I first met Sue-Ellen Nagi & Michelle Watts back in 1999 when I was representing Couran Cove Resort with DMS – Destination Marketing. I quickly connected with this dynamic duo, passionate event managers intent on giving the events industry a good ’nudge’.  I admired their infectious professionalism and respect for suppliers and clients alike and while we don’t reside in the same city anymore, I am thrilled to witnessed their strong growth in our industry. This is their story…

MJD: How did you get your start in the meetings/events industry?
Michelle: This is a great story actually. We were strangers to each other and were put in a twin share room whilst training to manage streams of groups coming in for the Olympic Games. It was 1998 and we had worked for the same company but in different states – so everyone thought we’d know each other. We hit it off immediately and talked till 3am about what it would be like to run an honest, ethical, family oriented event company. The rest as they say – is history.  Now we’ve been in business together almost 18 years and have 13 staff on our team.
Sue-Ellen: Too true

Michelle Watts & Sue-Ellen Nagi - Sane Event Group

Michelle Watts & Sue-Ellen Nagi – Sane Event Group

MJD: What do you enjoy the most about creating memorable conference, incentives and events
Michelle: Of course it’s all about how the client feels at the end of the day. Our staff put their heart and soul into our client’s events and we all operate as a team to ensure the best outcome. At the close of the conference or incentive program – essentially, we need the client to be a RAVING fan and for their delegates to have gained serious take home value. That’s the satisfaction. That’s the real deal.
Sue-Ellen: To me it’s a full circle of satisfaction on so many levels.  I think most people would immediately say happy clients / happy delegates and yes that’s crucial I also love happy staff and happy suppliers.  If we have all of those elements it must mean that we all were an amazing team.

MJD:What makes a great client?
Michelle: One that pays!!  No seriously – we have many fantastic clients who we have had repeat business with for several years.  It comes down to mutual respect. They respect us as invested suppliers who care about their business and we respect that they require top level service beyond logistics management.
Sue-Ellen:  To me it’s the client who understands that a successful event relies on more than one person.  Communication, communication, communication.  OK and maybe some champagne in all of that.

MJD: What makes a great supplier?
Michelle: Great question!  We are fortunate enough to have a bank of trusted and extremely reputable suppliers who we know we can rely on to deliver the best for our clients. Too often, suppliers bear the brunt of bad event managers, or are poorly treated by the client and kept out of the loop and it’s not conducive to a win-win outcome. A great supplier is one who is on the same page, who thinks of solutions with you for the best end result and who understands you and the client’s objectives.
Sue-Ellen: Love a supplier who gets to know not only our clients but our team.  A supplier who initiates communications, briefings, gets back to the team as soon as they can.  Most events want ‘teamwork’ – we have this with our suppliers.  Oh and I love a supplier who gets invoices for payment asap……

MJD: What makes a great event and/or incentive?
Michelle: No matter where you hold an incentive or on what budget, at the end of the day, it’s all about each individual feeling a sense of ‘money can’t buy’ type experience and a sense of pride of belonging to an organisation that recognises and rewards those individuals for extreme efforts. So, a good incentive not only encompasses a ‘wow’ factor destination, but continual recognition of the individual and the relationship to the organisation’s strategic objectives. It’s not just onsite- it’s a continual engagement program pre and post event using careful metrics. If you can’t measure against KPI’s – you’re wasting time and money in my opinion.
Sue-Ellen: Totally Agree

MJD: What are the current trends do you see in our industry?
Michelle: A number of issues are currently streaming through events across the board, such as digital enhancement in event and communications both pre, during and post events. Many markets are tight and compliance is very much at the forefront of most industries, so audience engagement is everything. It’s about finding more value for money in all services.
Sue-Ellen: Totally agree.  I also think with all the technology available it is becoming apparent that face to face interaction is invaluable.

MJD: What are the key challenges and changes do you see in the future of our industry?
Michelle: Inexperienced operators who ruin it for the professional ones!  That’s a constant challenge for professionals who are more than just booking agents – we all get put in the same pot. The industry is changing as we need to be more tech savvy, more able to provide value for money than ever before, and more attuned to our clients needs.
Sue-Ellen: Agree with Michelle!

MJD: What is something about you that we may not necessarily know about you?
Michelle: I’m a terrible singer. Sue Ellen, however, is considerably worse.. We have been booed out of the office by our very own staff on occasions.
Sue-Ellen: Gosh that’s the second time I’ve been told that this week!!  Even my son was saying that ‘everyone can learn to sing’ oh except his mother!!

MJD: What are the next key future milestones for Sane Event Group?
Michelle: We are growing at a sustainable rate with a focus on in-house delivery of cutting edge technology. Watch this space as we evolve into the next era with a new generation of young leaders who are trained in high incentive and educational programs.  Our delivery of events is more holistic in offering with a well rounded service menu that will propel our services and excite our clients, both new and current.
Sue-Ellen: Sue-Ellen to perform live on stage…..  watch this space

MJD: Thanks Michelle & Sue-Ellen for your time and valuable insights – we look forward to hearing the next installment for Sane Event Group!