Peace out NOLA

The conference ended yesterday and we all headed home after a long 7 days. Like every major event there are highs and lows.

High – we registered 755 people in 5 hours one day. That’s 151 people an hour. About 3 people a minute. No one had to wait. Not one person/family waited on line. That’s miraculous. Also miraculous? We fed, entertained, moved, and formed relationships with this group.

Low – I won’t go into the depth of how horrible the hotel was. It was a case study in bad service. If I were a hotel GM, I’d send my staff there to see how horribly wrong it could get.

In the end, and this is what I told my team, the odds were with us.

Because we had almost 800 people – not everyone had the same experience. Some folks loved the food, some hated it. Some folks made the best of New Orleans – some locked down and never went out. There were smiling faces in the crowd. Many of them.

I know my role on site. I’m the complaint department. I get it. I own it. I went on a daily apology tour, but that’s my job. That isn’t what I’ll remember. I’ll remember hugging a lot of people on the last day. I’ll remember the kind words we all heard. People telling me how amazing and committed my team is. I’ll remember laughing every single day with that team. Laughing hard.

New Orleans didn’t let me leave without a fight either. Flight delays. Turbulence. A missed 4th grade concert. I won’t even tell you about the hit and run I saw while waiting for my car to the airport. Another story for another day.

Here’s some random pics. The ballroom before and after. A beautiful plate of oysters (just because I won’t eat it doesn’t mean I’m not impressed by it!). My first Jamba Juice (too sweet). The stepping stone clings we had all over the hotel – helping people find their way. And then my view on the plane. A thick, cloudy fog that opened up to pockets of sun.

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New Orleans – Day 2

What’s wrong with a day that starts with fried dough? Nothing.
Today was full of set-up and prep.
For all of you who dream of the glam world of events – our day started at 7am and just ended at midnight. Super sexy right?
Here’s a look at some highlights.
We had some amazing beignets, saw some colorful characters on Bourbon street, and began the event set up.
And ofcourse , we had the all staff meeting. When we get everyone in a room and boss them around for an hour. Look at how excited they all are. Not.

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Roots-Trees-Forest

That’s a mantra I heard from a speaker at our last conference. The talk was about leadership. So simple and clear. A good leader has to see the roots, the trees and the forest. Got it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Something about the idea bothered me.
It’s a perfect concept for leadership. Don’t be stuck in the weeds. Don’t get bogged down by the minutiae.
Except that for events it’s all wrong. An event is all about the roots. The dirt. The seed. You start at the top and then you deconstruct.
You focus on every little detail.
Minutiae is my life.
You know that expression “stuck in the weeds”? I’m living in the weeds. So for all you future event planners out there – here’s the truth – Events is weeds, roots and dirt. You’ll be in it. All the time. Knee deep.
I should be a motivational speaker.
I get very reflective on 5 hour flights to the West Coast.
Here’s what I saw outside my window while writing this. Forget the roots – I’m up in the clouds. Oh the irony.

