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Ever wonder how the top names in the events industry launched their careers? Whether their career choices were planned or not, these great leaders share stories of humble beginnings, inspirational mentors, and their personal drive to achieve seemingly impossible tasks. Did you know that the NFL’s Frank Supovitz began his career as a “chair tester” at Radio City Music Hall? Was it her passion for jazz or the decision to follow her sweetheart to New York which ignited Karen Dazell’s career in events ultimately leading her to produce the Tribeca Film Festival? Learn how Laura Schwartz’s role as an inquisitive and ambitious volunteer answering phones and making copies for the White House Press office helped her land the job as White House Director of Events. These stories and more are shared by ELI’s Mavericks.

Learning Outcomes

  • Find out how our Mavericks got into the events industry and what their career trajectory has been like, including their successes and failures.
  • Hear war stories from seasoned event industry professionals, including things that may surprise you and how they were overcome.
  • Learn what inspires event greats and motivates them to move forward in the industry.
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Course Information

Estimated Time: 54 mins

Level: All

CMP Credit Hours:

Course Instructors

Maverick Series

The Event Leadership Institute is proud to produce our exclusive Maverick Series: interviews with people who plan the biggest and most high-profile events, run the most well respected and award-winning companies, manage the biggest venues, and demonstrate thought leadership, innovation and creative thinking. Join us as these industry Mavericks share their stories, insights and guidance.

Frank Supovitz

For more than 25 years, award-winning event producer Frank Supovitz has been at the helm of some of the world’s most prestigious, widely-viewed and well-attended sports and entertainment events, first leading the National Hockey League’s Events & Entertainment department, and then as Senior Vice President, Events for the National Football League.

Frank founded Fast Traffic Events & Entertainment in 2014, an event management and consulting company based in New York. He is the co-author of The Sports Event Management & Marketing Playbook, the second edition recently published by John Wiley & Sons. His new book, What to Do When Things Go Wrong, will be published by McGraw-Hill Education in May 2019.

Colja Dams

Colja Dams is Chief Executive Officer of VOK DAMS, one of the leading agencies for events and live marketing globally. With offices in Dubai, Beijing, France, Shanghai, and Wuppertal, Germany, VOK DAMS has produced award-winning events for leading brands all over the world.

Mary Wittenberg

Mary Wittenberg is President of the EF Education First Pro Cycling cycling team and past President and Chief Executive Officer of New York Road Runners (NYRR). During 17 years with New York Road Runners, Mary oversaw the TCS New York City Marathon and many other races, events, and running-related programs. Mary was selected in 2015 as Global CEO of Virgin Group's new festival sports brand, Virgin Sport, but left the organization in 2017 when the company cancelled plans for events in the United States.


Lori Raimondo

Lori Raimondo leads a double life. As a producer, she specializes in documentaries. As a marketing and event expert, she specializes in the entertainment and non-profit industries.

Lori has produced events as high-profile as the New Year's Eve Ball Drop and and as intimate as local poetry readings. She has led marketing teams responsible for the branding and marketing of iconic brands like MTV and Times Square.

Karen Dalzell

Karen Dalzell, Cultural CEO of Dalzell Creative Group, started Dalzell Productions in 2000 when her experience as a producer demanded horizons beyond off-off-broadway theater.

With over 20 years of experience encompassing all aspects of the event, Karen's particular skill is to combine creative project planning with new and inventive business models that provide a solid, sustainable basis for continuing, open innovation. She has been recognized as a strategic visionary and entrepreneur with a track record of success in producing exceptional events. Karen is a recipient of prestigious awards for exemplary performance.


Andrea Michaels

Winner of over 70 international event awards, Andrea has planned and produced events since 1978. Building her company, Extraordinary Events, into a globally recognized brand has included product launches, consumer events and large-scale public events as well as more intimate and boutique conferences or multi-day incentive trips in the Caribbean, Europe, Asia or Latin America or wherever a plane can fly. Her list of clients ranges from presidents and royalty to Fortune 100 companies.

She is also the published author of “Reflections of a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business, Lessons in Life.” among several other books where she guest authored with greats like Deepak Chopra or Jack Canfield.

David Merrell

For over 25 years it has been David Merrell’s philosophy that “All special events truly demand a customized approach in order to fully achieve the client’s vision and purpose.” It is this vision, passion, and dedication, to each and every client that has inevitably led David E. Merrell and AOO Events, to become one of the most sought-after producers with a growing list of Fortune 500 and international corporations for product launches, corporate events, celebrity-attended fundraisers, and intimate weddings.

Continuously leading the market in a forward direction with authoritative momentum, David E. Merrell and AOO Events can respectively be considered a driving force in today’s event industry.

B. Allan Kurtz

Managing Director of both Ziegfeld Ballroom and Gotham Hall, Allan Kurtz has been at the helm of Iconic Spaces’ venues since 2003. His background includes five years as Director of Catering at Sheraton Meadowlands, three years at Water’s Edge, and 13 years at the Tavern on the Green in various positions, with the last five years as Managing Director. Allan is an active member of the prestigious NYC & Co.  Restaurant Committee and served on the board of the Central Park Precinct Community Council and on the advisory board of his alma mater, Fairleigh Dickinson University, for over 15 years.

Haley Carlson

Haley Carlson is the former Director of National Events and Sponsorships for Tribune Publishing. She has a strong background in producing unique experiences for audiences of all shapes and sizes.

Colin Cowie

Colin Cowie is a global citizen in every sense of the term. Having traveled over 13 million miles and visiting nearly 100 countries, he creates excitement and finds inspiration wherever he goes. His love for design and business keeps him hands-on with all of his projects. Through his website, books and television appearances, as well as by example, he consistently sends that message to the world.

Born in Zambia and raised in South Africa, he is an avid supporter of several charities focused on children’s education and health. The party planner of choice for celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey, Ryan Seacrest and Kim Kardashian, what sets Colin apart is his experiential approach to design; what you smell, touch, taste, feel and hear are carefully orchestrated to create the ultimate experience for Colin’s clients.