Friday, July 12, 2013

Meet the Teachers - July 2013

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Meet Chrissann Gasparro (pictured above). She is the events manager at Serino/Coyne and has planned over 200 events, most recently the 2013 Tony Awards Gala, which is Broadway’s biggest night.

Chrissann’s next Event Planning class starts on July 16. Register now! 

MB:  What made you interested in pursuing event planning as a career?

CG: I came to New York immediately after graduating from William & Mary to work at a large corporate law firm with plans to go to law school thereafter. After about a year I realized the law school/attorney path wasn’t a good fit for me. As I considered new career options, I knew that event planning was something I had always gravitated towards and really enjoyed, having planned things like blood drives and fundraisers throughout high school and college. I figured if I’d always loved planning events for fun, then why wouldn’t I love doing it professionally?  

MB:  What was the very first event you planned?

CG: Quite literally I organized a neighborhood fall festival in 4th grade, assigning my friends to run different stations, like face painting and a bean bag toss in the cul-de-sac across the street from my house. My activity was pulling kids in a wagon tied to my bike, which you probably couldn’t get away with today. I think we made about $40, which we had originally planned to split equally amongst ourselves, but after it came out to less than $5 a kid, we decided to donate it to a local charity instead and ended up making the paper.

Professionally, the first event I worked on was a gala for Boys and Girls Town honoring LL Cool J and Jorge Posada for about 400 guests.

MB:  Can you tell us more about your experience planning for the Tonys?

CG: It truly is a joy for me. As Broadway’s biggest night, the Tony Awards Gala is the culmination of our entire season of opening night celebrations, not to mention Broadway’s annual moment on the national stage. Broadway attracts a spectrum of talent that is unique in its reach and diversity, which is always reflected at the gala. I’m not sure under what other circumstances I would expect to see Tom Hanks, Cyndi Lauper, and Mike Tyson at the same party.

As far as the planning aspect goes, it takes months of preparation and a small army of vendors and staff to pull everything off without a hitch. On event day we work for nearly 24 hours straight to see the event to completion, which comes right on the heels of the Tony Nominees Luncheon and the Tony Honors Reception. We stay busy and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s an honor to be involved.

MB:  What would you say is the best way to raise awareness for your events (i.e. social media, traditional marketing, celebrity endorsements, etc.)

CG: The first place to start is content. An event that has clear, engaging and relevant content that not only appeals to your target audience but also promotes your event’s objective will be much easier to market than one with a diluted or weak message. This is easier said than done, but laying the groundwork early will facilitate the later stages of marketing, social media engagement and press exposure and can eliminate the need for gimmicks or even a celebrity endorsement, unless of course these play a part of the message you’re trying to communicate.

MB:  What big event would you love to plan (this could be anything)?

CG: Professionally, I would love to work on some of the larger film or television premieres in New York. I’d be so interested to work on an event whose consumers are able to engage immediately and on a national level. Although our target audience is also national, we have a small and fixed inventory that’s limited to the number of seats in a show’s theatre. I also love Target’s events, so maybe a film premiere sponsored by Target? I didn’t read The Secret, but I’m putting it out there into the universe. I think that’s how it works.

Personally, I hope my son and daughter will let me help just a little if and when they have weddings of their own one day. 

MB:  What do you hope students will get out of your class?

CG: A few things, the first being simply where to start. By discussing the foundation of events and the simple but essential strategies that guide the planning process, we will take the guesswork and uncertainty out of what can seem like a daunting task for the “uninitiated”.  To that end, I also hope students leave the course with the confidence to easily and successfully execute events on their own (and that they send me pictures).

MB:  Any fun stories you could share with us?

CG: Oh boy…so many fun stories, but few that I can share! I’ve had celebrity party crashers, a fire and a flood and no electricity all at the same party, and just about everything in between in the 200+ events I’ve worked on. There is never a dull moment, which is one of the reasons I love what I do.