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12 Books Every Event Prof Should Read This Summer

Planning your summer reading list? We've got you covered.

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Photo: fornStudio/Shutterstock.com

Is there anything better than a great book recommendation from a friend? We tapped some top event professionals to share the books—new or old—that have stuck in their minds and helped them do their jobs. These career-driven books can help improve your networking skills, better your business relationships, understand your customers, and so much more.

To understand the power of hospitality:2

Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect by Will Guidara was published in October 2022. Guidara is the founder of Thank You, a creative agency that helps companies across disciplines make the choice to be in the hospitality industry, plus the former owner of Eleven Madison Park. He was 26 when he took over the acclaimed New York eatery, which he transformed into one of the best restaurants in the world through a true partnership between the kitchen and the dining room—and some over-the-top, bespoke hospitality moments. Today, the book claims, every business can choose to be a hospitality business—and we can all transform ordinary transactions into extraordinary experiences.

Event prof endorsement: “So obvious and simultaneously life-changing,” says Cindy Tenner, events manager, clients and markets, for law firm Dentons. Jodi Collen, director of meetings and events for Great Clips Inc., agrees. “Truly one of the best business books I’ve read in years, and especially good for those in the events/hospitality space," she says. "I found this to be particularly compelling in audio. Guidara provided the narration and it was fantastic. I found myself looking for excuses to go for a walk so I could keep listening!”

3To improve your networking skills: 

Never Eat Alone by leadership coach Keith Ferrazzi is an oldie but a goodie. Originally published in 2005, and later updated with advice for the digital world, it's a guide for anyone looking to excel professionally through the power of authentic networking. Ferrazzi lays out the specific steps—and inner mindset—he uses to reach out to connect with the thousands of colleagues, friends, and associates on his contacts list. Among his advice? Tips for using social media sites like LinkedIn to make meaningful connections, spark engagement, and curate a network of people who can help you with your interests and goals.

Event prof endorsement: “I read this book when I was starting out in the entertainment industry and it taught me how building genuine relationships can propel your career forward,” says Chet Mehta, founder and CEO of PR DEPT. “The book teaches the importance of generosity and connecting with others on a personal level to make deep connections. Whether you're just starting out in your career or seeking to advance to the next level, Never Eat Alone provides the insight and mindset needed to create meaningful professional relationships and achieve lasting success." 

To better your business connections: 4

Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business is a bestselling business book from restaurateur Danny Meyer, the force behind Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and Shake Shack. The book, published in 2008, digs into how Meyer built his restaurant empire, and the lessons he learned developing the philosophy he calls "enlightened hospitality." The tenets of that philosophy, which emphasize strong in-house relationships as well as customer satisfaction, are applicable to anyone who works in business. 

Event prof endorsement: “In my mid-20s in NYC, I transitioned from working in hotels and restaurants to working in corporate America. Setting the Table was invaluable,” remembers Jayne Herring, director of special events for the Pacific Symphony. “I put one of the quotes onto canvas to hang in my most recent office: 'Within moments of being born, most babies find themselves receiving the first four gifts of life: eye contact, a smile, a hug, and some food. We receive many other gifts in a lifetime, but few can ever surpass those first four.'"

Screenshot 2024 06 13 At 10 01 03 AmTo build long-term client relationships:

Professional relationships are all about trust—and The Trusted Advisor, published in 2001 by professional advisors David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford, wants to teach you to how to get there. But technical mastery of one's discipline isn't enough, they argue. Instead, the key to professional success is the ability to earn the trust and confidence of clients. The authors use easy-to-understand anecdotes, experiences, and examples to outline their points.

Event prof endorsement: "The book presents a detailed road map on how to develop authentic trust and build long-term client relationships, both of which are critically important in the service-based world of events," says Adam Sloyer, CEO of Sequence Events

To understand what your customers want:5

Another must-read classic? The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine and James Gilmore. Originally published in 1999, the book offers new ways to think about connecting with customers and securing their loyalty—answering the question, “With an ongoing torrent of brands attacking consumers from all sides, how do you make yours stand out?” The authors draw examples from brands like the U.S. Army, Heineken Experience, Autostadt, Vinopolis, American Girl Place, and more to show fresh approaches to scripting and staging compelling experiences.

Event prof endorsement: “The Experience Economy is one of my all-time favorites!” says Susie Kilcoyne, founder of The Visionary Room.

