In an engaging session with BD Weekender, Tope Tinubu, an author, and founder of White Orange Management, shared success secrets that makes the event planning industry one of the most recession-proof businesses in Nigeria.
A PRINCE2-certified project manager with a flair for Agile, Tope leverages her diverse background – from coordinating at Lagos Business School to orchestrating high-profile international events – to revolutionise event management.
What inspired you to transition from Program Coordination at Lagos Business School to founding White Orange Management?
I had a tremendous headstart with my career at the Lagos Business School which was called Pan African University back then in 2006 but now known as PanAtlantic University.
I was opportuned to understand the entire process of planning and coordination of conferences, trainings and all, well.I learnt about them the right way and fell in love with event management, planning and program coordination.
I was exposed to world class practices in program coordination and I knew that I will do the same for a very long time.
Interestingly, I delved into many other sectors like Insurance, IT, EdTech and Operations but I knew I will go back to my 1st love which is Event Management.
In Nigeria, event planning emerges as a recession-proof business due to its intrinsic connection to cultural and social values. Regardless of economic downturns, celebrations like weddings remain deeply ingrained in our society
How has your background in Project Management and Agile Methodologies shaped your approach to event planning?
My background in Project Management and Agile Methodologies has strengthened my ability to adapt, prioritize, and collaborate effectively. These skills seamlessly translate into event planning, allowing for flexibility, efficient organization, and a focus on delivering successful outcomes.
What key factors make event planning a recession-proof business?
In Nigeria, event planning emerges as a recession-proof business due to its intrinsic connection to cultural and social values. Regardless of economic downturns, celebrations like weddings remain deeply ingrained in our society.
The resilience of these cultural milestones ensures a consistent demand for event planning services. Even during lean times, people prioritise these life events, albeit possibly on a more intimate or scaled-down level.
Moreover, the diverse nature of events beyond weddings contributes to the industry’s stability. From corporate gatherings to milestone birthdays, the need for professional event coordination persists. In essence, event planning in Nigeria thrives on the universal human desire for connection and celebration, making it a robust and recession-resistant business.
How have you incorporated technology to streamline high-profile event planning?
Incorporating technology and ‘tech’ techniques has been integral to streamlining high-profile event planning. Leveraging advanced event management software has allowed for seamless communication, efficient task management, and real-time collaboration among team members.
Additionally, embracing innovative event tech, such as utilizing AI tools that enhances the overall planning precision and guest experience.
By staying at the forefront of technological advancements, we’ve optimized processes, improved communication, and heightened the overall efficiency of high-profile event planning. This tech-savvy approach ensures that we not only meet but exceed the expectations of our clients in this dynamic and fast-paced industry.
So, if I could ‘run’ 50 kilometers per hour on my own as an event planner, ‘tech’ allows me to ‘run’ 80 kilometers per hour and be more efficient.
Can you share a particularly challenging event you managed and how you navigated those challenges?
In 2014, I was privileged to “Project Manage” and plan the NLI Fellows Program at the New haven Campus of Yale University, Connecticut, USA. This 5-day residential program was designed for outstanding talents. The Fellows category was a reward for past and present accomplishment.
It was the pioneer edition and the expectations were high. We had about 9 months to plan this successfully and that involved a lot of stakeholder relationships, virtual team management and liaison with the Yale University staff, reports to the management and board of the organization and many more back end steps. There was also the big element of curriculum development, which meant we had to ensure there was a balanced merger of the Nigerian experience and uniqueness in the sessions .
I had to be at the Yale University campus ahead of other attendees to ensure there were no gaps. It was indeed a herculean and rewarding task as it felt quite hectic mid way into the planning but the end goal kept me going and it was a success and birthed another edition. I received a commendation letter for this and it made the entire experience worth it.
How has the current inflation in Nigeria impacted the event planning industry, and what strategies do you employ to manage these economic challenges?
The current inflation in Nigeria has undeniably posed challenges for the event planning industry. Rising costs of essentials such as venue rentals, catering, and decorations have necessitated a strategic approach.
To manage these economic challenges, we have implemented meticulous budget planning and negotiation techniques, seeking cost-effective alternatives without compromising on quality. Additionally, fostering strong relationships with suppliers allows us to navigate price fluctuations more effectively.
Embracing digital solutions has also been instrumental in overcoming economic hurdles. Virtual consultations and online collaboration tools help reduce logistical costs while maintaining a high level of service. By staying agile, cost-conscious, and leveraging technology, we navigate the impact of inflation, ensuring our clients still receive exceptional event experiences despite economic constraints.
