Interviews with Planners - Erik Fabian

Erik Fabian is a brand marketer and event maker formerly at Moleskine and Greenhouse Software. He has an MFA in performance from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago and been devising events for 20 years. He is especially fond of creating participatory cultural and business events where people make things together. He currently helps founders launch and build new brands at Upright Brand.

What is the best advice you have ever received as a planner?
Build plans backwards in time. Work from the end goal back to the beginning.

What is the most unique location you have ever planned an event at? What was great, what was challenging?
In Miami during Art Basel Miami many of the satellite fairs occupy hotels with the galleries displaying their wares in the hotel rooms. I created a site for a small art performance in a hotel room bathroom for a gallery. Guests would enter one at a time and take part in a rather mysterious experience. It was a novel site and experience for the guests that created buzz for the gallery. Of course, working with the available space is always a challenge but it can be useful to design within constraints. I just had to keep it simple to not ask too much of the space or guest.

What advice would you give to someone entering the business today?
Study design, storytelling, and technology. Learn to make your events unique experiences rather than larger versions of a corporate meeting. People hate meetings but they love sharing their knowledge and meeting interesting people.

What do you see as the most challenging aspect of being a planner, and how do you overcome that challenge?
Events are not a website. Events have always been relatively hard to measure, seen as costly, and underestimated in terms of workload to execute properly. Today is even worse because digital marketing is setting very lean expectations on efficiency, cost, and metrics. I think the first step is educating non-planners on the effort it takes to execute an event in the physical world, what that costs, and what is a realistic measurement expectation based on the budget available. I also think it is on planners to continually underline the impact and unique quality the experience events offer. That fact that we spend so much time online make the time we spend together all the more valuable.

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How do you think our industry will evolve in the next five years?
Technology and media will continue to be the elephant in the room. The normalization of Augmented and Virtual Reality in the next couple years will radically change how people participate in events. Webinar type formats and physical events will bleed into each other. I think there is conference burnout as well. Smaller events will become more important.

What makes you successful as a planner?
I am creative, organized and empathetic. I have a strong sense of space, narrative, design, and human psychology.

In your opinion, what is the best and worst industry trend of the year?
There is still way too much cheap swag given out at events. Tech events are particularly guilty of this.

I am excited to see folks continue to experiment with formats whether self-organizing unconference type events or more small group events.

What is the best industry book that has helped you as a planner?
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration is about how Pixar manages creative teams and their approach to making films. Creating a film and an event have a lot in common.

What is the one tool/item you can't live without on a daily basis as you go about your planning job?
Google Docs.

Erik Fabian
Founder, Upright Brand

Interviews with Planners – Claus Raasted.
Working in Non-Traditional Event Venues.


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