An interview with Toni Brown – Part Two
Knowing that special events can be the life-blood for a nonprofit, we asked a few questions of Toni Brown, principal and CEO of The Brown Wynn Agency, a firm with a long history of producing first class special events. We asked her a series of questions, and we share her responses with you.
Brown starts this conversation with what she likes most about the business, and what makes an event special. “One of the reasons I enjoy my work as a Special Events Producer, is because every assignment is different. This allows me to strategically plan, be creative, and contribute ideas that help clients achieve their marketing, public relations, and fundraising goals. The top three things that make an event special are hosting an event in a unique, unusual, or unexpected venue piques interest; creating a theme and adding impressive décor ups the ‘wow’ factor for guests; and a great menu, music, and entertainment are always expected!”
She also shared what should people consider before hiring a special events manager, and what her expectations are of her clients. “Working with a special events manager or team is a partnership. Prior to bringing a person onboard, it is imperative to determine if everyone is open to collaborating on the project. It can be very difficult for people to share or relinquish control of an event that they have managed in the past. On the client side, my expectation is that everyone on their team understands the mission, purpose, and goal of the event. I also expect that they have established a sufficient budget to support the proposed event, and that we all agree on a list of realistic expectations and outcomes. Additionally, they should be open to making changes and discussing new ideas.
In terms of a “lead time” or planning time for a special event, Brown recommends eight to 12 months planning time, noting that “clients sometimes underestimate the amount of lead time needed to create a comprehensive action plan for a successful outcome.” We also asked about compensation standards and goals for attendance, anticipated revenue, anticipated costs, and event programming. Brown shared, “The Brown Wynn Agency charges a flat fee based on the full scope of work, length of the assignment and staffing needs. We work closely with clients to determine attendance, revenue, and programing goals. Our initial discussions and consultations with organizations are normally about budget, and the financial resources they designate to produce a new or established event. The estimated cost analysis and approved budget are key in determining the event programming, attendance capacity, and revenue projections.”
Brown recommends events management as a career. “My best advice to anyone considering a career in special events management, is to invest time in volunteering for various types of events such as galas, fundraisers, fashion shows, parades, conferences in their city. Volunteering is a hands-on opportunity to experience the major components of the job: planning, setup, management, execution, and breakdown. This is an effective way to determine if special events is a feasible career path.”
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