Interviews with Planners - Alecia May

Alecia May is a transformational event strategist with over 12 years of experience in the event planning industry. She started her company, Eventistry by Alecia, when she realized the need for an expert event planner who could work remotely with clients, and still handle almost every aspect of the planning process to put together exceptional live events. Over the years, she has planned thousands of intimate retreats, corporate seminars, and massive weekend conferences, allowing her to hone her skills and equipping her with the knowledge and expertise to flawlessly design and execute complex events.

Alecia takes her services further by implementing her marketing and branding expertise to create tailored strategies that target the right audience, increase event and brand awareness, sell sponsorships, and grow attendance, resulting in positive feedback.

She works with a variety of clients but specializes in creating transformational events for women entrepreneurs in the coaching and lifestyle sectors. Alecia is fluent in Spanish, French, and Italian and has planned events domestically across North America and internationally, including the Netherlands, France, Chile, UAE, and China.

What is the best advice you have ever received as a planner?
Stop saying “yes” to everybody. It’s tempting to take on as many clients and projects as appear in your inbox but don’t. Be hungry for the work but also be discerning - only work with those clients who are a good match for your style and personality and vice versa. There’s little to be gained from spending your time and efforts working with clients who just aren’t on the same page as you because you’ll end up struggling to produce the event that they want, and  an event that you are proud of.

What is the most unique location you have ever planned an event at? What was great, what was challenging?
I’m grateful that my career allows me to work with people and their events all over the world but to this day, I still remember trying to plan an event in China. It was, without a doubt, unique and an incredible opportunity but not without its challenges! Between the time zone differences and the language and cultural barriers, even the simplest things had to be checked and re-checked, just to make sure nothing was lost in translation. I can now say that I successfully planned an event in China but wow, what a learning experience that was!

What advice would you give to someone entering the business today?
Just do it! It sounds easy but it is even easier to NOT do something because you are afraid of failing. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen? Yes, you will probably fail at some things, and you will definitely make mistakes, but at least you tried and learned. Forget the past, remember the lesson.

What do you see as the most challenging aspect of being a planner, and how do you overcome that challenge?
For me, because I am a remote event planner, it’s communication. When you are working with someone in person and have face to face meetings, you can read body language, facial expressions, and can take part in organic conversations. It is a lot easier to pick up on your client’s style and what they might want or be thinking. When you are mostly communicating with clients through email, chats, and the occasional Skype call, you have to be hyperaware and be able to nail their personalities from the get-go in order to figure out the best ways to convey ideas, opinions, and questions so that the event is a success.

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How do you think our industry will evolve in the next five years?
I think digital event strategists are going to be even more in demand. I am a huge supporter of live events because you can’t emulate that kind of vibe and experience through a screen, but I think there is going to be a huge shift into either turning them into hybrid events with plenty of live streaming and other forms of virtual participation or going completely digital.

What makes you successful as a planner?
Aside from the usual planner traits of being detail oriented and a perfectionist, I think it’s my intuition about clients - I can quickly assess their personality, working style, and what they need and want- as well as the ability to visualize the whats and hows of an event within minutes of a client explaining what they are looking for.

In your opinion, what is the best and worst industry trend of the year?
The best trend is smart implementation of technology through using apps for event planning, social connections, visibility, and ticket sales. Things are more streamlined and we can reach a wider audience at the same time.

The worst is the imbalance of power when it comes to sponsors and vendors. I have seen too many events where they seem to run the show, with too much selling and just taking over the overall vibe. There has to be a nice, even playing field that does not take away from the event itself.

What is the best industry book that has helped you as a planner?
"Special Events: A New Generation and the Next Frontier" by Joe Goldblatt. The author takes you through the event planning process step-by-step, which is especially invaluable for new event planners. There are a lot of things that we take for granted or that just seem obvious as seasoned planners, but this book covers all those things that you don’t know at the beginning. It’s a perfect way to get started in the industry and I still find myself revisiting it from time to time!

What is the one tool/item you can't live without on a daily basis as you go about your planning job?
Using Asana has been the perfect solution to keeping my professional life organized and on track. Not only does it allow me to communicate with my remote team, but it also provides a platform where my clients and I can communicate back and forth without lost emails. It is also been extremely helpful in larger projects because I can break everything down into smaller, more manageable tasks, and still make sure that I hit the goals and milestones leading up to the event.

Alecia May
CEO, Eventistry by Alecia

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