Shortly after graduating from Lexington College in Chicago, Nicole Osibodu jumped right into planning major events for an area agency.
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and minor in event planning, she worked events for The Oprah Winfrey Show, Obama’s 50th birthday bash, and was one of the designers for Christmas at The White House 2011.
“Working for high-profile clients is thrilling and fast-paced,” Osibodu said. “It’s just like the way I love to live.”
Since moving west, she’s kept the rapid pace by starting Pink Pineapple Event Design, a division of RQ Planning USA which is now a global company. From corporate brand experiences to social celebrations, the company bills itself as using experiential marketing and design to create exceptional events that never go out of style.
Osibodu was named among the “Top 25 Young Event Pros to Watch: 2016 Edition” by Special Events Magazine and will teach Starting your Own Business in the Meeting and Event Planning Industry. It’s part of the Professional Certificate in Meeting and Event Planning program and will run this semester through SDSU’s College of Extended Studies.
Here’s what she has to say about her career and teaching for the first time through Extended Studies:
What advice do you have for someone planning to start a business?
Be ready for anything and you must be able to laugh at yourself. If not, you’ll end up going insane or having a nervous breakdown.
And have a financial plan that includes money for a massage, pedicure, or something relaxing. If you can’t take time for yourself to refresh and step away, you’re going to end up going stir-crazy with a short fuse.
What will be some of the highlights of your class, Starting your Own Business in the Meeting and Event Planning Industry?
We will use real-world examples. I still consider myself to be in the “starting” phase so my examples will be fairly recent. I learn something new every day from both failure and success, so I am looking forward to sharing what I know.
I also will be sharing some of the most comfortable shoes to wear while working an event for 14 hours a day. Without the right shoes, you are no good.
Can you share anything specific you will discuss in class?
Ask, ask, ask. You must first be on the lookout for opportunities in all situations and then take it a step further and ask for the business. If they say no, then ask for clarification as to why, so you can tweak your services or understand the reason behind the “no.” It might just be bad timing, which opens the door for an opportunity in the future when the time is right.
What will students learn in your class?
They will learn some of the formal “how-to” things they need to set up their business, different marketing approaches, the value of networking, how to recognize, when to grow (or downsize), and how to create their own opportunities.
Who should take your class?
Anyone thinking about starting their own business – or those who might want to do so in the future. I would even extend out to say those working for small start-up companies, as it is so important to have a team that understands some of the unique challenges that come with a new business.
What advice do you have for individuals seeking to enter the meeting and event planning profession?
You must be a fast-moving chameleon and be able to adapt and adjust to the situation and clients with ease. There are so many ways to reach the same result, but only some of those are going to fit your client. My advice would be to actively develop the art of listening. Some people hear, but they do not listen. Finding the real root of the challenges your clients may face and being able to address those will create long-lasting relationships and prove true ROI, which is what so many companies require – measurable ROI.
What is the future of meeting and event planning?
Experiential. The days of templated square ballroom events are gone. People demand more than a polyester linen, a centerpiece, and a podium. They want to feel connected to the content or brand, they want to feel a part of something bigger and want to experience that in a customized way through new ways of human interaction. Guests of an event want to leave with not only immediate applicable takeaways but proof that their actions are part of something much bigger than the people in the room. New technologies at every budget level are so readily available. The future of events is going to be led by people and companies that are in touch with emerging technologies and trends.
What inspired you to get into the meeting planning industry?
Back in 2004, I volunteered to plan the homecoming for the USS Harry S. Truman which is an aircraft carrier holding more than 5,000 people and thousands of family members waiting on the pier. Coordinating all of the logistics and working with high-level U.S. Navy officials was really fun, but I was learning as I went along. My process was made up of sticky notes and scratch pads. Although I was having a great time, I knew there had to be a better way, so I found an event planning school in Chicago that had a bachelor’s degree and decided to formally teach myself how to plan an event of that magnitude.
What does your current job entail?
A little bit of everything. My job as a business owner is to see well ahead of my team and be able to do the things today that will help us grow tomorrow. That means I have to wear a lot of hats; sometimes it is the boss, sometimes it is the student. My job requires me to pay attention and recognize an opportunity when I see one, whether or not that has to do with my business. Sometimes, my job is to create brand experiences that move people to action; sometimes, it is to plan an exclusive dinner with one of our in-house celebrity chefs. But my favorite job is to help people celebrate. Isn’t that what makes life fun!
Anything else you can tell us about your job with Pink Pineapple Event Design?
Pink Pineapple has created the very first boutique event experience conference, Haute Dokimazo, which is a new kind of event conference for our industry. It is limited to 100 people, invite-only, and the first one is in Austin, Texas this May.
Is there anything your students will be surprised to learn about you?
I coach two synchronized skating teams which are made up of roughly 30 figure skaters. Synchronized skating is the fastest growing arm of figure skating and will be the next sport in the Winter Olympics. Maybe you’ll see us in 2022!