Interviews with Planners - Ruby Benoit

Ruby Benoit is a veteran marketing, event planning, and project management professional with 17 years of experience with global brands in tourism, hospitality, sports, entertainment, fashion, and consumer packaged goods.  She has developed groundbreaking campaigns consisting of advertising, digital marketing, promotions, public relations, social media, and special events.  She is particularly effective with translating conceptual business initiatives and ideas into actionable growth strategies, events, and business campaigns that increase awareness and generate revenue.  She has the proven ability to solve complex problems and is particularly skilled in developing the right project management process and leading its implementation.

Prior to launching Divergent Group, Ruby planned events ranging from 15 to over 10,000 attendees. Ruby has managed a variety of events, including conferences, fundraisers, sporting events, annual dinners, fashion shows, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. In addition, she developed, managed, and implemented events and marketing campaigns for big name brands, including Newport Beach & Co., LA Tourism & Convention Board, the International Paralympic Committee, the US Olympic Committee, Gage Marketing Group, Lawry’s Foods (Unilever), 20th Century Fox, and Saatchi & Saatchi.  Her global experience includes Australia, China, France, Greece, Italy, Middle East, South Africa, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.

Ruby is also a member of various organizations, including the American Marketing Association, California Craft Brewers Association, Conscious Capitalism San Diego, Marketing Executives Networking Group, and San Diego Brewers Guild.  

What is the best advice you have ever received as a planner?
The best advice I have received is to remain calm and always have a smile on your face even when things don’t go as planned. If you show your emotions and freak out, it will have a negative effect on the event, your client, and their guests. I am such a perfectionist and very detail-oriented so when something goes wrong it stresses me out. I love to plan, plan, plan, but I have learned through the years to just smile and go with the flow since guests don’t know when something goes wrong. When there are issues, I look at the situation, all of my options and then determine which path has the least negative effect on my client and their guests. Whatever you do, always keep your customer and their guests in mind, smile, work with your team, and everything will work out.

What is the most unique location you have ever planned an event at? What was great, what was challenging?
Athens, Greece. I supported the planning of the USA Hospitality House where over 600 US athletes, sponsors, and VIPs converged over 17 days during the 2004 Olympic Games. It was an incredible yet challenging experience. We completely transformed two locations - a private building and part of the OAKA stadium. One of our key objectives was to ensure that the sponsors of the US Olympic Committee were featured throughout both locations. Each level of the USA Hospitality House was converted into sponsor specific spaces, such as the Dell room, Coca-Cola room, Swatch room, and merchandise store. The USA Hospitality House was primarily used to host numerous parties after US wins and act as a “green room”, whereas the hospitality area at the OAKA Stadium was to entertain sponsors, stakeholders, and VIPs.

The challenging part was working with so many different entities, including the International Olympic Committee, Athens Olympic Games Organizing Committee, sponsors, the local government, volunteers, and even the Secret Service. Not only was it challenging to work with so many different entities, but it was also challenging working in a different country and multiple cultures. Luckily, my MBA in International Management gave me the skills to work with different and completely opposite cultures and working styles.

What advice would you give to someone entering the business today?
I know it sounds very cliché, but it’s true…network, network, network. I know it might seem scary asking a stranger for an informational interview or even going to a networking event, but it’s very important for your career. The event and business world is all based on relationships so the more people you know, the better. Don’t approach networking as how many cards you can get at an event, or how many people you can connect with on LinkedIn, but focus on quality connections and really get to know the other person. If you just met someone, don’t expect them to help you right away by connecting you with their contacts. To me, networking is like dating, you need to build a relationship with the other person and think of how can you help them.

What do you see as the most challenging aspect of being a planner, and how do you overcome that challenge?The most challenging aspect of being a planner is being able to juggle all of the details and personalities. Every event has tons of details, and then there are details within the details. Luckily, I love the details! It is very important to know how each task relates to the other tasks and their dependencies, as well as the bigger picture. When I work on an event, I use project management tools to keep me on track. I am connected at the hip with Asana and Instagantt. I especially love how I can see how a change affects the other tasks and then I can plan accordingly.

When planning an event, there are so many different people to work with – your client and their guests, vendors, staff, and volunteers. Each one has their own personality so it is key that you handpick your team of vendors, staff, and volunteers wisely. You can’t do everything so you need to ensure that your team works well with each other, and that they get along since you are delegating a lot of work to them. If situations do arise, you need to address them right away and find a solution for those involved. 

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How do you think our industry will evolve in the next five years?
As always, technology is at the forefront of the industry and it will continue to be in years to come. In order to be successful, it’s integral that we are up-to-date with technology and are always thinking “what’s next?” and how can we incorporate it into our events seamlessly. Now that people are on their smart phones more than desktops, we always need to keep mobile technology on the top of our mind. Currently, there are different apps that interweave technology throughout events so guests can interact/network with each other, do real-time surveys that are broadcast during the event, and interact with guests through social media and technology. In the next five years, technology will play a major role in event experience. Here are some elements that I think will have a huge impact in the coming years.

  • Chatbots makes it easier to communicate with customers, drive engagement and help with retention through artificial intelligence.
  • Content marketing is huge right now so technology will be needed to blend offline and online experiences beyond the event itself.
  • Projection Mapping is a technique that transforms flat surfaces on buildings and walls into spectacular décor.
  • Virtual Reality brings a “wow” factor into events. It provides a way to creatively activate and engage with customers through multi-sensory experiences.

What makes you successful as a planner?
I have a very diverse background and have worked on the agency and brand side, for profit and not-for-profit, internationally and domestically, as well as intimate to large scale events, like the Olympics and Paralympics. Besides my background, there are several skills that have contributed to my success: resourcefulness, people skills, problem solver, and the ability to see the big picture as well as being detail-oriented.

In your opinion, what is the best and worst industry trend of the year?
One of the best and worst industry trends is virtual conferences. Virtual conferences are great because it allows more people to participate if they physically can’t travel and it reduces travel costs. However, it takes away the personal connection we create with in-person networking.

What is the best industry book that has helped you as a planner?
There isn't one specific book that has helped me. However, I've learned a lot through actively participating in different industry organizations and reading their emails, blogs, and other communication.

CONNECT WITH RUBY:
Ruby Benoit
Chief Idea Igniter and Founder, Divergent Group
Phone Number: (949) 616-0946
LinkedIn
Affiliations or Memberships:
American Marketing Association, California Craft Brewers Association, Conscious Capitalism San Diego, Marketing Executives Networking Group, and San Diego Brewers Guild

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