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Career Advice for Event Professionals from Event Professionals

by Chris Carver
on January 3, 2017
Ted Metellus

Given that we've been fortunate to speak with some of the most successful folks in the production world, we thought we'd compile a list of the career and life advice we took from those conversations.  

These 30 nuggets of wisdom have had a major impact on their careers and we hope it helps you in some way. And... of all of the wisdom and career advice each person could have shared, they chose to share these points. Enjoy. 

Remember, advice is only as good as the execution. 

1) "Sometimes you have to clean the shitters" twitter-128.png
Katie Keenan, VP Event Operations at the NFL

I had a professor, Jason Smorol, my freshman year of college, who gave a very famous speech. Well…very famous among Cortland graduates, called, "Cleaning The Shitters”.

Basically the theme is that you just have to do whatever needs to get done and some days that includes cleaning the shitters. I've never personally cleaned a bathroom in my career, but I've done some shitty things and you just have to do whatever it takes.

Read Katie's Full Interview

2) "There is no part-way in" twitter-128.png
Kevin Lyman, Vans Warped Tour, Founder

Be patient, start slow, build your relationships, but when you go for it, you better be willing to go ALL in. There is no part-way in. But that would be my advice for anything.

Read Kevin's Full Interview

3) "Silence and thoughtfulness can separate you in the room." twitter-128.png
Kat Tooley, VP of Event Operations Superfly (Creator's of Bonnaroo & Outside Lands)

For a long time, I always thought to be able to get my voice heard, I needed to have an opinion on everything. Sometimes, that's not needed. Sometimes, there's strength in silence and taking a step back and listening to someone else's opinion. Taking a moment and thinking about it for a little bit, can be powerful. Coming back with an intelligent, well-thought-out answer is better than just saying something for the sake of saying something.

Read Kat's Full Interview

4) "You simply have to show up" twitter-128.png
Brian Wingerd, KAABOO, SVP of Marketing

There're so many people that when things get a little hard, they'll fall out. If you keep showing up, you'd be amazed at what happens.

Read Brian's Full Interview

5) "The true test of an individual is when the seas are rough" twitter-128.png

Waco Hoover, XLIVE, Co-Founder

The best piece of career advice was from a captain that I had in the Marine Corps. He told me, "Sergeant Hoover, it's really easy to steer the ship in calm seas, but the true test of an individual, is when the seas are rough and things are going wrong."

Read Waco's Full Interview 

6) "Get out of the back of the truck" twitter-128.png
Ted "The Man" Metellus, Rock N' Roll Marathon, Director of Course Operations

I've gotten one consistent message from several of my mentors over the years. They used to tell me, "Get out of the back of the truck." 

I've always been a really hands-on operations person, trying to lead from the front, but what they mean is that you also have to teach others what to do. There's just a lot that involves the execution of the event that doesn't involve having to be the guy in the back of the truck. So educating the people around me, is always something I keep in mind.

Read Ted's Full Interview 

7) "Make your routine a lack of one." twitter-128.png
Christian Pheil, Firefly Music Festival, Director of Programming

Creativity easily gets stunted when we're in a rut. Yes, of course it's important to have some habits and routines in life, but make sure to stretch yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Meet new people. Work in strange settings. Inspiration is found where you least expect it.

Read Christian's Full Interview

8) "Speak your truth" twitter-128.png
Dan Hill, Creator RiSE Festival, Co-Founder of Ragnar Relay and the Electric Run

It was really scary after Ragnar, worrying am I a one hit wonder, could I do this again? And to be three for three now, the world looks a little different. I get more excited about trying to create new things. It's less scary to keep creating outside the box. When you speak your truth, you don't really feel like you have anything more to prove.

Read Dan's Full Interview 

9) "Those who are flexible NEVER get bent out of shape." twitter-128.png

Leslie Hitchcock, Director of Events at TechCrunch

And "Always give the glory to your team." I try my hardest to live by both.

Read Leslie's Full Interview

10) "Always remember, you are the cause of your own experience" twitter-128.png
Mike Reilly, Voice of Ironman

That advice from my brother has always stuck with me.

Read Mike's Full Interview

11) "Stay Uncomfortable" twitter-128.png
Yosi Sergant, Manifest Justice & Creator of the Obama Home Campaign

Once you get too secure with what you do. You lose your edge. You stop trying to get better. You stop trying to push the limits. You stop learning. You stop asking for help.

