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30 | Gianna Gaudini, SoftBank Vision Fund: The Holy Grail of Event Planning

  • February 19, 2020
  • 37:30

Gianna Cardinale Gaudini (Global Director, Head of Events at SoftBank Vision Fund) shares takeaways from her book The Art of Event Planning. Along the way, we discuss the value of finding your niche as an events professional, how to hire for an events team, the importance of finding balance in a busy schedule, tips for working with agencies, wine recommendations, and much more.

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Top Takeaways

1

FINDING YOUR NICHE IN THE EVENTS COMMUNITY: As Gianna was planning out her career in events, she realized that having a “niche” was crucial for standing out in the saturated Bay Area job market. For Gianna, that point of differentiation was in wine. With some research and family tradition to back her up, Gianna studied wine, documented her learnings on the Decantress blog, and eventually earned her Certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. “It was a fun creative outlet for me...And my whole team appreciated it because I was the go-to for wine recommendations for any event that we had.”

2

BUILDING AN EVENTS TEAM WITH THE RIGHT HIRES AT THE RIGHT TIME: When building out her events team, Gianna looks at potential candidates as “generalists and specialists.” Neither is more valuable than the other; each brings a different kind of value to the team. “A specialist that I have on my team right now is a registration manager. This person may not be able to produce other aspects of the event, but they are absolutely the expert in everything registration.”

3

STRESS + REST = GROWTH: Throughout Gianna’s career, from Google to SoftBank Vision Fund, a common theme for her has been the importance of setting ambitious goals while keeping a healthy work-life blend. If it means turning off electronics for an hour, setting an alarm as a reminder to stop working, or even making sure to use humor at work to keep morale high. “You can take a pause and the world still goes on. Your events are still successful. And it's also just really important to model these healthy habits to your team.”

ABOUT Gianna Gaudini

Gianna Cardinale Gaudini is an award-winning Executive Event Producer and author of The Art of Event Planning with over 15 years of experience in the marketing and hospitality industry. Gianna is currently the Global Director, Head of Events for the SoftBank Vision Fund, and previously ran events for Google’s Events and Experience team for 9+ years. At SoftBank, Gianna oversees live experiences that educate thought leaders about Vision Fund's efforts to accelerate technological advancement for the benefit of humanity and foster relationships across an ecosystem of leading technology companies.

Episode Transcript

GIANNA:

I'll never forget an executive at Google once told me there's this formula, and it's stress plus rest equals growth. In events there's always stressful times where you're working around the clock, you're on deadline and so I think it's really important to start factoring in recovery time. And that's something that I try to do now is plan ahead for that recovery time because I know from experience that if you don't do that, you can end up battling burnout or your body will just physically start breaking down.

BRANDON:

Hello and welcome to IN-PERSON brought to you by Bizzabo. In each episode of IN-PERSON, we explore the world's most daring events and the people who make them happen. In case you and I haven't already met, I'm Brandon Rafalson.

BRANDON:

Gianna Cardinale Gaudini is an award-winning executive event producer and the author of The Art of Event Planning with over 15 years of experience in the marketing and hospitality industry. Gianna is currently the Global Director Head of Events for the SoftBank Vision Fund and previously ran events for Google's Events and Experiences Team for over nine years. At SoftBank, Gianna's remit is building a team and strategy to support live experiences that educate thought leaders about Vision Fund's efforts to accelerate the advancement of technology for the benefit of humanity and to foster relationships across an ecosystem of leading technology companies. Throughout our conversation, we explored lessons learned from Gianna's career and events and top takeaways from her book, The Art of Event Planning. These included the value of finding your niche as an events professional, how to hire for an events team, the importance of finding balance in a busy schedule, tips for working with agencies, wine recommendations and much more. Okay, let's get to it.

BRANDON:

I'd love to start off with a topic that's very important to me but I understand is also very important to you as well, which is wine. You've written extensively about wine under the Decantress' handle, you are a Sommelier certified from the Court of Master Sommeliers and you're known to be a great source of wine recommendation. So my first question for you is how did you become so passionate about wine?

