The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Coffee talk: Brianna Haag, San Francisco events extraordinaire and Mr. Marina founder — August 17, 2015

Coffee talk: Brianna Haag, San Francisco events extraordinaire and Mr. Marina founder

Brianna Haag knows events! Not only was she Eventbrite’s first City Marketing Manager, but she created Mr. Marina, a philanthropic event that’s raised more than $500k for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in the last four years.

Today, she shares her favorite networking icebreakers along with tips for organizing an event that people will love and remember.

How did you get to where you are today?

Raised in San Diego, I first became a Northern California convert when I went to school at UC Davis. I spent a year post-college as a traveling consultant for my sorority, so I lived out of my suitcase while visiting a variety of college campuses. Once that wrapped up, I unpacked my bags and made the move to San Francisco.

Seven and a half years later, I still call San Francisco home. I’ve been fortunate to work at some innovative startups in sales and marketing focused roles. I spent two years at Yelp as an early employee, four years at Eventbrite as the first city marketing manager, and have been at Tilt for the last year and a half. I’m a member of the Growth team where we’re currently focused on expanding our college community. Everything has come full circle!

Your work at Eventbrite helped many San Francisco organizers host incredible events. What makes attending valuable for guests?

Three things:

  1. The guest list. A room full of interesting people is valuable for everyone.
  2. An experience as promised. To attract a great crowd, an organizer must secure ticket sales or RSVPs and factor value into ticket pricing. All details should be communicated to potential guests to set event expectations. I once attended an event that promised unlimited cupcake tastings, but they oversold the tickets and therefore ran out of food in the first 20 minutes. The majority of the attendees were upset that they didn’t get what they paid for, and the vendors were upset that the amount of food they were told to prepare wasn’t nearly enough. 
  3. Flawless execution. Whether it’s a small bachelorette party weekend or a huge tech conference, details can determine how often (and in what context) the event is remembered and discussed. 

What’s your best icebreaker/networking tip for someone who hasn’t been to many events?

If you can peak at the guest list prior to attending, that can be really helpful for preparing. Striking up a conversation at the bar or the food table can be an easier way to approach someone, as is mentioning something you notice on a guest’s name tag.

Another networking tip is to set a goal (how many business cards to hand out or collect, or number of quality conversations to have), and to be comfortable taking off if you feel you’ve talked to everyone you wanted to connect with. There’s no reason to waste time if it’s a bust! 

You created the Mr. Marina Pageant, a well-known philanthropic event that’s been featured everywhere from the Marina Times to E! and raised $525k for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society since 2012. What’s the toughest part of pulling it off every year?

Mr. Marina isn’t an easy event to pull off. I’d say the toughest part is recruiting the contestants, which allows us to scale our fundraising efforts in a massive way.

It’s a unique person who can not only commit to 10 weeks of fundraising, but is also willing to get onstage in front of an audience of 1,200+ people. Each year the group of contestants continues to raise the bar, and we’ve been so lucky to have so many awesome, passionate, and truly impressive people involved.

What other San Francisco events are you looking most forward to this year?

Right now, I’m really looking forward to the San Francisco Symphony’s Opening Night Gala on 9/24. The San Francisco Symphony sets the standard for excellence in musical performance and shapes cultural life throughout the spectrum of Bay Area communities — and opening night is the biggest event of the year, toasting to the new season.

Brianna Haag

Opening Night is also my favorite San Francisco black tie event, and this year I’m lucky to be co-chair for the Symphonix Dinner Party. Tickets are almost sold out, so I know we’re going to have a great crowd!

So many events, so little time. What’s the best way to handpick and prioritize which ones to attend?

There certainly isn’t time to go to everything, so I try to prioritize events where I’m confident there are attendees I’ll want to spend time with — whether that’s friends, people I’ve been wanting to meet, or an experience I’ve been meaning to try. I used to scoot around San Francisco on my Vespa, trying to squeeze in two or three events in a single night — but that’s exhausting! I’m much more selective now.

Where can we find you in San Francisco?

Barry’s Bootcamp. The SOMA location is right by my office, but the team is opening a new location in the Marina this fall which I know everyone in the 94123 is excited about! When I’m not working out at Barry’s (or various studios in the ClassPass network) you can find me sharing apps at Delarosa or sipping wine at California Wine Merchant.

Last, how do you take your coffee?

Usually with unsweetened almond milk (or a delectable treat is the house-made almond+macadamia milk from Saint Frank!)

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