Let’s have a chat with an Events Industry Expert!

Want to learn more about

the event consulting

industry or how

an Event Consultant

produces an award

winning event?

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In this blog, we chat with Sharon Bonner about her experience as an award-winning event expert and her successful event planning tips to share. Read more!

InterviewerBefore the interview commences, I would like to say thank you for your time! We know that you have tons of experience with event consulting/planning, as well as an impressive amount of reputable satisfied clientele who have confided in your services, so let’s dive right in.

What made you embark on this journey to begin Sharon Bonner Consulting?

Sharon: This journey of Event Consulting really started about eight years ago. What prompted me to finish it was the COVID pandemic. 

During my thirty-five year Event Production career, I had clients asking me for consulting services, but I was always too busy with event planning. I did not have the time to focus my energy on fully developing my consulting business. I had mapped out some ideas and a website structure about seven years ago, but that was about it. 

When COVID happened in 2020, the event industry took a massive hit. Everything moved to online events or events were cancelled or postponed. Everyone was migrating towards online events, so I did this as well. I studied online about virtual events and became certified as a VEMM (Virtual Event Meeting Managment). I even published my first e-book, ‘Donuts in the Lunchroom’ that talks about inspiring your teams in a digital world.

Finally, I had the time and energy to pick up this Event Consulting project and give it my all! 

The award-winning event streak 

Interviewer: Firstly, how would you differentiate between an event, and an award-winning event? What factors contribute to the award-winning nature of your events? 

Sharon: You know this is a great question and thanks for asking it. When a client comes to me with an idea for an event, if the vision and the budget match, I often know BEFORE the event that it will be an award-winning event! There is a winning event formula and if the event criteria checks all of the boxes, it is usually an award-winning event. If it does not win first place, it should at least qualify as a finalist. 

Interviewer: What are the most important aspects to consider when planning an event? Is there any one strategic approach in particular that is “key” to event planning/consulting? 

SharonYes there is. There is actually a ‘recipe’ to planning an event and it is within this recipe that we tweak it to add secret ingredients along the way. There are no two events that are identical to one another. Even if the event is similar in nature and occurs annually, the speakers are different, the theme is different and the attendees are different. One thing we learned very quickly during COVID is that our in person attendees are very different from our online attendees. Many planners thought that they could take an in-person event structure and move it online, and all would be fine. They were very mistaken.  

Getting over the hurdles

Interviewer: What would you say are the major obstacles when planning events? How are you able to overcome them? 

SharonThe biggest obstacle I see event after event, is that the goals and objectives of the event are not clearly defined. Questions I always ask my clients are “Why are you holding the event? What are your event goals and objectives? How will you measure your ROI?”

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, how can you plan a successful event? A successful event doesn’t just look good, the metrics shows that it ticks all the boxes. 

Overcoming challenges led to beautiful endings with successful event planning tips

Interviewer: What award-winning event are you most proud of? Were you expecting such an overwhelming response to your accomplishments? 

SharonYou are asking such amazing questions! The event that immediately comes to my mind when I hear this question is The NorLand Black & White Ball. This event had several challenges and firsts for me. First time a second floor was built in the train station, first time an ice carver was carving LIVE at the event and the first time a corporate event was turned into a heartfelt, meaningful gathering where employees were treated like family at a Family Reunion.

This event was SO COMPLICATED to produce that at times, I wondered if it would really turn out. Building a second floor mezzanine in an empty train station had tremendous safety restrictions to consider; I had no idea. We would have 120 guests standing on the second floor all at once (some jumping up and down) so the structure had to be designed and built correctly to withstand this movement

To answer your question, I knew that the staircase was magnificent, but I didn’t realize how impressive it would be. During the event, guests were exclaiming how gorgeous the event design was. But, it wasn’t until the event won over 12 awards globally, that I realized what a huge accomplishment we had achieved. 

The Sharon Bonner Consulting spark 

Interviewer: On that note, how would you describe an award-winning event? What makes the strategies utilized at Sharon Bonner Consulting different from other event-planning organizations? 

Sharon: I think because I have planned over 3,000 events in my career, some better than others, I have a wealth of experience in maximizing your event budget. I know how to spend money where it matters.

I have had many award winning events with a modest budget, so it’s not always that you need to have a huge budget to win an award. As I said previously, you need to add that secret ingredient to our event-planning recipe.

What makes Sharon Bonner Consulting different is that the events that we design have a huge long lasting experiential impact on the guests in attendance. It’s not uncommon for me to run into guests multiple years later and they share with me a feature of a past event that they remember from 6 years ago. And that feels pretty cool!

Some insight on award-winning event strategies and planning tips

Interviewer: Are award-winning events entirely dependent on strategy? As an Event Expert, how should strategy and tips be executed adequately when planning events? What things should one avoid? 

SharonStrategy is definitely important but it is not the only key ingredient for a successful event. After accumulating three decades of experience and knowledge in producing events, there is a formula and a step-by-step procedure that must be taken. It’s like a contractor building a house. First, you draw up the blueprints, then you gather the event vendors to support your blueprints. The foundation is first and this can take the form of a physical venue or a virtual event platform. And, you continue to build from that point. 

Some things to avoid are ignoring the warning signs when you are told that a particular event component is risky, cutting corners on critical items when the budget falls short and skipping steps in your critical path because you are tight on time. 

Until Next Time… 

Interviewer: Thank you for your time! Do you have anything you would like to share with your audience, or any successful event planning tips? 

Sharon: Yes I wanted to say that the experience and knowledge of a seasoned Event Producer are invaluable and should always be considered when producing an event. That’s why I started Sharon Bonner Consulting. I felt that clients were trying to produce events themselves because they either thought they knew what they were doing or they didn’t have the budget to hire a full service Event Producer. I developed my consulting business with a variety of options so that there is a package for each budget. 

One of my successful event planning tips: Even if you think you have completed all of the steps, hire us for a few hours to audit  your event plan. It is money so well spent.  

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