GIANNA:

I guess wine has been a part of my life from a really young age. There's a funny story that my parents like to tell from when I was my son's age right now, about two years old. And one night at dinner they said, "What would you like to drink with dinner tonight, Gianna? Milk or water?" And I said, "I'll have some Chardonnay please," and so they gave me a little taste. And I guess this went on for like a week and they just humored me, and eventually I was back to milk and water, but I observed my parents sharing a bottle of wine at dinner. We always had a family meal. I'm Italian. So that's a big part of our and the traditions that I grew up with. So it was a ritual that was instilled in me at a young age and I was always intrigued by it.

GIANNA:

Later, my father retired from the tech industry and he actually became a farmer. That's what he called himself, so went full circle. And he actually had a vineyard, and was even more intrigued watching him till the land and seeing the harvest and the bottling and learning a lot more about wine and the process. And around that time, I was a young adult living in San Francisco and starting to spend my weekends up in Napa wine country, which is just over an hour away from San Francisco. It's just a majestic place. Every time a year, it's really, really magical. And I just fell deeply in love with California wine country.

GIANNA:

And so as I was planning out my career, I had always wanted to eventually own my own company. And as I did more research, I realized that the San Francisco market for event planners was very saturated. And I thought I really need a niche in the event planning business to differentiate myself, and given my love of Napa and also doing some research and finding that it's actually the second most visited tourist destination in California, second only to Disneyland, I thought, "Why don't I specialize in Napa wine country and be the go-to for anything, hospitality events, experiences?" And so that was the impetus to start my blog to Decantress was to go up to Napa weekly, meet with wine makers and experience wineries and restaurants and venues and blog about them and share my tips with the world. Then that led to me wanting to build my cred as I'm talking to all these wine country experts, and so that's-

BRANDON:

Did you have a little bit of a street cred because your father was in the industry?

GIANNA:

I guess so, but I've always been one to want to make it on my own. I wanted to take it a step further. My dad was always the type of person where you asked him a question, he said go research it or go Google it. Nothing was fed to me so I always had to work for the things that I learned. So I did get certified, I took a lot of wine classes at the Wine School in San Francisco and that led to a lot of other fun projects I had over the years. I even had the opportunity one year to design the wine list for a brand new restaurant in San Francisco, and that was a crazy experience and really, really fun.

BRANDON:

This was all happening while you were also working in events, or did it start even before? I mean the certification, et cetera.

GIANNA:

That happened about five or six years into my career. I was always thinking ahead and I was thinking, "Okay, I'm five years in, six years, in another five years I might want to have my own company, so I need to start building my cred and building out my contacts now." So you can see why I'm a planner, I'm always thinking 10 steps ahead.

GIANNA:

And it just so happened that as I was thinking about this, I also was recruited to Google and so I got certified as a Sommelier actually within my first six months at Google. So there was a lot going on at once. It was a fun creative outlet for me. I like to say that that was like what I moonlit as was the Decantress. And my whole team appreciated it because I was the go-to for recommendations for wine for any event that we had.

BRANDON:

Well you know what, Gianna, as it just so happens, you know the holidays are coming around the corner, I'm going to be spending some time with my family and I would love a wine recommendation. Any idea what would go well with pierogi?

GIANNA:

Pierogi, ooh. Let's see, salty and hot. I think a Riesling would be really nice if it's spicy, especially. Low alcohol, little high sugar content. And I always think champagne goes so well with anything over the holidays. You can drink it with dinner, especially one that's a little bit malty and maybe a rosé. But honestly, feel free to text me I'm happy to share any recos.

BRANDON:

Great. I'll follow up with some additional questions after the interview. Thank you.

GIANNA:

You got it.

BRANDON:

Okay. So you've already sort of alluded to the fact that you've had a pretty seasoned career, spending time working at a number of different places, including Google, you worked on the agency side. You also had some experience managing your own consulting business on the side as sort of a side gig. And of course now you are running global events for the SoftBank Vision Fund. Could you walk us through your career so far and each of the steps that have led you to where you are today?

GIANNA:

Sure. I'll try not to bore you with this and I'll try to keep it quick. But my career has been very intentional. I actually went to school to be a doctor, so my major was definitely not in event planning or anything related to event planning.

BRANDON:

Wait, what?

