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May 12, 2020

Business Of Meetings Podcast with Eric Rozenberg

We’re delighted to be speaking to a rock star in our industry today! We have the very insightful Sarah Soliman Daudin joining us. Sarah has been named a rising star by several magazines. She is currently the Vice-Chair of the MPI Global Board of Trustees, she’s the Co-Chair of the MPI Women’s Advisory Board, and she is the incoming President of the MPI Greater Orlando Chapter. Sarah has her own production company and she offers her services as a volunteer to many different organizations. She is very involved in the industry with the #MeetingsToo Movement, with Courtney Stanley, and she’s also an incredible entrepreneur and business owner.

Starting her company

Sarah has been in the meetings and events industry for ten years now. She started her own company, Soliman Productions, five years ago.

Before starting her company, Sarah spent about four-and-a-half years doing small business startups for another production company. It was through that company that she was introduced to the meetings and events industry, which is something that she is very grateful for.

After some time, Sarah began feeling uncomfortable in the situation that she had once felt very comfortable in. This led her to examine her options, and she found the idea of starting her own business to be very appealing. Fortunately, she had grown up with a father who is a business owner and this gave her the backbone and support of knowing what it would take for her to go into business for herself.

So, out of Sarah’s uncomfortable feelings, her company, Soliman Productions, was born.

Commitment to the industry

After starting Soliman Productions, Sarah did not feel fully committed to staying in the meetings and events industry. She knew, however, that she wanted to do production, either for businesses or generally, so decided to make production the core of her business.

Relationships

Relationships are key in the meetings and events industry. And it was Sarah’s relationships that eventually pulled her back into the industry. Many of the people she had built strong relationships with over the years found out that she was stepping out on her own, and doing production, and they asked her to continue working with their organizations.

Now, Sarah feels that becoming an entrepreneur was the best decision that she has made so far.

Facing a crisis in business

The current pandemic is not the first crisis that Sarah has faced. She’s faced smaller and more controllable crises in the past, so she knows that she can control her reactions. The current crisis, however, has brought about a completely different world, even for those who have been in business for a long time, and those who endured 9/11, or the crisis back in 2008.

So, although the current situation is unique to everybody, Sarah is, as always, up for the challenge, and so is her team.

Finding solutions

When the number of postponements and cancellations in Sarah’s business continued growing, she knew she was facing a real crisis.

Sarah points out that it’s scary right now when your business is based on face-to-face meetings. The current situation has been eye-opening for her, as a young business owner, and she’s had to focus on being creative, collaborating, finding solutions, and sustaining revenue.

Soliman Productions provides video content, mostly for associations. This involves traveling all over the world to create on-site video content. So, if there’s no on-site event happening, there’s no video content to provide.

Sarah’s pivot 

A few months back, Sarah explained to her team that although they were still healthy as a business, things could change drastically over the next few months. So they had to put their heads together, as a family unit, and come up with a solution to keep the business going.

They took the virtual approach and partnered up with Dahlia + Agency. And they drew on their combined experience with production to create an immersive experience, from content, to design, to activations, to the technology.

Soliman Productions and Dahlia + Agency collaborated to create a virtual experience. And they did the best they could to conserve their revenue for the organizations which had to cancel their face-to-face meetings.

They had the time to create something that could take a tech company many years to create. It has proven to be a very worthwhile experience, and the learning they have all taken from it has been huge.

The most impressive part for Sarah was watching her team figure things out successfully, and pivot as a unit.

Learning from her dad

Sarah’s dad has always been cool, calm, and collected, and nothing fazes him. He finds solutions quickly because he doesn’t panic. He understands that when you panic, you impact how your mind perceives information and the way you react to it.

This has always stuck with Sarah, and it has been a very valuable lesson for her in the way she approaches any kind of crisis in her life. She has learned to see a crisis as an opportunity, rather than a roadblock.

Coping with the next few weeks

Sarah’s advice to people who are struggling to cope with the current situation is to find a way to keep developing their skills.

Planners can use their platforms to create virtual events. These platforms include social media, and organizations like MPI, PCMA, and IEE.

This is also a good time to explore some other industries, for employment opportunities. Some companies are booming right now, with so much going virtual.

It’s also very important to maintain relationships during this downtime. Because, although the current situation is difficult, and no one knows when it will end, it won’t last forever.

Make sure that you take good care of yourself and keep your mind in a positive place because the current situation is draining for everyone from a mental health perspective.

It’s best to remain transparent about things right now and to ask for help if necessary. Remember that we’re all in this together.

A great initiative from MPI

The MPI, as an organization, cares about its members. Due to the unique current situation, they have collaborated with MPI Global to help fund a program where members in need can go through a process of having conversations with people within MPI Global, to share their stories.

Another great initiative from MPI is that they have now opened the entire content of the MPI Academy.

Volunteer leadership 

Sarah is passionate about volunteer leadership and it has been life-changing for her. Apart from giving her exposure and helping to build her network, she has also learned a huge amount from people who are much smarter and more talented than she is.

Through volunteer leadership, Sarah has also been able to develop her skill set, as a leader and as a professional in her field, and she has learned a whole lot about the industry.

Launching the #Meetings Too Movement

Sarah interviewed Courtney Stanley for an MPI segment on the #Meetings Too Movement. After the interview, they kept the conversation going, off the record. They were both transparent about certain situations they had faced, and so they decided to educate the industry about some tangible things that could be done, by planners and supplier partners collaboratively, to find a way to prevent harassment from taking place at face-to-face meetings and events.

It was eye-opening for them to see how little the subject of sexual harassment has been discussed within organizations. So they put together a ten-step plan of tangible items that they have been presenting at events and meetings.

Their biggest success story is that sexual harassment is no longer a taboo subject and the conversation is happening right now. Moving forward, they would like to see how organizations are implementing what they have learned and how they will approach sexual harassment going into their next event.

Sarah and Courtney would love to create an industry that is safe from the sexual harassment of both women and men, for future generations.

Resources:

Soliman Productions  – https://www.solimanproductions.com/

Dahlia + Agency – https://dahliaplus.com/

MPI – https://www.mpi.org/

PCMA – https://www.pcma.org/

IEEE – https://www.ieee.org/

About the author 

Eric Rozenberg

For two decades, Eric Rozenberg has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and produced conferences in more than 50 countries across diverse industries. His focus is creating meetings that are not only breathtakingly memorable but which bring corporate strategies to life and amplify team motivation/performance.

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