As an author, what prompted you to write “Becoming a Pro Event Planner – Secrets from a Project Manager”?
I wrote “Becoming a Pro Event Planner – Secrets from a Project Manager” because I wanted to help new event planners kick start their journey with the right tools and insights.
Drawing on my experience as a project manager and an event planner, I aimed to provide practical tips and secrets that simplify the complex world of event planning. The book serves as a guide to ensure aspiring event planners begin their career armed with knowledge, making the learning curve smoother and more enjoyable.
What are the most significant trends you foresee in event planning, especially in a post-pandemic world?
In the post-pandemic landscape of event planning, a notable trend in Nigeria and globally is the continued integration of hybrid events.
This approach caters to both in-person and virtual attendees, ensuring inclusivity and adaptability. Moreover, sustainability practices are gaining prominence, with a growing emphasis on eco-friendly event elements and responsible sourcing. There are individuals and organizations who will insist on flowers for their decoration as against balloons.
Many people prefer e-copies of invitation letters, program leaflets to hard copy printed copies which is usually a waste after the event. Barcodes are now been embraced for various elements of events. These simple trends collectively reflect a dynamic shift in the industry, combining innovation, inclusivity, and sustainability for the evolving needs of event-goers.
How do you balance maintaining world-class best practices while catering to the unique needs of each client?
Every client is unique. Balancing world-class best practices with the unique needs of each client involves a tailored approach. By establishing a solid foundation rooted in industry standards, I ensure a consistent level of excellence. Simultaneously, I actively listen to and understand the distinct requirements of each client, adapting strategies and details to align with their vision. This personalized touch within the framework of established best practices ensures a harmonious blend, delivering exceptional results tailored to the individuality of each event. I am quite people centric so this makes this relatively easy for me.
Can you discuss the role of credible leadership in event planning and your experience as a Level 5 leader?
Having worked at the Nigerian Leadership Initiative for several years significantly shaped my commitment to credible leadership, a principle I seamlessly integrate into event planning.
In the realm of event coordination, credible leadership is pivotal for fostering trust, effective communication, and team synergy.
As a Level 5 leader, my focus on humility, unwavering resolve, and dedication to the success of both the team and the event has been instrumental. This leadership style not only ensures a cohesive planning process but also sets the tone for a positive and collaborative atmosphere, ultimately enhancing the overall success and credibility of the events I manage.
What advice would you give to aspiring event planners about starting their journey in this industry?
For aspiring event planners, I’d emphasise the importance of gaining hands-on experience through internships or entry-level positions to understand the intricacies of the industry. Networking is key; connect with seasoned professionals and attend industry events to broaden your knowledge and build relationships. Stay updated on emerging trends and technology to stay ahead in this dynamic field. Lastly, be adaptable, detail-oriented, and cultivate strong communication skills – qualities essential for successful event planning.
With the rise of virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and Google Meet, how has your approach to event planning evolved, and what opportunities do these platforms present for the industry?
The prevalence of virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and Google Meet has revolutionised my approach to event planning. It has expanded the scope of possibilities, allowing for hybrid events that seamlessly blend physical and virtual experiences. These platforms offer opportunities for increased accessibility, enabling a broader audience reach and fostering global participation.
Embracing these virtual platforms has not only adapted my strategies to the digital landscape but has also unlocked exciting possibilities for more dynamic and inclusive events in the industry.
The reach is easy and stressless and curbs the barriers of distance. I can speak to my clients in Dubai, London or New York without limitations and we can have detailed meetings pre – event.
As a professional manager, how do you see the future of event planning evolving in Nigeria and globally?
The future of event planning in Nigeria and globally is poised for dynamic evolution. In Nigeria, the blending of traditional and modern elements in events will likely continue, with a growing emphasis on cultural authenticity.
Virtual and hybrid events will become more prevalent, leveraging platforms like Zoom and social media for broader audience engagement. Additionally, sustainable practices will gain prominence, reflecting a global shift towards eco-friendly events.
The industry’s future holds opportunities for innovation, from incorporating local artistry into event design to utilizing cutting-edge technology for immersive experiences. As Nigeria’s event planning scene continues to flourish, embracing these trends will be crucial for staying at the forefront of the evolving landscape.
This will mean that event planners have to up their games conscientiously as the competition will become more and applied knowledge will be needed to stand out.
I have an online course that is poised at helping event planners stand out and secure high profile events. I encourage event planners to sign up for such, trusted trainings with track records and be intentional about growing their skills and knowledge.