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Ernie Banks Moment

Next week is the first big conference at my new job. And since we are the event and conference group, it’s my team that runs it all. We get the credit or the blame – whichever way it goes. Most of the team is seasoned and has done multi day events before, but it’s the first time at the event for the new CEO. So everyone is nervous. We had our first big walk through yesterday and it went amazingly well. The team is buttoned up and ready – but they are still panicked that they’ll miss something. So I shared my favorite “I think I missed something” story (have I already shared this? If yes, sorry, go surf the internet and come back tomorrow).
Years ago I was doing my first big event in a new job, for two very – ahem – challenging bosses. The event was an interview with Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks. The event was in mid-February in downtown Chicago. Already fun right? For months I stressed about the venue, the weather, the staging, and whether anyone would actually show up to this thing. Did I mention it was crazy expensive? It was. I found the right interviewer for Ernie. I made sure we were taping it so we could use it again for something – look at me being cost effective! No stone was left uncovered!
Cut to the morning of the event.
I had flown in with one of my bosses the night before and had a nice, passive aggressive dinner where she reminded me how important it was that I don’t mess up.
Gulp. Yummy.
The next day, I woke up at 5am – even though we weren’t setting up until 1pm – in a cold, hard sweat with one thought:
I never invited Ernie Banks to the Ernie Banks event!!!!!!!!! Omg!!! WTF??!!
I had visions of how it would go down.
Instead of facing the humiliation, I would just head to the airport and go home.
There were other jobs, I thought.
How could I have forgotten to invite him?
But of course I did.
Ernie was all set to go.
But I was so freaked that I actually called his house at 6:30…I forced myself not to call at 5:30. His housekeeper picked up and I pretended to be his car service and asked,” is a 6pm pick-up ok for Ernie tonight?” She said he was all set and hung up.
Real story.
Please note that this didn’t happen in my first few years as a planner. I was a so-called professional at that point.
Every planner has an Ernie Banks story, it’s part of the job.
Moral of the story – you invited Ernie Banks. Everything is ok.

weight lifted

So I’ve been keeping a secret for the past few weeks. It’s been a monkey on my back – in a positive, happy kinda way.

After 7 years with a company I thought I’d spend the rest of my life at – I resigned. The 5 weeks before my resignation were a whirlwind. I wasn’t job hunting – even though I wasn’t happy. All I did was join LinkedIn – and in the words of Sheldon Cooper – !bazinga!… someone reached out.  Things moved quickly and I was offered a really cool job.

As with all we do in my little unit – we talked/obsessed/freaked it out. Can we do it? Do I give up the holy grail of working from home for a long commute? Can we do it? Are we crazy? Yep.Yes.Yep. And of course we are.

We decided to jump in head first – as is our habit.

The saddest part in all this excitement and happiness is my team. It’s been a long, funny, hard, frustrating ride – and I’ll miss every moment of it. Well…not every moment. But I’ll miss them.

So in a couple of weeks – right before the holidays – I’ll start my new adventure.

It feels good to talk about it. To not hide it. It makes it feel real (because I’m a true product of the times and things don’t feel real until they are on social media. There. I said it).

Phew. That felt good to get out. Wish me luck. I’m stepping in. Going for it.

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Babes With Books (BWB)

Last night I hosted the monthly meeting of a book club I joined this past year. I know I’ve told you about it before (This ain’t no Oprah’s Book Club ). Did I mention the name of our club? BWB. Oh roll your eyes all you want, it’s cute.

Each month the host of the meeting also picks the book we all read. For October, it was my turn. I picked, “Where’d You Go, Bernedette?”

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Have you read it? Did you love it like I loved it? Here’s the Amazon blurb:  Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

It’s funny. It’s quirky. It’s heartbreaking. My three favorite things to be. I adored Bernadette. She and I would be fast friends. Who doesn’t love a woman that outsources her daily life? Here’s some of my favorite quotes from the book,

Your mission statement says Galer Street is based on global “connectitude.” You people don’t just think outside the box, you think outside the dictionary!

…And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s ON YOU to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.

…I’d say I never considered myself a great architect. I’m more of a creative problem solver with good taste and a soft spot for logistical nightmares.

I’m seriously adding the last line into my resume, “I don’t consider myself an event planner. I’m more of a creative problem solver with good taste and a soft spot for logistical nightmares”.  You should steal it too.

In the book, Bernadette gets derailed from something she was passionate about, and it almost destroys her. Without being overly dramatic, I can say that I totally relate. I’ve moved further and further away from everything I loved about event planning.

It’s natural, I guess, to become a bit more cynical as you progress in your career. But it’s been a bummer. I spend more time on conference calls debating headcount than I do debating flower or menu choices. Actually I spend zero time on the latter. I blame the corporate environment! I blame the economy! I blame the man! Just kidding. There’s no man to blame. It’s marketing after all. It’s an island full of amazon women who look normal on the outside, but inside – they’re trained mercenaries trying to outdo one another.  Just kidding again. That’s the island Wonder Woman is from.

