Bringing Incredible Event Experiences To Life With Courtney Stanley
Eva Talk

Bringing Incredible Event Experiences To Life With Courtney Stanley

The events industry has proven its adaptability and resilience with recent trends in event technology. Before the pandemic, in-person events provided abundant opportunities to network, make meaningful connections, and interact with sponsors and attendees. 

However, virtual events opened up new avenues for audiences who previously couldn’t attend events because of certain limitations. As a result, the industry has become more agile and powerful in the in-person, virtual and hybrid event space.

Today, people are looking for experiences and connections. The guests at your event are looking for something authentic since there are so many demands on their time and attention. 

Especially with virtual events that are limited to video and chat, you need to think creatively. 

To craft event experiences that leave a long-lasting impression on attendees, event planners need to work on shifting to an experience-maker mindset and self-image. Event planners should also strive to create safe, comfortable, and engaging event spaces in order to increase engagement and diversify audiences.

As part of the event experts series, 10times interviewed Courtney Stanley on trends shaping today’s events industry.

We reached out to her and asked her what she thinks about how event planners can ensure the success of their post-covid strategy and engagement initiatives. In addition, she also discussed how young professionals can start creating their personal brands.

About Courtney Stanley

Courtney Stanley is recognized as an award-winning changemaker, keynote speaker, and event emcee, and she is also the creator of the women-focused podcast, Dare to Interrupt. 

She has spent 10 years helping professionals, entrepreneurs, and organizations tap into their true potential, create better team dynamics, and drive meaningful change through engaging in game-changing, impactful conversations.

With a degree in experience design, leadership studies and business, Courtney helps people from all walks of life to take action, build confidence, advocate for themselves and others, and capitalize on “silver linings” to grow personally and professionally.

She is the recipient of Smart Meetings’ 2020 Women in Events Entrepreneur Award, Meetings Today’s 2019 & 2020 Trendsetter Award, MeetingsNet’s 2019 Changemaker Award, the Association for Women in Events (AWE) 2018 Disruptor Award, the 2015 MPI Chairman’s Award and 2011 MPI RISE Award, a list of 40 under 40 in Collaborate and Connect Magazine in 2011, and a recognized influencer in the event industry.

* Could you please walk us through your professional journey? What attracted you to the events domain in the first place?

The endless possibilities and opportunities the events industry presented initially attracted me to the field (in other words, I could try out of different types of work in one field – and travel the world?! Sign me up!). 

After studying business hospitality, international tourism and event management at Central Michigan University, I spent the first handful of years in my career working at the Country Music Association in Nashville, an events agency in Boston, an event technology startup in Toronto, and an environmental political nonprofit in Grand Rapids. While working full-time, I discovered a passion for mentorship and sharing my knowledge and lessons learned with others, which eventually led to unintentionally building several successful side hustles as a professional speaker, emcee/moderator, podcaster, and business coach. 

At the end of 2019, I decided to take a leap of faith and transform my side hustles into a full-time entrepreneurial venture. Though timing was not on my side to begin my new venture as a business owner right as the pandemic shut down in-person conferences and events, I’m humbled and proud to say that I am now wrapping up my third year of business and I could not imagine having missed the opportunity to be challenged to grow as much as I have over this period of time. 

* How do you see events and venues changing post-covid?

Though the events industry was forced to adopt new ways of operating during the pandemic, organizations will not be able to slide back into pre-pandemic methods and habits. Our world has changed, and so have the needs and expectations of our community members. 

Events will need to cater to shorter attention spans, offer more opportunities for people to “check out” while still feeling connected to the program (both virtually and in-person), and consider needs that have become more of a priority to people during the pandemic: family, time to decompress, health and wellness, meaningful conversations and connectedness, social issues, sustainability, and more.

* What do you see as the biggest trends defining the events landscape right now, and how can event professionals capitalize on them?

The greatest opportunity I see event professionals missing right now is including their virtual community in their conferences. We’re sick of talking about virtual and hybrid events, and I completely understand the many valid reasons why. 

However, I have never seen more people asking whether an in-person event will be livestreamed or recorded, and I have never seen so many meeting planners saying “no”. Now is not the time to stop innovating, to stop leaning on our technology partners, and it is certainly not the time to stop listening to what our members and customers need. 

Secondly, one huge trend I see defining the events landscape right now is leveraging the power of storytelling. Now, more than ever, people are drawn to – and crave – real human stories and connection. 

The programs we design need to include content and speakers who are skilled at cultivating meaningful conversations that evoke emotion and inspire change. With tighter budgets to travel and less desire to be on the road, people want to know that when they step off the plane and onto the show floor of their conference, they will leave feeling like they’ve changed for the better. They want to go home feeling energized and motivated, not tired and uninspired.  

* What exciting plans does Courtney Stanley Consulting, LLC have for the future?

As I enter my fourth year as a full-time keynote speaker, event emcee/moderator, host of the podcast for women in events, Dare to Interrupt, and business coach, I could not be more excited to create – and share – new content and conversations that will best serve the needs that my audiences and clients have today. 

In 2023, I will be launching brand new keynote topics (and… and book I’ve been writing)! 

* Are there any tips you can give young professionals for developing their personal brand?

Find, or better yet, create, opportunities to shine. Visibility is critical for career growth in any industry, and especially in the world of events, where our connections are very much based on relationships and word-of-mouth referrals. 

You can work as hard as your heart desires behind the scenes, but if you’re not shining a light on your hustle, it’s going to be very difficult to get noticed by stakeholders. You have to show up in order to be seen. 

Get involved in your professional community, raise your hand to lead a project, or better yet, turn your passion into a side hustle and serve the people around you. Remember that when you ask for a seat at the table, you might be told no, but rejection is a form of redirection. Build your own table and start offering other people an opportunity to sit with you.

* If you could give event planners one piece of advice, what would it be?

Prioritize your personal needs. We are servant leaders by day and often nurturers by night (ladies, I’m specifically looking at many of you – myself included). Often there is a people-pleaser inside of us who is afraid to let anyone down, so we put ourselves last, time and time again. 

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Event planning is one of the most stressful jobs in the world; we need to learn and practice flexing our boundary-setting muscles and saying no to things that sacrifice too much of our energy, mental health, and peace of mind. 

For more in the Events Industry Experts series, check out our interview with Helen Moon, Danica Tormohlen, Ashley Brown, Jason Allan Scott, Brandt Krueger, Corbin Ball, Will Curran, and Stephan Murtagh today!

Are you interested in sharing your insights or viewpoints with the events industry? Join the Eva Talk.

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