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36 | Lauren Lawson: What Corporate Event Organizers Can Learn from Nonprofits, and Birds

  • October 16, 2020
  • 43:25

Lauren Lawson (Director of Events and Engagement Programs at the National Audubon Society) opens up about her trajectory from healthcare to conservation, lessons learned throughout her career in the nonprofit sector, and how the events team at the National Audubon Society is creating engaging virtual events now and planning for the future.

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Top Takeaways

1

NOT SO DIFFERENT AFTER ALL: Thinking of her peers and her experience with the corporate side of events, Lauren has observed that the two industries have much in common: from driving a great attendee experience to managing the logistics of planning and executing a successful event. One area where the two differ though is with budgets. “We have to constantly keep an eye on how the fundraising is doing. Because if the fundraising is off, or we're not accomplishing and reaching some of our fundraising metrics, then we need to start changing what we believed our working budget was.”

2

EXPANDING REACH WITH HYBRID: Lauren and her team have had a great deal of success in expanding the reach of their events through the virtual medium. Looking to the future, Lauren believes that virtual experiences can potentially be married with in-person strategies for a much greater reach. “We're going to be able to engage with a lot more people and now they've learned all these skills from attending all these virtual events.

3

WORKING WITH YOUR PEERS TOWARDS GROWTH: While it’s important to look upward to management and more senior colleagues for professional development, Lauren believes that there’s a great deal of power to also looking at the people around you to help one another grow. “And that manifests in different ways. Not always working with the huge event production companies trying to find those smaller businesses that you can start to work with."

ABOUT Lauren Lawson

Lauren oversees the events program taking place across the network and works to ensure the events help move Audubon’s mission forward. Prior to this, she worked with The Trust for Public Land, where she managed events ranging from the organization’s annual gala to helping develop their Park Bench Chat series. Prior to that, Lauren supported fundraising in the healthcare non-profits sector. She holds a Master’s in Organizational Communication from LaSalle University and a Bachelor’s from University of Pittsburgh.

Episode Transcript

BRANDON:

Lauren, thanks so much for taking the time to chat today. I'd love to start off with a question that I think is very relevant for our conversation. I wonder if this is maybe an interview question for everybody who applies to the Audubon Society, but what is one of your favorite birds and why? And I could share my own if that's helpful.

LAUREN:

Oh, I would love to hear what your favorite bird is, and thanks so much for having me. My favorite bird, this is going to sound weird and probably most people would never say this, is the woodpecker. And the reason that I say that because they're known to be a little bit annoying if you have one. And they're trying to create some space in one of the trees around you. But as a child, I just have fond memories of Saturday mornings waking up, unfortunately to the noise of the woodpecker just peck, peck, peck, peck, pecking away into the tree in our backyard, going out there and trying to find it and look for the woodpecker, etc. Then one day, Mr. Woodpecker went to find another place to live. And so I was I was sad when I didn't have that noise waking me up in the morning. So from that I have become a fan of the woodpecker. And they're cute birds too. So that does it as well.

BRANDON:

So now whenever you hear a woodpecker, you suddenly take it back to childhood?

LAUREN:

Yes. And where is Scooby-Doo? Where are all the good cartoons that are about to come on in the morning lineup for all the good cartoons? But unfortunately, there's not that anymore on Saturday morning.

BRANDON:

Yeah. I think that's really special about just birds and some of the associations we can have with them. And a lot of the memories that are tied to them too. I think myself, I'm going to start off sharing my bird. I'm really self-conscious, because I think probably it's basic by Audubon Society standards, but the cardinal.

LAUREN:

Okay.

BRANDON:

It's the state bird of six or seven states. But I'm originally from Illinois. And it was our state bird there. I'm in North Carolina now and it's also the state bird here. But that set aside, it's been really comforting for me during this period of everything going on, as my wife, and I've been spending time at her parents' place for dinners. And every evening that we're there, this cardinal will come out like clockwork, and it'll just chirp. And now wherever I go, as soon as I hear that chirp, I just immediately think of the evening cardinal.

LAUREN:

Yes. An evening cardinal. It's so great. It's so interesting in this time that we're in, I think we're able to hear the sounds of nature in ways that we haven't before. And birds are definitely a part of that and it's been, I consider it one silver lining in the stay-at-home world that we're living in right now for sure.

