It is not often that you meet someone who inspires you to fight against all odds and follow the road less traveled toward your own success. In 2012, I had the pleasure of taking a Special Event Management course -my first course in the NYU Meeting, Conference and Event Management certificate program- taught by Annette Babich; a 20 year veteran in the event industry. While we did learn the fundamentals of special event planning, Annette also made sure to share her wisdom and crazy stories from her years planning events.
I left her class feeling like I could definitely start my own event planning business and eventually leave the 9-5pm corporate world behind me. She inspired me to go for it and I hope she can inspire you as well. I asked Annette recently to share some of her insight with my readers. Check out what she had to say below.
Meet Annette Babich
What did you do prior to planning events?
I was an auditor for Mutual of America and before that I worked at MetLife. I went to business school so I started my career in corporate America.
What made you decide to transition into events? Was there an AHA moment?
After working 5 years in auditing, I knew I no longer had an interest in it but wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. At the same time, I was getting married and one of my colleagues asked me a few times about my wedding. My colleague eventually said that I should do wedding planning for a living. At the time I didn’t know it was a living but the idea intrigued me and I began to do research on the industry and discovered a whole new world I had knew nothing about. I immediately knew that was where I wanted to be. In the beginning I kept my day job. Once I became more involved in the event industry, I was forced to make the decision to quit my day job and pursue this new business venture. I did and never turned back. I have been doing it now successfully for 20 years.
How do you deal with bridezillas? Do you have any tips for other planners dealing with that type of client?
I have been fortunate enough to not have a bridezilla. I think you attract what you put out. My personality is generally low-key therefore my clientele is low-key.
Do you think there is such a thing as a Plannerzilla? Have you had any moments like that?
Yes, I am sure there are Plannerzillas out there. It is definitely a control thing. I’ve had my moments for sure, but it’s usually related to transportation which has been the bane of my existence. Sometimes I wish I would drive the limo, the bus, etc. because it’s hard to get good drivers.
What was the most amazing/magical wedding or event that you’ve planned?
Oh god there has been so many! I love the home weddings; they are my favorite for sure. I did have a wedding last year that really stuck with me. I planned the wedding in 3 weeks! We had a pregnant bride and she wanted to get married right away so she could still wear a wedding dress in her regular size. The wedding was a whirlwind to say the least. The bride gave me carte blanche and it was beautiful, exciting and fun. The energy of a wedding done that quickly is amazing. I would like more of those.
How do you balance being a mother, artist manager, NYU professor and an event planner?
It’s all about time management. Don’t get overwhelmed by your day. I wake up at 5:30am every morning and start firing off emails. I am flexible and able to switch roles from mother to event planner to mother again then to NYU professor all day long and get everything done.
How do you manage to stand out in a highly creative ever evolving industry?
Just be yourself and don’t get caught up because who you are is your best marketing tool.
Do you think hard work pays off in events or that it’s all about who you know?
It is definitely who you know, but if you can’t back it up and show up, who you know means nothing. Hard work is never fruitless.
Do you plan events for yourself (and family/friends)? Or are you too exhausted with dealing with your business?
By default, I am always the planner for family functions, vacations, etc. My family has come to count on me for it or else it doesn’t happen. I’m cool with it.
Do you have any crazy or embarrassing behind the scenes stories from an event you planned?
Crazy: A request for Bengal Tigers to flank the entrance of the wedding reception and a request for an Elvis impersonator to sing to the bride (she was a big Elvis fan).
Have you planned any celebrity events? If so, do you find it difficult to “wow” them?
Not celebrities per say but my clientele consists of families who have been to every fabulous party and they have seen it all. I don’t find it difficult to “wow” them. Listening and learning is your greatest asset. If you can do this you will never fail your clients.
What comes after planning events? Do you see retirement at some point in your future or are you in it for the looooong haul?
Actually I’m in the process of parlaying my 20 years of experience into new projects: I have tote bags that will be launching soon, I wish to teach more and maybe appear on television. When you are an event planner, it is the foundation to moving on into any career.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur wanting to start a career in events?
Like I mentioned earlier, Listen and learn. it is the most important skill you will have.
For someone just starting out and with a limited budget, who are the essential business contacts to have your corner?
Make friends with other planners, venues and caterers! They can recommend you. It was other event planners that really gave my career the jump start.
What is one thing you think people on the outside of planning assume that isn’t true? Or do you have any event planning pet peeves?
Many people assume the job is easy and glamorous. People only see the end result so it always looks that way but the blood sweat and tears that went into it can be staggering. I guess my pet peeve is exactly that, people think the job is easy and that they can just do it. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and that’s 20 years of experience, 20 years of developing relationships, 20 years of learning and still continuing to learn. It’s a process. Success takes time and must be earned.
Check out www.annettebabich.com to see photos of her past events as well as info on her artist Jem Warren. Also keep your eye out for information on an exciting new tote bag venture Annette is working on. Stay tuned!