Christine Healy talks events and the publishing industry

published on Jun 15, '16


 

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Christine Healy is an alum of GWU’s Events and Marketing major and is now the Events Manager for InTheCapital, a local media outlet that’s quickly taken an active role in creating and covering events in the Washington, DC area. Their large-format events such as DCFest and 50 on Fire are aimed at DC’s business and innovation communities and have helped put their publication on the map. We met with Christine to better understand the intersection of media and events.

SceneSquid: What was the first event you were ever involved with?

Christine Healy: I have always been “the planner”. Even as a little kid, I would organize play dates with friends and pick over-the-top themes for my birthday parties. Planning bigger events started during high school with school meetings, pep rallys, and dances. I knew early on that event planning was something I loved and wanted to make into my career, so I went to The George Washington University specifically to major in Events and Marketing.

SceneSquid: Can you describe the GWU’s Events program? How has it helped you?

CH: Completing the Event Management and Marketing program at GWU has been one of the best choices to give me a strong foundation in events. The program focuses on teaching practical skills and getting students experience early on through internships. GWU opened my eyes to the wide range of specialties within the event field and scale of events. One of the highlights was traveling to the London Olympics with Professor Delpy Neirotti(she’s taken groups of students to 12 Olympic Games) for a behind the scenes look at everything that goes into producing the mega event.

SceneSquid: What’s the biggest challenge facing events and the publishing industry?

CH: DC has so much event “noise” with several meetups, happy hours, and panels every night of the week. It can be difficult to tell a compelling story that draws attendees. Event planners, especially in DC, will have to continue coming up with new concepts that stand out to their target market. Promoting an event is challenging – you need to secure media coverage, get your event on all of the local calendars (shout out to Scenesquid for fixing that!), and drive early ticket sales. Fortunately, that’s one of the benefits of planning events for a publication – we already have a loyal audience that we are in constant contact with.

SceneSquid: You plan a variety of events with ITC. How do you design your events? Why do you pick that theme? How do you choose a name, a location, etc?

CH: At InTheCapital our goal is always to continue to build community whether that’s through our site or our events. We like to take traditional event concepts and flip them on their head. We know our audience and what they want out of an event – a new experience, an opportunity to meet other forward thinkers, and it doesn’t hurt to have a few good cocktails! Our national Streetwise Media team creates event concepts that we can produce across markets at our publications in DC, Boston, and Chicago

As for the look of the events, I’m always on the hunt for the coolest venues that will provide a bold backdrop. There are so many hidden gems in DC just waiting to hold your next event. It’s fun to think outside the box when designing an event. We’ve held a fitness event in an art gallery, an award show at an old power house, and an innovation conference at a historic theater.

SceneSquid: In your experience, where is an event most likely to go wrong?

CH: Planners could probably rattle off 10 things that could easily go wrong at an event. By thinking through those potential problems in advance, choosing reliable vendors to work with, and thinking on your toes you can usually avoid many problems or at least bounce back from the little inevitable challenges that pop up. Bad “event flow” can ruin an otherwise well-planned event. It’s important to think through the entire event from a guest’s point of view. When they walk in who will they be greeted by? Where will they walk to get food and drinks? At what points will they interact with your event sponsors? Thinking about the event through the eyes of an attendee can help avoid bottlenecking at your event.

SceneSquid: What was your biggest oh shit moment?

CH: One of the first events I planned on my own in high school was a small benefit concert with a bunch of friends’ bands. The night before the event, the fire sprinklers went off in the venue and flooded the entire space. At that point, I struggled to come up with a plan B and ultimately ended up canceling the event. Not my best moment. I definitely learned from that experience that the show must go on and you have to do whatever it takes to deal with unexpected problems.

SceneSquid: Getting sponsorships is always hard. Do you have any tips for the rest of us that you’re willing to share?

CH: When selling an event sponsorships it’s so important to think about what your potential sponsor’s goals are and how your event can be a solution. Coming up with standard sponsorship packages can help give sponsors an idea of ways their brand will be incorporated into the event but stay open to opportunities to create custom activations for sponsors so they walk away from your event having had meaningful interactions.

SceneSquid: In many cases, events are a tool. A means to an end. In your opinion, which industry (or company) is utilizing events the best?

CH: Event marketing is going to continue to grow as big brands look for new ways to connect with consumers beyond a banner ad or a commercial. There are several brands that are creating one-of-a-kind events. I’m a huge fan of what Red Bull and Veuve Clicquot are doing with their events.

SceneSquid: You’re in a unique position where you both create events for a publication to market itself and bring in revenue, but also where you cover others’ events to bring in more readers. That gives you perspective from both sides of the table. What advice would you offer the rest of us about bridging that divide and garnering coverage, attention, or anything else you think we should know?

CH: Tell a unique story with your event that can be easily retold by a writer. It’s key to do personal outreach and think about the small details that make each guest (especially public figures and media) feel special. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time you produce an event but you have to find ways to keep things fresh and interesting. Consider a media outlet and the different angles they could take when covering your event. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas about coverage in addition to sending a press release.

SceneSquid: What questions should I have asked you?

CH: When I meet people in the industry who I admire, I try to ask how are they continuing to elevate their career and their events. What do they read? How do they network? What gives them inspiration for new event ideas? I read BizBash all of the time and like the Social Tables Insider newsletter. I try to go out to a couple events a week to learn from other planners. There are also some great networking groups for event professionals to take advantage of from WISE (Women in Sports and Events), to MES (Metro Event Specialists), to ISES (International Special Events Society).