BRANDON:

There are some and that's definitely one of them. So to ease this off as we get into our conversation of the National Audubon Society and all the work that you're doing there to help preserve birds and the places where they live, could we start by discussing everything that light up to where you are, and you joining the National Audubon Society? I know that you had previously worked at some other really interesting cause-based organizations like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and the Trust for the Public Land. Could you walk us through these steps and the things you picked up along the way and how they led to where you are today?

LAUREN:

Yeah, graduating from college, I had a brief stint working for the Philadelphia Eagles, and then from there, I went into my journey into nonprofits. And I started working for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society doing their school and youth programming, and also focusing on their gala and other third party fundraising events, we called it. And it was a really interesting and valuable experience because I was a fundraiser and where I really picked up skills of working with people that wanted to really support your cause and your mission and encouraging them to fundraise for you through being with the school youth program, some of those that I was working with were children. And so public speaking, I mean, if you've never done an assembly in front of kids, you got to know all the questions. So-

BRANDON:

That's a tough crowd.

LAUREN:

It's a tough crowd. So now speaking to your board or to a large corporation that you're trying to get to sponsor your event isn't as hard once you've gone through the training of children, for sure. So that was some really good valuable skills that I gained there and have become fundamental to the skills that I have as a professional. And then at the Trust for Public Land, I still had those skill sets. But instead, I really focused on the event experience that I had gained over my time from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to Trust for Public Land, I was with other organizations, clubs-based organizations and I really just realized that while I enjoy fundraising, I enjoy the events, the strategy, the logistics, and all those things more.

LAUREN:

And at the Trust for Public Land I was able to do that, and really refine those skills and refine strategy, building skills of not just thinking of an event as one snapshot in time, but thinking of how it holistically will bring in supporters to your organization and how they help to achieve the mission of the organization and whatever goals that the organization has. So that was really valuable for me, as well in my professional development.

BRANDON:

I'm seeing this trajectory of just becoming more and more focused in events and the greater strategy there.

LAUREN:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, definitely, definitely. You couldn't tell my younger self that this is where I would be, but I'm really glad that this is where I am.

BRANDON:

You've had the chance to work at a number of organizations in the nonprofit space. I mean, you're at the Audubon Society right now, where I know you're able to focus even more so on events and looking at the strategy there. But what is one of the biggest misconceptions that you think folks have when they think about working for nonprofits and nonprofit events?

LAUREN:

Yeah. It's funny. I think that the biggest misconception, which I've been asked before is that we don't get paid, which is not true. We [crosstalk 00:08:49]. I believe in the causes that I work for, but I also have bills that I have to pay. So we definitely do get paid. And while it may not be the same type of salaries that you would get from corporate America starting out, you definitely can earn a great living and be able to support a family on a nonprofit salary. And then you have the bonus, as well of effecting change through whatever cause these organization that you're working with, which is also something powerful as well.

BRANDON:

I think that's important to lay some of those rumors to rest.

LAUREN:

Yes, yes. I have been at events and people were like, "So you do all this. When do you have time to work a job?" And I'm just like, "This is my job."

BRANDON:

This is the job.

LAUREN:

This is my job.

BRANDON:

Right now you're working at the National Audubon Society. Could you tell us a little bit more about your current responsibilities there and some of the initiatives that you're working on?

LAUREN:

My main responsibility for the organization is we are a vast organization, national organization. We have about 19 state and regional offices across the country and about 450 chapters. And so they created my position to really focus on the events that are taking place across the network, that's what we call all of our offices, because I'll probably rephrase that a lot, so you understand what I mean when I'm saying network. So really working with our colleagues across the network to create events that will really engage our supporters, really get them excited and fired up about our work.

LAUREN:

And then also, I'm going to use a bad word here, but to standardize, quote unquote, our events as well. So when I say that, I don't mean an event won't be the same in New York that it would be, let's say, in our Texas office, for sure. But there should be still some standards so that if somebody were to be in an event in New York or in our California office or in our Texas office, they would still be able to say, "Oh, I was at an Audubon event, it just had a local twang, a local feel."

BRANDON:

Definitely, yeah, no. I could see that being very valuable to have those playbooks and those frameworks in place to more easily scale out the event program.

