Meet the Teachers - July 2013
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.
Meet the Teachers: Gemma Craven
Meet Gemma Craven, the speaker for our upcoming webcast on the social platform Vine. Gemma, the EVP, New York group director of Social@Ogilvy, loves to socialize and is a self-proclaimed “tech geek”, both of which have fueled her career in social media. In this webcast, she’ll demonstrate how her team has helped brands bring their information to life. Interested in attending? Register here!
MB: When did you first realize that social media was your passion?
GC: I have always been a huge fan of socializing, talking and connecting with other people. As well as a real tech geek. When blogs and Twitter starting to take off, I was naturally drawn to both because of my love of people and tech. I realized I was truly passionate about social media after lecturing a big fat bouncer in a Lower East Side bar for several hours about how he should set up a blog to promote his new club in Queens (sadly, I don’t think my passion spilled over to the bouncer)
MB: Would you tell us the first social media platform you used? Are you still on it?
GC: That would be Twitter. And yes I sure am.
MB: What was your first big break in your career?
GC: This is a great question. I feel that I have had several along the way, but also when I look at my career I see that they all built upon on each other, so it is important to look at them all as an entity.
So really, my first agency job in London was an amazing break and entry into the world I currently inhabit. My first job in France was the same, brilliant opportunity to work overseas. Then getting offered a role in NYC was a huge turning point for me. As was my next role in NYC, joining Social@Ogilvy. So you see, I think they were all big breaks at various moments in time.
MB: What is your favorite social media platform? Why?
GC: Twitter – for connecting, sharing, learning. And particularly now with the meteoric rise of Vine
LinkedIn – for networking, learning
Tumblr – for beautiful, visual inspiration
MB: Where do you think social media is headed in the future?
GC: I believe that it is becoming so embedded in all that we do, that we will actually stop calling it social media because it is headed to being a part of our everyday lives we cannot live without. After all we do not say, “let me look on the digital internet”, do we? Social media is another form of engagement and communication, a means to connect.
MB: Can you share your favorite Vine that you or your team has created?
GC: I love the work that we did for State Street, a financial services client. Some really clever stop motions working with Vine to showcase various different thought leadership topics.
MB: What was the most fulfilling project that you’ve worked on?
GC: Working on the social media launch of a 100% environmentally friendly/sustainable pop up bodega in Soho was one of my most fulfilling because we were really working to make an impact, share a message, and to surprise and delight consumers.
MB: Any advice for marketing professionals who are diving into social media?
GC: Make sure you are really focusing on one of – or ideally, several - the core marcoms competency. Social media does not and cannot work on its own. Clients want it integrated into overarching programs and you need to know how to do that, rather than just floating around on your own social media cloud.
Always be curious and learning. It is your role to bring the best and the most innovative to your work. Exploring this exciting world is the best way to do just that. And no one person can ever be the ultimate expert in this space, as it is so evolutionary.
Make sure you do not get distracted by all the new platforms and tools to take you away from the core skills required of client service and maintaining professionalism. I see so many people who might be a digital or social genius but lack actual basic social skills. These are so important. After all, social media is based on real world social engagement.
MB: Any other fun stories/events in your career that you’d like to share?
Meet the Teachers: Alice Truong
Meet Alice Truong, the instructor for our brand new Tech Writing course. Alice is a a tech journalist with passion for gadgets, gizmos, and, of course, technology. She says job perks include “testing out new gadgets before they hit the market.”
Our full interview with Alice:
MB: When did you start writing and how did you know you wanted to do it professionally?
AT: I grew up reading and idolizing the Los Angeles Times and seized every opportunity to immerse myself in journalism. I joined my middle, high school and college newspapers; attended a number of journalism workshops and conferences as a student; majored in journalism as an undergraduate; and completed a master’s program specializing in business journalism and interactive storytelling. Somewhere along the way, perhaps under the notion that this was a glamorous field (and it can be), I decided I wanted to do this professionally.
MB: What was your first big break?
AT: As an intern at the RedEye, a sister publication to the Chicago Tribune, my editors saw how hungry I was to write and gave me many opportunities to do so. Since this was a publication geared toward “news you can use,” a cover story I wrote on DIY weddings got a lot of positive feedback and was picked up in a number of Trib publications, including the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and most exciting of all, the Los Angeles Times. My clips at the RedEye would later help me secure an internship, and eventually a job, at the Wall Street Journal.
MB: What is your favorite tech news outlet?
AT: I, of course, have loyalties to the publications that have employed me, including the Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY and the Trib. Since I write about technology, I spend a lot of time reading tech blogs. I’ve always been a fan of Gizmodo’s brazen style, but some new favorites include the Verge, the Wirecutter and Gizmag. I’ve also admired how absolutely nerdy the writers at DVICE, the SyFy Channel’s tech blog, are and eventually became one of them.
