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The New Kids: 12 Young Event Professionals to Watch

The New Kids: 12 Young Event Professionals to Watch

They're young, they're smart, and they're shaping the future of special events


Ulrike Ellmann, general manager, Vok Dams China, Beijing

After Ellmann interned at Vok Dams' headquarters in Germany and its Los Angeles office after college, she “was hooked” on events, she says. Now in charge of the company's operations in Beijing and Shanghai, she oversees 25 staff members producing events for major international brands. As China's economy grows, she predicts a growing focus on quality and “creative event solutions” there, she says. Fluent in three languages, the 31-year-old turns to sports to relax, competing last year in a 100-kilometer (62 mile) race in Hong Kong — “It took 27 hours to finish.”


Kris R. Delas Armas, senior event services coordinator, SmithBucklin Corp., Chicago

Delas Armas, age 30, oversees client conferences for association management giant SmithBucklin. “I am in charge of leading a staff team to produce and implement successful meetings,” he explains. “The most important metric to my success is tied to the event's budget. The best part of my job is when the client's expectations are exceeded!” His event philosophy: “People have the need to belong and look to events as a means to communicate. We should always feel empowered to bring fresh ideas to the table and execute.”


Katie Rogers, director of sales, EventWorks, Los Angeles

“Relentless” in her commitment to making each event as unique and memorable as possible, 34-year-old Rogers came to America from Australia and “fell into special events,” she says. She finds event inspiration just about anywhere. “I had one of my savvier clients call me a few years back and ask if I'd seen the latest J. Crew brochure,” she says “We ended up designing an amazing opening reception that was vibrant and modern — all around an image of a crate of flowers in that catalog!” Although the recession is putting the bite on event budgets, “On the flip side, new products and technologies are making it possible to remain creative and, most importantly, remain excited about what we do,” Rogers says. “I think there will be a return to events and with that will come a newfound respect and appreciation for them.”


Oliver Wurch, managing director, White Label Events, Wuppertal, Germany

Only 35 but looking even younger thanks to the power of “positive stress,” he jokes, this Vok Dams Group alumnus handles events for such big corporate clients as Puma, Sony Ericsson and Volkswagen. Key to future success: “You need interesting, creative and innovative ideas that your competitors don't have,” Wurch says. Case in point: His team developed a thrifty new WiFi system that enables groups in busses to stay online. “We need more of these ideas, based on solutions in the digital world,” he notes.


Sara Hunt, senior director of Giants Enterprises, San Francisco

Hunt, age 30, oversees special events at the home of the Giants baseball team, everything from “corporate holiday parties to Rolling Stones concerts to college football games,” she says. In the future, “I can't stress the importance of guest interaction enough,” Hunt says. “People don't just want to attend events anymore; they want to engage in them. Sponsors don't want signage, they want experiences. Event producers will continue to push the envelope in terms of attendee integration and entertainment.”


Joshua Richardson, vice president of event presentation and broadcasting, New Orleans Hornets basketball team, New Orleans

At age 33, Richardson oversees the event presentation, broadcasting and entertainment departments, which includes game presentation, entertainment, broadcasting, video production, mascots, dance teams, grass-roots programs and special events. “I thrive in developing processes and procedures while focusing on the overall performance and end results both internally and externally,” he says. What's ahead: “Since 3D is the latest trend, I am interested to see how it will evolve into the world of special events.”


Fleming Patterson, floral designer/event manager, A Legendary Event, Atlanta

Part of an award-winning team that produces more than 2,500 events a year, 32-year-old Patterson got his start staging local fashion shows in Atlanta. With the recession putting events through the budget wringer, Patterson sees the demonstration of event ROI as the future of special events. “Interaction is the final element that breathes life into your event,” he says. “Most people think if you throw 200 people into a room, they will interact — not so. The job for the event planner is to provide icebreakers and effective visual stimulation, including the people you hire, to drive home the message of the event.”


Lindsay Pitt, CSEP, owner, Toast Signature Celebrations, Atlanta

Formerly head of member events for a private club, 32-year-old Pitt now heads her own wedding company. “It is clear in today's economy people are trying to execute events for less, so creativity and budget management are key,” she says. “I find a lot of clients are willing to be hands-on to make or create items themselves to save room in the budget for other desires.” She adds, “I also predict that unique color combinations may take a back seat, and neutrals and classics will come back into play.”


Claire Berry, U.K. sales and events manager, Soho House Group, London

Only 28, Berry is responsible for event strategy, management and new business for the U.K.-based private clubs, event spaces and restaurants of this international hospitality firm. She also serves as vice president of membership for ISES U.K., a source of inspiration for her. “The talented board of ISES U.K. are passionate about events and are always full of ideas and knowledge they are happy to impart,” she says. She is looking forward to the 2012 Olympics coming to London: “I hope we'll see a lot of sustained interest from overseas in the U.K.”


Sophia Park, principal, Petite Productions, Irvine, Calif.

With a background in PR, culinary arts and a high-end hotel, 32-year-old Park launched her own company this year specializing in children's events. She says growing media coverage of events — beyond TV shows to Web sites and blogs — is forcing event planners to be ever more creative, “so a client's event showing up on a blog doesn't look like a copycat version of someone else's event a few weeks before.” But she thinks the exposure will help professionals in the long run. “I feel the DIY trend will lessen from where it is now,” she says. “The experience and competence of a planner is invaluable and allows you to have a great time at your event — from planning stages to the day-of celebration — without looking sleep-deprived!”


Jenna Ball, CMP, event manager, Paula LeDuc Fine Catering, Emeryville, Calif.

With a hotel background, 29-year-old Ball oversees events for this high-end caterer, where lead time can run from a year to only a week. While she has been keeping an “inspiration binder” since she was 15, she also gets great ideas from clients. “I especially enjoy clients who like to outdo their last event with the newest idea or trend,” she says. She adds, “I think that events as a whole have become a lot more personalized in the last five years, with custom details on everything from the swizzle sticks used in cocktails to the toilet paper in the bathrooms.”


Liene Stevens, CEO, Splendid Communications, New York

In events for 10 years, 28-year-old Stevens began blogging as a marketing tool for her own event company in 2006. She launched Splendid Communications last year to help event companies develop online strategies to achieve their business goals. Social media can only help events, Stevens says. “Regardless of the rise of virtual events, the most popular thing posted on Twitter from attendees of in-person events is ‘I wish you were here,’” she notes. “Social media will only drive the desire to meet in person, and as a result I see special events becoming a more critical part in relationship-building over the next five years.”

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