Ketih Oliver can thank his teenage dreams of rock stardom for landing him at the top of the event technology business.

Oliver, a Waterford native and bass guitarist, headed to the Musicians Institute in Hollywood in 1986, when he was 18 years old. There he met people who produced live events, primarily for corporations, and he began filling in as an extra hand.

“I didn’t make it as a rock star, and I didn’t realize the [event production] industry existed in Detroit,” says Oliver, owner of Premier Event Technology. “[But after I moved back], I looked up A/V companies one day and, lo and behold, there was a slew of them. I got a job with one.”

Oliver had been in a band and had bought a fair amount of equipment for live shows. When his band broke up, he separated the equipment into smaller parts and began renting it. “I’d learned in LA that corporations pay money for this stuff,” he says. “So that’s where it started, taking old band stuff and repurposing and renting it.”

Today, Oliver’s company employs 28 people and is one of the top event design and technology companies in the state. It’s the preferred provider for Quicken Loans and recently won the in-house contract for Cobo Center, beating out much larger companies. Premier recently partnered with Orlando-based LMG, a major event technology company.

“We’re trying to maintain a small feel, keep our culture and the way we do things, but be able to pull those levers when we need to [for large events],” Oliver says of the LMG partnership.

Oliver, 48, and his wife, Jodi, have been married for 25 years; the couple has three children. “She’s been with me since the beginning,” Oliver says of Jodi, who works in the company’s accounting department. “She’s been a huge part of this.”

Oliver says he’s gratified watching his business—and the people it employs—grow and evolve. “Being a provider, that’s where my happiness comes from,” he says. “We have a nice culture in our business. I’m really excited to be a part of something that’s growing.”

League City CVB manager Stephanie Polk shares her career journey.

Originally from Kentwood, Louisiana, Stephanie Polk, TDM, CTE, first made her mark on the travel and tourism industry as director of marketing for the Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau. There, she helped to elevate the city as a destination for recreation travelers and business groups. Wowed by her accomplishments, in 2020, League City brought her on board to lead its marketing efforts. She shares with us highlights and advice from her experience in the industry. 

 

Dorothy Hecht was just 16 years old in 1937 when she waited on her first table at what was then Fischer’s Restaurant in downtown Frankenmuth, and ecstatically earned her first 25-cent tip. When she met and eventually married William “Tiny” Zehnder, whose family owned Zehnder’s Restaurant across the street, her happiness continued, and a legacy began.

 

With restrictions across the country in a state of constant flux, not everyone is ready to jump back into meeting in person. While some planners are eager to get back to “normal,” the long-term adjustment to new protocols and potential risks make some hesitant to gather.

While wearing masks and social distancing can help keep attendees safe, intentional design choices—such as including natureinspired elements and materials and plenty of plants—can also help calm attendees.