GIANNA:

Yeah. I went to UC San Diego, which is very science-focused school, but following that I was given a book by my father called How to Get a Job with any Major, and after going through all the exercises and completing the book, I landed on event planner. I just thought that it was the perfect career that you could really build a career out of. The first thing that I did when I landed on that as a career is I just started having informational coffee talks with anyone I knew in the industry, and that soon led to my first job up in San Francisco at a DMC destination management company called Mana, Allison & Associates, very reputable DMC in SF. And that was really the perfect job I think to build a foundation in planning because my role at the company was to write all of the proposals for the sales team and manage all the budgeting. I really learned all the components that needed to be factored into events, as well as how to pull together an event, budget contracting, and I also learned all the vendors and venues in San Francisco. So it was a really good foundation.

BRANDON:

Wow. Very much 

GIANNA:

Exactly. I also met some wonderful people at that first job that I stayed in touch with well into my career. After that, I worked for a couple of other agencies where I got to do a lot more travel. I was working more in an operational role and I got to work with a variety of clients, which was really, really interesting. I got exposed to the tech sector, which I really enjoyed. After working for a couple of agencies, I went to run events for a nonprofit organization in the tech industry called the CTO Forum. And there, I got to do a lot more strategic content planning and relationship management.

GIANNA:

I think the important thing was through this phase in my career, I was really just trying to add to my toolkit. I remember at one point I realized I didn't know the ins and outs of hotel contracts and so I took a job where part of my role was procurement and purchasing. And I basically became an expert in contract negotiations, which became a useful skill that I've carried with me throughout my career. And I also tried to volunteer to help as many industry professionals as possible so I could build my network and just build my experience in different kinds of events.

GIANNA:

And I also maintain my relationship with early mentors. That actually led to my working at Google, one of my early mentors who actually worked with me at the very first DMC I worked at ended up at Google and asked me to join her team. And so that's where I landed there. Stayed at Google for the bulk of my career. I was there for nearly a decade. And while at Google, worked in various teams within the events and experience world, I worked on our product launches and all of our product teams, everything from YouTube, to Chrome to, Ad Words, to even Google Glass for a while, I was focusing on Google glass, our brand and reputation events, which took me to Washington DC and had me working on cool cultural projects. I did a lot of our cloud and enterprise events as it evolved throughout the years. And then towards the end, I was not only leading our largest 30,000-person conference for cloud, but I was also leading our women's events, which is very of the zeitgeists and very much a passion project of mine.

GIANNA:

I honestly didn't think I was going to ever leave Google. I really liked what I was doing there. I loved my team. I guess the only reason I left was because, while I was on maternity leave, I had some time to do some thinking about what I was going to do for the next five, 10 years and if I'd ever leave Google, I decided it would be for the opportunity to build my own team and build an event strategy for a brand from the ground up. Basically taking everything I've learned over all these years and applying it. That also led to the inspiration for my book, The Art of Event Planning. I wanted a repository of all this knowledge I'd built up and all my experiences to share it with the world.

GIANNA:

I wrote my book, and around the same time some former Google colleagues reached out to me and recruited me for this role as the Global Head of Events at the SoftBank Vision Fund. And it was exactly the role I said I would leave Google for. It was the opportunity to come in as the very first events hire and really build a team and a strategy for a really incredible company that's changing the world. And so I realized it was an opportunity I absolutely couldn't pass up.

BRANDON:

Looking back at your initial jump into the tech world, what really stood out to it about you at that time?

GIANNA:

I think part of it was just built into my DNA. My father was a tech executive my whole life. I was one of the first kids that I knew with an email account. It was always something that I talked to my dad about. I remember in middle school asking him, "What's an IPO?" So it was always something that fascinated me. My mother owned her own business, she was an interior designer, so I think I have a lot of the skills of both my mother and father. I think my mom's aesthetic tastes and ability to bring people together and her hospitality prowess and then my father's forward-thinking tech mind. Bringing those two together, planning events for tech industry really just is my sweet spot, I think.

BRANDON:

Fantastic. And now at SoftBank, the Vision Fund, would it be fair to say you're sort of at the intersection of tech and finance?

GIANNA:

Yeah, definitely. Our holding company, SoftBank is a tech company, so there's definitely tech at the heart of everything that we do and all of our investments are focused on tech and AI.

BRANDON:

You mentioned it already, The Art of Event Planning, I had a chance to read it earlier, it's really, really impressed me as being a great compilation of insights on many different aspects of the event industry from managing, booking and accommodations, to designing an event experience for a lot of people and for a smaller, more VIP audience. It really just runs the gamut and it was a lot of fun to read. So I'd love to go through some of the topics that are addressed in that book and dive a little bit more in detail. Starting with building a team, I mean you mentioned it yourself, one of the things that really excited you as the next step in your career was the chance to build your team. In the book, you talk about this idea of a generalist and a specialist, what is the difference between the two and why is this important to keep in mind when hiring for your team?

