ELI Member Spotlight: Sally Porteous

Sally Porteous is the owner/operator of Red Lanyard, an event management firm based in Brisbane, Australia. After cutting her teeth on festivals, concerts, and expos as a music promoter, she founded her company in 2006. Sally is passionate about providing an exceptional audience experience, always ensuring that attendees get more than what they pay for. 

She holds a graduate certification in business administration and a master’s degree in production and arts management, devoting time to upskilling amateur and DIY event planners through free online tools, videos, social media groups, as well as through workshops and bespoke coaching programs. 

We asked her to share her insights and industry expertise below.

What skills have you needed to learn or develop throughout your career?

Resilience and resourcefulness are my two go-to skills. In event planning, you never know what you’re going to need to know next, and you’re often in a high-pressure situation, so being able to let moments of stress wash off you and keep moving forward are paramount.

Resourcefulness is important because we’re often working at warp speed, and there’s rarely time to get in and explain the ins and outs of what’s needed, let alone hold someone’s hand while they work it out. I love working with people who know how to find stuff out. They have a solution attitude and simply keep moving until they find out how to solve the issue, find the widget, or source that random item.

How have you pivoted your business to adapt to the pandemic?

I love face-to-face events, and while I’m capable of assisting clients with the virtual technology and delivery of events, it just didn’t give me that rush that I’m used to. You know the one, the one you get when you’re standing in the room and can see all those faces light up – there’s nothing like it. Pivoting to delivering virtual events wasn’t a priority for me, but showing others what they needed to know was.

An event is still an event, no matter the delivery mode, and I wanted to make sure the audience got the best experience possible. And I could do this by upskilling amateur or DIY event planners on the art of event production. So I’ve created a coaching program that provides the backup for all the newly appointed event planners out there. The ones working in companies that think they can just throw that executive assistant the virtual event and they’ll figure it out. I’m there to remind them of the event planning fundamentals, to hold their hand and support their journey, and to give them confidence and support.

I still do event production, but now my business is half production and half supporting and upskilling others. Which is great because, since I’m still working in events, the knowledge they receive is real, timely, and current.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to new event professionals?

Well of course, to get their ELI membership. This has been a fundamental part of my journey. None of the other association memberships were of any benefit to me, so perhaps hold off and save your money on those for a while. Connect with other planners, join networks where you can learn and do market research, and keep learning. And of course build your resourcefulness and resilience!

What are you most excited about for the future of the event industry?

People are even more excited about meeting face to face now, so as soon as we can come together in person, we will see a flood of in-person events, which is really exciting. It’s up to us as an industry to remind everyone the difference between watching the concert on TV and being there in person. We all know that feeling, and we’ll be in the room soon enough.

How has being an ELI member benefited your career?

I can find out how to do anything with all the content that is available to me in the ELI portal. As the go-to person who is expected to know everything, ELI is my favorite bookmark that I can jump into quickly, work out how to do something like find a checklist to run a virtual event, and within five minutes I know what to do and am supporting my colleagues in no time. Events are so diverse, and the content on the ELI portal has never let me down.

You can reach Sally at linkedin.com/in/sallyporteous or redlanyard.com.au.

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