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The Road to Giving Back

Event pro Bobby Dutton reflects on his path to giving back in the events industry

Every once in a while, things seem to just “click.”

I’ve been fortunate to experience a few of these moments, but there are three that really seem to define my professional journey so far:

Click #1: This is My Calling

When I graduated from college, all of my events work was a hobby—and every dime and dollar that came from it went right back in. After all, you can never have speakers that are big enough.

For five years, I spent my days in a cubicle, flexing my shiny new Computer Engineering degree, writing ColdFusion code, and counting down to the weekends, when I’d keep gigging as a mobile DJ, and laying the groundwork for a new approach to concerts.

And then one day, it clicked. This was more than a hobby, and it needed all of my attention. My wheelhouse was at the intersection of tech and creative. To develop my flow state, I had to LIVE at that boundary—and then soar beyond it.

I went back to the cube, put in my two weeks notice, and never looked back.

Click #2: Building Context

Without the distractions of a day job (and a salary… gulp), I was able to be much more present—not only in my own growing business and projects, but in the industry community. I became an active member of ILEA (the International Live Events Association) in 2008, and would later join the board, become the chapter president, and eventually serve on the International Board of Governors.

I was a part of something—something big—and it was thrilling. As I began to establish authentic and widespread connections, I started to see this industry machine—and my own role in it—in a totally new way. I learned how to see (and articulate) what I was great at; I learned how to recognize the virtuosos in other lanes.

Rather than fighting each other for a bigger piece of the pie, we could work together to bake a much, much bigger pie. Or better yet, we could re-think the recipe, and make the pie more delicious for all who taste it. It’s ambitious, it’s idealistic, and it works.

Perhaps most importantly, I learned how essential it is to have a unique and well defined mission and vision. I didn’t want to be interchangeable—as a company, as a person, or as a leader.

Click #3: It’s About Making People Happy

My events company (GBM6) is about Making People Happy through Legendary Events. As we hit our 20-year anniversary this March (!), it’s amazing to reflect on our journey from frat basements to field houses to arenas—and everything in-between—and see just how consistent and unrelenting our culture has been in pursuit of that mission.

As we learned how to create and cultivate happiness, we became increasingly aware of an inherent responsibility to help bring it to those who needed it most. This responsibility is a part of leadership that I didn’t know about, but it might be the most important part of all.

First, we created Rage for a Cause, to help raise money for music education. Then we got involved with Event Pros Take Action (EPTA) to physically go and help people rebuild after a catastrophe, and then I joined the Board of Directors of the SEARCH Foundation, assisting event professionals in crisis.

This “click” was a big one. Rather than networking to meet people and close deals, I’m working alongside people to achieve common goals, or to solve real problems. This is networking at its best, and it’s some of the most rewarding work that I do.

I’m proud to be where I am: I get to do what I love, and spend time pushing my craft to the highest level I possibly can; I know my role in the community, in the industry, and in the universe; and I have the opportunity to pursue my mission—to make people happy—in a way that really makes a difference to people, including some of the folks who need help with happiness the most.

I’m grateful. I’m focused. And I’m really, really happy.


Bobby Dutton is a professional speaker and the Owner & Director of GBM6.

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