Tess Vismale – iSocialX

Tess Vismale

Founder/CEO, iSocialX

Atlanta, Ga.

Describe your job.

I’m an entrepreneur, and I have been an independent planner for several years. My business at iSocialX focuses on a suite of products and services that foster empowerment in strategic planning, participant engagement, and technology confidence. However, my job is to be a conduit to make people create magical experiences for their attendees. It’s not my “job” to do it for them, but to empower them and hopefully educate those who come behind me to see how wonderful our events industry is.

How did you get started and what got you from there to today?

My first job out of college was as a buyer for TJ Maxx. I had production experience from working with my sister, who produced trade shows for a haircare products company, so I got to learn about trade shows, including production, working with the sales team, and the whole trajectory from beginning to end. Over the years, I have worked in corporate, associations, nonprofit, and academia. I also have managed a conference center and got a sense of an event’s life cycle, from beginning to end. Working with others allowed me to shine and hone my skills, and that formed my passion.

Do you have a favorite type, size, or style of event to plan, or do you like variety?

I’m always looking at the result, how the magic can happen and who can be put in place to share their gifts. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny group of people to tens of thousands of people. I’ve worked on festivals before for the City of Atlanta and Jazz Festival Montreux music festival, or tiny or small events at convention centers, indoor and outdoor. That doesn’t matter. I think it’s just the magic of what events can bring even from a virtual perspective, and keeping people engaged and enthralled with the content in front of them or planned for them.

What’s your proudest moment so far in your career?

My proudest moment came when I was able to work behind the scenes during a press junket for Dr. Maya Angelou at the Zora Neale Hurston Festival in Florida. It was one of the last interviews with her. I greeted and reminded her we met when I was a student at Spelman. She remembered, which made her comfortable. It brought me joy seeing how she worked and seeing the video recording come to life. This was history in the making, and I was part of making it happen.

How has your business adapted to the ongoing uncertainties and challenges of the pandemic?

Well, the rug was swept out from under us by the pandemic, and what I had to do was think quickly and remind myself, although
I lost all income, I had a background in event tech, and I talked about how technology could help our industry for a long time. So, this was when I had to try to collaborate with other event professionals who knew tech and virtual event production. We continued to educate and provide insight. People were seeking me out for speaking engagements, which was excellent PR value for the event owner and my business growth. I had to step back and recognize the strengths that I had to put them into place to serve quickly.  The only way we could do that was to rely on partnering with others, taking away that thought of competition, and say, hey, we’re all in this together, how can we make this happen. So I said let’s put everyone in their positions of strength to help deliver magical experiences and be profitable.

What are the essential skills that every newcomer into the industry should possess?

I would say patience and decorum. But I think what they should also possess is a sense of organization and time management. I believe that they should learn and research the history of our industry and know who our thought leaders are currently and who they have been. Understanding the old and new guards is key to bringing their essence to our business events world.

Decorum these days gets lost with being culturally comfortable. We often forget to set expectations on what professional standards are are and should be for newcomers.

What is your main takeaway from navigating the events industry during a pandemic? What changes made during the pandemic do you think will still be around in a few years?

Virtual is not going anywhere. I got my DES in the first class in 2013 and knew it then as a future projection, and I’m glad people realize that now. So, hybrid experiences should be about how much virtual you will do versus face to face. My main takeaway is that we as an industry can look beyond the word ‘competition’ and look more towards collaboration for the greater good.

What is your best advice for industry newcomers? Alternatively, what was the best advice you received as a newcomer?

I was taught the old-school way that everything needed to be perfect. That’s not perfection you’re aiming for; that is translated to excellence. And excellence is the standard that you have to go for at all times. I’ve lived by and worked in excellence for a long time. It was instilled in me how critical it is. Another one is grace, which means that you must be understanding and inclusive of all thoughts and opinions and utilize your resources accordingly.

What’s the oddest or funniest thing that ever happened to you during one of your events?

Everyone can say your mic is on, right? Well, my mic was on when I was backstage, and the audience heard me. I didn’t curse, thank goodness. I must have been good at directing people because the audience giggled at me. So that was an oops moment, and it was hilarious after I freaked out.

When you are not creating events for your clients, what do you like to do? 

I love to travel. I probably traveled more during the pandemic than expected, just personal trips driving and flying a little bit. I love walks in nature. I have so much tech I don’t use enough; I keep spending money on it, my close friend keeps telling
me to stop. So that’s my funny thing in my personal life.



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