Instructor Nets Perfect Score on First Course in SDSU Meeting and Event Planning Program

Nicole Osibodu

Nicole Osibodu

Whether she’s synchronized ice skating for Team USA or planning a birthday bash for a U.S. president, Nicole Osibodu excels at everything she does. Shortly after graduating from Chicago’s Lexington College with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, she quickly entered the big leagues, working events for The Oprah Winfrey Show, President Obama’s 50th birthday bash, and Christmas at the White House 2011.

Osibodu eventually worked her way west and started Pink Pineapple Event Design, “because everyone in the world deserves a fabulous and well-executed event.” The events are fabulous indeed, as Osibodu was named among the “Top 25 Young Event Pros to Watch: 2016 Edition” by Special Events Magazine.

While on an all-industry cruise with Meeting Professionals International, she hit it off with fellow passenger Annette Gregg, who happens to be the advisor for the Meeting and Event Planning Professional Certificate program at San Diego State University’s College of Extended Studies. One thing led to another, and Osibodu joined the staff to teach Starting Your Own Business in the Meeting and Event Planning Industry. In student evaluations, she received a perfect 5.0 score after teaching her first-ever class in spring 2017.

Osibodu answered some questions about the course, and her career.

To what do you attribute your perfect 5.0 evaluation by your students?
It was honesty and transparency. I talked about the process of starting your own business, the bumps you’ll face, the amount of times (sometimes daily) that you’ll have to yell “PLOT TWIST” and start over, and also about the perks! I said how important it was to keep up with the trends and times so I moved the class into the computer lab and used a brand new software, AmpSlide, that’s changing the face of information-sharing during events. It makes your slides audience-accessible, in real-time, with no software required.

I also shared information on different ways to charge your clients and I walked through an actual RFP I designed and just submitted. I showed the program I used and said they could e-mail me for the template and use it for their projects. These two things seemed to be liquid gold for them! When I was in college, I wanted to see actual formatting of things and hear real numbers of how my professors charged for their services and they never told me. So I changed the game and was completely open on scenarios and formulas I use. If students can’t see the potential to make real money and how that’s done, it will just sit in their heads like an idea that doesn’t blossom into anything.

I also got to know them in the beginning so I could adapt what I taught as we went along so it was relevant. A few hours in, nothing I taught was generic. It was all scenarios and info they could go home and immediately apply to their current positions.

Oh, and I brought in two speakers to change it up. Who wants to stare at one person from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a Saturday — probably nobody!

What were your top three takeaways after teaching your first course?
Keep it real. Keep it simple. Keep it FUN!

What real-world examples do you use in your class?
A failure anecdote: I lost a ton of money my first month using credit card processing because I didn’t calculate the percentages the cards charged. I lost HUNDREDS. Ouch!

Tips for success:

  1. If you don’t do it now, someone else will. And although you’ll learn from it, you’ll never forget about it!
  2. Sometimes the worst thing — yet best thing — that could happen is you fail.
  3. Some people say the glass is half empty, some say it’s half full. Be the one who sells the glass before they can decide.

Words to live, sell, and die by: YOUR BRAND IS NOT WHAT YOU SAY IT IS, IT IS WHAT THEY SAY IT IS. Period.

One of things you tell students is to be on the lookout for opportunities and ask for the business. I can see you excel at this, per the examples on your website. Can you walk us through how you applied your genuineness and curiosity in the Chrysler lobby?
I once flew to Detroit with no sales plan or meetings scheduled. I just knew I wanted to land an account with Chrysler. I walked in with a name off LinkedIn and a smile, talked to the nice security lady — after giving her compliments about her hairstyle — and she let me call up to this random person I found off the internet. I was honest and said, “This is going to be totally weird but I literally just flew across the country in hopes that I could get you to come down and have a coffee with me! I see synergy in what you’re trying to do for your company and I might be able to help you. I have some cool ideas, do you like sugar in your coffee?” Ten minutes later she walked down to the lobby to meet me. Oh, and she takes two sugars in her coffee.

When did you first become aware of your superpowers for organizing and event planning?
Oh, wow! I would say my super powers lie in people, the ability to delegate and lead them, and a skill for thinking creatively from a different angle. I actually hate Excel documents, and my desk is usually a mess. But if you’re launching a new product or need to quickly work a room of 300, I am your girl.

But when I was planning a homecoming for the USS TRUMAN and my house was literally covered in Post-it notes with things to remember, I knew there had to be a better way! Then I received a letter from the commanding officer who said that was the best homecoming the US NAVY had ever seen and he couldn’t believe I had SpongeBob SquarePants on the pier for the kids. So I thought I might do alright in that field.

Remember, the most successful people surround themselves with people who have better skills than them. I have an amazing team who is great at what I am horrible at — THAT is the secret.

How did you get involved with synchronized skating?
Back in the day, I skated on TEAM USA synchronized skating team, Crystallettes, out of Dearborn, Michigan. It was who I was. Since then, I started a program [www.sunsurfsynchro.com] here in Southern California and we have a 10-year plan to build a world-ranked team! Somedays I want to quit but those days are outnumbered by the days I am jumping up and down screaming because we did something super awesome. My team practices at 4:45 am with smiles on! If they would rather be doing something other than sleeping that early, I know we’re on to something big!

Anything else you’d like to add?
I would say that I am nowhere without my friends. I say friends because there have been so many people that I have met on planes, who turned into clients, and then turned into friends.

Whether you’re a planner by choice or by chance, whether you’re new to the industry or a seasoned pro, SDSU’s Meeting and Event Planning Professional Certificate offers the opportunity to expand your expertise, and prepare for the CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) and CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional) exams. For more information, visit neverstoplearning.net/meeting.