LAUREN:

Yeah, definitely. And then just thinking of it, not just in the now, but thinking of it holistically, thinking of what those goals are outside of fundraising. And the strategies that you have to employ for that to be achieved before the event and post the event are also some things that really I'm focused on.

BRANDON:

What does the team look like that you're working with, to accomplish these goals? Talkings, ballpark figures around maybe headcount, where folks are working from and perhaps some of the main functions within the team.

LAUREN:

My team, specifically, our events team is comprised of three of us right now. But we work with a lot of colleagues across the country who are also working on events. So we often partner or collaborate with them to ensure that events are happening and taking place to the standards that we would like for a national organization like ourselves. We're generally based in the New York office, which is one of the National Audubon Society's headquarters. We also have a headquarters in DC, Washington, DC. But right now in this COVID world, we're a little bit across the East Coast. I would say we have a team member in Long Island, our boss, the VP that I report to, she was in Kentucky for a while. We have somebody in Connecticut. So it's been fun.

BRANDON:

We're seeing that on our side too, a lot of folks just going across the country to deal with family and whatnot. And in some cases, some folks going to other countries where they have family to spend time with them during this time. I'd love to, for the next several minutes, dive into the nuts and bolts of the event programs that you are running or have run in the past in the nonprofit space, but specifically, now looking forward and looking at what Audubon Society has been up to, so some of the events there. But before we really dive into that, I think there's a really interesting parallel between nonprofit and corporate events that might not be so evident at first glance. And I'd love to hear your thoughts on that. So what do you think are some of the similarities and some of those differences between nonprofit and corporate events?

LAUREN:

I think some of the similarities are that we all care about guest satisfaction, the people that come to our events, because we want them to continue to come back. That makes an event successful. The logistical planning aspects of the events, the run of shows, the technical, all those traditional things, I think are very similar. The marketing strategies, etc. I think that those all translate via corporate or nonprofit events.

LAUREN:

I think the differences though, are a little bit more vast, in that of course, our budgets are different. Corporate events sometimes have the benefit of having larger budgets. But more specifically, some corporations have the benefits of having larger events. And it's just, here's your budget, go and achieve your goals. While in nonprofit, it's, here's your budget for now, achieve your goals. Because for some of our events, like where we have our largest budgets, generally, are also our fundraising events. And so we have to constantly keep an eye on how the fundraising is doing. Because if the fundraising is off, or we're not accomplishing and reaching some of our fundraising metrics, then we need to start changing what we believed our working budget is, meaning that we have to sometimes start decreasing that, but at the same time that we're potentially adjusting decreasing our budgets, we also still need to ensure the same standard of event and the same fixings that you normally would have, it still has to be a great event.

LAUREN:

So it's challenging fun, at the same time. But it's an interesting skill for sure to have. You're just like, "Oh, no, I guess I'm going to have to figure out different flowers or cut this or figure out how not to be able to print that," or all the different things that you can cut. But it doesn't really impact the guest experience or change and it doesn't impact it in any meaningful way.

BRANDON:

Yeah. It sounds like it requires just a lot of flexibility and adaptability as you're coming up to these event deadlines. And then it also, I mean, it seems, on the one hand, a lot of responsibility, but also really rewarding that these events can have such a huge impact on fundraising. And if not immediately, pretty near in the future have that impact.

LAUREN:

Yes, it's extremely rewarding. It's extremely challenging. And it's great if you're someone who likes to constantly have a new challenge or be kept on your toes, it definitely will keep you on your toes for sure.

BRANDON:

We've discussed some of the events that are centered around fundraising, and I know that is a big goal with many nonprofit events. But at the same time, there are a lot of events that if we were to look at the corporate analog or maybe higher up on the funnel, and more about that awareness, or maybe they're more about engaging folks who are already contributors, already donors to the organization, could you share with us a little bit about what some of these other event products or programs look like?

LAUREN:

Of course, we want our supporters to give us gifts so that we can continue to do the work that supports our mission. But we also really want to have our supporters be ambassadors for us and really understand and love all of the work that we do. And so through that, we try to come up with these meaningful engagement opportunities with our donors. So that can look like events like leadership conventions, where you have different state offices, you have boards in these different state offices, boards for your national board and gathering them together so that they have an opportunity to not only network with one another, but to hear from leaders across the organization and just know what the current things that are happening across the organization and etc, and get to network and have some good times and visit some of the projects that we do in that area.

