Industry Spotlight: Cynthia Richards, President of Event Spectrum
Cynthia Richards is the President of Event Spectrum Inc., a conference, meeting, incentive, and recognition agency based in Toronto. Her visionary approach and over 22 years in the event management industry combine to make Cynthia an influential leader in this industry. Prior to founding ESI in 1997, Cynthia held several senior management positions in the Canadian automotive industry. Acknowledged as one of “Toronto’s Best Bosses,” Cynthia’s leadership abilities have led her to be on the “Top 100 Canadian Women Entrepreneur” list over seven years in a row. Cynthia kindly allowed us to shine the spotlight on her today:
Why did you chose your career and how did you break into the industry or land your current job?
After graduating from university I was hired by a large advertising/PR firm and was promoted to an event coordinator –the industry was very different then as there were no courses or formal education for the field, but there is no question that my love of creating surprises and making people feel special and valued started years ago!
What is your best advice for others in similar careers, based on your professional experience so far?
Be passionate. Be grateful. Keep learning. This is an industry that requires a lot of long hours, challenges, and setbacks – you have to love what you do. It is also an industry that is so exciting, so at Event Spectrum, we are very much aware of always being grateful. With technology, the industry has evolved significantly so continuing to learn is also key.
What advice do you have for speakers?
Know your audience. We really only work with speakers who are open to setting aside time to collaborate with our clients and truly understand their objectives and clearly understand what will engage the audience.
What themes do you see arising in your industry when you book speakers today?
Leadership continues to be our number one request for speakers, but we would also say the importance of connecting–whether on social media or relating relevant stories. Clients are always wanting to have speakers that are engaging and inspiring, but they are also looking for tools they can share with their teams and apply on a daily basis.
Do you have a favourite event that you can tell us about?
An incentive trip that took place in New York city during a major snowstorm in early December. I love snow, so the fact that Central Park was blanketed in white, coupled with fantastic holiday decorations made the city even more magical. The program included Breakfast at Tiffany’s, personal limo’s and drivers, personal shoppers, and a ton of other surprises along the way. The snowstorm added to the fun and the participants were over-the-moon happy with their few days of heaven.
Did you ever have a crazy challenge come up while planning an event?
One of the most memorable was when we had integrated a jungle theme into a product launch. Working with the Granby Zoo, we had a massive tiger and lion as part of the show. Just after the product’s unveiling, we were advised on headsets the tiger was loose in the hotel. Security went into lockdown and we fortunately located it in a few minutes, before the client ever knew. In fact, I don’t think the client ever found out!
After one of your big events is done, what do you do? Celebrate in style? Take a break to relax? Go straight to the next project?
Great question. We do make a point of de-briefing, usually over a glass of wine or dinner (always with our shoes off!). We don’t like to “bask” too much in our success, as with any business you are only as good as the next new idea you can bring to the client.
Is there a charitable cause that you feel passionate about? Why?
Any kind of animal charity, because I am an animal nut. I am also passionate about helping the less fortunate. Every November as a company we decorate a shelter downtown for the holiday season–it is a great afternoon that makes us all feel so good to give our time.
Desert island album?
Everything from John Mayer to The Eagles to Avici. Oh, and most importantly – Christmas carols – any time of year!
Best subject in school?
Last book you read?
An Astronaut’s guide to Life on Earth, by Colonel Chris Hadfield. I read it in two nights and absolutely the best book of 2013 for me – so many life lessons.
Last film you saw?
Blake Shelton, Javier Bardem…