Behind the Scenes at Summit 21

The tireless AVB Events team of, from top left: Jennifer Baldwin, Maxzi Soto, Sarah Swearingen, Hunter Risso and author Amanda Hagey.

By Amanda Hagey, AVB Events

At 5:30 a.m., the alarm goes off.

All the months of planning have led to this day: the first day of Summit 21. Normally I would be waking up in a room at some grand hotel in a faraway location. But in times such as these, arising to change is the name of the game.

My team and I have been champions of this, in my humble opinion. Like the members of BrandSource, we have felt the hardship of pivoting headfirst in a direction that none of us have ever gone before. Yet, in doing so, we have had the opportunity for growth, reflection and versatility.

Now, as I walk into the AVB offices in sunny Sacramento, I feel that odd but familiar rush of adrenaline that will carry me through the next three days. It varies as to when it kicks in, but it always does, and it will be my constant companion. I open the doors to see Maxzi Soto and Sarah Swearingen already hard at work at their desks. As I settle in, Hunter Risso comes through the door with a cheerful “Good morning!” As we begin our check-in call, we are joined remotely by a smiling Jennifer Baldwin, and our team is complete.

Related: Jennifer Baldwin on Staging Virtual Events

Today is only the beginning: Members will filter into Boomset, our platform of choice this time around, and the rest of the AVB staff, along with our vendor partners, will prepare to greet them at the various sessions of the day. I am anxious to see the turnout for our new 777 Sessions, which is an idea our team found during our research on virtual events. I know everyone is looking forward to seeing our CEO Jim Ristow deliver his State of the Union address and, of course, attending Stampede afterward. This time around, I may not have to be worried about being trampled by stampeding members, but we are all vigilant on the virtual platform to be sure everything runs smoothly, and technical issues are kept to a controlled minimum.

Success! We all collectively wipe our brows as the day goes off without a hitch. However, it is not time to relax just yet. The Expo Floor opens tomorrow and not only will we have a flood of vendor representatives, but we will also have to monitor education sessions, product trainings, workshops, and the much-anticipated Social Hours. Busy days my friends, busy days…

March 24th rings in like any other day, with the sun rising in the East. Before I’m even out of bed, I am checking emails and messages with the morning light streaming tentatively in through my windows. I rub the sleep out of my eyes as I finish with the first of many rounds of checks. I hop out of bed and take a deep breath as my feet hit the floor, knowing the rest of my team is doing the same. The days are early and long, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Back in the office, we run checks on all of the day’s sessions and pop in on our vendors’ booths to be sure their day is also going well. We tackle some issues for our members that are fairly standard for a virtual event and answer the emails that come into our Event Support in-box in as timely a manner as possible. This may not be the chaos and running around that comes with an in-person event, but we are kept on our toes nonetheless!

As 3:30 p.m. PST rolls around and the shadows outside our picture windows begin to lengthen, the consensus is that it has been a tiring but productive and successful day. As I mentioned, it was not as eventful as an in-person Summit would be, but in a virtual world, uneventful can be a blessing.

Speaking of blessings, we now have a bit of fun ahead: Our social nights are about to kick off! Having two dogs of my own, and about to add a puppy to the family, I am attending the Dog Lover’s Happy Hour.

This was definitely the place for me! Everyone had their adorable pooches on camera, and our hosts, AVB’s Dori Easterson and Seth Weisblatt, entertained us with games, trivia and some excellent conversation. Everyone had their drink of choice and their own “tail” to tell. It was wonderful to sit down and hang out with everyone at the end of the day. Definitely a favorite moment of the show for me, but then again, aren’t the receptions always a favorite?

The final day went by much like the previous two: Up at 5:30 a.m.; drop off my youngest at day care before heading to the office; probably way too much coffee to be healthy; and a smile on my face as I greet my team and check in on my vendors for the day. Today goes by quickly, the hours somehow shortened as we breeze through the last sessions, dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s, if I may use a platitude. Tommy’s Pool Party marks the end of Summit 2021 and another show is in the books.

After some post-show wrap-up, we celebrate with our traditional team dinner at a posh little restaurant downtown. The patio offered a serene escape from the madness of the outside world and respite from the whirlwind of our lives. I appreciate these moments so much as we are able to let our proverbial hair down and talk about something other than business. These little pockets of time, where life seems to briefly slow down, make us stronger as a team. Plus, each time I get to know some pretty awesome ladies a little bit better.

I am pleased to say that everything went according to plan, as much as is to be expected anyway, which I was immeasurably grateful for. The preparation is always a long road, but one we are content to drive. It is truly amazing to work so hard on an event — planning, coming up with new ideas, scheduling, putting all the pieces together — and then see it come to fruition. From the happiness and sense of comradery with my team to the enjoyment our members get from these shows, I can safely say this the best and most fulfilling job that I have ever had.

See: Summit 21 in the Rearview

That being said, and with the Summit 2021 in the bag, I am now off to a show of a different sort: Playing Grace Farrell in a local production of “Annie.” What a week! And I can’t wait to do it all again. Fingers crossed and pedal to the metal for Nashville…

Amanda Hagey is Events Administrator for YSN publisher AVB Inc., where she specializes in meetings and trade shows.

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