LAUREN:

Having Ted style panel talks where we're talking with people that work for the organization and then others, whether those are people that we have worked with and we've impacted their landscape in a positive way through the work that we're doing with them, or people that support our organization and really believe in it and understand the value of our work and bringing those conversations in front of our supporters so they can just get a different understanding of all the amazing things that we do to some really interesting trips that we do as well, I think, especially for Audubon, we protect the habitats of birds for now and for the future. Of course, that's one of our biggest missions and our goals.

LAUREN:

But we have the benefit to take people to some of these landscapes that we have impacted change to, and they can see the tangible changes that have happened. So whether that's taking people on trips to our Rowe Sanctuary so they can see the birds there in the natural landscape that we've helped to protect or taking them up towards the main area to see the puffins or we bring them back and people really get to see the cute birds. But they also can see the tangible change that our organization has made. And I think that that's so impactful.

BRANDON:

Talk about experiential, and experience connecting these folks who will really care about this cause with the fruits of their contributions. And to see that, as you said, that tangible impact. That's very cool. So it's ways to connect folks to the work of the organization, educate them, keep them engaged, and keep them excited.

LAUREN:

Yeah. And also just, it's proof positive that when you support our organization, we really are doing work that impacts change, and we can bring people out to the spaces that we've impacted that change in. And it's really fun. It's a great experience.

BRANDON:

Another thing that I wanted to discuss is, I know that in the past, you mentioned that sometimes specifically in the nonprofit space, programming can be a challenge when we're looking at different types of events, whether that's in-person or now that we're in this virtual world. What do you think some of the main challenges are there from a programming standpoint?

LAUREN:

I will say it like this, everyone has a lot of demands on their attention today. And we aren't owed people's time. So when they attend an event that we're hosting, whether it's it's in-person or it's virtual, it's truly a gift. And we need to treat it accordingly. And so I always use that as my mindset when approaching what a program for an event will look like. I think sometimes nonprofits struggle with wanting to highlight everything that we do. And most nonprofits do a lot of things. And so when you're at a gala, or you're on a 45 minute panel conversation, you can't highlight everything that you do, it just gets muddled. And so really taking a step back and deciding, this is what we want to focus on, this is what we're going to talk about, this is what we're going to keep saying over and over again, figuring out how to say that message in different ways through different mediums, but in a very succinct and powerful way, I think is something that nonprofits are often challenged with.

LAUREN:

I mean, think of some of the galas that you may have attended, where the program just keeps going, and you want to be a good and engaged guest, but you also are there with your friends, or there's somebody sitting next to you that you really want to try and make a business deal with or etc.

LAUREN:

So I think nonprofits can benefit with just thinking through things in that mindset. And just really trying to have a powerful succinct program. And I have heard from donors that have been to some of my programs and some of my events that they really appreciated that. They appreciated that we just drove home one message, we kept it as short as possible without sacrificing, getting the information out there. But then also created space within the programs for breaks so that they can have meaningful conversation with their dinner partners at the table.

BRANDON:

Let's talk a little bit more about what's going on specifically at the National Audubon Society, and how you and your team are innovating around this virtual medium. I know that at the time of recording this, you currently are working on some really big plans in the horizon that by the time this episode comes out, they'll probably be in effect and rolling onward. But could you share a little bit about some of the ways that the events team at the Audubon Society has worked to create a sense of community during this time?

LAUREN:

I think that nonprofits, especially the National Audubon Society, is really fortunate in the fact that there already is a sense of community amongst our supporters. Because they're coming to our events virtual, in-person because they believe in the mission or they want to learn more about the mission. I think that the challenge and the opportunity that we have right now is, how we can continue to build this sense of community and provide events and opportunities for people to not only connect with the organization in a meaningful way, but potentially connect with each other in a meaningful way.

LAUREN:

Our Florida team, giving full credit to them, they created a virtual coffee happy hour that they do. Where it's the state director, and they will invite a small amount of people to a Zoom meeting, and they will ship them this Audubon approved coffee, because the growing standards don't impact the habitat of birds. So people can actually brew themselves a pot of this Audubon approved coffee and have a meeting with eight or so other people that really believe in our mission and talk to the state director. But it's a way for people to connect with other people in their area that believe in the things that they're doing in a time where we're not really able to meet new people in any way.