MB: Where do you see yourself/hope to be in your career in five years?
AT: I started my journalism career covering real estate in Hong Kong for the Wall Street Journal. The job didn’t last with my moving to San Francisco, but my love for the city did. In five years, I imagine being a tech correspondent based there, collecting passport stamps in my free time.
MB: What do you think is the coolest, most interesting gadget out today?
AT: This is a trick question, right? Because I know as soon as I decide on a toy, a newer, shinier one will come out tomorrow — that’s the world of gadgets for you. At the end of last year, I considered Belkin’s WeMo as one of the top gadgets of 2012, and that’s because the simple $50 device can turn anything into a smart appliance with programmable rules thanks to an iPhone app. My current favorite is the Philips Hue, an LED system that connects color-changing bulbs to a wireless network. With an open API, Philips is really positioning itself as an App Store of high-tech LEDs, encouraging developers to build some very interesting apps for Hue, such as changing the colors of the lights based on a playlist.
Pictured above: Belkin’s WeMPicture above: Philips Hue
Pictured above: Phillips Hue
MB: What do you hope for students to get out of your class?
AT: As a student, I’ve always appreciated professors who structured their classes so that new lessons built on prior ones to complete a project or achieve a tangible goal. Ideally, my students will have solid story ideas or works in progress to pitch at the end of the course.
MB: Any advice for aspiring tech journalists?
AT: To understand the tech landscape, read as much as you can in newspapers, magazines and blogs. Over time, the topics and jargon won’t be so intimidating. The other is to get to know people in the field. Yes, that means networking with CEOs, entrepreneurs and PR folks, but even making friends with techies, such as software engineers, is helpful to get insight and develop story ideas.
MB: Any other fun stories/events in your career that you’d like to share?
AT: Let’s start with an embarrassing story. Once, when I was having dinner in Mountain View, I was talking about my visit to Smugmug’s office earlier in the day. The co-founders, who were avid photographers, had told me about their experience with Lytro, the camera that made headlines for letting you shoot first and focus later. Though Lytro’s technology is genuinely ground shattering, there are a number of limitations that make it impractical, especially for professional photographers who want large, detailed and stunning images. I went on and on at dinner, adding my own opinion about the closed ecosystem, awkward form factor and more before I was interrupted by the person at the next table in this tiny ramen restaurant. Turns out it was the CEO and founder of Lytro, who a day later would step down as chief to take on the role of chairman.
Overall though, covering technology comes with its perks. I attend fun conferences. I talk to inspiring movers and shakers. I test new gadgets before they hit the market. Really, a large part of my job is to play with toys and write about them.
Farewell Message from Carmen Scheidel
Goodbye, my friends.
Next week, I’ll leave my post at Mediabistro for an exciting new job that I’ll announce shortly. All goodbyes are bittersweet and this one is especially poignant because I’ve spent the past eight years working with a team I love to serve a community of people who constantly inspire, challenge, and enlighten us.
I’m incredibly honored to have worked with each of you as you’ve plotted your career moves, joined the fun online in our boot camps, emailed me hilarious notes every time this letter contained a typo, flagged me down on the streets of Brooklyn, and spotted me at the Park Slope Food Coop. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that I’ve been able to help connect you to some of the brightest minds in the media world to help you learn and grow as individuals. What more could a working girl ask for between the hours of 10 and 6?
My personal change means great things for Mediabistro’s ace education team — and for you! Congratulations are in order for Jessica Eule, my esteemed colleague of 7+ years, who is taking over as Executive Director; Gretchen VanEsselstyn, our new Director of Curriculum, Community, and Education Tech; Amanda Pacitti, our new Assistant Director; and Sandra Reitman, our certificate program advisor and the friendly voice on the other end of our phone line. They will take good care of you and continue to develop the best courses in digital and traditional media.
To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and please keep in touch.
Carmen Scheidel | vp of education & events | mediabistro.com
P.S. Come say goodbye at our Meet the Teachers Cocktail party. See below for details.
Mediabistro Meet the Teachers Cocktail Party in New York
What: Drinks and conversation
Who: Media Professionals
When: Tuesday, January 8, 2013, 6:30 - 8:30 pm
Where: Public House, 140 East 41st Street, New York, NY see map
Why: To meet our instructors and connect with fellow students
Food: Drink specials and complimentary appetizers
RSVPs are required
Executive Director of Education, mediabistro.com
The party will also feature instructors Caitlin Alexander, Ana Andejelic, Cara Birnbaum, Dan Blank, Nate Cooper, Sophie Kelly, Kara Masi, Kate McKean, Ryan McLendon, Emily Miethner, Jessica Olien, Soohyen Park, Jean Railla, Emilia Rhodes, Magdalena Alanga Schmidt, Rebecca Webber, and more!