My Native Admission Statement: I’m the Global Head of Events for the SoftBank Vision Fund, previously an Executive Producer at Google for 10 years, and most recently an author. I am a lifelong learner which has led me to get my sommelier certification, interior design certification, and publish the book, The Art of Event Planning, Pro Tips from An Industry Insider, an Amazon best-seller. I believe everyone is the event planner of their life and I encourage people to live a life by design rather than by accident. My book helps people learn how to become better planners and creators of memories and to create their own serendipity.
How did you get into the industry?
My passion for connecting people is what led me to be an event planner, but it’s creating unique experiences and opportunities that keep me driving forward, with the turn of every new year. You can find me working now as Global Head of Events for the Softbank Vision Fund, which I recently started following a decade on Google’s Events & Experiences team where had the honor of planning world class events for one of the top brands in the world. Each day I’m so eager to attack the day, but not just as a professional event planner. I’m eager to meet my whole life with the same level of commitment and enthusiasm.
Whether it be my dedication to my job, my own self-care and personal goals or the many hats I wear as a wife, mother, author - I believe we all have the ability to choose to manifest our perfect life.
I didn’t go to school for event planning. I actually went to college at UC San Diego with the intention of becoming a doctor. I bet many of you also didn’t go to school to be event planners. The good news is, there are so many innate skills that transfer well to a career in event planning which I discuss in depth in my book, The Art of Event Planning.
After I graduated from UCSD, I read a book called how to get a job with any major. I went through all the exercises in the book and decided that being an event planner was the perfect path for me because I could build a lifelong career doing it. I knew wanted a career that would stay interesting, relevant and allow for continued growth.
Being an event planner is not only exciting but there are so many different reasons for planning events and hence many ways to expand your skillset and experience. I’ve hosted business conferences for 30,000 people, and very high touch events for world renowned CEO’s, influencers and politicians. I’ve worked on product launches and brand and reputation initiatives, CEO summits and women’s events. YouTube Concerts and movie premiers. I love being able to continually evolve and challenge myself to learn and try new exciting things.
If I wasn’t an event planner, I’d be an entrepreneur. I love coming up with ways to improve the world and connecting with others. I’m sort of doing this already in a sense the launch of my book.
Any emerging industry trends?
How to stay on-trend:
Get out from behind your devices. Try to carve out 20 minutes a day of “studio time” - a time to hone your craft. Whether it’s taking an online course, researching something, conducting a brainstorm, or meeting with someone else.
Attend live events and meet new people - sometimes meeting with peers, or people in other industries allows great synergetic brainstorming and melding of the minds. I also attend trainings, book readings, listen to podcasts, follow different people on Instagram, twitter, etc.
be ok with evolving your brand! Google changed their whole logo and approach to branding we matured as a company.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
Unfortunately, most senior event planners don’t have enough time to share their learnings via written text. My goal this past year was to publish a book (The Art of Event Planning) to help event planners produce world class events, and to help anyone create a life by design.
Growing up, I wrote a neighborhood newspaper and as a young professional, authored the wine lifestyle blog, Decantress, so I’ve always had a passion for writing and always hoped to have a good reason to write a book.
After working in the event planning industry for 12 years, I realized writing a book could be a great platform for sharing my learnings and pro tips and opening up a dialogue with others so we can all become better at our craft.
In conversations I was having every week, it became clear to me that there are a lot of people who either want to break into this industry or want to sharpen their abilities and a shortage of good literature covering the topic (probably because we’re all too busy running events!). My book will address how to make event planning a lifelong career, and my secret sauce for producing world class events. In my book you’ll find everything from event strategy, audience acquisition and how to measure ROI to how to create high touch, personalized experiences that surprise and delight your guests, build the best event team, and what to expect in the future.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
During the recession of 2008, I thought the event industry would be moving towards virtual events. Lots of jobs at companies like On24 that developed online virtual event platforms. I don't think we’ll see a proliferation of these as they don't provide the same kind of sensory / networking experience you get from a live event. However, incorporating digital components into current live events is a trend we'll see more of (i.e. livestream with demos like bubbles at I/O, mobile app, virtual concierge).