BRANDON:

Right.

LAUREN:

It's an interesting way for you to have people come together and they're able to meet each other in a safe, socially, distance way. But you already know that, sometimes when you go to a new party and you don't know anybody, you're just like, "What am I going to talk about?" Well, you already know that you can talk about birds. So they're all there because they like birds. So it's a fun time for us for sure.

BRANDON:

That sounds like a really creative way to get at that. And I love the coffee too, adding that physical component to it. Have you had the chance to sit in on any of these or hear about some of the topics that might be covered during the conversation?

LAUREN:

I think they focus on a lot of different topics. And in some ways we curate that to the people that we invite, whether it's insecticides, I'm getting really into the weeds of birding right now, but insecticides that can impact birds and things like of that nature as well as other practices, like farming practices, etc that can impact the habitats or the native flowers that people can plant in their backyard that will help attract certain birds to their backyard for people that are really big into birding. It's like, "You plant these certain flowers, they will come. You build it, they will come," kind of thing. So then it's not just like, I'm a big birder. But now I'm gathering people together that really care about gardening and we're talking about the different plants that you can... So it's special.

BRANDON:

What are some other examples of different events that the National Audubon Society is working on right now?

LAUREN:

I think we have a lot of different interesting events that are happening across our network. Some of those would include our Youth Environmental Summit that we have for Young Climate Advocates to our annual Birdathons, have had to move into the virtual space instead of being an in-person space. And then during this time, we've also launched our weekly online varieties show, I Saw A Bird, to celebrate the spring migration that it happens. And we've had some really interesting guests like SNL's Melissa Villaseñor, and the iconic humanitarian, Dr. Jane Goodall. So there are really some really good things that are happening across our network. And I'm just looking at those continuing together [inaudible 00:26:29].

BRANDON:

Those sounds like a lot of fun. And they have really fun names, Birdathon.

LAUREN:

It's really exciting where we get big, avid birders or even if you're not really an avid birder, to go out and try to identify the birds that are happening. We tell people if you're not really good birder, we have an app Audubon app that you can go out and say it pulls where you're at. So it'll make sure that there are birds that are actually in your area that you could actually see. But you can put in all these different criteria to try to figure out what bird it is that you saw and marked it like, "Hey, I've seen this bird," but people are going out and they're raising funds and awareness around it by finding all the different birds, and we aggregate the data and show where a lot of the sightings happen. So it's a really fun, and it's a really good time. And we have one of those annually.

BRANDON:

It's like catching Pokemon. That sounds amazing.

LAUREN:

Something like that, yes.

BRANDON:

And I Saw A Bird, a variety show.

LAUREN:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). It happens on YouTube. And it's really exciting. It's a really fun time. And I definitely think that anybody who's interested in birds, I mean, because we're all at home and looking at our windows. So we're noticing a lot of birds now, it's a really good entryway into getting into birding or learning more about birding too. So definitely check it out, it happens on Wednesday evenings.

BRANDON:

I think we already started talking about this a bit, but what are some other ways that the National Audubon Society team has been working on making these virtual events feel like they're in-person events in a way? Because I know it can be such a big part of these nonprofit events where you're there and you get to see these other folks, that tangible connection that we talked about before.

LAUREN:

We're trying to accomplish that by providing space. And some, like I just talked about with the coffee, providing space where people can actually connect with others and be on a call where they can see each other should they choose to be on video. And really talking and engage with them when we're having panel style discussions, having that live chat where people can engage with one another. Sometimes we don't have live chats, Zoombombing is real. But then also providing space for people to ask questions during the meeting, not necessarily always just like, say this is the topic give us questions beforehand, but really providing a space for people to ask questions in the moment whether they feel comfortable doing that via voice, opening their mic, or putting that in the chat and answering those in real time.

