We've been interviewing some of the smartest, most interesting event professionals around--sharing their insights, advice, and unique experiences. This week we sat down with Annette Naif, of Naif Productions, a strategic event planning, design and production firm based in New York City. Pulling together her years in motion picture, television production and corporate event development, Annette has seen how hitting just the right creative “note” can spark conversation, build relationships and create brand loyalty beyond measure.
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1) You've got an incredibly diverse industry background, from salon products and law to TV and film, telecom, music, real estate, and—of course—event planning. Could you tell us a little bit about how your career path led to found Naif Productions in 2010, and what a typical day looks like for you now?
In all of my positions over the past 25+ years, I was the in-house event producer for the organization. I went to college late in life while working full time at my last corporate job in commercial real estate. In 2008 the economy crashed right as I was graduating. The work at the real estate company was slow, and the thought of leaving for a high-level position working for someone else was not appealing, so I decided to start my own business.
Within four months, the business was up and running and I got my first client. At the same time, the real estate company laid me off; I negotiated a one-year severance package. That was eight years ago, and I haven’t looked back.
Most of my days now are spent doing business development: networking, 1-1 meetings, social media marketing, writing blog content, researching new strategies and technology trends, handling word of mouth referrals—whatever it takes to stay at the top of the industry so we can provide quality service for our clients.
2) What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Getting clients to commit to signing a contract is more challenging these days, but the biggest challenge we face is managing the clients once they are signed.
Events can be expensive and stressful, especially for individuals or corporations hosting an event for the first time. I spend a lot of time coaching our clients through the process and reassuring them they are in good hands and it will all work out. Anyone who owns an event business, or any business for that matter, can appreciate the challenges of managing the clients.
3) What types of event-related technology do you use or interact with?
Interactive Virtual Reality and Mobile/App-based experiences are a big hit with our clients at the moment. As a remote company, we rely on Google Drive, Dropbox and an Internet connection. We also use event website software to create event websites and registration platforms.
4) What do you see as the biggest trend(s) in events this year, particularly in relation to event technology?
Clients are wanting to stand out more than ever before. Augmented reality, virtual reality and interactive games are popular technology tools at the moment as well as tracking software for personalized experiences for their attendees. We've also seen an advancement in technology with photo booths with FloatCams and smart mirror experiences.
5) If you could give event planners / marketers one piece of advice, what would that be?
Hire an event planning coach. I hired a coach very soon after starting my business, and still have a coach after eight years. Even though I had 25+ years experience as an event producer, I had no idea how to run the business—how to price my services, what forms to use, how to speak to the client, how to set up the business, and so much more. These are all the things I now teach to event planners in our event planning course. The money you spend on a coach is far outweighed by the costly mistakes you could make if you don’t have one.