GIANNA:

Specialists are important because they know a lot about one specific area. They just have this deep, deep bench of expertise. Whereas generalists are more like a Jack of all trades. They can work on various types of projects and they're a lot more flexible. Generalists might not be able to go as deep as specialists in specific areas, but they do tend to be more agile with their skill sets. So when building a team, I love hiring a mix of generalists and specialists. Especially when you're starting out, you tend to hire, at least I tend to hire, more generalists. As you're building your strategy, as you're building your event calendar, they can pivot a lot more and work on multiple things.

GIANNA:

That said, I've also hired specialists that can work across whatever event that we have. So to give you an example of that, a specialist that I have on my team right now is a registration manager. This person may not be able to produce other aspects of the event, but they are absolutely the expert in everything registration. And I can pull this person in on every single event that we're doing because registration is integral to events.

BRANDON:

That totally makes sense. The question is, when do you make that jump to hiring that specialist? Speaking to some of the guests on the show, in some cases people are still the one person running the show pretty much, you're doing it all, in other cases there are some generalists, in other cases there might be a couple of specialists on their team. It seems like there are a lot of different approaches. In your personal experience, is there a particular shift or time that you found to be valuable for investing in a specialist?

GIANNA:

Well, it depends on the type of specialist that you're bringing on and it also depends on how confident you are in your event calendar and your event strategy. To give you another example, at Google tech was so important to weave into all of our events experiences, and we found that we were being asked by a lot of our stakeholders to weave some of our tech products into our events in really creative ways. And so we were spending a lot of money on agencies, on these creative technologists is what we were calling them, who could come up with really creative demos for products. And eventually one of the gals that I was managing expressed an interest in this, and she also had a lot of knowledge in the area, and so we were able to convert her role into a very specialized role where she was our creative technologist. And all she did was plan these really, really interesting creative demos at our events. Usually it's when you identify a need and something that's consistently happening that can be a full time role for someone on your team.

BRANDON:

How would you describe your approach once you have a team built to managing that team?

GIANNA:

I like to call myself an orchestrator, an orchestrator with a vision. And I really, really love coaching my team and empowering them. I'm definitely not a micromanager. I really like giving my team ownership over everything that they're working on, while also encouraging them and coaching them to push themselves and continue to grow and add to their toolkits, their event toolkits.

GIANNA:

I also really try to build an open ,inclusive culture and to be really approachable. I make sure that everybody's opinions are heard. I think that when you allow different opinions to be heard, you get a lot more creative ideas that come to the table. It also helps everyone to communicate and work better together. I basically have zero tolerance for drama or egos on my team. It's important to model really healthy balance. And I'm really cognizant of how I resource people so that not only are people's workloads comparable and manageable, but also that they're working on things that they're not only good at, but things that are going to be stretch projects for them and help them grow.

GIANNA:

And then the other thing that I really encourage is humor. This is an inherently stressful industry and honestly, everybody on my team has a sense of humor. You have to stay playful in this industry to lighten up the environment and keep morale high.

BRANDON:

Yes, I would agree. From my perspective from the conversations I've had, a joke can go a long way. In your own personal experience of keeping that balance between your work and your personal life, that blend, if you will, what have you found helpful for managing that?

GIANNA:

I'll never forget an executive at Google once told me there's this formula, and it's stress plus rest equals growth. In events, there's always stressful times where you're working around the clock, you're on deadline and so I think it's really important to start factoring in recovery time. And that's something that I try to do now is plan ahead for that recovery time because I know from experience that if you don't do that, you can end up battling burnout or your body will just physically start breaking down.

GIANNA:

I think the other thing is having a kid, now that I have a young toddler, it's really provided me with this forced timeout every day because at some point I have to leave work and be home in time to pick him up from preschool and give him his dinner, his bath, read to him, put him to bed and play with them. So for like an hour and a half every evening, I'm just totally offline. With a toddler, you can't have your computer open. It just doesn't work that way. They need your full attention. And so I really try to make that time count with him. I'm not on work calls, I'm not on my phone, I'm just totally in the moment with him and just as productive and successful as I was before I had that force timed out. So that was a really good learning for me is that you can take a pause and the world still goes on. Your events are still successful. And it's also just really important to model these healthy habits to your team. So they know now that I'm not available at a certain time, that I'm with Jack, and I honor commitment. And it's just a really good example to set for them as well.

