Here is a hospitality career you may not have ever considered: venue management. When you attend a sporting event, concert, conference, or convention, you are stepping into a world that mixes operations with facility management, food and beverage management, event management, and more.
During the Sixth Annual SEEM Leadership Conference last month, keynote speaker Frank Russo discussed venue management as an industry and what future professionals in the field need to know to get ahead. “The expectations of managing a venue are very high,” he explained. “Managing a civic center is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week operation that never shuts down.”
Russo is the executive vice president of business development and client relations at Spectra, where he develops new contracts for arenas, convention centers, stadiums, and other public venues. Prior to joining Spectra, Russo had a more-than-30-year career working in venue management, including executive roles at the Hartford Civic Center in Connecticut, the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. Russo is also actively involved with the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM).
Based on his long career in the industry, here are four key pieces of advice he has for future venue managers.
1. Seize every sales opportunity.
Venue managers need to make sure their team—and those who work on every other team—are making every sale possible to keep the revenue stream alive. According to Russo, there is a saying in the business: there is nothing that smells so rotten as an empty seat. “If you didn’t sell a ticket to an event last night, you will never get a chance to sell that ticket again,” he explained. “So the pressure on managers in our building to get the most out of every event is critical.”
2. Create an environment that brings people in.
Additionally, competition in the venue management industry is very high. Therefore, you need to be creative in making decisions that set your venue apart from other venues and find what makes your building profitable. According to Russo, one of the best examples of a standout venue operation is a casino like Mohegan Sun. Casinos, as opposed to public event spaces and convention centers, have massive entertainment budgets and can pay to have top-tier talent come perform in their spaces. They also offer free, on-site parking. These factors, in turn, bring in customers to shop, eat, and play in the casino.
3. Consider the guest experience and make it better.
As a venue manager, Russo said it is also important to act as the manager of the city within the venue. Consider all of the ways your guest has an experience and continuously work to make it better. His advice? “Take your management team, hop in a van, go 30 or 45 minutes outside the building, turn around, and come back in on the night of an event. See what it is like and what your customers are going through,” he said. Consider all possible issues: traffic, ease of arriving at the venue from the highway, signage that directs you to available parking lots, safety, and so much more. By doing this, you will find things that need improvement and make the overall experience better and more memorable for your customers.
4. Grow your network and make connections.
Even if someone is not working for the same company you are, it is important to make connections in the industry. Russo said he has a number of professional rivals or those who worked at competitor companies. Nevertheless, through their shared connections at IAVM, he has come to respect his competitors and root them on when they are successful. “IAVM really does help you form a common bond. You’re friends but you respect each other,” he said. “You always remain friendly with your competitors.”
If you are considering a degree in hospitality and need to stay current on these modern trends in the industry, Johnson & Wales University College of Online Education offers an exciting array of hospitality degree programs to help you achieve your goals. Complete the “Request Info” form on this page, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected] to learn more.