Editor’s note: Events & Tents kicks off on Feb. 8, the day before the start of The Rental Show 2014 in Orlando, Fla. The one-day workshop in the North-South Building of the Orange Country Convention Center starts with a presentation on trends, followed by 16 seminar options and a display of design skills at the lunchtime Inspiration Challenge, and closes with a keynote address and evening reception.
This year’s keynote speaker, Susan Southerland, president, Just Events! Group, Orlando, is a celebrity wedding planner, author and wedding business consultant. She also is the official wedding-planning partner of Universal Orlando Resort and the national wedding expert for Perfect Wedding Guide. Her work has appeared on the Style Network’s “Whose Wedding Is it Anyway?” and TLC’s “A Wedding Story.” She also was one of 30 wedding planners worldwide to be recognized as an “A-List Planner” by Destination Weddings and Honeymoons magazine.
In addition to her keynote, she also will present an afternoon seminar on speaking with wedding customers titled, “Weddings: Speak the Right Language to Earn a Customer for Life.” She says people will not only walk away from the keynote with ideas, but ways to implement those ideas into their own businesses. Recently, Rental Management spoke with Southerland about her daily schedule, how she keeps up with clients and what attendees can expect from her sessions.
RM: What does your typical day/week/month entail? What is something you do every day without fail?
Susan Southerland: A typical work day for me includes working with clients, writing articles or working on my book, assisting my staff with anything they might need, answering email from business owners looking for advice, posting on social media and reading business-related articles. Every day, without fail, I read articles from authors I respect. I find that reading helps me be creative and come up with innovative ideas. Weekly, I have a conference call with the entire team to see what’s going on with their clients and their tasks. I also try to review the company financials to see how we are doing. That’s not my favorite part of running a business, so sometimes that gets relegated to every other week. My monthly task is reconciling bank and credit card statements. Again, that’s not my favorite thing to do, so sometimes I let that task go by the wayside.
RM: What is the most important part of working with clients?
Southerland: Keeping a written record of everything is essential. Even when I have phone conversations with clients, I follow up with an email recap. My big secret is that I always end that email with a question, so the client has to respond to me. If any details come into question at a later date, not only do I have the details in writing, but I can show the client that he read the information because he responded. Honestly, having details in writing means that most often when something is miscommunicated, it is caught during the review, so corrections can be made before the event day.
RM: Choose a recent client you worked with — what went well? What challenges did you have to solve and what did you learn?
Southerland: The biggest issue we have here in Florida is convincing couples to have a rain backup plan. When a bride plans to have her wedding outside, nothing is more upsetting to her than having to move inside. Many couples don’t even want to discuss what to do in case of bad weather. Recently, I had a client who not only didn’t want to discuss a rain backup plan, but he was adamant that we have the wedding outside no matter what. Of course, the weather was pretty bad on the wedding day. It was windy and we had scattered showers. After the decorator left, a big gust of wind blew through the ceremony site and knocked everything down, including some glass containers. Fifteen minutes before the ceremony was supposed to begin, we were sweeping up glass and getting everything set up again as best as we could. Then, just as the bride and groom began their vows, it started raining. All of the guests went running for shelter in the hotel. The couple had everyone stand in the hall and wait for the rain to stop. We wiped the chairs down and everyone went back outside again to finish the ceremony.
In the end, the clients were very happy, but I wasn’t. To me, that ceremony was a disaster, but neither the guests nor the clients seemed to mind. So what did I learn? I hope never to have that experience again, but I guess if I do, I will try to focus more on how the client feels rather than how I feel. I still think it was a huge mistake to inconvenience everyone like that couple did, but if everyone else seems to have a sense of humor about it, I will try to as well.
RM: What do you hope those who attend your sessions at Events & Tents come away with?
Southerland: I have two presentations at Events & Tents. My first one is about selling, marketing and servicing to today’s bride. I hope
that attendees will learn about the four distinct purchasing personalities and how to tailor their sales pitches and the manner in which they work with each personality. If businesses successfully adapt to the personality types, they will find their sales increase and their stress will be reduced. What could be better than that?
At my second presentation at the closing keynote, I will discuss how to use all of the great information that attendees get at conferences. I have worked with hundreds of event professionals who tell me that they love all of the networking and information they get when they attend conferences, but they are so overwhelmed when they get home that they don’t know what to do first. When they can’t get organized, all of the great ideas that they learned never get implemented. I will discuss helpful software solutions — some of them free — as well as how to get their thoughts and ideas organized and make a plan to get things done.
