The Events Expert Interview Series #15: Tracy Fuller

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We've been interviewing expert event professionals in our industry, and sharing their insights, advice, and unique experiences. This week we sat down with Tracy Fuller, the President of InnovativEvents and Event Heroes. 

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1) Can you tell us a little bit about what led you to get started with Event Heroes in 2014?

Event Heroes was formed in response to the number of requests for meetings to “pick my brain” from those either new to the industry or interested in starting a business. I have spent many hours in coffee shops, teaching my soon-to-be competitors how to start, run or somehow get involved in the event industry.

It became clear that there’s a real need—not just here in the US, but globally—for education and information so people can have a better idea of what it takes to be a successful event professional. 

With 30 years of experience in the industry, my goal for Event Heroes is to help planners learn how to communicate with vendors to create better, more cohesive experiences for the attendees. 

To make that happen, we looked at how best to educate and support. Part of that is small group sessions via webinars. Part of it is a series of lessons we’ve built. And we’ve also created a number of tools for planners to use to help them save time while bringing the “wow.”  

Every piece of the Event Heroes collection was designed to help both newer planners and overwhelmed planners gain more time and more complete design for their events.

2) What types of clients do you normally work with? 

We have two types of clients we work with. For those learning the industry and just getting started, founding a business, or coming directly out of school, we offer the course study. This is a basic online course that helps them understand things like identifying their perfect client, where to find those clients, and what it takes to do an event, start to finish. All the steps. The course includes many tools to help them avoid the pitfalls of trial and error, and help them build a healthy business and reputation out of the gate.

For the experienced event planner—maybe someone who works for an association, or gets thrown into the position occasionally as part of their “real” job—we have the Event Theme library. These are themes built with the flow of the event in mind. Each theme offers ideas for everything from the invite to a party to the give away at the end of the event.

All décor elements, entertainment elements and food suggestions on listed. A planner can take those elements and use what they want, based on the budget they have. Each theme includes a vendor list (the most valuable part) that saves hours of work. They don’t have to spend time scouring the internet to find the right items to support the theme. 

Each element is also ranked by value to the event and cost per items. For example, four dollar signs and only one star would be a great place to cut if they needed to cut the budget. This is designed to give them the most impactful items for their budget.

And of course we also offer custom theme development, event coaching, personal coaching and small business startup coaching as well. We love what we do and want to share the joy of bringing people together and thrilling them!

3) How is that connected or related to InnovativEvents?

Event Heroes came out of my experience operating InnovativEvents, which evolved from a company called Happy Occasions that I started in 1987.  For more on that story, see this article: After a Family Tragedy, DSM Entrepreneur Creates "Happy Occasions."

Watching my event planning clients struggle with time constraints and having newcomers with questions about the industry, it just felt like it was time to share the treasure trove of knowledge I’d acquired over 30 years and make it easily accessible to those wanting help. This is the reason we created Event Heroes!

4) What does a typical day look like for you now?         

InnovativEvents is still alive and well, so a typical day is anything but typical!

One thing many newcomers to the industry don't know is that event planners spend most of the time in front of a computer. Most days are spent researching, answering client emails, brainstorming new ideas, and researching what’s new in the industry.

We’re also getting more active in social media, which means we’re constantly finding new ways to engage. This has been a learning period for some of us who’ve been around awhile:  If we are going to reach our audience (new clients and existing clients) effectively, we need to know how to work in this environment.

At Event Heroes, we are forever watching to see what is new in the industry and how we can help our clients understand and best use the new offerings, whether it’s introducing them to new products, new providers, offering new themes for them to chose from, or educating them.

We also strive to be a positivity provider because, let’s face it: this event industry is a roller coaster of emotions and energy levels! We want to be here to provide uplifting, encouraging and “attaboy” or “go girl!” encouragement.

For our setup days with InnovativEvents, we might start on the event floor at 6 am (which means we’ve been up and ready since 4:30 a.m.) and finish with the event at 2 a.m. the following morning.  This is typical for business conferences where we offer full service support to the meeting planner. 

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

My biggest challenge is time, same as all event pros. That, and keeping up with social media and industry  changes. This career is a hard one to balance family life and business life.

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

One of my favorites is the new advances in crowd interaction from the stage. For example, mics you can use from your phone or something like CatchBox, which is the mic you can throw around the room. These are great ways to let attendees be a bigger part of the event.

Video mapping is an exciting advancement, and as the pricing comes down, more and more events will be using this for décor.

I look forward to virtual reality becoming commonplace in events. I want to see the room change 10 times during an event depending on what the speaker is talking about, or the theme of the party, adding an immersive experience into every event.

Even though all the tech elements are exciting and new, our goal is to help our clients know when and where to use the tech elements to advance their event goals, not just because it exists. Sometimes a low-tech event is much more impactful than a high-tech event! 

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

Providing inclusive and interactive elements to all of the event. Letting the attendees become part of the event and determine some of the outcomes. The more people we can include in the event, the more ownership they take and the more likely this will be an event on their ‘not to be missed’ list of future events.

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

You can’t do everything yourself. One of the best tips I received as a young business owner was to surround yourself with those who do what needs to be done better than you can do it, and trust them to do it.

Know your vendors, build your event team, and trust they have your back. This frees you up to do what you are best at, what makes you the most money or secures your positions, and what really makes you stand out as an event planner / marketer. Ask for advice from those who have gone before you, and really listen so you don’t have to learn the hard way!