Podcast: Nothing Matters More Than Connecting People

Fiona is a marketing executive with over 25 years experience leading teams globally, helping to develop integrated marketing experiences. After over 19 years with GPJ, Bruder was promoted in 2021 to the role of President – Americas. During her time with the company she has managed and optimized event portfolios for household name brands, and oversees the company’s global accounts. She manages an international team across 34 countries, having herself worked internationally, as well as managing GPJ’s US offices in Boston, New York and Austin.

She received a BA in Economics from Fordham University and an MBA from the Fordham Graduate School of Business Administration. In addition to her role with GPJ, Bruder is also a board member at Girls, Inc. which is a non-profit organization focused on providing programmes to girls, allowing them to be inspired to grow up to be ‘strong, smart, and bold’.

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Before diving into today’s topics, Fiona outlines what she thinks takes an event from ‘good’ to ‘great’ and the layers involved in this, using a Bruce Springsteen concert in her example!

As someone that works on a global scale, and is invested in the growth of the younger generations that haven’t even made it into the workplace yet, it is no surprise that Bruder thinks that it is imperative to remember that we are dealing with people, and to understand that connecting with people is what makes events both great and unique. As someone that is passionate about human engagement, Fiona goes on to explain how she uses this passion within her work, with four key approaches that she has developed and implemented over the years. She also discusses how this impacts her leadership, noting that she believes leaders should be their authentic selves.

Being President – Americas sees Bruder manage both North and South America, leading to Neves and Bruder discussing the difference in culture between the two and how this can impact communication and other elements within the business. As someone that operates internationally, it is interesting to hear Bruder note that connectivity should be personal and individual, it shouldn’t take place in a global perspective. She discusses the approach that she takes, from visiting the offices within the area that she manages as opposed to only having communication virtually, to getting to know and understand the cultural aspects of the area she is visiting and operating within.

Many of us, including Neves and Bruder, believe that mistakes are there to be learnt from, with Fiona chatting about some examples of situations where things didn’t quite work out as planned and what she took from that experience. One takeaway is that, whilst we often hear about someone being the ‘smartest person in the room’, Bruder argues what is more important is to be the person that is most prepared, and she discusses how this in turn feeds into her work at GPJ.

Neves notes that planners can be averse to innovation, stemming from the time sensitivity of their work. So, how do you come to possess good innovation? Bruder’s answer is a strong innovation strategy that is part of your organization’s embedded processes. She explains how this approach allowed GPJ to pivot to over 200 virtual events when COVID-19 hit. She also notes that you have to look outside your organization’s own events to get a greater understanding of what prompts people to engage, and how this creates greater knowledge.

They also discuss the LGBTQ+ community, with Bruder being involved with the OPEN (Original Perspectives, Excluding None) , which is one of four resource groups within the company, with OPEN focusing on inclusivity and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community. The others focus on Parents and Caregivers; Empowering Women; Amplifying BIPOC Experiences. Bruder discusses her role within this area of the company, some of the initiatives they have implemented and the impact they have had. She also discusses her role with Girls, Inc. and what she is most proud of in this area, empowering girls and women.

We have been hearing the phrase ‘experiences’  used more and more in recent years – think immersive experiences, the client experience, the attendee experience and more – and Bruder too believes that we should be moving away from the ‘event’ to the use of ‘experience’, explaining her thinking behind this. She discusses the changes that have taken place over the past few years of the pandemic, noting that as we begin to move back to in-person we should not be looking to revert back to the way we used to host these experiences, citing the earlier discussion of ‘good’ versus ‘great’. They go on to discuss how to approach this shift with people that may be apprehensive around the idea of moving from the traditional ‘event’ to more of an experiential experience. They also touch on what Bruder would like to see change within the industry and what event formats she believes we will be seeing more frequently in the future.

Fiona and Miguel discuss even more than what we’ve touched on above, so why not listen now and see what insights you can take away!

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