For more information on Susan Southerland or to check out her book, “The Susan Southerland Secret: Personality Marketing to Today’s Bride,” go to susansoutherland.com.
Events & Tents registration will be discounted through Dec. 9, at $250 for American Rental Association (ARA) members and $350 for prospective members. For more information about Events & Tents, including how to register to attend, go to TheRentalShow.com and click on “Education and Events” and “Events & Tents.”
Planning for Events and Tents
On Feb. 8, 2014, Events & Tents starts at 8 a.m. sharp at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., leading off with a Welcome Breakfast and 2014 Trends Forecast by Robin Brockelsby, Creative Coverings, Sparks, Nev.
From then on, it’s off to 16 seminar options, a fast-paced lunch event, a collaborative closing keynote and an evening reception for networking.
Jenni Venema, director of development, ARA Foundation, and director of association programs, American Rental Association (ARA), is in charge of putting together the one-day rental workshop targeting those involved in the party and event segment of the equipment rental industry.
Bussing will be provided to and from all hotels for the Events & Tents Reception at Café Tu Tu Tango, except those within walking distance. Advance registration and a ticket is required. The reception is sponsored by Central Tent, Chicago Pneumatic Construction Equipment, McCourt Manufacturing, Palmer Snyder and The SEC Group/Rainier Industries.
Events & Tents registration also will be discounted through Dec. 9, at $250 for ARA members and $350 for prospective members. For more information about Events & Tents, including how to register to attend, go to TheRentalShow.com, and click on “Education and Events” and “Events & Tents.”
Venema says she is excited about the initial response to the program, to be held on the Saturday prior to Sunday’s seminar day for The Rental Show 2014, and discussed some of the key details of the workshop with Rental Management.
RM: What was the approach to Events & Tents this year and who should plan to attend this workshop?
Jenni Venema: We wanted to raise the bar on the whole program and add things that were fun, engaging, interactive and informative. We plan to look at trends, new items, changes in the industry, information on how to do your job better and how to provide information to your clients.
Events & Tents is geared to owners and employees of all sizes of rental stores. There’s a little bit of everything for everybody. Whether you are 100 percent party or have both party and general tool, there will be a lot of information and ideas available. We plan to show a lot of interesting ways to handle all kinds of inventory issues and event situations. We’ll have virtual tours of rental stores, as well as seminars, including one called, “Why Didn’t I Think of That?” and another featuring events featured in the Inspiration Gallery.
RM: What should attendees know about the Inspiration Challenge event?
Venema: It’s going to be so much fun and just a really enjoyable interactive event. The Inspiration Challenge is the first event of its kind for us. We’re going to have an emcee and two designers on stage in the middle of the room during lunch. The designers will be pitted against each other, using items previously unseen. The audience will be divided into two teams, one for each designer, and may be called upon for their table centerpiece or even personal items to help in the design challenge. Teams will be able to accept or pass on challenges for the designers. Cameras will project on screens, so everyone at the lunch can see the designs being created. With only
30 minutes to do the design, it should make for an exciting session. Finally, the audience will have a chance to vote on awards for each design. The award results will be announced at the evening reception.
Also, our sponsors have been awesome about donating items. For the Inspiration Challenge, Warner Shelter is donating tent frames, Jomar is donating linens, McCourt is donating tables and chairs, and 10 Strawberry Street is donating dishware and glassware. For the breakfast, GBS Linens is providing all the linens and Over the Top is donating the linens for the lunch tables.
RM: What do you hope attendees take away from Events & Tents 2014?
Venema: I want them to walk away with the idea that, “I can do that.” Whether they are part of a large store or a small store, they will be able to take ideas away from each session to put in place at home. We’re going to give them lots of tips for their business, trend ideas for their clients, ways to improve business and then our closing speaker, Susan Southerland of Just Events! Group in Orlando, Fla., is going to pull it all together with her keynote address.
Following the closing, we will have a reception at Café Tu Tu Tango, a very eclectic tapas-style venue. It’s a casual, colorful and fun atmosphere, inspired by Spanish loft architecture, where you’ll see artists painting and dancers doing the tango. The walls are filled with color and art, such as Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup can, and the food is all produced locally. We’ll hand out the awards from the Inspiration Challenge, and appetizers, drinks and seating will be available for those attending to enjoy.