Sarah Soliman Daudin discusses how she learned to adapt on the fly, and what other event professionals can learn from her experience.
Sarah Soliman Daudin, DES, president and CEO of Soliman Productions, describes herself as small and feisty. As such, she was not going to let a little thing like COVID-19 derail what has become one of meetings and events industry's most influential careers.
Like all of us, Daudin has been forced to adapt to the changing times. While not always a pleasant or smooth process, it has been a fulfilling one. She's taken her broadcasting background and reinvented herself into a virtual event producer. It's not surprising Daudin, president of the MPI Greater Orlando Chapter and Vice Chair of Chapter for MPI's Global Board of Trustees, is a leading voice in the burgeoning omnichannel track that event planners are incorporating as the industry rebounds.
ALHI President and CEO Michael Dominguez recently spoke to Daudin as part of his "Beyond the Meeting Podcast" series to discuss how event professionals can succeed despite unforeseen roadblocks.
Michael Dominguez: With everything going on today, the world is so uncertain and changing day by day. But we still get into processes and overthink things. Do you experience that that in your everyday life and business?
Sarah Soliman Daudin: I've learned a lot about myself over the past few months since our friend COVID hit, including how uncomfortable I am with the unknown. I think a lot of us are this way. I started my business a little over five years ago, and I've always had this anxiety to improve and grow my business. For this scenario to hit and navigate it is so much challenging. I've been overthinking and I fall into the trap of not being sure what's next and where we're headed. Luckily, I have great team and support system and that's been crucial.
MD: You've taken what you've normally done and pivoted. Go through that and how scary it was.
SSD: I still haven't had time to process what's happened and how we got here. I remember getting those cancellations like everyone in the industry and I panicked. We do production, and I knew we could pivot into virtual. In doing research, I started to realize there's nothing to make a fully customizable virtual experience to where almost any request can be delivered. It was almost one-size-fits-all and I don't like to operate that way. I had to challenge my team to think differently. We're still learning. I still have sleepless nights. It' s been learning journey and a journey of growth, which I'm always for.
MD. You have been my mentor through this when it comes to virtual and omnichannel People think about the technology, they don't think about the objective; they don't think about the production. Can you talk about how important that mindset is?
SSD: Virtual, and programming not all taking place from one place, has been happening for years. Coming from a broadcasting background, I understand that. I understand there is someone in the booth in a newsroom producing the show with a mix, to your point of omnichannel, with a mix of live in-studio production, field reporters and then also pre-recorded contentpackages as we called them in the news world. That all creates this virtual show that has been happening forever. It was a matter of time the events industry got on board with that. Our hands were just forced into it and that's not a bad thing. But it's not about the technology. Technology will fail youmy team won't and the partnership won't.
MD: What is your advice for people getting into virtual for the first time?
SSD: Listening in definitely key. That's been one thing that has been most been frustrating on my side of the spectrum and as a producer and a partner. When you building something outside of Zooman actual event experienceand you have 800 speakers and 200 exhibitors in-person you want people through [online], it's impossible. Someone keeping it real will tear it out. You have to learn to let go.
MD: You have a lot of volunteer positions in the industry, particularly with MPI. Talk about challenges in this time frame trying to keep your team motivated and trying to keep volunteers motivated.
SSD: Going into my year as president at the MPI Orlando chapter, I had a plan in place. I was ready to do things that I have not been able to accomplish because my priorities had to shift because of COVID. Board members had to drop off their prior commitment for obvious reasons. It motivates me to inspire, and not to settle, and to find opportunities to still connect people for that next job or next friendship. I'm inspired by weird things and one of those weird things is the chaos we're in.
I also realized I needed to do stuff that keeps me sane as well, so I can be my best self for my team at Soliman Productions and MPI. I signed up at my boxing gym because it's a great stress reliever for me and I've done a lot of house projects.
This interview has been edited and shortened from the full discussion, which can be heard here.