August Consultant of the Month
With 30 years of experience, Monica Ortiz knows how to thoughtfully incorporate events into a company’s marketing strategy. From trade shows and corporate events to weddings and kickboxing tournaments, she’s done it all. In her spare time, you may find her writing short stories or trying new cuisines in her kitchen.
What type of work do you do?
Monica’s Keys to Success
- Deep experience in event management
- Building a strong network
- Being candid yet respectful
- Having a great sense of humor
I am an event strategist. My philosophy is that there are two different ways to do events. You can burn and churn them – build a booth, gather leads, toss it over to sales, move on to the next thing. Or make it a part of your strategy, where you're careful about spending, track how it all comes in, hire the right people to manage it, and train your team to make the most out of each event.
What are you currently working on?
Through EM Marketing, I’m working with Billtrust and just delivered their user conference, Billtrust Insight. It was intense but fun, which is the best situation you can be in. Now I'm helping them with their fall season trade shows.
I'm also in the process of launching my own LLC. This is something I have wanted for a long time but I want to do it right, versus just get a name out there. In the past, I've been convinced to convert from contract to full time. At some point you ask yourself, “Do I want to be a senior director again or a CEO?” I’m at a place where I’m saying, “The CEO title. It's now or never.”
Where do you work?
I like a mix. I'm very well set up at home, obviously, after COVID. It's like air traffic control here – I can do whatever I need to without getting up. But with events, that personal connection makes a big difference. Being onsite, traveling, sitting in an office or a meeting together – that’s irreplaceable. As human beings, we need that. I’m an extrovert so I don't want to be alone every day, but I don't always want to be surrounded and distracted by people.
What was your favorite project to work on? Why?
When I was with Tintri, we had a key event with a great trade show budget, so we decided to go big. We had a 30 by 30 booth, six meeting rooms, 12 speaking sessions, and 150 staff there. The theme was The Hangover, the movie. We had a big stuffed tiger and hired a guy who looked like Zach Galifianakis with a baby doll strapped to him. He took pictures in the photo booth all day. We had a party with 1,500 people one evening. It was very Vegas and so much fun! It was a lot to fit into four days, but I am so proud of what we did. And we hit all our sales targets too.
Why did you decide to become a consultant? What path did you take?
Early in my career, I did contracting for personal reasons. My grandmother was near the end of her life so my mom, sister, aunt, and I provided 24-hour care for a few years. I was the only one in a profession where I could contract, as support staff at an event. I had peaks and valleys, but was able to maintain a steady income.
Then I did a hodgepodge of writing or PR projects. Being the pinch hitter meant I got to experience a lot of things. That led me to where I am today, where I can talk to a demand gen person about campaigns or lead gen about rating leads or a salesperson about what's going to work or not, or a lawyer about any issues. All of those things come together in an event. It's a nexus for how you plan a good presence. It served me well to be a jack of all trades early on.
What has been your biggest challenge about being a consultant? How have you addressed it?
There’s a lot to overcome with how events are valued. You can slap them together, but there really should be thought and rigor behind it. With every company, you have to prove the concept out. That can be tough when you're doing it over and over again.
The first six months of a new job is convincing people that you're not full of hot air and that these things can actually work. You have to have grit and get through it. I'm still very conscious that when I join a company as a consultant, it's not a blank slate – it’s their vision, their goals. You're entering a built-out ecosystem with people and personalities. You have to fit in there. You can give your best advice, but it doesn't mean they have to take it. You can't bring your ego. You can't bring your pride. You can only offer your best self and deliver on what you're asked to deliver.
I do try to bring two things to the table: I'm candid. You can be candid and tactful and respectful. And I bring humor. You can't do events without developing a sense of humor.
What do you love about consulting?
The variety of events and industries has been fun. I’ve done trade shows, corporate events, conferences and sales kickoffs. I've also done weddings, reunions, and kickboxing tournaments. There is something to learn with every event. Part of what I get exposed to is the next generation of professionals. I will ask a younger person, "What's the cool thing?" Apparently, AirTags are great giveaways right now. People just entering the workforce have their finger on the pulse of what's happening. They keep me young and connected.
How do you market yourself?
I like to partner with companies like EM because it's hard to juggle branding yourself versus doing the work. There's only so many hours in the day. I'm not going to lie, I like to watch Netflix and relax after a long day. I'm not always thinking about how to get my name out there.
I've been very lucky in my career that I make good connections and keep them – 95% of my work has been referral-based. If you are honest and supportive, and if people know that your word is good, you're the first name they're going to think of when they need something. I do believe that there's synchronicity out there. The energy you put out is the energy you get back. So always be kind to everybody. You never know who your next boss will be.
What are the things you like to do when the work slows down?
I'm still trying to write the Great American Novel. That's what I wanted to do when I was 13. I've done the occasional writers' conferences where I followed my favorite author around like a puppy. I would still like to do that kind of writing.
My other love is cooking. I'm responsible for cooking at Christmas for the whole family. Over COVID when I had more time, I taught myself Thai cuisine and how to make my own ramen. Then I learned from TikTok how to doctor up ramen, which is a lot easier. I will find the next cuisine to try.
What’s one tip you would give to new consultants?
Be clear about what your strengths are and what you bring to the table. You may just have a very vague client wishlist, and it will be your job to make sense of it. When they already have an 80-hour-a-week job, they need your help. Be prepared to present things that get pushed back. Don't take that personally. It's about making the right decision at the right time.