Feb 2, 2021
We are delighted to be speaking to Heather Mason today. Heather has tons of energy and lots of great ideas. She created her company, Caspian Agency, in 2005, and today, she is a rockstar, planning all the meetings and events for some of the world’s major foundations.
In this episode, Heather talks to us about how our industry needs revolution, not evolution, and that women need to learn the mantra, “men, money, and materials.”
We hope you enjoy our amazing conversation with Heather Mason today!
Heather Mason’s bio
Heather Mason founded Caspian in 2005 to produce conferences for the innovative and social good business space. Caspian’s social enterprise clients include the Skoll Foundation, the Omidyar Network, New America, Code for America, Rockefeller Foundation, Endeavor Global, Impact 2030, The Philanthropy Workshop, and Sunnylands. Caspian has also worked with brands including HarperCollins, Vanity Fair, and Keurig Green Mountain Coffee. Caspian has had the distinction of producing the Skoll World Forum for the past 15 years.
Heather also created the Caspian 10 Essentials methodology as a system to ensure business goals could be mapped and met through live events. The Caspian 10 Essentials is offered as a training program for in-house event teams and clients include Oxford University, Swansea University, and Cheung Kung Institute of Business in London. Recently, Caspian partnered with Cvent, the largest event software provider in the world, to provide the Caspian 10 Essentials via a webinar series. The online Essentials were featured as course material for the San Diego State University Meetings and Events Masters course. Mason is also the instructor for the Masters Meetings Financials and Economics Course.
Heather’s previous work experience includes Fox Studios, Fox TV, the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals, the Bud Greenspan Olympic film crew, as well as a marketing career in technology including ShowBIZ data, Broadstream and UltraDNS. Prior to starting Caspian, she worked at Charles Schwab, producing conferences across the country.
She graduated with a degree from Utah State University, where she was awarded Woman of the Year award and the President's Leadership scholarship. She is a strategic advisor to the Women Founders Foundation and serves on the boards of Social Venture Circle (SVC), American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), Utah State University Alumni and on the Advisory Board for Women Founders Network (WFN.)
She has been a keynote speaker at the Western Regional MPI Conference in Las Vegas, featured speaker at Future of Cities LA, Cvent Connect Conference, Women Founders Network, Talk Forum NYC, HSMAI, LA AiP (International Association of Advisors in Philanthropy) and the Global Women’s Leadership Summit. She is an instructor for the PCMA Digital Event Strategist certificate program.
Heather has been featured in Southwest Airlines, Collaborate, and Successful Meetings magazines. Mason has been named a 2020 Changemaker by MeetingsNet, a 2018 Top 500 Most Influential Event Professional by BizBash, and her event SUREFIRE was named one of the top 15 most Innovative Events of 2018 by BizBash Magazine.
The film bug
When she was in school, back in 1993, Heather found out about the Sundance Film Festival, and she got bitten by the film bug. She wanted to go and produce movies and thought it would be easy, so she went to Hollywood. She worked at the Fox 2000 studio, and after that, she worked for Fox TV.
After leaving Fox TV, she went to work as the head of marketing for two different internet companies. That took her away from Los Angeles to the Bay Area.
A friend told her that producing events is a lot like producing movies. She had no job at the time, so she decided to give it a try, and ended up working as an event manager for the next three years. That was when she learned to use a third-party agency to augment her team, and she did events all around the country. She then learned how to do what a third-party agency does.
Save the world
Heather wanted to save the world, so she decided that if she was going to start her own company, she only wanted to work with people who were saving the world.
So she quit her job, and with just $1400 in the bank, she started the Caspian Agency.
Heather became part of a civic learning platform for high school and college students, called Quora. For a brief time, they had a learning program to teach professionals how their city works, how they could engage in the democratic process, and how to become a more active citizen.
Through the program, Heather met someone who worked at the Skoll Foundation. She was looking for an event manager to do one event. The Skoll Foundation then became her client for the next fifteen years.
If you want to have faith and believe in the world
If you want to have and believe in the world, Heather suggests that you look at what the Skoll Foundation does. Go to www.skoll.org to read all about them. The foundation funds, connects, and celebrates social entrepreneurs. They look for those social entrepreneurs who are using business to change the world for good.
Heather Mason’s social entrepreneurship
Heather Mason had never before heard of social entrepreneurship, and when she learned about it, she thought it was cool! After getting the Skoll Foundation as her client, she started getting to know all the different organizations in that world, and from there, she got many referrals. She found that once she started working in that group of foundations, things began to build on themselves because she learned all the different initiatives and knew the language.
Revolution, not evolution
Heather thinks that the revolution is here if we want it. She thinks this time of chaos and disruption is a lot like what was happening back in the dot-com days. During any time of disruption, things tend to rise like a phoenix from the flame. They can get better because the disruption allows for the deconstruction of the systems and models that we had accepted were written in stone, that we see are just written in the matrix.
Recreating the industry in a better way
People in organizations don’t know what to do currently. Those event producers who are not afraid of authority, responsibility, failure, or experimenting can own the industry and recreate it in a better way.
Project managers are traditionally able to usurp the formal order chart when they are in charge of a worldwide project. Heather feels that event producers should be the same way.
The massive opportunity that Heather Mason sees
Heather Mason sees that there is a massive opportunity now to revolutionize the industry. There is no option right now for people to stay at the same level and do logistics because that will trend downward into commoditization.
Men, money, and materials
Heather feels that women need to learn the mantra, “men, money, and materials”. She explains that the women she works with are afraid to take on any more responsibility because they think they will have to do everything themselves. In the military, however, when an order gets given, the person always says “yes” no matter what the job is, and then they will ask for the men, money, and materials to accomplish the job.
When you have authority, you do not have to know how to build the bridge. You need to know how to direct people to build the bridge, and you need the men, money, and materials to do it.
Heather had lots of fears and made a lot of mistakes along the way. Now that she’s on the other side of pushing back, however, she sees that her fears were nothing more than the matrix talking to her and telling her stories that were not true.
A life of hesitancy
A life of hesitancy has a lot of sacrifices to it. A life of fear has sacrifices in it. Heather would rather have the sacrifice that the risky life and the bold life offer.
Five different people changed Heather’s life when she was fifteen. They helped her transform from being a hesitant, shy, frightened, introverted girl into someone who could see that a life of boldness had fewer sacrifices.
Among them were a walking coach, a presentation coach, her history teacher, and a dance teacher.
Heather thinks we all have a responsibility to pass on and pay forward what people have done for us.
Surefire is a collective impact model meant to go in any major metropolitan area. They get 20 girls from different schools to be ambassadors. They have to supply topics that girls want to talk about the most. They then go into the community and find all the organizations that serve girls and youth, and have a one-day conference and a community village where all the organizations get set up around the main stage to help the girls.
The future of conferences
The future of conferences for the organizations Heather works for means expanding the idea of having global audiences.
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