I hope I don't get that comfortable.

Read Yosi's Full Interview

12) "Embrace the opposing viewpoint" twitter-128.png 
Christian Pheil, Firefly Music Festival, Director of Programming

Create an environment where you can challenge and be challenged.

Read Christian's Full Interview 

13) "Trust your plan, trust your people" twitter-128.png
Heather Story, Wanderlust, VP of Event Operations

Early in my career, we had to do a full evacuation of a sold-out Jimmie Buffet show thirty minutes before he was to take the stage.

The Police Lieutenant called me over and said, "Heather, do you trust your plan?", and I was like, "Yeah, I trust my plan.", and he said, "Do you trust your people.", and I was like, "I trust my people.". He said, "Okay, it's not your job to do. It's your job to manage. You can't anticipate the next three moves if you're in the weeds." That has stuck with me my entire career.

Read Heather's Full Interview

14) "Diversify the portfolio of yourself" twitter-128.png
Katie Keenan, VP Event Operations at the NFL

Never be content. If you are content, great, but you have to make yourself marketable and you have to diversify your portfolio of yourself. You have to make sure that you're always learning and you can fit yourself into different teams.

Read Katie's Full Interview

15) "Don’t be intimidated" twitter-128.png
Kevin Lyman, Vans Warped Tour, Founder

I think some of these people in this business try to intimidate you. It took me a long time to feel like I was equal to people in the industry. But we’re just people. We’re not brain surgeons. We’re not curing AIDS. We’re just putting on shows for people. We’re not perfect. 

Read Kevin's Full Interview

16) "From chaos comes clarity" twitter-128.png
Garrett Carter, Charlotte Motor Speedway

You're always going to go through something hard, just know that when it's done and it will go away, and you will have clarity after that. Don’t panic. And when things get a sideways and they always do, your relationships are usually what get you through.

Full Interview with Garrett

17) "Don't hold on to all of the negative" twitter-128.png
Taylor Gustafson, KAABOO, Director of Box Office Operations

Concentrate on the positive, because that's what really makes it worth it."

Read Taylor's Full Interview

18) "Bring respect, dignity and fairness to every interaction" twitter-128.png

Yosi Sergant, Manifest Justice & Creator of the Obama Home Campaign

At the end of the day, you can have no greater impact than bringing respect, dignity and fairness to every interaction, work or otherwise."

Read Yosi's Full Interview

19) "Be patient, put in the work" twitter-128.png 
Matt West, VP Of Operations Boston Marathon

Too many kids come out of school and want to go straight to the top. Someone has to clean the toilet bowls first and then you move up from there. Be patient, put in the work and trust that the hard work is going to pay off.

Read Matt's Full Interview

"Surround yourself with the right people" twitter-128.png
Waco Hoover, XLIVE, Co-Founder

If you believe in what you're doing and you have a good idea and good people around you, you can succeed.

Read Waco's Full Interview 

21) "Every circumstance requires a different response" twitter-128.png
Yosi Sergant, Manifest Justice & Creator of the Obama Home Campaign

Once you put routine in place, the result becomes routine".

Read Yosi's Full Interview

22) "Continue to be hungry" twitter-128.png
Kat Tooley, VP of Event Operations Superfly (Creator's of Bonnaroo & Outside Lands)

I think when we all compete against each other or bring new things to the table, everyone comes out of it with something really special. Continue to be hungry, explore new opportunities, bring in new things, and also be willing and ready to share it with your peers, even if they are competitors. I think the live event industry is very much a community in and of itself. We all need to invest in that.

Read Kat's Full Interview

23) "Be smart, keep learning" twitter-128.png
David Chen, Insomniac, Director of Technology

Our team jokes that every time we do a festival, no matter if we've done it four or five times before, we always learn something new. 

In that same vein, there's a lot of stuff that I'm interested in, but  there's never enough time to do it all. So I really try to work with people that have the same interests and that I trust, so they can achieve what I ultimately want to achieve.

Read David's Full Interview

24) "Find a mentor or be a mentor" twitter-128.png
Waco Hoover, XLIVE, Co-Founder

Everyone has had somebody help them get to where they are. Even the most successful people in our industry. They all had mentors over the course of their careers that helped them achieve incredible levels of success. Take the opportunity to seek out a mentor if you are just beginning your career or give guidance and develop young professionals if you have knowledge to impart.

