Interviews with Planners - Al Wynant
Al Wynant is the co-founder and CEO of Eventinterface, a technology solution that lets meeting and event planners manage events better; enables them to enhance their revenue stream and allows them create a community around their events. Al has 26 years of international meeting and event management experience and has managed events from 50 to 125,000 on two continents. He studied in Europe and traveled with the international educational program Up with People. He has worked as a Marketing and Public Relations Representative working concert tours in the United States, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom. He has worked for the Belgian Senate, United Way and founded event management firm A6 where he and his team were responsible for the management of a large variety of conferences and events throughout the United States. Al has served on numerous non-profit boards and is a frequent speaker on the topic of meeting and event management, and event technology. Al is also an Appointed Representative for Flanders in the World.
What is the best advice you have ever received as a planner?
Understand right from the start what the client is trying to accomplish and everything you do should help the client reach that goal.
What is the most unique location you have ever planned an event at? What was great, what was challenging?
Working for a film festival we had to create 6 distinct spaces for the festival’s award show and after party. The award show was attended by about 500 VIP guests and broadcast from the atrium at the venue. Between the end of the broadcast and the after party we had to remove all seating and transform the atrium into a club. At the same time, all conference rooms and indoor pool had been transformed into unique event spaces honoring the best film nominations. From décor to drinks, food and entertainment, each room offered a unique event experience. Creatively speaking this was a dream event to produce. Logistically the event was a massive challenge. We had one day to set-up the venue, and 30 minutes to transfer the atrium from a live broadcast show to a club. It was insanely challenging but the team pulled it off.
What advice would you give to someone entering the business today?
Truly understand the industry before jumping in, and find a niche that you are passionate about. If you love social events, become a specialist in that. Prefer conferences? Become the best planner you can be. This is a challenging industry to be in, and finding the type of events you can be passionate about will make your life just a tiny bit easier.
What do you see as the most challenging aspect of being a planner, and how do you overcome that challenge?
Our industry is all about relationships. At the same time however our industry has relatively high turnover. You may have long term relationships with people; these people however may move from venue to venue, or vendor to vendor, making relationships with a particular venue or vendor a bit challenging to keep up. I always make it a point to create relationships with different people in varied positions to insure some stability in venue or vendor relationships.
On a lighter side, events are physically exhausting and your feet will hurt. Wear the most comfortable shoes you can find and all will be just fine.
How do you think our industry will evolve in the next five years?
We are in an interesting period. A large percentage of experienced planners are retiring and new planners are taking their place. These new, and most likely younger planners are more apt to employ technology to enhance efficiency, engage participants and make events more profitable. I think we’ll see event tech employed more strategically by these planners.
What makes you successful as a planner?
Planning is in my blood. I love the excitement, creativity, challenges and stresses associated with the production of an event. I believe I am successful because I view my role not just as a planner, but educator, politician and counselor, all helpful traits to insure success for the client.
In your opinion, what is the best and worst industry trend of the year?
The arrival of streamlined end-to-end meeting and event planning platforms, such as Eventinterface and the trend to source locally produced foods is great. I’m becoming a little tired of food trucks at events.
What is the best industry book that has helped you as a planner?
Interestingly not a traditional business book. Cirque du Soleil: The Spark - Igniting the Creative Fire that Lives within Us All created by Lyn Heward and written by John U. Bacon. It offered a great look on creativity and innovation and how that can benefit you and your business.