One-on-One with Michelle Tarallo

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Spears Group's Director of Special Events describes her roles and experiences in a quick Q&A.

Q: How would you describe your role as Director of Special Events?

A: As Director of Special Events, I am ultimately in charge of creating and developing amazing experiences, which are part of the Spears Group events portfolio. Some of these experiences are tried and true, like Le Dîner en Blanc - New Orleans, which celebrated its fifth edition this year, while some are new and exciting, like the National Fried Chicken Festival, which has become a huge success in only two years. A major part of this is through the involvement and support of partners and sponsors. Without them, none of these incredible events would be possible. I work with a wide range of clients to integrate their brands into our events in meaningful ways, both enhancing the experience for our guests and the return on investment (ROI) for our clients.


Q: How have major events evolved in the last five years?

A: I think there are two major areas of development in events: guest experience and sponsor integration. The guest experience is radically changing due to the rise of millennials and the new ways in which we consume our information and absorb experiences. We have to constantly think about how we can keep our guests entertained and what is most meaningful to them whether it’s good music, short lines, or maybe the best selfie-taking experience. Sponsor integration is essentially following these trends with a lot of new emphasis on how brands help guests experience the event; charging stations, technology-driven activations, lounge area with a plethora of amenities that induce conversation and dialogue between consumers, etc. It's all about the experience!


Q: How do you measure the success of events?

A: If we create something new that has the potential to grow and delivered a positive guest experience and had positive sponsor feedback, I say we did a great job. Of course there are nuances to these answers and nothing is ever perfect, but in the end, did we create an experience that is worth remembering? The answer to this question has to be yes for both guests and our partners and sponsors.


Q: Describe the most exciting project you’ve worked on thus far?

A:  Definitely the National Fried Chicken Festival. This event is truly unique to New Orleans and the nation. We started with an idea, a concept that we knew had potential after year one. Even with all the challenges during our first year - small venue and overcrowding, the fact remained: everyone loves fried chicken! So we took our experience from year one, and as we planned for year two, looked through the lens of a potential guest and sponsor, creating platforms to experience the festival in so many different ways. The turnout was incredible (166,000 chicken lovers), the new venue shined, and the guest experience went flawlessly. It felt so good and rewarding to be apart of that.


Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to work in events?

A: Hone in on your communication skills, organizational skills, and critical thinking skills. These come into play whether you’re engaging in business development with potential sponsors or arranging the load in of 40 food vendors at the same time. There is a lot going on, and at the end of the day, you have to be able to navigate yourself efficiently through what is a never-ending, always busy, and at times, physically taxing industry. It’s a roller coaster, but if you’re into that sort of thing — the work is always rewarding!