A lot of people may dream of giving up the day job, ripping off the tie and do something that doesn’t really feel like work for a living but few actually get past the point of discussing it at the pub. 10 years ago, Maneesh Goyal (now CEO and Founder of MKG) originally worked in public health decided to take the unusual career change from policy work to event planning.

Maneesh’s break into the event industry was planning his first party for P.Diddy. Since then, Maneesh has attracted a variety of celebrity clients such as Jessica Simpson, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson, he has set up and been running the event marketing agency MKG serving well-known brands and last year became a finalist in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year. At eventjuice we have always saluted these kinds of people, and so Mike Chidzey talks to Maneesh:

MC: So Maneesh, how have you built such an excellent reputation in the event industry?

MG: From the beginning, I knew that events are all about the client, not me, not the agency. I’ve always tried to be smart, creative and work tirelessly to ensure everything about an event is perfect. I put my client front and center and stay out of the way. Clients took notice and appreciated what I was able to deliver by working hard, being creative and putting them first.

MC: And what advice would you give to aspiring event planners hoping to follow a similar path?

MG: The event business and event marketing industry can be overrun with people who are in it for the perceived glamour or excitement. The process is not nearly as glamorous and exciting as the end product, so it’s important to have humility. In a business that often tries to be very showy, those that do it well understand nothing happens without the right mix of planning, creativity and teamwork to pull off a successful event.

This industry is about making the people that you work for – your clients — look good to their bosses. When you can provide them with vivid images, soundbytes and other details that illustrate the success of an event that your clients can then pass up the food chain, they’ll love you and will hire you over and over.

MC: I was wondering about the vast amount of events that you’ve organised and delivered for your celebrity and high profile clients, what have been the highlights?

MG: Obviously my first event for Sean Combs [P.Diddy] is a highlight because of the massive opportunity that I was given. I had never done a party before and to have such a high-profile client right out of the gate, it was more than a little nerve-wracking. It was phenomenally successful, though, and led to a four-year relationship that set me on the path to owning my own agency and working with huge, global brands.

Another highlight is seeing brands evolve as we’ve worked with them. One of our early clients, Vitaminwater, began as nothing more than flavored water in a bottle and grew into a well-known global lifestyle brand that we played a key role in helping to build. Only a few years after our first project, Vitaminwater became one of the largest beverage acquisitions ever.

Helping Delta Air Lines transition out of bankruptcy, re-establishing their position in the consumer landscape and transforming their brand into what it is today, has also been a highlight. We’ve been working with Delta as their agency of record for experiential and sponsorship marketing for years and it’s been hugely rewarding to have developed a true partnership, not simply a vendor relationship. We’ve also encouraged the brand to expand into new territories, having recently helped build a presence for Delta at Stamford Bridge in partnership with Chelsea.

MC: And toughest decision…

MG: Initially getting my feet wet in the event industry was my toughest decision. I have a Masters in Public Health from Yale and decided after 9/11 that I needed pursue something different. I’ve always had a passion for bringing people together and building experiences, so event planning and experiential marketing was a natural fit. For me, it’s grown from working a single event, to planning high-profile parties for celebrities, to connecting brands like Google, Delta Air Lines and Jaguar with consumers through tangible live experiences.

MC: What tips would you suggest to anybody about to organise an event that will take it from average to MKG’s level?

MG: Attention to detail, and not in the way most people mean it. What I mean is, introducing unexpected delights into an event to make it that much more memorable. Instead of a coatroom, why not have hooks drop down from the ceiling? Adding special touches wherever possible always elevates the experience.

Another tip, you know you’re at an MKG event because the design is always top notch. Ensuring that the space has a special design to it changes the way people experience the event and the way they interact with each other. The course of the conversation changes from casual to intriguing, and the connection between everyone in attendance becomes that much stronger.

MC: If you woke up tomorrow at the beginning of your career, but with the event knowledge you have now, what actions would you make a priority when starting again?

MG: I would move more quickly to recognize and adapt my experiences to integrate and utilize the power of digital and social media. Digital integration is changing how we’re able to engage consumers. Not just those that we attract to our events, but their social networks, as well as those engaged with a brand’s social platforms. The possibilities really are endless and we’re only scratching the surface as to what digital can do to enhance experiential.

I would also explore expanding MKG more on a global level. There are so many amazing brands beyond New York and LA, I would really love to work with a more diverse client roster and experience what it’s like to create experiences for different cultures. We’re plenty busy here at home, but would love to bring our expertise to share some tricks in the UK!

MC: And what is the event industry’s biggest problem today?

MG: It’s the same problem today as we’ve had for years, and that is establishing rigorous metrics to show the impact that experiential and event marketing can have on sales. The event industry needs its own version of TV ratings, media impressions or click-through rate, so we can show marketers what their return on investment in events and large-scale consumer activations can be. They see the value of consumers experiencing brands, but it would be great to have some solid data to point to.

You can follow Maneesh and MKG on Twitter @thisismkg and on MKG’s Facebook page


Michael Chidzey is the chief juicer of eventjuice and runs Event Organiser, an event company based in London, UK. He also founded the digital marketing agency Good Signals, blogs on several websites and is a visiting lecturer in events management at London Metropolitan University.Follow Michael on Twitter @michaelchidzey
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