What I’m trying to say is… I love event planning and I miss my old event planning self. Where’d you go?

So in honor of Bernedette – I pulled out all the stops to last night’s meeting.

Individual appetizers were served in a ridiculous but awesome tray/cup contraption. There were enough chips and dips to make an 80’s housewife proud. There was even a cheese platter with cutesy little ceramic signs and decorative table coverings. Decorative table coverings!! Who’s got time for that? Not me. But I did it anyway. And it made me so happy. (If you are wondering how I had all this stuff – a good friend who knows the buried planner inside me gifted them to me last Christmas)

Here’s a picture of the lovely ladies. This was taken about a minute before we pulled up twerking videos on YouTube and one of these BWBs, not sayin’ who, got up and tried the move. Take that Diana Prince.

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Do as I say, Not as I do.

I got a call this morning from an oldie but goodie pal who is finally tying the knot with her longtime beloved.  I met her at my very first job out of school. I think my major responsibilities were getting scones and coffee for our CEO, but I digress.

The last time I spoke to her was a few years back, when I wasn’t working full-time and had decided to start a wedding planning business.  And because I’m an awful person, I haven’t reached out to her since.  Although she hasn’t reached out to me either, so technically our joint awfulness cancels itself out. Right?

She called me this morning because she wanted to go over pricing for her caterer, but our conversation quickly went to every single detail of her plans.  That’s how I roll. I need to be fully immersed. No toe dipping for me.

As we chatted she asked me the question that all the brides ask, “what was your wedding like?”.

What was my wedding like? It was grand. It was great. It was…a non-wedding.

We eloped. On a lake. In the sun. Without most of our friends and family.

Here’s the long story short – or the short story long:

We got engaged on a cold, rainy February night in NYC (very romantic night involving fighting, crying and celebrating).  I’m not sure if it was because I was in my early twenties and insane or because I was in my early twenties and genius – but I wasn’t stressed about the wedding planning at all.  I was super chill actually. Then my mother called and said it would be great to have a Hindu ceremony. Then my mother-in-law called and said it would be so nice if we could do a quick trip to the church after that ceremony to get blessed by the priest. So then I got stressed. I avoided thinking/planning/discussing the wedding for a few months. Then my boss, the one I fed scones and coffee to, told me they had to fire 2 people from the office and I’d have to cover for them all summer and wouldn’t be able to take too much time off. Then I freaked. Then I melted.  It was mid-May. It was Saturday afternoon. We hatched a plan. We would elope. Run away. To Eastern Long Island.

We didn’t handle the elopement in the best way. There aren’t any elopement planning books. It sounds easy, but it’s tricky.  Ok, it’s easy if you actually just go off and elope. We f’d it up.

We had some family there. Some not. We took tons of photos and even a video, thanks to a talented uncle that lived in the town by the lake. We went out to dinner that night with all the relatives that lived in the town. In hindsight, a bit confusing for the relatives who didn’t live in that town and who weren’t invited to dinner. We gave our parents a heads-up, they were totally fine and understanding. The rest of the family? Not so much.  It wasn’t an elopement really. It was a small wedding where we chose not to include my parents, his parents, our other sisters (his older sister was there as a witness), aunts, uncles,cousins and close friends. It was ugly.

It’s been 17 years and we still hear about it. On a positive note – we’re still married. There’s that.

So! If you want to chat about your wedding plans? I’m your gal. If you want to talk about how to elope? Google it.

here’s us on that special, messed up, beautiful, ill-conceived, completely imperfect perfect day…

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Conference Call Via Kitchen

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This used to be my office.  I started this job 6 years ago doing the normal working commute. Out the door early, kids at daycare, work all day, pick-up kids at daycare, work at home some more, sleep, repeat. Then, in 2008, when the financial world took a hit, my company was bought by a bigger company. Loads of people lost their jobs. The event world stopped in its tracks.  There was a 4 month period of time when we pulled back on everything we were doing,  Almost all events stopped. It was scary and unnerving but thankfully we came out of it. The slow climb back for events in the corporate world finally settled about 2 years ago. In the meantime we got to know this big, bad, machine-like company we were now a part of.

