By Melissa Deslauriers.
Much of what I’ve learned can’t ever be gleaned from a textbook. Ours is a hands-on industry, and I was fortunate to have some incredible mentors who helped me appreciate that my client’s/attendee experience is the priority. They depend on us, and ultimately me, to make them look good.
Recently, I read an article on a meeting planner who made the leap to the proverbial “dark side,” aka to tech suppliers. The article was well done and highlighted many who had started on the planner side and moved over. Check it out here
My question is, why are we as suppliers/vendors/partners, considered the “dark side”?
When did being a supplier mean we became the bad guy?
When I graduated from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax with a degree in Public Relations, the economy was in a downturn. Companies weren’t interested in spending money on a communication major. So I called an entertainment company I’d worked for part-time as a conference presenter and started down the path to the dark side. The role was sales and when I started, I had a heart-to-heart with the owner who wanted to know why, after working so hard to earn a communications degree ”Would I want to be like a used car salesperson”?
The why was easy enough, I needed a job; but the reality was more complex and I quickly found out my ability to identify, establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships was a great benefit in sales. More importantly, I liked sales and I was good at it. So much so that a short time later, when the company moved its head office from Halifax to Mississauga, I packed up everything I owned in my VW and moved to the land of opportunity & center of the universe…Ontario.
The company I worked for leveraged technology, selling video dance parties to High schools, universities, and colleges everywhere west of Thunder Bay. To this day, I can still find even the most remote town out west on a flat map in record time. Did you know, from Thunder Bay west, there are four time zones?
After a few years in sales and communications, I knew I needed more of a challenge and secured an interview with the company formerly known as TELAV/I.S.T.S. for a sales role on their simultaneous interpretation (SI) side. The audiovisual side was taking off and they needed someone to maintain the foundational business of SI. I not only convinced them I could do it, but I also guaranteed I would grow the business, and I did. I succeeded because I made an effort to learn as much as I could by being onsite, asking questions, and gaining an appreciation for what it took on our end to make clients look good.
I did the same with my clients, digging deeper to understand how their events began, evolved, and what would help them to go forward and be successful. My appreciation for all aspects of each event from both perspectives is an asset I’ve successfully leveraged throughout my career.
Fast forward, more than 20 years later, after several mergers, roles in sales and management and everything in between, I am still on the “dark side.”
Because I like it here, clients need me to help navigate and execute their events. Now. I could sell you all the bells and whistles in the world to make a number, but does that make me a reliable partner? No. Will you work with me again? Likely not.
My role is to help you, even if that means steering you towards a solution I might not offer, yet given my time in the industry, I know I will help you. I am an expert at my job because I have put in the time to get here. I’ve pushed cases, called shows, rolled cables and done whatever it’s taken to ensure we’re ready when the doors open. It’s a team effort because we are all in this together and rely on each other to produce the best possible experience for our clients, guests, and attendees.
It’s not where I thought I would be at the beginning of my career journey. Who grows up thinking, “Hey, I want to be an AV pro?” Yet here I am, thoroughly enjoying it.
The dark side, light side, client, supplier, partner; Let’s break down the natural barriers, collaborate, share, and have a conversation. When that supplier reaches out, why not take the chance and have a chat? We might both learn something.
Melissa is currently a member of the Senior Management Team at bb Blanc, Inc. as Director of Marketing & is a Professor at Conestoga College for Production & Staging in the Event Management program. With 25+ years in the event industry, roles in sales, marketing, and management have given her a unique perspective and understanding of events and technology. Teamwork is crucial. Content is key. Creativity, flexibility, and problem solving are an advantage.