BRANDON:

That's really great to hear. And I think especially I appreciate that comment of setting that example for one, and then also two, realizing that it's okay to take those pauses and still maintaining that productivity. It could seem very easy to fill in every single hour of the day.

GIANNA:

I actually ... Another thing I should mention is sleep and how important sleep is. It was something that I didn't prioritize early in my career until I read Arianna Huffington's book and started realizing how critical sleep is to success and to health and to productivity. Now when I find myself starting to slip and not getting enough sleep, I actually do the reverse of what most people do, I have no problem waking up at 4:30, 4:45 every morning. It's just how I squeeze everything in and work as a Global Head of Events with different time zones. But it's hard to log off every night knowing that there's just so much work that you could do at any given time. So I actually have started setting an alarm at night where it's like, "Oh, all right, I got to go to bed." And it's fascinating because otherwise it's really easy to just let that bedtime creep later and later and later and later.

BRANDON:

This is a nitty gritty question, but do you find that you will manually set that alarm during a specific day or do you have a daily reminder?

GIANNA:

It's funny talking about this right now, I'm actually wanting to go reset this alarm because typically I'm pretty good about sticking to a certain time, but when times get really, really busy, it's easy to let that slide and that's when I manually start putting these mechanisms in place to remind me of the importance of getting enough sleep.

BRANDON:

I know that in the past you've talked about the value of surprise and how surprise can really be powerful and in person experience. Could you share an example with us of what that looks like?

GIANNA:

I think surprise, it can generally make an event more memorable and it also heightens the emotional response you get out of an attendee, which makes them not only more alert, but they'll be more engaged and you'll have more of a brand impact on them. So one extreme example of surprise and delight that comes to mind was an executive summit I produced, and one of our senior executives skydived from a plane into our welcome reception.

BRANDON:

This is crazy. Yeah, I remember reading this and thinking, what?

GIANNA:

It was a little stressful. We had to have various backup plans that were nothing I would have ever imagined having to talk about. But this was such a great example of surprise and delight because it not only captured everyone's attention at the start of the event and helped us transition everyone from that reception into dinner, but it served as a great catalyst to really encourage these executives to open up and get to know each other on a more personal level. This executive that sky-dove into our event had a passion for flying and for challenging himself in these ways, so it really helped the other execs see each other as people and get to know each other's passions.

BRANDON:

Very cool.

GIANNA:

That's a really extreme example of surprise and delight-

BRANDON:

Just a casual airdrop into that.

GIANNA:

I know, but they don't ... Surprise and delight is totally manageable on a small budget and doesn't have to even be super complicated to serve its purpose. We leveraged surprise and delight in a cool way to meet our operational needs strategically at Google Cloud Next. We had 30,000 attendees, and they were all lining up super early before the sun even rose to queue up for the general session outside of Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. And we wanted a way to reward these dedicated people who showed up so early, but also to alleviate some of our massive catering lines once those people entered our venue. So we hired these great hawkers, these caterers, and they dressed up in really playful outfits and we set them up with these really cute carts of piping hot chocolate and coffee and donuts and we had music. And so we were entertaining and feeding and keeping these guests warm outside, which not only showed them some love and was a really great brand moment, but it also was strategic on our end because when they got into the venue, they listened to us when we funneled them into the general session instead of peeling off to go to the concession stations.

BRANDON:

When we think about design, when you think about all of those elements that come together that provide that tailored attendee experience, what are some things that you keep in mind?

GIANNA:

I first and foremost always think through the attendee journey and the attendee experience and put them first. Obviously businesses have their priorities, but you have to get into the mind of the attendee and try to personalize that experience for the attendees. You really want whatever you're doing to be relevant, customized, and as helpful as possible.

