Special Events Manager Sarah Swearingen helps make BrandSource shows special

By Janet Weyandt, YSN

For Sarah Swearingen, being part of the AVB Events team is more than knowing how to put together an event for a few thousand people. It’s about bringing people together and making sure they have what they need to be successful. 

Swearingen, 28, joined the AVB Events team five years ago, fresh out of college with a degree but not much events planning experience. 

That turned out to be a bonus. She came onboard at exactly the right time to help shape the team into what it is today — a crew of pros who can make things happen with surgical precision. 

Swearingen helps a member during registration at Convention 2023.

“They took a chance on me,” Swearingen said. “I didn’t have solid event planning experience and that worked in my favor. I was able to be molded into exactly what our needs are.”

Now wearing the title of special events manager, Swearingen is second-in-command to VP of Events Jennifer Baldwin. That means she is responsible for specialty events and has a more supervisory role on all the member region meetings the team is responsible for.

Baldwin said Swearingen is committed to helping both her team and BrandSource’s members succeed and grow. 

“She comes to the table with fresh ideas and ways to make events better and more engaging for all of our attendees,” Baldwin said. “She’s always in a good mood and her positive attitude is infectious. You can really see how much she loves what she does through her work.”

For Swearingen, event planning has evolved from the goals she had as a college student into a specialized skill that taps into her talents in a way other jobs wouldn’t. 

“I always knew I wanted to do event planning, and like any events person I wanted to be a wedding planner,” she said. “You have to be creative, first off. You’re kind of thrown into the fire in events. No degree in the world is going to prepare you for a worst-case scenario: someone gets hurt, or ordering food for thousands of people.”

Swearingen’s marketing degree from the University of Nevada-Reno came with a side of business administration, which provided the foundation for her career. And resourcefulness is the name of the game. 

“Previously, I managed registration and that was my set main responsibility at a (national BrandSource) show,” she said. “Now I’m not doing that as much; I’m more of a resource. I help put out fires, but ‘fires’ isn’t the right word. Being a good event planner means there are no fires.”

In addition to scouting and planning for the group’s two national shows, various meetings for its 14 geographic regions and multiple other gatherings throughout the year, the Events staff also works closely with members to make sure their experience at the annual Summits and Conventions are positive ones. And that relationship with members is one of the things that sets BrandSource apart. 

Swearingen, right, confers with colleagues during Convention 2023.

“Our motto is ‘It’s all about the member,’ but literally our whole job is creating memorable experiences for members,” Swearingen said. “I love that piece of it. Could AVB essentially hire an agency to run our events? Sure. But our culture is getting to know who we’re planning events for so they can be even more impactful.”

That requires Swearingen to be an expert on just about everything that goes on with just about every team at AVB, so everybody — from members to managers to co-workers — are getting what they need. 

“Our job is to bring people together, and that’s why our team has such a unique position within AVB,” she said. “We know the vendors, the members, all the teams. We connect everyone together — that’s a huge part of what we do. We’re fully focused on making sure our events are meaningful for members. They’re taking time away from their businesses, so it really has to be worth their time.” 

Sarah and the Events team are gearing up for next month’s Summit 2024 at Harrah’s/Caesar’s Forum in Las Vegas. To register, click here.

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