Read Waco's Full Interview

25) "As a parent, don't separate things" twitter-128.png
Cheryl Checchetto, Academy Awards, Producer

I am not the personality to be a stay at home mom, but I am not the personality to just work either. So my advice is, don’t separate things. Balance whenever you can. Try to get your kids involved in your work.

Read Cheryl's Full Interview

26) "Network, Network, Network" twitter-128.png
Matt West, VP Of Operations Boston Marathon

Get to know everyone in your industry. You just never know.

Read Matt's Full Interview

27) "Smell the Roses" twitter-128.png
Rick Nogues, Las Vegas Police Department, Sergeant & Director of Events Division

I have a tendency to get really intense and focused on the project being done right and safely. When I was working at the Sun Dome in Tampa, my boss Jeff Budd (aka Superman) pulled me aside one night, in the middle of a Garth Brooks show and said, "Rick, if there's anything I can say that will resonate with you throughout your life, it’s to just smell the roses. Sometimes you have to slow down, enjoy these moments, because it's really going to fly by."

It seems simple but it really helped me because I find myself being so driven sometimes that I don't stop to enjoy the moment.

Read Rick's Full Interview

28) Don't be afraid to say, "What the fuck?" twitter-128.png
Zack Sugarman, Wasserman, VP of Marketing and Digital Media

What the fuck gives you freedom. That's a mantra of mine. How about that?

Read Zack's Full Interview

29) "Come to the Edge" twitter-128.png
Tina Wilmott, Endurance Sportswire, Founder

When I went out on my own, I had a lot fear of failure which can be paralyzing if you let it. I came across this quote that  summed up both the fear and excitement.

“Come to the edge.”

“We can’t. We’re afraid.”

“Come to the edge.”

“We can’t. We will fall!”

“Come to the edge.”

And they came.

And he pushed them.

And they flew.

- Guillaume Apollinaire

Read Tina's Full Interview

30) "Take a deep breathe and enjoy it" twitter-128.png
Heather Story, Wanderlust, VP Of Event Operations.

Namaste Heather
Hah! Namaste

Read Heather's Full Interview

Interested in hearing the stories of more event professionals? Subscribe for  weekly updates

The Adventurists:
Dan Wedgwood, Managing Director (READ)
Wasserman Media Group:
Zack Sugarman, VP of Marketing & Digital Media (READ)
Leo Nitzberg, Co-Founder (READ)
Electric Daisy Carnival:
David Chen, Director of Technology (READ)
Firefly Music Festival:
Christiane Pheil, Director of Programming (READ)
Charlotte Motor Speedway:
Garrett Carter, Manager of Event Operations (READ)
RiSE Festival:
Dan Hill, Co-Founder (READ)
Heather Story, Senior Director of Event Operations (READ)
New York City Wine & Food Festival:
John Trumble, Managing Director (READ)
Taylor Gustafson, Director of Ticketing & Credentials (READ)
Brian Wingerd, SVP of Marketing (READ)
Governors Ball Music Festival: Tom Russell, Co-Founder (READ)
Superfly (Bonnaroo & Outside Lands):
Kat Tooley, Senior Director, Event Production (READ)
Firefly Music Festival: Megan Marshall, Assistant Director (READ)
Super Bowl & NFL Draft:
Katie Keenan, NFL's Director of Event Operations (READ)
Rock N' Roll Marathon:
Ted Metellus, Director of Course Operations (READ)
The Enthusiast Network:
 Scott Desiderio, VP of Event Ops (READ)

Sea Otter Classic: Frank Yohannan, Founder (READ)
Los Angeles Marathon: Murphy Reinschreiber, VP of Operations (READ)

Big Sur Marathon: Doug Thurston, Event Director (READ)
Summit Series: Cara Bubes, Event Director (READ)
Color Run: John Connors, VP of Experience (READ)
TechCrunch Disrupt: Leslie Hitchcock, Event Director (READ)
Boston Marathon: Matt West, VP of Operations (READ
Academy Awards: Cheryl Cecchetto, Production Director (READ
RunningUSA: Christine Bowen, Event Director (READ
Charity Ball & Charity Water: Lauren Letta, Chief of Staff (READ)

Electric Run: Latane "Big Bird" Meade, Co-Founder  (READ)
Color Run Australia: Luke Hannan, Event Director (READ)

 is an event management platform helping production teams streamline their logistics and operations. We're currently in a private beta with some of our favorite events around the globe, but you you're interested in a demo add email HERE. 

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