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Where are They Now? Suzanne Wells

Adair County native Suzanne Wells was recently featured in the Spring 2004 edition of the Centre College newsletter, Centrepiece. Suzanne is the daughter of David and Ruth Wells of Columbia, who are well-known as the former owners of the David Wells Insurance Agency (now merged with Reed Brothers Insurance).

A 1977 graduate of Adair County High School, Suzanne Wells travelled extensively while completing her degree in English (1981) at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and her love of travel has blossomed into a globe-trotting career that regularly takes her to all parts of the world.

Wells lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is in charge of business and agency development through-out the Asia Pacific region for the George P. Johnson Company, one of the leading players in the event management industry.

The following is reprinted with permission from the Spring 2004 issue of the Centre College Centrepiece.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Centre College Alumna travels around the globe to deliver events with "wow!"
by Diane Fisher Johnson

Suzanne Wells '81 flies more than 150,000 miles a year. Her office is wherever she has a laptop and an Internet connection. She often works weekends and nights. But she says she's found the perfect career.

Wells is a worldwide event marketer.

"It's very exciting to work on a project for months at a time, with a big team from all over the world, and then see it all come together," she says. "People who go to a conference don't realize that the planning begins sometimes years in advance."

Plus, she gets to visit fun places. "I'm working with top-of the-line clients, and they want to put on the best performance for the customers they're inviting," she says. "I go to a lot of nice events in great cities and destinations."

An English major from Adair County, Ky., who loved to travel-she did three winter-term trips at Centre-Wells found her calling quite by chance the summer after graduation. Her partner in a golf tournament was a woman who worked in hotel sales convincing clients to hold their conventions at her hotel.

Wells was intrigued. "I thought, I could do that-and hotels are all over the world," she recalls. She talked her way into the competitive Hyatt hotel-management training program on the strength of her liberal arts background, and she never looked back.

"Very few people in this field plan to get into it," she admits. "But once you get a taste, you're hooked."

Twenty-three years later, she is still in the hospitality industry, just on a grander scale. In February she moved to Sydney, Australia, where she is in charge of business and agency development through-out the Asia Pacific region for the George P. Johnson Company, one of the leading players in the event management industry.

Her territory includes China, Japan, Australia, and India, as well as Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore. She'll also be opening a new office in South Africa during her two-year assignment down under.

She works with IBM, Cisco, and Oracle, among others. Sometimes her work is tied into outside programs-she's done functions at the Olympics, for example. Sometimes they stand alone, as in a trade show or a conference.

"We will go out and engage all the suppliers, find the venue, do the menu, the transportation, the invitations, decide who you should invite, and tell you all the things you can do to excite and delight the customer, to build the anticipation," she says.

But don't call her a "party planner." She "delivers events."

For it's not enough to orchestrate an occasion that will wow 5,000 IBM business partners, she says.

"A key piece is the measurement," she points out. "A company will think, 'We had a lot of people show up so this was a great party.'

"But it's not a great party if the wrong people were there. It was not a good return on the investment if you didn't have the decision-makers and people who can purchase your product or service. We're the ones who will help you craft what event you should do and who should be there."

Her favorite event is an annual film festival in Amsterdam for which she arranges an awards ceremony and party. "It's a whole week of screening movies, and I'm huge movie buff," she says. "And the client gives me free rein to do whatever I want. We always have lots of movie stars attending."

Perhaps not surprisingly given her globe-trotting lifestyle, Wells is a big fan of the international experiences she had while in college.

"Centre's program was such a unique opportunity to learn to be resourceful in another country," she says. "It gave me a comfort level to work on a project and interact with people anywhere in the world. And that kind of confidence has been extremely valuable."

This story was posted on 2004-06-24 21:17:13
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World Traveller

2004-06-25 - Sydney, Australia . Adair County native Suzanne Wells is shown near the Opera House in her new hometown of Sydney, Australia. Wells is the daughter of David and Ruth Wells of Columbia. (photo courtesy Centre College Centrepiece)
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