7To be inspired:

In need of some motivation? The Pursuit of Excellence: The Uncommon Behaviors of the World's Most Productive Achievers draws from leadership advisor Ryan Hawk’s hundreds of podcast interviews with some of the world’s most productive people. He identified a pattern of unique behaviors that set these people apart, and gathered them into a practical guide that outlines actions to take, experiments to run, and tools to analyze what works best for you. 

Event prof endorsement: “A key takeaway for me was trying to figure out my purpose,” says Larna Jackson, managing director of Event Options: Conference Registration Solutions. “I want to believe that my work makes a difference—but on days when you are packing and unpacking boxes and the hours are extremely long, you doubt if this is meaningful work. This book taught me that my job is to find something I am good at and then spend thousands of hours to apply the grit and sacrifice and willingness to break through hard things to become great at it. Once you are great at something, the benefits (prestige, the relevance, the camaraderie, the self-worth of being great) will make you passionate about the event.”

To improve your pitching game:Screenshot 2024 06 13 At 10 05 46 Am

Sales Pitch: How to Craft a Story to Stand Out and Win by marketing expert April Dunford was published in September 2023. Using a simple step-by-step method and compelling case stories, the author guides you through a solid sales pitch structure that helps customers make confident buying decisions, while positioning you to clearly win in the market. Some highlights? Learning why a sales pitch is a unique style of story designed to help your customer say “yes” with confidence, plus the he eight components of a solid sales pitch.

Event prof endorsement: Matthew Byrne, founder and president of Byrne Production Services, describes the book as "a resource for event professionals—who are experts at creating experiences and creating designs and creative direction—to remember that we should be positioning our services as solutions to problems that our customers are having."

8To get back to basics:

If the event industry has any sort of go-to textbook, it’s likely The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker. Published in 2018, the book became an instant classic by arguing that we rely too much on routine and the conventions of gatherings when we should focus on distinctiveness and the people involved. Drawing on her expertise as a facilitator of high-powered events around the world, Parker takes us inside conferences, meetings, and other gatherings of all kinds to show what works, what doesn't, and why.

Event prof endorsement: “This is essential reading for anyone doing experience design professionally,” says Sourabh Kothari, co-founder and CEO of employee wellness platform Mindcurrent. “Priya Parker's manifesto isn't long, but you'll want to reflect on every chapter because she's clearly taken an extraordinary amount of time and research to formulate her principles. She’s teaching intentional experience design from the ground up, in the most unassuming way.”

To help with international events:9

Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than 60 Countries is a useful guide to international business etiquette—and a must-read for anyone planning events in foreign countries. The book, written in 2006 by Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conaway, spotlights 60 different countries, outlining how to handle common business interactions with grace, respect, and an appreciation for different cultures.

Event prof endorsement: “For my first international event, a former manager gave me Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands,” remembers event marketing consultant Katie Sacco. “It was very useful for that trip and others afterward.”


Bonus: Here are a few more books the BizBash team is loving right now...

1To create more sustainable events:

How We Gather Matters: Sustainable Event Planning for Purpose and Impact by Leor Rotchild—the founder of Do It Green and the executive director of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility—debuted in May 2024. This practical guide aims to help event professionals develop the financial and human resources required to coordinate and implement green, sustainable gatherings. It dives into tips for collaborating effectively with diverse teams and stakeholders, engaging participants authentically while aligning with positive and progressive social and environmental values, responsibly managing the greenhouse gas footprint and waste stream of events, and more. The book is filled with personal insights, behind-the-scenes stories, and case studies from major festivals and forums around the world.

To embrace the power of collaboration:Screenshot 2024 06 13 At 10 39 10 Am

BizBash founder David Adler’s first book, Harnessing Serendipity: Collaboration Artists, Conveners and Connectors, was published in April 2023. Co-written with James Cornehlsen and Andrew Frothingham, the book spotlights 65 in-depth interviews with visionary leaders such as event organizers, business executives, diplomats, politicians, artists, musicians, and forward-thinking individuals—all discussing the true potential of artful collaboration and how it can revolutionize your approach to problem-solving, innovation, and achieving your goals. 

Screenshot 2024 06 13 At 10 16 36 AmTo develop good habits:

For Be the Unicorn: 12 Data-Driven Habits that Separate the Best Leaders from the Rest, author William Vanderbloemen studied 30,000 top leaders and discovered the 12 habits they share. The book, published in November 2023, helps readers learn how to stand out and be irreplaceable in an unstable job landscape and among the rise of AI. Each habit Vanderbloemen mentions includes information on what we know (the hard data behind why the habit is so transformative), what we’ve seen (firsthand accounts by high-achieving professionals on how they live the habit), and what we do (simple ways to build this habit into your daily routine). 

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