Event Planner Spotlight: Clint Upchurch
In between producing fabulous parties and events, Clint Upchurch, Senior Account Executive at Extraordinary Events, found time to answer a few of our questions about his career and where he finds inspiration.
1. How did you get started in the event production industry, and how did you make the transition to working with Extraordinary Events?
The early part of my career was in retail, which traditionally isn’t a big money maker. My friends were “cater waiters” and at the time, the $12/hr they were making was BIG MONEY, so I asked them to please “hook me up.” In no time at all, I realized that this industry…the Special Events industry…was for me. Luckily, the industry felt the same.
I rose up through the ranks pretty quickly and in no time was managing a large catering company. However, what wasn’t for me were the 6- and 7-day work weeks. With two small children vying for my attention on the weekends, I just couldn’t give it to them. One of my clients was an event production company that mostly focused on corporate events which were mainly held during the week! Music to my ears!
After making the transition to event production and earning my stripes, I was asked by Extraordinary Events to consider making a move to their team. What was to consider? An international Event Production and Marketing firm…run by a pillar in our industry…with the opportunity to work all over the world was for me. That was 5 years ago last November and I haven’t looked back since.
2. With a background in catering, do you find yourself placing a heavy emphasis on food presentation and menus?
Absolutely. The guest experience is the number one priority when planning our events, and a big part of that is the dining experience. That being said, we work hard with our hotels and caterers to provide the best gastronomic experience possible. There are trends to consider such as farm-to table, creating things with liquid nitrogen and new ways to expedite service therefore eliminating long lines.
Another important thing to consider is special dietary needs. Not just gluten-free, but Kosher, Halal, vegan, etc. Once you have made those accommodations, making sure that items that fit within these restrictions are clearly marked and that ALL waitstaff are aware is imperative…or why go through the trouble? Making sure that EVERY guest feels as though you have taken their needs seriously will ensure that everyone is happy.
Movies. Fashion. Interior Design. Architecture. I find inspiration from all of these areas. Once I see something I like, I try to see how that can be morphed into something that can be used in our events. Luckily I work with an award-winning team of in-house Producers and Designers and together we come up with the ideas that mimic some of the looks we find particularly amazing. Another place I find inspiration is industry events, conferences and magazines.
4. You’ve produced large-scale events throughout the United States, Mexico, and Bermuda, just to name a few—are there any additional challenges to producing an event abroad as opposed to in the U.S.?
We work differently here in the U.S. and have a different set of expectations than many other places in the world. Not better, not worse, just different. Our standards are higher here than in many places and to go to those locations and expect things to be done the same way is naïve.
My advice: do your homework. Talk with colleagues that have worked there before and plan for the worst. Give yourself extra time, have a contingency plan in place, and something that a lot of us can forget in the heat of the moment, be nice. If you come into a different culture and try to get them to do everything your way, it can backfire on you. So play nicely and gently “persuade.”
5. What, in your opinion, is the most important aspect of event planning as it factors into the overall success of an event?
One answer is right there in the question: “planning.” The other important aspect is being able to be flexible. We all plan for nothing to go wrong, but things ALWAYS do. It is how you deal with it and your flexibility to find another solution that will make you and your event a success. The other important aspect is attention to detail. Sometimes it’s the smallest detail that leaves the biggest impression.
6. What is your favorite piece from designer8*’s collections? Have you used any one element in two distinctly different ways?
There is one collection I have used several times (in fact I think I am using ALL of your inventory of it next month), and it is the Jax silver leather seating collection. I absolutely am in love with grey lately and not only does this collection satiate that current obsession, I think the armless design is great for event seating. Other than that, all of the reclaimed wood collection is in high demand and another one of my loves.