I think we'll also see virtual reality play a part, whether it's creating content for an event or for pitching event ideas to explore before producing a concept.
We're living in such an "on demand" world now that we'll see more of these types of activations at events. I planned a Think Event where attendees could use the event app to order a cappuccino delivered to their seat. I recently attended a conference with a great event app concierge that helped connect me with people, sessions, and activities that were most relevant to me. There are even websites that will now help you book venues instantly online!
Influencers will play a larger role in events - promotion and validation when people are considering whether to attend. Just look at how successful the infamous Fyre Fest was! They’ll also be part of the conversation and help scale brand messaging via their networks. At our IO event last year, Chrissy Teigen commented on the announcement that John Legend can be the voice of your Google assistant. Instantly, 45K people joined the conversation which gave us so much reach beyond our core developer audience.
The use of AI and beacons to create heat maps during an event will aid planners in making real-time adjustments. Smart floors will allow planners to track popular areas at an event, and times a space is most highly trafficked so they can make adjustments in real time.
Diversity and inclusive practices are becoming key elements for brands and companies. Diversity provides different perspectives to help brands reach different voices and create a more inclusive experience.
Corporate Responsibility is imperative. Sustainable / Green practices are no longer an afterthought - attendees expect it. Green practices are the new normal. Re-think swag. Instead of ending up with bins of waste, provide water bottles that attendees can use at the conference and then beyond to save plastic cups. Or consider giving attendees a credit to make a donation to a charity or a code to purchase their own swag based on their own preference rather than a giveaway they will chuck in the bin.
Community, especially in light of today’s political climate - there is a focus around community both inside the event and giving back to the community that the event takes place at. If you're hosting a large conference in a city, aim to make the place better than when you left it rather than disrupting the city with lots of traffic, road closures and waste. Build community within the event via "birds of a feather" sessions, opt-in group dinners, lunches or breakfasts, 1:1 mentoring sessions, lounges for target demographics, etc.
Mindfulness and wellness: Events can be overwhelming, especially when people are away from their jobs and families and trying to juggle it all while remaining present at your event. Offer healthy options for food that rejuvenates people rather than leaves them feeling crummy, mindfulness meditation lounges are becoming popular, chair massages, and even yoga activities in the morning and other offerings to keep attendees feeling at their peak so they can fully engage at your event.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Think about Diversity and Inclusion.
Businesses are now not only thinking about generating revenue, but ultimately about making the world a better place. I just read a recent survey that 80% professionals felt companies had a responsibility to go beyond profit and make an impact on society. Events as an extension of their brands, can be powerful platforms for demonstrating a company’s commitment to inclusion. But they need to go beyond just talking about it and rather show that they are implementing these practices.
When putting these into practice at events, think not only of your attendees, but who comprises your event team, agencies, vendors. They will bring different perspectives and contributions to the event,
Think of sourcing minority or women owned businesses as vendors - we did this at WLS, and every vendor was women owned. We had two young female YouTube stars giving an interview with Susan W. before performing. They were so excited that the sound technician who worked with them in rehearsal was a woman - they said they’d never met a female sound technician and it was really cool!
Vendors and team members from diverse backgrounds and orientations provide a unique perspective that will make your event richer and inherently more inclusive.
Make sure you're not only your event offerings but your marketing campaigns
Ideal experience for a customer/client? PERSONALIZATION!
People want content and experiences relevant to them. When planning events, it’s important to use insights about the target demographic and what will appeal to them and influence their behavior. Then you can create experiences that cater to the individual.
As often as possible, offer choices when it comes to your event experiences and this simple tactic will demonstrate your attention to different preferences and attendee needs. Use recent seating example at TED.
Push notifications can also help keep attendees in the know about specific things that might interest them in real time during an event. Event apps can target attendees based on selected preferences and then offer recommendations for specific sessions or activities for them to attend to people for them to meet. Just take note that the number of push notifications attendees can receive without getting annoyed is around 10 per day.
