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2022 Connect x BizBash 40 Under 40: Vanessa Loney

Vanessa Loney, 31, is head of global planning at Blue Ribbon Events.

Vanessa Loney

Vanessa Loney, CMP, is the 31-year-old head of global planning at Blue Ribbon Events. She's based in Los Angeles.

What I do: 
Over the past 13 years, I have planned and overseen some of the most elaborate festivals, corporate events and social galas for a client list that includes celebrities, business executives and nonprofits. I have managed and designed events for clients throughout North America, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. My experience working in the financial services industry and nonprofit sector, together with living abroad have given me a unique understanding of client needs and uncanny attention to detail.

Why I love my job:
I love the “messy” part of planning events, when there seems to be a never-ending list of tasks and not enough time or resources to get them done. My favorite part of the event process is taking all the messy and seeing it come alive on-site and feeling the energy of the attendees. There is no greater feeling than making it all come together!

My career journey: 
My events journey started in college, I was the house manager for the campus’s performing arts center where we planned and executed concerts, stage plays, weddings and corporate events. I then graduated and ended up using my accounting degree for two years as an auditor for one of the big four accounting firms. I could not shake my passion for events, and ended up planning award-winning events for a real estate development firm in Philadelphia. I knew then that I could start my own event management firm, Blue Ribbon Events. 

My greatest career accomplishment:
My first official client as an entrepreneur was an event for the United Nations Volunteers inside the UN Headquarters. My most meaningful event was partnering with Lowe’s to help build 60 brand new dressers for a local homeless shelter with raw materials and 40 volunteers. 

How I helped my organization during COVID:
Like most, we had to pivot to virtual events. My staff has always been fully remote and located across the country, so we were able to make the transition seamlessly. 

The time I averted a complete event disaster:
We were on the final day of a multiday conference centered around real estate development, and we caught wind of a community protest planned during our final keynote. During lunch, we told attendees that if this happens, do not engage and allow them to be heard. To help mitigate, we changed the location of the final keynote and had to rearrange our entire set-up.

Sure enough, the protesters found us and came in with a drumline, megaphones and about 75 people wanting to be heard. We allowed them the space to speak and to their surprise, none of our attendees engaged and they ended up leaving as quickly as they entered. We finished our keynote presentation and ended the night/conference on a high note.

My most memorable event experience in the past year:
We planned our first international retreat for a client. Planning travel for 12 people during a global pandemic and many uncertainties was not easy, but so worth it in the end. 

Best advice I’ve ever received:
Stop doing the things you suck at. I now outsource certain tasks to people who actually enjoy doing them. 

Impressive stats I’m responsible for: 
I was hired two months before an event with only 30 tickets sold. After creating a focused marketing plan, we increased ticket sales to 320 by the start of the event. 

What’s next? 
One of our new clients/events estimates close to 5,000 in-person attendees and 10,000 virtual attendees. This will be one of the largest events we have been a part of!

What I do outside of work: 
I sit on my local MPI chapter as the director of special events and have been selected for a second term. 

Dream vacation:
I want to go back to Italy, but this time to the Amalfi Coast. The plan is to eat my way through!

Favorite icebreaker line:
My mom was born and raised in Alaska.

Connect with Loney on LinkedIn.

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“Connect x BizBash 40 Under 40” is sponsored by VDA, an experiential marketing and event design agency based in Massachusetts that specializes in custom live, virtual and hybrid experiences.