A company this size has its challenges to say the least. Everything is automated. Conference calls are a plague. There’s always someone, somewhere in the company doing exactly what you’re doing (sometimes better). It’s annoying.

But then, amidst the cluttered meetings and impersonal employee environment it shines through. A big, fat, encouraged, living, breathing work-at-home policy. Thousands of people working from home.

Almost my entire working career has been within the financial world. Let me tell you something. There is LITERALLY no other company doing this. None. Zip. That I know of and can get a job at anyway (trust me I’ve tried).  So I took the leap and became a stay-at-home-worker or a work-at-home-stayer. Whatever.

Does it solve everything? No. See my post on Monday.

But it has helped a ton. My kids aren’t little anymore, they are at school all day and even when they come home at night they are pretty self-sufficient. And in the event world – there really is no 9-5 work day. It’s usually nights, weekends, holidays etc. Which is fine, that’s what I’ve signed-up for. But I’m an early riser. Some days I’m more productive from 6am-9am then I am all day. Other days I need to work on Sunday nights so I have some time to ease into my week.

It works for me. It works for my family (although I think they wouldn’t mind me being gone a little more than I am, let’s be honest).

I do miss my work family – and we do try to get together as much as possible in human form.

But if this is the future of business – sign me up! That office above is empty now…errr…or it will be once I remove all my crap that I still haven’t gotten around to.

Now excuse me while I do a conference call, wash the dishes and work on a power point. In that order.

 

 

 

 

NYC

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I’m in New York at an event conference. Over a hundred planners trapped on the top floor – you could see the Type A personality cloud from New Jersey!

This was our view…not bad huh?

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Work

So the blog is called wife – mother – eventplanner. I’ve had some emails from my tens of readers asking about the end of that blog name. Why don’t I talk about it more? Can they have more details about the job? I’m a planner how? Can I explain? Yes. No. Maybe.

Although…technically am I really even an event planner anymore?  I’ve done the party/wedding planning – but that is not what I do anymore. I manage an event team in a big fat machine. I’m not exactly sure how much actual planning I do.  My fantastic, terrific team really carries that load.

Years ago, when people asked what I did – it was so cool to explain. I plan private events for ultra high net worth clients for a highly regarded firm..ohhhh. Sounds fancy. Then I’d talk about buying out Le Cirque in NYC or working with Kenny Loggins or Greg Norman….more oohs and ahhs. I’d talk about coming up with amazing room designs and invites and creative menus.  Even I was jealous of my job.

Now, when people ask what I do,  I just tell them my title. Which is nice. I never tell them the name of the company – because the firm that I joined, the one that I was proud of, was gobbled up by another company – ’08 was fun.  When I call this company The Machine – I’m not being sassy. Trust me, they’d think it was a compliment.  A machine means efficiency, progress, everything in its proper place and order.

I never talk about what I do – because what do I do? I spend all my time on calls or meetings – banging the drum, telling people how smart and capable we all are, providing air cover from the vultures so my team can actually do the work (or trying to).  I also have uncomfortable conversations. I’m really good at that. You need to tell a vendor they suck? I’m your gal. Your speaker is throwing a tantrum and not doing what you need? I’m on it. Once in a while I have an idea for something creative, which I pass on to my team because if left in my arms – the idea would die a slow, ignored death.

This post is whiny. Sorry. It sounds full of uptown problems and post bail-out bitching. There are still amazing things I get to do – and places I get to travel.  But technically my blog should be called wife-mother-defensive air traffic controller and official bad cop.

Please note that the below picture has nothing to do with this post…just a picture that makes me happy.

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