Personalization will vary based on the scale of your event, but you can personalize at scale (i.e. swag store choices, agenda builders, 1:1 time with experts, environmental elements).
In general, the higher touch an event, the more you should try to personalize.
When it comes to amenities, you can make a really great first impression. Court Master Sommelier test Exam, picture of my son in hotel room.
How do you motivate others?
Good leadership means building trust, maintaining high morale and clear, open communication.
You also must take accountability for your team if anything goes wrong - I call it being a shit umbrella.
Another key to a successful team is good hiring strategy. Hire a good mix of generalists and specialists and then empower your team.
Generalists are great b/c they can pitch hit based on your evolving event needs.
Specialists can make your event truly unique and can lend expertise that you may not have yourself (i.e. permitting, creative technologists, graphic designers)
Make yourself available and encourage your team to help each other (weekly lunches, office hours, pod meetings). Take the time to get to know your team! The more you form true bonds with the people you work with and show you care about them, the more motivated they are to want to work for you.
Treat everyone with respect - model this to your team and extend to agencies and partners.
Check in frequently and assess what is working well and what could be working better. Check in with each person on flex your communication style and pace and to match that of your team members.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Advice for young professionals:
You likely have few marketable skills and much of this comes from experience that requires time and training.
View every job is a stepping stone - it’ll likely take a few stepping stones before you land your dream job, but each is a necessary step to build that event planning tool kit and make yourself more valuable and marketable.
Try to get as much experience as possible with as many different people, companies, organizations as possible. You’ll not only learn how to work with different types of people, you’ll get an idea of what types of event planning work you prefer to do and can then think of specializing.
Remember that events are not just about the actual event but about the process. You must stay calm through many pivots, and maintain team morale which will translate to success onsite.
What do I do best?
I am an orchestrator and a connector. I thrive on orchestrating everything in life, both personally and professionally. I love bringing people together and making meaningful connections that lead to brilliant opportunities and partnerships.
What makes me the best version of myself?
My husband and my son remind me of what matters most in life, and remind me to stay in the moment with them, no matter how much stress I have accumulated and how many deadlines loom.
What are my aspirations?
To help others learn to live a life by design and create events that lead to life-long memories. For more about my mission, visit giannagaudini.com.
My Biggest Success?
Getting pregnant (after many attempts), and having my close to perfect son, Giacomo. I’ve never been so proud of anything in my life. A close second is publishing my book, The Art of Event Planning. I jokingly call it my second child because it took about the same amount of time to create and felt like a labor of love!
My Most Challenging Moment?
Deciding to leave Google after ten years to go build an event team and strategy for the Vision Fund. It’s hard to leave something that isn’t broken, but ultimately, this is an opportunity to create something new and stretch new muscles, an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Create your own serendipity.
\My Favorite People/Role Models?
RBG, Michelle Obama, my father, my husband, my son.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
Napa wine country is my favorite destination. My husband and I used to go there every weekend to taste wine, relax by the pool and enjoy the delicious farm to table cuisine. Surrounded by the vineyards and nature’s bounty always puts me in a grateful and happy frame of mind.
My Daily Thoughts:
Goal of the Day: I typically set 3 goals each day: 1 work goal, 1 personal goal, and 1 wellness goal.
Thought of the Day: Typically revolves around work and family. My mind is always planning and thinking 3 steps ahead, it’s hard to turn it off.
Action of the Day: Always start the day by kidding my husband and son, treating everyone I interact with the way I’d like to be treated, and being very efficient with my time.
Deed of the Day: Cooking dinner every night for my family.
Tip of the Day: Don’t complain, don’t stress, just take incremental steps towards your goals.
What are you doing at:
6:00 AM – running at the gym while catching up on the news and running through my priorities for the day. As ideas come to me, I email myself using my cellphone so I can address them when I get into the office.10:00 AM – My most creative time of the day. I’m usually in a meeting, but I prefer to use this time to work on focused and creative work.
12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal?
As many fresh vegetables as I can get into lunch and grilled salmon (I’m pescatarian). Washed down with a matcha almond milk green tea.
