Interviews with Planners - Greg Jenkins
Greg Jenkins, partner and co-founder of the award-winning Long Beach, California-based Bravo Productions, holds an impressive list of credentials and has earned a high reputation in the field of special event planning – a career spanning more than three decades.
Jenkins and his firm are the recipients of the prestigious Gala Awards by Special Events Magazine for Best Event Produced for a Corporation - Budget $100,000 to $249,000 and Best Event Design - Budget $20,000. They also received four Esprit Awards and several WESTIE Awards by the International Special Events Society, now the International Live Events Association; a Silver Tier Award for Innovation by Corporate EVENT Magazine, and the PRISM Award by the Public Relations Society of America, Los Angeles Chapter. Jenkins is also a previous nominee as Samaritan of the Year and a two-time nominee as Event Planner of the Year by Event Solutions Magazine, an international magazine serving the event and meeting planning industry. Jenkins recently served as Chair, and produced the 2017 Special Event (TSE) Opening Night Party.
Prior to forming Bravo Productions in 1987, with business partner Thomas Neighbors, Jenkins served as public relations director for Festival Artists, where he supervised the Tournament of Roses Parade publicity, special events, community relations and promotions for the company and its clients. He worked as an account executive and client services coordinator with a Los Angeles-based public relations firm, and as a marketing research manager for the Metropolitan Detroit Convention & Visitor Bureau. Jenkins holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Communications and a Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising, both from Michigan State University.
Jenkins is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America and served on the board of directors for the Los Angeles chapter for four years. Jenkins is also a lecturer on event industry topics, and has written numerous articles published in special events, meeting planning, public relation, marketing, consumer and media outlets – from print and broadcast to blogs and social media platforms. He has also served for several years on the editorial advisory board of Event Solutions Magazine.
What is the best advice you have ever received as a planner?
I have received a lot of good advice over the years. Some that stand out the most are:
- ALWAYS do your homework and due diligence. Do not make assumptions.
- When you sacrifice quality, you lose everything and compromise the integrity of the entire event!
- Hire the best and top-notch talent to serve in the many roles needed to stage a successful event. As a planner, you can't do it all and the key is to surround yourself with reliable and great suppliers, a knowledgeable and efficient production team and crew.
- Treat others like you want to be treated. That is always humbling, it keeps you grounded and kindness goes a long way. In addition, practice good ethics.
- Take risk and don't be afraid to challenge yourself. Stretch!
- Be a problem-solver! To be successful in the events industry, you have to be solution-oriented.
What is the most unique location you have ever planned an event at? What was great, what was challenging?
We have staged events throughout the United States at a wide variety of locations and venues.
One function that stands out was an event staged for a client in Palm Beach, Florida. It was a ground-breaking ceremony for a major retail and mixed-use development. The location was desolate, with mounds of dirt and weeds everywhere. We had two days to set up the event.
The first challenge was the location. We had to bulldoze the land to level out all of the dirt. Professional exterminators had to go through the lot and look for insects, rodents and snakes. We had to bring in water trucks to connect deliver water to the VIP restrooms. A floor had to build, all before the essentials could be brought in from audiovisual equipment, tenting, ventilation and more.
We also had to create a gravel roadway to allow shuttles to bring attendees from the designated pick-up area to the event site. While our client was able to arrange for some of these services, it was still quite an operation to get this project completed in a timely manner. The challenges were multiplied by working with new suppliers and an unknown production team. It required immediate trust to pull of this massive project in the allotted time.
It is a great experience to do projects out of one's comfort zone and in other states. It broadens your horizons and gives a different perspective about what is required when working in unfamiliar locations.
What advice would you give to someone entering the business today?
Know your strengths and seek out others who can complement your talents.
For example, if you are the creative person, you might want to seek out those professionals who are great with logistics, managing the operation, and budget. You will need a visionary person on your team as well. Be professional, flexible, honest, and listen to those whom you have contracted for their expertise. And lastly, avoid micromanaging!
What do you see as the most challenging aspect of being a planner, and how do you overcome that challenge?
Three big challenges that immediately come to mind include:
- The popularity of DIY.
- A consumer mindset to bargain shop for the lowest priced goods and services.
- The rapid changes in new technology that impacts the events industry.
We emphasize working with the client and suppliers as a partner. Quality, uniqueness, integrity, return on investment, and long-term involvement and contributions to the industry are things important to our brand. If someone is solely looking for the lowest cost, we are not the right fit.
We stay true to our brand, educate and inform consumers and clients about the value of our services along the way. Events are not like filming movies or TV shows. There are no double-takes. You have one opportunity to get it right and that is often best left to the professionals. We ascertain their goals and objectives and walk clients through a story to achieve them, while connecting the dots. That is worth the money invested.
How do you think our industry will evolve in the next five years?
As more individuals and millennials become their own entrepreneurs, I believe the industry will become more competitive. Event planning is a business you can start from your bedroom or garage. I also think technology will continue to play a major factor in how events come together. You already have mobile ticketing, mobile payments, virtual attendance, etc. The move to provide solutions that increase attendee engagement will become even more important.
What makes you successful as a planner?
Without a doubt, it is the ability to put together a good team and to collaborate. I credit my success as a planner to all of those amazing and talented professionals who work with us and go beyond the call of the duty to create an incredible experience for our clients and their attendees.
Leadership and listening to the experts on our team, and allowing them to manage and take ownership of their role in each event has also been a key to my success as a planner. I don't micromanage and I allow and encourage flexibility.
I also credit a lot of my success to Bravo Productions partner, Thom Neighbors. He is an artist and the mechanic behind the beautiful settings we often create. I may have the vision and plan the event, but I can only draw stick figures. Thom is the artists who creates the renderings, supervises the building of sets and scenery. He knows what is entailed in making sets and scenery, and has an understanding of rigging. We also have crew and unsung heroes who are outstanding with logistics, technical support, load-in and load-out, and behind-the-scenes endeavors of an event.
In your opinion, what is the best and worst industry trend of the year?
One of the best industry trends is the carousel buffet with strolling themed entertainers. It is entertaining guests while at the same time bringing food to them in a clever way.
My worst industry trend would have to be karaoke. While not a new trend, it is still popular, but I've never been a fan!
What is the best industry book that has helped you as a planner?
There are several that are on my book shelves. Three favorites that come to mind include:
- "Event Planning Ethics and Etiquette: A Principled Approach to the Business of Special Event Management" by Judy Allen.
- "Special Events: Twenty-First Century Global Event Management (The Wiley Event Management Series)" by Joe Goldblatt.
- Special Events: Best Practices in Modern Event Planning by Joe Goldblatt.
Practicing good ethics is very important to me and something non-negotiable in working with our suppliers, production team and crew. The basic steps and framework for planning successful events hasn't really changed, however, technology, software and apps have shaped the way we stage, organize, manage and market them.
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CONNECT WITH GREG:
Phone: (562) 435-0065
Affiliations and Memberships: Public Relations Society of America Accredited Member
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