LAUREN:

I think that those are some of the meaningful ways that we're trying to make it feel more in-person, but then also trying to really pay attention to how we keep the event, quote unquote, entertaining, depending on what type of event that is. So we're at home. And there are a lot of things that can draw your attention quickly. And so we need to make sure that they want to stay focused on our, quote unquote, channel and really want to watch the content that we're producing for them. So we need to make sure that it's entertaining, whether that's bringing in interesting guest speakers, maybe sometimes with a celebrity attached to them or it's someone who can speak very thoughtfully about a topic area that we know that that person is joining us because they're interested in that.

BRANDON:

Are there any particular organizations out there that have been serving, or platforms that have been serving as inspiration for you?

LAUREN:

I think that when we first went into our homes, because of the stay-at-home orders, there were some really powerful virtual events that we saw taking place like Lincoln At Jazz Center did a really interesting gala experience. There were some other ones that were happening across the New York area and some other nonprofits across the country that you saw all the work that they put into making sure it was something that was engaging, and people wanted to continue to watch. I mean, even the conventions that are taking place right now, that are virtual, you see the lessons that we've all, as event professionals have learned during this time of, okay, you have to stop the speaking now. And you have to go to something that's a little bit more interesting or have a celebrity in there. And just knowing the balance that we've started to develop of when we're starting to lose people's attention in these virtual spaces.

LAUREN:

And so it's just really interesting to see. And it's going to be really interesting when we go back to being able to be in-person as well, of how we're going to fold these lessons that we've learned into that experience for either hybrid events or in-person events as well.

BRANDON:

Yeah. Speaking of I know that there still is a ton of uncertainty in the future. COVID and the state of it is changing rapidly within the United States and around the world. And in some cases, region by region, within different countries as well. As you start thinking about that future that has these virtual elements combined in some way with the in-person elements, what do you think that looks like? And even before maybe we get to that full hybrid model, what are some other ways that you're excited to innovate in the more immediate future?

LAUREN:

I think the thing that's most exciting about this time to me is that the nature of events is that they're place-based. You have to gather people somewhere. And so we always work out from that. Even if it's people are traveling to the event, and you're trying to pick an interesting location that people want to go to so that they'll come to your event, it's still very play space, which means that there's a limit to the amount of people that you can generally host.

LAUREN:

And I think in an organization, especially a nonprofit like mine, where Audubon Society is a national organization, I think one of the exciting things are that events that we've traditionally done that were very play space, like our gala was very New York based, or some of our women in conservation luncheons are very, like play space. We have the ability now to open that up to everyone across the network, everyone across the country, to participate in them. And I think that that's really, really exciting, because it's an opportunity for us to show the amazing company that we keep with all of our different supporters. And it's an interesting way to gather people together just to have a good time to celebrate the mission and the work that we do that you just can't do in a place. And so I think it's really exciting right now, from that perspective.

LAUREN:

And to your point about the hybrid, you can try things in this virtual space. I think it's so important as a professional as you're looking to go to different companies to figure out how much space your company is going to give you to innovate before you decide to work for them. Have the conversation of, how many times can I throw egg at the wall and it fall before it becomes a problem? Give me the space to do that and it'd be okay. And so I think in this virtual space, we're able to do that as well. Refine stuff, throw some things out there, see how it resonates with people. And I think taking those lessons and then figuring out, okay, I didn't think people from this area would be interested in this subject, but they are. Or events that we did in-person that we only opened up to a certain amount of people now maybe we can open it up to more people because they don't have to travel to attend. And so we can do this hybrid model.

LAUREN:

I think conservation, in general, in our space skews sometimes to an older demographic. And so it's also interesting now that just everybody's getting onboard with the technology. They're having to use the technology. And so people that don't travel or can't travel now, once we hopefully can go live soon, being able to open it up to these hybrid events, I think is really going to be interesting, and we're going to be able to engage with a lot more people and now they've learned all these skills from being in the house and attending all these virtual events.

BRANDON:

Yeah. No, that's such a great point. I mean, in terms of there were virtual events in the past and all that, but there's a big barrier of entry, there was a lot of friction, people weren't familiar with the tools that were out there. But these past several months have really given folks the opportunity to get familiar with these tools to keep in touch, just with their family-

LAUREN:

The grandkids or-

BRANDON:

... and friends.

