Highlights from the Washington Festivals and Events Association Educational Conference

By Lindsey Kemkes

The Washington Festivals and Events Association (WFEA) Educational Conference is the Northwest’s premier annual gathering of festival and event professionals for learning and networking. It features three days of intensive workshops, educational sessions and keynote presentations from local and national industry leaders. At this year’s event, topics addressed the challenges of expenses to produce events, event attendance and sponsorship involvement.

Here are a few highlights from the event:

Make meaningful connections

Caravel’s Paula Beadle highlighted the importance of creating meaningful connections with your audience and building those connections in collaboration with sponsors. Paula shared ways to do this—here are just a few:

  • Use storytelling as a tool. There is strength in an organization’s ability to tell a powerful story to make meaningful connections.
  • Brand alignment is key. When seeking new sponsors, prospect companies that share your event’s audience and align with your brand, and build connection through activities or attractions at your event.
  • Consider the audience’s experience first and foremost. The most successful sponsorship programs put the audience at the center of the efforts and focus on enhancing their experience to build create a connection.

Apply what your parents taught you

This year, the WFEA reinstituted its Hall of Fame to recognize individuals who have made a significant contribution to the events industry. Caravel Marketing client Beth Knox was one of the inductees. Most recently, Beth served as the president and CEO of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. Prior to that, she led Seafair, Seattle’s largest regional celebration. Beth’s keynote presentation, “Turns out Mom and Dad Were Right … Ten Tips for Thriving in the Event Business,” was direct and brilliant. The takeaways:

  • Have a plan. Write a vision statement and create a strategic plan that is simple and set to measure your goals.
  • Work with good people. Do your homework on hiring key staff and make inclusion and equity a priority.
  • Set the bar high! Be bold, ambitious, and be better because you have one shot at a first impression and there are no do-overs in live events.
  • Challenges that don’t kill you make you stronger.
  • Live within your means. Pay attention to expenses.
  • There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Free services and gifts often come with a price.
  • Call your mother! Communicate, share your vision regularly, evangelize and tell your story.
  • There are no do-overs. Rehearse your plan and have consistent site visits with vendors, sponsors and staff.
  • Roll with it. In live events something WILL absolutely not go as expected, contingencies and backups are your safety net, cool heads prevail, and don’t let them see you sweat—be a leader.
  • Celebrate your success. Applaud your team and celebrate publicly.

Seattle Center’s leadership recognized for rich history of events

Seattle Center director Robert Nellams was also inducted into the WFEA Hall of Fame. Robert has spent over 20 years at Seattle Center and for the past 13 years has led efforts to produce topnotch events attended by 1.8 million people annually. Those events have included Bumbershoot, PrideFest, Bite of Seattle and Seattle Center Festal. The center also features several permanent attractions, including the Space Needle, Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pacific Science Center and Mercer Arena.

Robert believes in supporting staff and putting patrons first and it shows. He is revered by colleagues, city council members and by the events industry as a whole. Just last year, he considered retiring from his position at Seattle Center, so it was wonderful to watch him being honored for his contributions to Seattle’s rich history of events and graciously accept the award on behalf of his entire team.

About the author: Lindsey Kemkes is the sponsorship specialist for Caravel Marketing. She brings valuable expertise in fundraising and event planning to the team and plays a critical role in revenue generating efforts at Caravel. Lindsey earned a strategic communications degree from Washington State University with a minor in environmental science.