GIANNA:

I recently attended Summit Series in LA, which is a really well known conference, and they really have some clever ways of personalizing the experience for every single attendee. An example is they dedicate a host to every single person that follows them through every touch point of the event process, starting with the interview that's required in order to attend the conference to they actually manually register you over the phone step-by-step, with your preferences in mind. And then once you're getting ready to head to the event, they introduce you to other attendees. So I got two personal introductions to other attendees that my host thought I would want to get to know. During the whole process, they're inviting you to other community events, staying in touch with you, sending you things that might be interesting to you so it was just very engaging and really helped build this community feel that they really wanted to produce at the Summit Series.

BRANDON:

That's a dream come true right there, every attendee having their own personal angel looking over them.

GIANNA:

Yeah, and that's the thing is that's key to their brand, they're really big on networking and communities. So when you're planning your budget and your goals, you can't necessarily do everything at every event, but it's important to focus on ... I always say pick three things and then focus your budget and your efforts on those three things at least. Other really good practices are diversity, equity and inclusion. Brands are expected to be aware of this now, especially when planning events that are so visible. And I touched on this earlier, but when you're planning with diversity and inclusion in mind, you're not only reaching more diverse audiences and building more inclusive and authentic experiences, but I think it also helps make brands more relatable and it also helps you build the event with a lot of different voices in mind.

GIANNA:

Some of the things that I do also that you might not think about is when planning event teams consider bringing on diverse team members and vendors that have a lot of really great opinions and ideas that you might not have thought of.

GIANNA:

Some other things that are sort of in line with that are corporate responsibility and planning sustainable and green events. It's a new normal. Now I think brands probably get more press when they're not being green and sustainable so it's just really important to be cognizant of these things, like you're not providing plastic water bottles but instead maybe giving out water bottles as schwag that attendees can use at the conference. Even when you're sourcing your venues and your vendors, making sure that you're working with vendors that have sustainable practices or are lead-certified venues and being mindful of things like schwag that produce a lot of waste if you're not doing them properly and maybe using fair trade vendors.

BRANDON:

Yeah. Well, it seems like it can be a pretty exhaustive list. I mean, especially when we're talking about larger initiatives that in some cases not extremely commonplace at the moment. One of the previous guests that we had on Andrea Long from Twillio, we were talking about diversity in events, and we talked about this idea of having a diversity checklist because there are so many things as an event planner to think about that often those things get left out, and I think in sustainability just as much. There's so many different aspects of sustainability, it can be hard to keep track of all that. Have there been any processes or things that you have found to be helpful to stay on top?

GIANNA:

You're absolutely spot on. There are so many best practices when it comes to both corporate responsibility and diversity and inclusion. At Google, my team built a very robust resource. It was not only a document that reviewed all the best practices, but then we had checklists that were really great to review. And we also pulled in team members from different working groups within Google to basically vet our events in advance. So we would have them review them from their lens, and they would always catch something. So it was just really helpful to have multiple eyes on an event. We even invite them to come to our event and make sure that there wasn't anything that we had overlooked. So that's something I'm currently building out in my team right now, Vision Fund as well.

BRANDON:

The last area in this Holy Grail of events that I'd like to focus on is around working with agencies. You mentioned earlier you've worked with agencies in the past, they can be especially helpful when your team is smaller, but even when you have a large team, agencies are great. So what are some things that you think in-house event professionals should keep in mind when working with agencies and vice versa?

GIANNA:

Agencies have been so critical to the success of my events. I think for internal brands and clients it's really important to remember that agencies need focus time to actually work. So you really need to be mindful of not having them in all-day meetings or constantly pinging, calling them all day long. And also just considering the number of agency team members that you're inviting to meetings. Try creating smaller working groups or having the account manager and maybe the executive producer, whatever, in some of these meetings, but allowing the team that needs to work and do the creative work and the production, give them those hours because that's how your event's getting produced. And then also just taking a step back. The most important thing to keep in mind is your agency is just an extension of your team. Super important to respect your agencies, not to treat them as vendors, but to treat them as your partners. They're your team members. And also to make sure that they're properly briefed, that they have insight into your business goals and that you're sharing the bigger picture with them so that they can help you be more strategic and achieve those goals.

GIANNA:

And from the agency side, I think where I see agencies struggling the most is they're so heads down a lot of the time that they forget to communicate all the behind-the-scenes work that they're doing with the client, making sure that they're checking in, that they're sharing updates. A focused-account lead should manage this ideally so that the production team and the creative team can remain focused on the respective work streams that they need to deliver.