LAUREN:

Yep, family and friends. I think we've seen a lot of strides made in the platforms out there too, that are thinking through this and approaching these challenges with us professionals as well. Before it used to be a lot of gateway to entry and now it's how can we go somewhere in between because we don't want to lose too many people in entry. And so it's been a really interesting time to see the innovation that's also happened from the software platform side as well.

BRANDON:

For sure, yeah. I mean, now that there's such a demand for different tech solutions out there, seeing that shift from just having a platform that works, to really focusing on the experience of both the person who's going to be on the back-end, but also person on the front-end, and that attendee experience, I mean, to your point earlier, when you're thinking about these virtual events, and making sure we're not losing folks, attendees at any specific point, because there's too much friction, and so on. I'd love to take the final few minutes here to speak a little bit more about you and your career and some of the things you've picked up along the way. I'd like to start with who's someone you look up to in events, or marketing or business in general?

LAUREN:

That's a really hard one. Because I have so many people that I look up to, and I take inspiration from. I take so much inspiration from so many different sources. I'm a really big reader and information gatherer. So I have just so many channels of people that I take inspiration from. But I will say that one life lesson or guiding principle that I recently took from is I was listening to Issa Rae who mean, amazing. But I was listening to Issa Rae when she was giving an interview and she was talking about how often professionals are always looking to partner or collaborate with people above them, so that they can pull them up or get into their sphere of influence.

LAUREN:

And she was saying how while that is important, also looking at the people that are around you in the same level that you are and pooling together and building the foundation so that you're all growing together, I think that really has impacted me. And it really was for sure, an inspiration. And that manifests in different ways. Not always working with the huge event production companies trying to find those smaller businesses that you can start to work with. At the National Audubon Society, we've come out as an anti racist organization. And so figuring out those smaller businesses, women owned businesses, other diverse businesses that you can work with, I think that it's important. It's important for my organization, it's important for me as an event professional. And I think that that's just similar to the Issa Rae mindset of looking at people that are at your level that you can work with, and then hopefully help them move up too.

BRANDON:

If you could give an early version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be, and why?

LAUREN:

I would say the advice that I would give to my younger self is that you're going to learn in all parts of your journey. And you're going to gain skills in all parts of your journey. And they'll benefit you in the long run, even if you don't know how it's going to benefit you. There have been some really weird things. We all have those horror stories, or those joy stories of things that happened to us in previous positions. But I've been able to take them and to turn them into skills, or to turn them into learning experiences, where it's like, okay, well, I know, I don't want to do that. Or I've learned from this. And I know not to do this in the future or no, I definitely want to keep doing this. And so it doesn't always make sense in the moment, and you fret about it, but it'll work out well for you in the future. Just enjoy it.

BRANDON:

That's huge. I don't want to put you on the spot.

LAUREN:

But-

BRANDON:

But I'm also curious. Are there any of those stories or lessons that come to mind? Maybe in a more general sense, if you don't want to put anybody on blast.

LAUREN:

Yeah, no. I think one of the general things as someone who now has a team, I've learned some really good lessons or things from previous supervisors that I've worked with. I've learned some really bad things from previous supervisors that I've worked with. And so just taking those lessons and realizing the things that you really loved about previous supervisors, and as you are working to manage a team, really just treating people in your team the way that you want to be treated and acknowledging things when... Everybody has a bad day, you can still acknowledge that you're human, etc. But I think that that was one of the most impactful lessons for me. Because a team that's happy is a team that works really hard and really well. And so there's a lot of logic to it as well, from a business stance, not just a human stance, but I like to focus more on the human perspective.

BRANDON:

Definitely big plus one to all of that. Again, it sounds like you're doing some really, really cool work with the National Audubon Society. It sounds like, just in general, you've done a lot and could be interesting for some of our listeners to follow your story as it continues to unfold. I mean, how can folks keep up with you and the National Audubon Society if they're interested in learning more?

LAUREN:

Yeah. So if people want to learn more, which I hope that they do about all the amazing work that the National Audubon Society is doing, I invite them to go to our website audubon.org, or follow us on the social media channels at Audubon Society. And if they want to learn more about advocating for birds in their community, they can follow us too with the hashtag, find your flock community, which is really interesting. And then if people want to see what I've been doing, or the work that I'm working on, I'm on LinkedIn, Laurie Lawson, on there, attached to, of course, National Audubon Society there, that people can follow me on there as well.