Thoughts as a Speaker at Engage 17 Grand Cayman
Las Vegas based Wedding Planner Andrea Eppolito shares her experience as a first time speaker and five time attendee at the Engage! Luxury Wedding Business Summit.
Each time I leave Engage, I spend my time on the plane rereading my notes and looking through my iPhone photos. I begin to write, trying to put down the emotion, the inspiration, and the education of the week. Inevitably I stop; there is too much to say at once. I stop, I let the week's adventure settle, and when the professional photos come in the entire week washed over me in a totally new and unexpected way.
I went to my first Engage in 2012; seven months pregnant, barely in business for a year, and still wondering if this "wedding thing" was viable in a way that could sustain me both financially and creatively. Each night I returned home, my head spinning. Between those moments of fan-girling (Mindy Weiss! OMG! Brian Worley....Marcy Blume...Elizabeth Messina!) there were these incredible a-ha moments (enter Cindy Novotny) that made me believe to my core that I was right where I needed to be.
As I recounted the events of the week to my husband, he looked me squarely in the face and said, "Five years from now, you'll be speaking at Engage." Blasphemy! What on earth could I teach these people? But you know what? It lit a spark, and became the big, elusive goal that I worked towards.
Two weeks ago, exactly five years after attending my first Engage in Las Vegas, I hosted my own breakout session as a speaker. And let me say....The experience did not disappoint! You see, I knew that there was nothing I could say to make these planners better planners. I cannot teach a photographer how to take a better photo, or entertainers how to have a bigger presence. But I know about living a life of "less but better". I know how to say "no" and I have designed a business to support the life I wanted. Those things I could talk about. Those ideas I could share.
Looking out into the room, there were a mix of attendees who both shook me and and anchored me. I wanted to make CIndy and Lefty (of Master Connections) proud. I wanted to impress everyone, especially Sean Low. I wanted to thank Matthew Myhrum, Brooke Palmer Kuhl, and Phillip Van Nostrand for their friendship and support. I wanted everyone to feel that the 45 minutes they invested with me was time well spent - from first time Engagees to like Molly Bea and Paco de Leon to seasoned veterans like Linda Mitchell. And I wanted to give Paul Morse something worth shooting!
I found it ironic that a conference branded and themed to the idea of "YES" scheduled me to talk about "NO" - but in the end it was perfection. My session sparked the most unexpected conversations that I have ever had, and took me in directions that I could not have imagined. I truly believed that I learned as much as I taught. I am more than honored; I am humbled.
Engage has changed my business and my life. In honor of my 5th Engage, I am sharing....
The Top 5 Stand Outs from Engage 17 Grand Cayman
(That Have Nothing to Do With Speaking)
Grand Cayman is exquisite. I had visited the islands a few times in college and during my early 20s. To go back now gives me a deeper level of appreciation for the people, the culture, and the food. Each and every person that I met was naturally and completely hospitable. There was never a moment when I did not feel utterly taken care of. The Kimpton Seafire and their team never missed a beat, and I am oh so lucky to have been one of the first to get to experience their newest property.
- Buffets for Days! Each meal we had was served via a buffet, displays, or stations. For someone like me (with a random food allergy and all sorts of weird preferences!) this was a dream! I got to pick and eat whatever I wanted! And the weird side effect was that I never felt overly stuffed or full....Meaning I could play and talk and dance all night long!
- We need to talk about money. All of us need to be a lot more transparent with ourselves, our partners, and our clients. Why are some entry level planners charging $3,000 and others are charging $30,000, or $300,000? Where does the technical aspect of planning a wedding end, and the creative artistry begin? And what value does that have? Colin Cowie got up on stage and actually posted his pricing. Paco de Leon spoke about how creatives can be financially stable. Sean Low posed the question of how and why we price as we do. In an industry with little regulation or universally recognized accreditation, working your way through the money side of things can only be done if we all talk a lot more often, and with a lot more honestly.
- Style is the new focus. Whether it was listening to stylish It Girl Dallas Shaw talk about her trajectory from aspiring artist to fashion royalty, watching the team from Vogue weddings walk us through which nuptials catch their eye, or dissecting the sartorial choices of designers and artists, it became clear to me that the standards of pretty are changing. To be noticed, you need to develop a style that cannot be ignored. Be it grand or refined, how we style ourselves, our couples, and our events is what differentiates us, taking the work from "Oh, that's pretty" to viral.
- Engage Friends are the BEST friends. Said it before, will say it again. There is no place in the world outside of Engage where I feel so completely supported and accepted. My fellow Engagees near and far are my cheerleaders, my fans, my greatest critics, my family. And I am theirs. Twice a year (for me) we all get together, suspend disbelieve, and allow Rebecca and Kathryn to take us on the ride of our lives. We talk and laugh and sometimes cry. We tell each other things we would not tell our best friends. And it's ok. We leave better people, and these interactions carry us from one summit to the next. There is no corner of the world that Engage has not touched, and so being a part of the world's coolest summer camp means that I have people anywhere, everywhere.
Rebecca and Kathryn, what you have created over the last 20 Engage Summits has touched and changed the lives of everyone who has ever attended your conference. Not one of us comes out of it the same way we have gone in, and we are all better people for having taken this ride with you.
Oprah Winfrey has said, "Your legacy is every life you’ve touched."
To Rebecca, Kathryn, and my Engage Family - I am proud to live in your legacy.
Click below and get to know the amazing partners that made Engage all that it was!
Enjoy the beautiful photos from the professionals....
And here are a few behind the scenes snaps of my beautiful friends and I.