As part of Back Light, a series of articles sharing illuminating insider observations, we asked Melissa Mahon, executive vice president of operations with MAS and 2021 Smart Woman in Meetings Award winner, to talk about new roles that are becoming crucial in the event experience industry.  

Melissa Mahon

Recruitment in the brand experience industry just got really interesting. To appreciate the shift, I think we need to zoom out and remind ourselves that this industry is only about 12 years old. There was advertising and marketing but experience as we define it today is barely a tween. Bright and shiny but with a long way to go. In the last 15 months, our industry was forced to confront the new realities before us, much like leaving the safety of grade school to conquer high school.

Like an eighth grader used to dominating our middle school for that one precious year, we had become comfortable in our predictable roles as creative directors, producers, graphic designers and planners. But once we got to high school, virtually everything would be different…pun intended. We needed to begin again, to reimagine the landscape of brand experience, the user journey, how to build authentic connection between a brand and its audience, all while working through the growing pains of how we would adapt to our new circumstance.

Adaptability is the key word here. We would be artists in a new medium. Painters that paint with a new brush. And from that lens, Covid catapulted our work into the future.

New Job Descriptions

When looking for new hires now, the hard skills have evolved. Where we used to look for a history of event production, we now want that background alongside video production. Where we used to look for creative design rooted in storytelling and purpose, we now want that alongside killer storyboards. Where we used to look for strategic user journey, we now want to see that play out IRL, in virtual and on social. We are looking for unicorns. But guess what… they are out there!

We are entering the ‘hybrid phase’ and it couldn’t be more exciting. It’s not less. It’s more of everything! More strategy, more integration, more connection, more digital, more creative, more production.

You now need experts to guide the conversation, but you also need a workforce that is above all else adaptable. Our workforce should be willing participants on this ride through adolescence, willing to luxuriate in the unpredictability of the future and how they will define themselves within it. It’s the time when new roles are born out of necessity.

In addition to experience and an all-in attitude, you need to look for true collaborators. You find this in their soft skills. Sometimes that can be difficult to ascertain in the interview process, because everyone is on their best behavior. Try asking questions that encourage more back story, or what part of the project was their responsibility, who else was on the team, how did they feel about the team structure. If they had it to do over again, how would they manage it differently.

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You are looking for signs of appreciation for others, acknowledgment that this is a team sport. It’s possible that an event or experience may have been one person’s brainchild but I’m certain it was executed by a village. As you add to your team in this hybrid model, remember you are building a community. Collaboration, emotional IQ and empathy are key drivers of success.

A Promising Tomorrow

The future is now. If you want your company to be ready for it, you are looking for excellence alongside a love to learn, a desire to expand and reinvent, and an appreciation for collaborators. There will be long days and long nights ahead, but let’s be inspired by the new opportunity as it presents itself.

Regardless of what you thought about high school the first time, in a few years, we’ll look back at this adventure together with pride.

Melissa Mahon is the executive vice president of operations for MAS Event + Design, was voted among the 100 most influential people in the event industry by EVENTEX and honored on the Smart Women in Meetings Award from Smart Meetings. Her masterful, big thinking approach and empathic leadership has helped grow MAS from a 14-person agency to a 60+ organization, with offices in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Melissa has spearheaded award-winning events such as the Google Home Mini Donut Shop, Google Hardware, YouTube Creator Summit and YouTube Brandcast Delivered.