Two years ago, Aaron Wolowiec had a vision. Strategic planning. Instructional design. Meeting management. They were all in his wheelhouse. But it was time for something new.
And so, on Dec. 8, 2011, Grand Rapids-based Event Garde was born.
Wolowiec, a wordsmith at heart, chose the name carefully thanks to a little help from The Image Shoppe. Writers love the phrase “avant garde,” which is often used to describe trailblazers. Event Garde: A clever play on words? As a writer, I think so.
“Event Garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or status quo, especially as it relates to continuing education,” he wrote for the website. “By partnering with clients to tear away preconceptions, Event Garde reveals dynamic programs, events and professional development experiences that result in thoughtful, enthusiastic and empowered learners and practitioners.”
Fast forward and it’s hard to believe that we’re celebrating our two-year anniversary.
From the beginning, Cally Hill, director of client relations, has managed the ins and outs of the business. As it quickly grew, Hill led – and continues to lead – many of the firm’s strategic marketing initiatives, including outreach to association leaders nationwide. And she’s one of the important number crunchers.
As most of you know by now, I came on board this summer as digital content manager to help Event Garde grow its online and public presence. As the main writer and “voice” of the firm, if you will, it’s my job to keep you “in the know” about association trends and topics.
In the process, I’ve formed invaluable networks, and our blog has gained quite the following. In fact, throughout the last three months, our blog posts have been included in social media roundups and stories by Associations Now. And the Twitter traction has been just as impressive, thanks to #assnchat.
A couple months ago, Sara Miller, director of meetings and development, joined the team. Miller is a sales guru. She’s currently working with CPAs, selling sponsorships, advertising and exhibit space.
Event Garde has a great team, said Kathleen Mennillo, executive director of the International Hearing Society. Event Garde helped IHS plan its annual convention and expo for nearly 600 people.
“Aaron’s event planning expertise, coupled with his experience in the professional development and association arena, instantly made him an integral part of the team,” she said. “Aaron is extremely organized, creative and passionate about creating successful events that leave lasting impressions on event attendees. IHS is thrilled to work with Event Garde and looks forward to executing many more successful events together.”
Throughout the last two years, Event Garde has gained the professional accolades of the American Society of Association Executives and other key stakeholders.
Wolowiec now writes a regular column in Michigan Meetings + Events magazine and he’s been featured as part of two magazine cover stories. In addition, Wolowiec has given various presentations at ASAE meetings. And he was recently named one of four “rising leaders” by MSAE.
“Aaron and the Event Garde team have been so helpful to ALTA’s Land Title Institute,” said Kelly Romeo, vice president of the American Land Title Association. “It has been like expanding our own staff without actually committing to additional hires! Aaron engages 100 percent and quickly connects with what is important to our members and students. We are looking forward to the next project with Event Garde, and many more.”
We don’t often toot our own horn. But as we reflect on the last two years, we’ve reached some incredible milestones.
And in December 2012, Wolowiec co-authored “The Meetings Report,” published in tandem with MSAE. It’s the first-ever Michigan association meetings industry survey examining the characteristics of senior education/professional development staff, characteristics of association meetings, professional speaker hiring practices, industry speaker preparation and compensation and meeting evaluation practices.
At the end of day, however, none of this would be possible without your support. So we thank you for trusting us with your livelihoods and for appreciating the Event Garde vision. Thank you for joining us on an exciting ride towards a new horizon.
We look forward to an exciting year ahead as our team continues to explore new projects and possibilities – and we hope you’ll be a part of that journey.