GIANNA:

And for both, I think one really good, best practice is getting everybody in the same room, especially in today's digital world. It's great that we have tools for video conferencing and teleconferencing and all that, it's all great email and WhatsApp, the whole nine yards, but I try to have at least one day a week, especially on major critical projects where we all work together in one office. It just helps resolve so many unanswered questions. It helps build the relationship. I highly recommend carving out one day a week, if you can, to work together in person.

BRANDON:

I'd love to just run by a few more questions. First, who is someone you look up to in events marketing or business in general?

GIANNA:

Gosh, I adore Arianna Huffington. I mentioned her earlier, but I think she's my business role model. The fact that she had this personal wake up call, I don't know if you're familiar with this, but she had this personal wake up call and ended up taking these drastic efforts to change her life. She wrote a book about her journey. She actually left Huffington Post to start a wellness company, Thrive Global. I find that so inspiring. And like I mentioned, I read her book and it totally changed my philosophy on the importance of sleep and my work philosophy.

GIANNA:

Then the other thing that I really respect about her is she's so active with her community. She has great posts all the time on LinkedIn. Her Thrive newsletters are packed with great content, and what I love about Thrive Global is they crowdsource a lot of their content. They have this really big community focus.

GIANNA:

A really fun side note is I recently wrote an article for Thrive Global after bumping into Ariana and talking to her and she said, "Oh, you have to write for my company. And you can't say no when Ariana asks you to write an article.

BRANDON:

That's amazing.

GIANNA:

I know.

BRANDON:

You got to meet your hero.

GIANNA:

It was a dream come true.

BRANDON:

That's very cool. And was that article on sleep?

GIANNA:

Yeah, it was a pretty personal story that I wanted to share just to stop sleep shaming. Everybody brags about, "Oh, I get by on two hours of sleep a night," and dah, dah, dah but it's actually pretty detrimental to people's health. And my whole article was about we need to stop sleep shaming and we should start bragging about getting more sleep the way that we brag about eating healthy and exercising.

BRANDON:

I love it. Yeah, I had a chance to briefly read it. Highly recommend it to anybody who's listening. Good article. Thrive Global. All right.

BRANDON:

If you could go back earlier in your career and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

GIANNA:

I think the one thing that I would have liked to have done when I was younger is to work abroad. I lived abroad in college and it was the best experience of my time in college. I always thought that I would work abroad. Ideally I wanted to work in Sydney, Australia, and then after getting married and having a kid, it's just so much harder to commit to a move like that now. It's challenging and I think a little scary to think about leaving everything that you know to go to a completely different country, but I think that's when you really learn and you really stretch new muscles. So I'm not saying it's off the table, but right now I feel like it would be selfish of me to take my toddler, who's the only grandson in the family, away from everybody here.

BRANDON:

I guess the upside in events, you do get to travel a little bit.

GIANNA:

I do. I do. I really enjoy it.

BRANDON:

Okay. If people want to learn more about your book or otherwise follow all the amazing work that you're doing, how can they keep in touch?

GIANNA:

You can find me at my website, which is pretty easy, it's giannagaudini.com or you can find my book on Amazon, The Art of Event Planning. I'm also a pretty active blogger. You can find me on LinkedIn, I'm happy to make new connections there. I also can be found on Twitter and Facebook under The Art of Event Planning.

BRANDON:

Lovely. Well, thank you so much, Gianna.

GIANNA:

Thank you. It was great chatting.

BRANDON:

Thank you Gianna for joining us and thank you all for listening. It was very meaningful to hear Gianna stress the importance of finding time to unwind and recharge. I mean, Gianna has done a lot, she spearheaded experiences at Google, built the events team at SoftBank ventures, and has even earned her certification as a Sommelier. But amidst all of these responsibilities, she still finds the time to disconnect from work, reconnect with family and herself, and very importantly, sleep. In Gianna's words, you can take a pause, the world still goes on, your events are just as successful.

BRANDON:

If you're a fan of IN-PERSON and like to give some praise, or if you have feedback on things you'd like to see us do differently, please drop us a line at in-person at bizzabo.com. We always look forward to hearing your feedback. You can also find full transcripts of the show along with the takeaways at in-personpodcast.com. Until next time, I'm Brandon Rafalson, and this has been IN-PERSON. And hey, maybe catch an extra thirty minutes of sleep tonight. You've earned it.