7:00 PM - I’ve just put my toddler son, Giacomo, down for bed after giving him a bubble bath and reading him books. Now I start cooking a home-made meal for my husband and I which we eat together around 7:30pm, our only time to catch up during most week days.
11:00 PM – I’m in bed sleeping. Since I wake up at 4:45am on weekdays to get in a workout before work, I make sure I get to sleep by no later than 10pm (and usually more like 9:30pm).
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
Almond milk latte – one before workout and one before my work day.
I also enjoy a nice glass of wine, but limit that to Fridays and Saturdays since I need to be sharp on weekdays and even one glass of wine can affect my sleep.
Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?
Amazon – I love being able to order whatever I need via the app with “one-click”. And now that my book is featured on Amazon, it’s nice to check in to see if I’ve received new book reviews. I love hearing from readers!
What should everyone try at least once?
Skydiving. The feeling of flying is surreal, and the exhilaration afterwards lasts for hours. But I can’t say you could get me to do it again!
Where do you enjoy getting lost?
Food markets and French alleyways.
My Pic of the Day: My book, which launched last Tuesday and is an Amazon Best Seller.
What Else to Know?
Bio: Gianna Cardinale Gaudini, is an Executive Event producer for Google with 9 years tenure and 12+ years in the hospitality industry. She leads production for Google’s largest event, Google Cloud Next, a conference in San Francisco for 30K+ attendees and is also a passionate leader of Google’s Women’s events. She is the author of The Art of Event Planning, Pro Tips from an Industry Insider, a book about the strategy for successful engagement in the exciting and growing event planning industry. Gianna holds a Court of Master Sommeliers certification and authors the popular wine lifestyle blog Decantress Wine Diary. She has contributed as a guest sommelier and wine writer to Which Winery, Wine Country Wedding Magazine, Love &, Sonoma Weddings, Destination Races and Event Marketer and also designed the wine list for the 2013 opening of successful SF restaurant, Noir Wine Bar. Gianna’s other passions include interior design (she is certified by the Interior Design Institute), cooking, playing the piano, long distance running, yoga, traveling, and especially, spending family time with her toddler son, Giacomo, and husband, Garrett.
Gianna's new role is Director, Global Head of Events for the Softbank Vision Fund, the world's largest fund ($100B). Gianna's remit is planning live experiences to educate thought-leaders about Vision Fund's efforts to accelerate the advancement of technology for the benefit of humanity and foster mutually beneficial relationships across our unparalleled ecosystem of leading technology companies. Gianna will be building a strategy for Vision Fund's most strategic international events and building a team to support these initiatives.
Interview with Gianna, 11/18 Onsite at Google Campus, Mountain View
Event Marketer Interview 1/15 Las Vegas
Event Leadership Institute 2/19 - Event Personalization
Event Leadership Institute 2/19 - Using Technology for Attendee Engagement
In my words:
I’ve always been a passionate writer; I founded neighborhood newspaper, The Bachman Park Gazette when I was just 8 years old as a way to build community with my neighbors and as a creative outlet (as if I didn’t have enough extracurriculars!). My passion for sharing experiences and inspiring others was the impetus to write The Art of Event Planning. In my book, you will read about some of my favorite events, both social and corporate, and how they support the core elements of successful event planning. I will also share the story of how I built my career and practical advice for anyone considering a career in event planning or seeking to improve their career in this unique and growing industry.
If I could go back to any one day in life, it would be my wedding - I’ll never forget the magical feeling of experiencing the celebration to end all celebrations in Napa, an idyllic locale, my favorite people surrounding and celebrating my union with my soul mate. The live music, starry Napa sky, elements of surprise woven into the event and heartfelt toasts by our friends and family are eternally etched in my memory. Corporate events I’ve planned have generated similar feelings of elation and accomplishment when a labor of love delivers impact and inspires emotion in my attendees. I’ll never forget the inspiring conversations I had with young scientists who traveled around the world for the premiere of Moon Shot, a documentary film screening I produced that premiered at SXSW.