parade for kids of all ages. Right now we are looking for the perfect sponsor for the bike parade. Maybe I’ll call Geoffrey the Giraffe at Toys “R” Us tomorrow to see if he is interested.

Star Spangled Sparks will also feature craft vendors for the first time. We are trying to find additional sponsors and accepting donations through a GoFundMe campaign. With any luck all of these efforts will bring the event back to the growth stage and we can continue to expand the event for future generations.

The business cycle is important to consider when you produce special events. Especially because analyzing the business cycled doesn’t leave room for denial. As long as you keep good records and accurate accounting you should be able to tell what stage your event is in the business cycle. Don’t ignore the cycle and you will be able to live through the decline stage and find new growth opportunities.

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Making Lemonade out of Smoke

Photo Credit: http://www.photl.com

Every summer smoke from California wildfires causes hazy conditions in Reno. The smoke reduces visibility and has a serious impact on Northern Nevada’s air quality. This is a common problem during the summer months when wildfires are most prevalent. The smoke rolled in this weekend and it put a damper on the Reno Balloon Races special event on Sunday. This reminded me of the 2013 Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off when the whole valley was covered in smoke and there was little visibility because of the poor air quality. We were afraid it would wreck our event, but we made it through and learned these valuable lessons.

1. Pay Attention
Looking back at the 2013 event I wish I had watched the weather patterns closer and paid more attention to the news about the wildfires. We took a lets pray and see how it goes attitude. In hindsight I wish we would have paid more attention leading up to the event and been more proactive, especially with our communication with the public about event contingency plans and how we planned on continuing even if the smoke hurt air quality in Reno.

2. Over Communicate
The news didn’t do us any favors, that is for sure! During the event local news kept telling viewers to stay inside and avoid smoke. They didn’t have one expert on to scientifically discuss how the smoke would affect viewers, they just said stay inside, don’t go outside. Period. Then it got worse. The news in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area started announcing the Rib Cook-Off was canceled due to the smoke and the fires. This was not true. We had hotel guests calling upset we canceled the event and received several nasty emails. As soon as we calmed the guests down we started reaching out to the media to let them know the event wasn’t canceled and that we wouldn’t cancel the event no matter what happened with the smoke and the weather. It was very challenging to get them to run corrections and share the correct information. In hindsight we should have been more proactive and sent out several press releases right away and increased our social media activity to let everyone know the event was going on as planned.


Photo Credit: RGJ.com

3. Make Lemonade
The first day of Rib Cook-Off 2013 our beverage sales were up 12%. I’m not sure if it was because the smoke made people want to drink more, or if attendance was up in general that day but we used this information to make lemonade out of lemons. We knew we needed some positive press to encourage people to attend the event in the smoky conditions. We looked at the event financial results after the first night (as we always do) and we realized they were great! We sent a press release announcing our record sales and that was newsworthy. Right away our local media gave the event positive coverage and shared the economic impact the event has on the community. Our community takes pride in special events and their great economic indicators. We make lemonade out of lemons, and so does the whole community.

Nugget Casino Resort Rib Cook-Off - August 2013

Nugget Casino Resort Rib Cook-Off – August 2013

4. Keep up the Good Fight
One of the biggest lessons I learned from this was don’t give up. When the media is out there with bad information you need to keep fighting to get the accurate information out there. Half of the event attendees come from California, that is a few hundred thousand visits to the event. We needed to fight to get the information out there that no matter what happened with the smoke from the wildfires the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off would still be there for our attendees. Our team did a great job fighting to get accurate information to California media outlets. Our fearless PR Manager, Lauren Garber, wouldn’t give up until she got through, she kept fighting because it was the right thing to do.

5. Adapt
When you plan special events things will happen that are outside your control. Mother Nature loves to torment event planners. It is important to adapt to whatever is thrown at you when you are an event planning professional. It isn’t always pleasant, but you need to look at the threats that might hurt your event and find ways to adapt and work around the threats. A good event planner can adjust so quickly and gracefully that most guests won’t even realize there was a problem.

I learned many valuable lessons during the 2013 Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off. Even though at the time it was extremely challenging, I’m grateful for the lessons I learned and hopefully this will help other event planners think about these types of challenges and adapt quickly. Wildfire smoke and other natural events are out of your control, but you can control the way you respond and adapt.

Additional Reading:

Smoke, new layout not expected to dampen Nugget Rib Cook-Off in Sparks – RGJ Article

Looking Back at the Rib Cook-Off – Sparks Tribune Article

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.

Want a new career in event planning? Get out there and volunteer!

When people ask me about my career path they are always surprised to find out I went from producing a political television show to producing special events. They ask how I made the jump and I enthusiastically say – volunteer work!

Since my first year of high school I’ve been volunteering to plan special events. As a student at Wooster High School I was in leadership classes where we planned events, and I volunteered at the Italian Festival each year as part of the Partner in Education program with Eldorado Hotel Casino. I enjoyed volunteering at special events because it was fun, I learned new skills, met interesting people, and became knowledgeable about basic event logistics. I volunteered every time an opportunity was presented.

After college I became a Wrangler volunteer for Reno Rodeo Association and two years later a member. The more I volunteered to work on special events the more I realized it was a great creative outlet for me. After eight years producing Nevada NewsMakers television show, I decided it was time to make a change. I wanted to get out of politics and media to try something new. I started applying for marketing and community relations jobs. One day I realized I should also look at event planning. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” the famous Confucius quote became my motto.
(Image Credit)

Every job listing I saw for event planning required several years of experience. Since I spent most of my free time since being a teenager volunteering I had an incredible list of experience. I had a wide variety of volunteer references from my experiences volunteering with Reno Rodeo, Reno Santa Crawl, Rotary Club of Reno, and several other non-profits. All my experience came from volunteering and it made me the best candidate. If you want a career in event planning one of the best ways to develop experience is through volunteer work.

My suggestion for anyone that wants to start a new career in event planning is to get out there and volunteer. Use the volunteer opportunities to learn new skills and build a network. I’ve met some of the most amazing people in my life while doing volunteer work and they have made a big difference as I went from one career to the next. I was one of the lucky ones that turned my hobby and passion for special event planning into a paying gig, and you can too, if you get out there and start building a great resume through volunteer work.

Volunteer Resources:
City of Sparks
Reno Rodeo
Great Reno Balloon Races
Hot August Nights
Barracuda Championship Golf Tournament

Know any other great special events looking for volunteers? Please post in the comments.

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