The Events Expert Interview Series #14: Serena Holmes

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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 Serena Holmes, the President and CEO of Tigris Events - who's showing us the incredible power of women in the workplace!

1) Can you tell us a little bit about how you decided to join Tigris Events back in 2004, and how it's grown over the years? What types of clients do you normally serve? And what does a typical day look like for you now?

I came on  board at Tigris part-time literally two months after it was created, which led to management, partnership, and then eventually full ownership four years later.

We were very fortunate to land some very big clients early on like Rogers Communications, CHIN Radio, Motorola, and others. Over the past 4-5 years particularly, we have had tremendous growth, largely stemming from our SEO efforts. We have more than quadrupled in size since 2013.

These days, we serve a wide range of clients with event staffing, event planning and experiential marketing services. These are approximately 50% agencies such as advertising, marketing, media, PR and even event planning companies; and 50% direct to brands. The latter largely include food/beverage, consumer packaged goods, media, and technology companies, as well as others.

A typical day for me includes checking in with my team, going over quotes that have been sent out, producing proposals and event services agreements for new events, and ensuring my team is on track. I have an account director who supports some of this while I am busy in the office and on the road. Every week is a bit different!

2) What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?

Right now, I find it challenging to move with the ebb and flows of business—sometimes it’s very busy, then we slow right down. So, you don’t want to over-hire or run too lean and not have enough support. In this industry, when it rains it pours; so our team needs to flow with it when the work is coming in!

Additionally, there is a lot of technology out there that we would love to take advantage of, but it can be complicated when it doesn’t meet all of our needs. We started looking into an event staffing software product three years ago—but since they only displayed shift by shift rather than the entire project, we decided to build our own platform. This has been a very long, expensive, and time-consuming road. We have gone through some additional testing recently and hope to start using it come fall.

3) What types of event-related technology do you use or interact with?

Right now, we use technology to check people in at conferences/events, and different platforms for lead generation, as well as VR. The latter is huge and seems to be popping up at events all the time.

4) What do you see as the biggest trend(s) in events this year, particularly in relation to event technology?

Photo booths are huge, since they allow brands to reach people outside of the event when people share their branded images socially. As noted above, VR is also huge. We’ve been a part of at least 10 activations in the last year that have had a VR component.

5) If you could give event planners / marketers one piece of advice, what would that be?

From an entrepreneurial perspective, I would tell event planners/marketers to try to learn from others who are where they want to be, and invest in marketing techniques to bring you a steady stream of business. While we work with my clients for years on end, like many marketers or event planners, we work event to event and you never know when you may lose a client for any number of reasons. Keeping a regular flow of leads in your pipeline is imperative to growth.