Event Expert Insights: Thuy Diep, Senior Experience Designer, Haute
As an 18-year-old professional cheerleader, Thuy Diep was so joyfully immersed in the tasks of organizing dinners, hotel arrangements, welcome events and competitions for her cheerleaders association, that she just may have been belting out her own personal cheer: “5, 6, 7, 8! Who do we appreciate? Event planners!”
During college, her curiosity for event planning became more intense, along with her enthusiasm for it.
“My major was public relations, and I realized that I was enjoying more of the event designing portions of PR versus writing all the press releases,” she explained. “Those two big little 'aha' moments early in my life as I was developing my career made me realize that the events industry was where I belonged.”
Diep found a happy home in the events industry and its vibrant community, where she said she truly grew up.
“I fortunately attended TISOH (The International School of Hospitality) in Las Vegas and graduated with an executive diploma in hospitality operations, with a dual emphasis in conference management,” Diep said. “It was a master class in essential education, taught by instructors who were highly rated professionals in our industry, and it was the start of my network-building from an early age as a young professional.”
Today, she is a senior experience designer at Haute, a full-service creative and event agency that helps brands engage more meaningfully for a lasting impression.
“At Haute, I'm doing the brand of highly creative, unique and formula-smashing work we’re known for,” Diep said. “Personally and professionally, my focus is to create memorable experiences and help positively impact our industry.”
Indeed, she has and continues to make great strides to elevate the profession and make a difference within the events community and beyond.
We sat down with Diep to discover why she is so passionate about her role, her biggest accomplishments thus far and the most important lessons she’s learned, as well as get her thoughts on industry trends, challenges facing event professionals, ways to foster more diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and what she is most excited about for the future of the industry.
Why do you love your job as an event professional?
I feel so fortunate to have a career in an industry I love, where each day is different and filled with creativity. The main reason is the huge, diverse and welcoming environment that exists in our events community. Every day is so very beautifully different, and that's a really exciting challenge.
I could be analyzing a rider for a tiger to appear at a pool-side cocktail reception (that's an actual example), conducting venue site inspections, or working with our trusted supplier partners, clients and fellow Hauties. Each day is about creating and problem-solving. The best thing about the event world is that one person can't do it alone. Collaboration is a must. It's really just this beautiful masterpiece of constantly moving parts.
I thrive in that environment and most importantly, also enjoy the ride. We are all type A personalities, and circumstances arise outside our control. I think there's something beautiful about that. Confronting challenges and finding solutions that result in something better than expected.
Can you share a few of your biggest career accomplishments, and what you are most proud of thus far?
Last year I experienced two that I consider both professional and personal achievements, and to this day, I’m still moved by the memories.
The first was when I was invited to take over the IMEX Group’s Instagram account during last year’s IMEX America, the show’s 10-year anniversary. They gave me the opportunity to give my perspective as an Asian American woman, and that meant so much to me. The other great highlight was when I was asked to be a speaker at the Event Innovation Lab during MPI’s Smart Monday at IMEX America. To be offered a platform and share my voice among my peers was such an honor.
This March 2022, I was named Smart Meeting’s “Smart Woman in Meetings: Stellar Performer” and Bizbash + Connect’s “40 Under 40.” I continue to have speaking opportunities and be involved in our industry, hopefully paving a path for others to come.
Staying authentically me through the wins and losses have been my proudest moments.
What are some of the most important lessons you've learned over the past two years, professionally or personally?
Well, obviously, all that happened during the pandemic—I think we're all still processing that experience.
I've been thinking long and hard about taming my inner critic and letting my high-energy cheerleader shine. I’m learning to give myself grace when doubt sets in, as I put a lot of pressure on myself, and simultaneously, be my biggest cheerleader. I'm also working on my healthy boundaries. Now that I'm firmly established in our industry and a seasoned professional, I'm learning to be more comfortable setting boundaries. I consider it necessary to preserve my creativity, and it has really helped me manage stress.
What are some of the most difficult challenges and pain points event professionals are facing in the current climate, and what advice would you give to overcome them?
It's unanimous that staff shortages and staff retention are the biggest challenges. I'm concerned about a return to business as usual, as it was pre-pandemic. We have the opportunity to really change the way we operate and reinvent approaches to really elevate our industry.
I see that the most significant pain point is being able to make time—to dream big and make time for collaboration. If we don't seize the opportunity to be as creative as possible, I fear a backslide into old formulas and methods.
What are some of the major trends defining the corporate events landscape, and how can event professionals capitalize on them?
The return of festivals, like Coachella, is an excellent example after being gone for a couple of years. I'm watching closely and am enjoying the post-pandemic rollout of these events.
People are ready to gather in-person, and corporate events are helping by providing that sense of connection. The first and most important priority is ensuring attendees' safety and comfort level. Once that's all been addressed, the sky's the limit for creativity and connectivity.
What can event professionals do to foster more DEI in the industry?
The short answer is to connect to one another. DEI is a sensitive topic, and everyone should be involved in the conversation, not just one group of people. We need to be able to have those conversations in an open forum. Invite people in and create a safe environment to have these crucial discussions.
We've got to be curious and approach with an open mind because that's the only way we can learn from each other. Surrounding yourself with people and experiences from all walks of life is extremely important. It stokes the fires of creativity and connection, and the benefits to oneself and their career are endless.
I see significant changes in our industry and more opportunities opening up. I see great intention and effort, and this is key to DEI. Of course, the work here is far from done, but I'd say it's definitely moving in the right direction and making significant gains. I serve on ILEA's (International Live Events Association) international DEI committee, and part of the job is to implement and support chapters and members worldwide in their efforts. It's exhilarating for me.
What are you most excited about for the events industry in the coming year?
I'm most looking forward to seeing all that the next generation of event professionals bring. I'm looking forward to not only collaborating with them but intentionally learning from them. The more, the merrier, and the future is bright!
What's next for Thuy Diep?
We've all worked really hard. I'm really looking forward to just enjoying my time. I find myself constantly filling up with volunteer opportunities or signing up for this or that. I really enjoy being present in the moment.
We need genuine, authentic humans, and I want to be an example of just that—genuine, authentic humans who are creative and open minded, and have a positive mental attitude on life. I’m really ready to be a part of that charge.
So, my advice to everyone is: I would love for people just to show up more authentically as who they are. There's so much for everyone to contribute to, and if we don’t fall short to social norms and expectations, our events industry could really push the envelope.
Know a corporate event professional who would be an ideal candidate for our Event Expert Insights Q&A series? Reach out to Lori Tenny at firstname.lastname@example.org.