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Event Marketing, Event Planning & Management
25 March 2020 

Advice from 11 Top Event Marketers on Leading with Resilience

Simona Kazinets
Advice from 11 Top Event Marketers on Leading with Resilience

We spoke with event leaders from Sprint, SXSW, SAP, and other top brands about their approach to overcoming unexpected challenges. Here’s what they said. 

Last year we launched the IN-PERSON Podcast to tell the stories behind the world’s greatest events and the people who make them happen. In each episode of IN-PERSON, we speak with event leaders from brands like Forbes, SAP, SXSW, and Intel, about the story of their careers, why they love events, and the challenges they encountered over the years.

Event organizers are no strangers to adversity nor are they strangers to resilience. Guiding their teams, their attendees, and themselves through a crisis is just part of the job.

Here’s what several inspiring leaders featured on the IN-PERSON Podcast had to share on how they lead with resilience.

Advice on Leading with Resilience - Nicola Kastner

Nicola Kastner, Global Head of Event Marketing Strategy at SAP 

“Don’t try and do it alone. It takes a village. When I was tasked to change [SAPPHIRE NOW], if I hadn’t tapped on the expertise of Johann [Senior VP & Head of Global Events at SAP] and many, many others in the organization, we wouldn’t have been successful in getting to where we were today.”

Advice on Leading with Resilience - Carina Bauer

Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX

“Understand the value of not jumping straight into everything. When you do that, you just get a much better sense of what the priorities are, what they’re not, and how you can take a business or an event forward.”



Advice on Leading with Resilience - Dana Pake

Dana Pake, Former Event Leader at Invision and Tableau

“One thing that I have found that has helped be a resilient leader, is to remain insatiably curious with my team. When I have an understanding of where I stand with them and where they’re at, it’s easier to support each other when times get tough. In events, those tough times are more often than not, just the nature of the job.”

Advice on Leading with Resilience - David Adler

David Adler, Chairman and Founder of BizBash

“Leadership is probably the key thing. Do something bigger than yourself and it’ll pay back in spades”


Advice on Leading with Resilience - Vasil AzarovVasil Azarov, Founder of Growth Marketing Conference

“The events business is a rollercoaster. Just try to think and focus on the positive things—the things that you love doing every day—and this is something that will keep you going”


Advice on Leading with Resilience - Kira Willner

Kira Willner, Head of Strategic Initiatives at Barron’sGroup, A Dow Jones Company

“I think you need to get perspective and take walks and exercise and do all those things. Also learning how to take breaks. If you’ve been at your computer for seven hours, there’s no way you’re going to be inspired by anything.”

Advice on Leading with Resilience - John HeimanJohn Heiman, Director of Experiential Marketing at Sprint

“I think of it more of a player-coach kind of environment. I don’t mind rolling up my sleeves and busing a table, or pushing a cart at all, and I think that’s important, as a leader, that you don’t sit back with your feet on the desk and delegate and then bark at people.”


Advice on Leading with Resilience - Hugh Forrest

Hugh Forrest, Chief Programming Officer at SXSW

“Be more patient and understand that building anything of value takes a lot of time…I’m too often impatient, and want things to happen immediately, but one of the secrets, or if not the main secret of South by Southwest is simply, we’ve been doing it for 30 years, and grew a little bit every year, and add that all up together over three decades, and it amounted to it a ton of growth.”

Advice on Leading with Resilience - Heather OdendaalHeather Odendaal, Co-founder and CEO of WNORTH

“Delegation. It hasn’t been something that’s come easily to me. I think when you’re an entrepreneur and you start small and you’re working on things by yourself, as you grow, it’s harder to let go. But the last few years has really taught me that in order to create balance I need to perfect the art of delegation and really work hard on that leadership.”

Advice on Leading with Resilience - Janna Erickson

Janna Erickson, Director of Events at Drift

“You have to remember your executives and these large stakeholders are not always right. You are the expert and that’s why they hired you. So if you feel passionately about something, really push forward and just think about other options.”


Advice on Leading with Resilience - Heather Henderson Thomas

Heather Henderson Thomas, Senior Manager, Strategic Ops and Event Experience at CiscoLive

“I didn’t feel like I was qualified for the job when [my boss] hired me. In fact, even a year later, I said, ‘Are you crazy?’ Because I had no mega event experience. What she said to me, and what I say to people when I hire them is ‘I can teach you how to do Cisco Live. I can teach you mega events. I can’t teach you ethics, integrity, solution finding, positive attitude, positive approach, collaboration, commitment to one team-one dream, and you can’t teach that. If you’re bought into those items, I’ll teach you Cisco Live.’”

Looking for more advice check out more perspectives from industry leaders with the IN-PERSON Collection Ebook.

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