I’m taking vacation this week. Despite best efforts, today’s post was the only one I was able to finish before leaving so it will be this week’s only one. Enjoy! We’ll see you next week.
Devin: What is your superpower?
Anca: I feel like I have a keen sense of knowing when things are about to go bad or go wrong, and I am one step ahead of that as well as with, I think that goes hand-in-hand with my attention to details.
An Immigrant’s Story
Now a successful entrepreneur with her own event production company, Tree-Fan Events, Anca Trifan’s love of audio-visual production began in high school before she came to the United States. She started in radio.
“I remember, like falling in love with this little mixer that all radio stations have that you run sound through to control your levels and your voice,” Anca says. She loved playing with it on air to change the sound of her voice.
After coming to the U.S., she took a job at a production house in Los Angeles while going to school in the evenings to learn more about sound engineering, video production and lighting design.
She quickly began to appreciate that she is a bit of a rarity in the field. She was almost always the only woman on the crew. “If you look back in the back of house where the AV techs are, you probably see only guys,” she says of the teams that support big events.
As her career developed, she missed having a female role model. “I’ve only had, you know, the male mentorship versus a female mentorship.”
In addition to running Tree-Fan Events, she also hosts a podcast and is developing an online community of women who work in the industry.
“A lot of those relationships now that I’ve built are with very strong women that have raised themselves up because they come from an event planning background, and they had to switch roles,” she says. “They had to pivot.”
She loves and enjoys the community she has created. “I feel like, Oh my gosh, there’s a tribe. And now I am so grateful to have found this tribe.”
As the only woman on the team, Anca has experienced some sexism and sexual harassment. She’s also developed strategies to protect herself.
I’m grateful that she was willing to share her perspective. It is enlightening to understand that women are routinely in situations where they need strategies to avoid sexual harassment. Wouldn’t the world be better if men more consistently conducted themselves so that women never felt that necessity?
Anca has a gregarious personality and describes herself as a “banterer.” She likes to joke around with the crew. Still, she says, there are “boundaries that shall not be crossed, especially when it comes to professional relationships.”
As the leader of her community, she hears stories. “Some of them are really traumatic and heartbreaking stories,” she says.
Within her own experience, she recalls being on a big event crew as the only female where the accommodations included only a shared shower. She agonized over simple things like:
finding a time when she could be confident of being alone in the shower
how to react if someone walked in
where to run to escape in a worst-case scenario
More routinely, she recalls men touching her inappropriately. She’s learned to challenge offenders who manage to “just happen” to end up with a hand on her bum with a stern joust, “How did you get there?”
Anca also has clear plans for managing her risk when she goes out drinking with the team after a successful event. “I can have a drink and a half,” she says. “Then don’t go past that because I know if I hit that second drink and then that turns into a third, then I am no longer in control of what could happen to me, where I’m not as vigilant anymore.”
She is also careful about relationships with colleagues. She recognizes that flirting can lead to other things. She thinks such things require deliberate planning and rejects the assumption that “We’re adults; we can deal with this; we’ll figure it out.”
Furthermore, women face reputational risk. “You don’t want to have the reputation that you got there because you slept your way through it,” she says. “That’s one thing that, as a female in a male-dominated world, has been the first thing in my mind.”
Hosting Cause-Oriented Events
As Anca is an event professional, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask her for advice about organizing events for causes, social entrepreneurs and nonprofits. Her experience and advice were surprising.
To begin, she asks her nonprofit clients, “Why do you have to have this event in the first place?” She only wants to go to next steps with clients who have a clear vision.
The pandemic has taught her some important lessons. “I’ve had some excellent results with nonprofits fundraising virtually in a digital format, especially in 2020, when that was the only thing we could do,” she says. “I’ve had clients that have raised over $2 million just in one setting, in one event, one hour.”
You can’t plan the event itself in isolation. Marketing is essential too. It takes a complete strategy to get people there and open their wallets.
Anca is confident that in-person-only events are done. In the future, events will be virtual-only or hybrid with both in-person and virtual options.
Virtual has clear benefits. It enables hosts to include people anywhere on the globe. Her clients have discovered supporters in places they didn’t know they had.
She is currently working with a client who had an in-person event in 2019 and then hosted a virtual one in 2020 and raised much more money. As a result, the client plans to stick with virtual-only events in the future.
In addition, she points out that virtual events allow hosts to gather more data more easily, giving you more insights into planning for next year.
In all her work, Anca benefits from a well-honed sense of potential problems, enabling her to solve them before they cause problems. She thinks of it as her superpower.
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How to Develop the Ability to Foresee and Prevent Problems As a Superpower
A client once hired Anca to run a two-day conference. Just six days before the event, she began to detect a potential problem with the team. She did some digging and discovered that one of the subcontractors had lost half its staff due to some internal drama. While the sub promised all would be well, she could see a disaster coming. If half the team had walked, she’d be lucky to lose only half at her event.
She began calling in favors to line up backup staff, who would commit to being available at the last minute, even if it meant passing up other opportunities. Sure enough, on the day before the event, five people were missing, and she needed her people. Because she had planned for it, she had a complete crew.
Anca says the only way to develop this skill is through experience. “You might have to put yourself in situations that are not always rosy and learn some of those mistakes in ways that are not necessarily happy.”
Building resilience is key to adding the ability to prevent and not just foresee problems. Learning from your mistakes will help you do that, she adds.
If you follow Anca’s example, over time, you can learn to foresee problems and prevent them. You could even make it your superpower for good.