IT speaks volumes when someone is introduced by the quality of their work before they enter a space. Local event management guru Adrian Chandler, 39, has become one of the most notable game-changers in the industry of event management.
Event management includes the conceptualising, planning and managing a team to execute large-scale events such as concerts, conventions and festivals. This requires understanding brands, target audiences and management of the technical aspects of creating an experience such as lighting, screens and fog machines, to name a few.
The founder of the San Juan-based company, Strictly FX, said he is thankful for how much he has grown. "I am from very humble beginnings. In summary, growing up was a bit tough. My dad disappeared when I was 12, leaving my mom to care for the seven of us. So no, it wasn’t the best of situations."
The second eldest of his siblings, it would be hard for many to imagine what his experiences may have been.
"Thanks to the help of family and loved ones, we managed to get by. I thank God every single day for my mother, for whom I have a huge amount of admiration and respect. She managed to keep her chin up and raised us all to be what we are today. My values, morals and all that I stand for – I owe it to her."
Asked what he is most passionate about, without hesitation, Chandler said he is most passionate about his business.
"Every day is a learning opportunity for me. It may sound a bit odd but I enjoy the challenges and struggles I face."
He believes these challenges do not only build him in character as a professional but have helped him tremendously with personal growth and development.
Chandler said he lives by the mantra, "Stay positive, work hard and make it happen!"
Long before he probably knew his current profession existed, Chandler wanted to become a flight attendant.
"As a teen, I was never fortunate enough to travel. The first time I left Trinidad was to go right next door to Tobago, and that was by boat. I was always amazed at how my aunt would travel all over the world and be paid for doing it – so I was like, 'That’s what I want to do. I want to be a flight attendant when I grow up.'"
Asked what teachers and family thought he should do, he said, "To be quite honest, I don’t think I ever really had that conversation with either of them."
What he did know was that they wanted him to make something of himself, and that would have been enough to make them proud.
Eventually, being drawn to event conceptualisation and management was encouraging, as Chandler found he was naturally good at it.
He described the attraction to, and learning about the industry as something organic, saying, "I can’t pinpoint any one thing to say, 'That drew me to event management.'"
His background has been more aligned with the business of special effects – like fog, haze, dry ice fog, coloured smoke, foam and wind machines, projectors – used to enhance parties and events.
"I quickly found myself diversifying and getting into things like lighting and screens, providing a one-stop shop – and before I knew it, here I was conceptualising and producing events from a simple thought to execution."
He got into the entertainment industry at 19, working for his uncle, who did special effects for events.
"I was 23 when I ventured out on my own.
"It started off as trial and error, as I was self-taught, but along the way I wanted proper accreditation, so I acquired an event management certificate from George Washington University."
Three concepts of which he is most proud are Super 7s, Soccer 6s and the Heineken UCL finals viewing party in 2017.
Super 7s and Soccer 6s are cricket and football tournaments respectively — each team having seven and six players per match. The tournaments include teams representing brands such as Punchy Punch, Domino's Pizza, Tribe, Caesar's Army and White Oak. Soccer 6s was held at the Hasely Crawford Stadium training field between September 21 and 24.
"I am most proud of Super 7s because it was the first event I conceptualised and produced independently as a way of bringing the community together through sports."
He received greater motivation when he realised how much the people who attended enjoyed it.
"They were proud to welcome this initiative and anticipated the second year."
Super 6s made him feel the same way.
"I love doing events that bring people together to have fun – to enjoy and experience something in a way they may not have otherwise."
He said he was proud of the Heineken UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Champions League finals viewing party in 2017 because it came from having created this experience in collaboration with a brand as respected as Heineken.
"This was a game-changer for me," he said, as the event was evidence of his capabilities. "I am grateful to the client for trusting my vision and allowing me the creative freedom to produce an event that was exciting, riveting, engaging and extremely out of the box. That feeling of satisfaction expressed by a client on a job that excited me to produce, as much as this did, was a truly proud moment."
Chandler said he loves an empty canvas when approaching a new project, or even revisiting an annual event, because it gives him the chance to create anything.
"People will ask, 'Adrian, what do you see here?' And I would just smile."
He said he prefers meeting clients on site, which allows him to begin the process of visualisation – imagining the placement and layout of everything.
"I love creating and seeing it all unfold makes it even easier and gives me that drive to keep going at it."
In any profession, one is bound to face challenges – some of which are closely tied to personal life. Asked about what he had to overcome on his professional journey, he said, "My hardest challenge would have been coping with the passing of my youngest brother while still having to carry on business amidst the pain of my loss." This experience, he said, broke his spirit and was emotionally challenging. "I battled internally for years. He was only 22."
Chandler's brother worked for him at the time and was electrocuted in the height of the Carnival season, the busiest time of the year.
"No degree nor course teaches you how to deal with that."
Asked what can be anticipated from Adrian Chandler and Strictly FX, Chandler said, "Currently, I’m working on another project, PINKnicTT. It’s a huge breast cancer initiative."
The event is sponsored by the Guardian Group, Bryden, Carib Brewry, Ansa McAL and benefits the Cancer Society. It will be held tomorrow at Drew Manor, Santa Cruz and funds from the event will assist in promoting breast cancer awareness and treatment.
"Aside from that, you’ll just have to stay tuned, because things happen in the blink of an eye."