All posts in “Meet Your Instructor”

Meet Your Instructor: Karen Salhaney

karen salhaneyKaren Salhaney is SEI’s current instructor for Course 5: Event Management and Leadership.


What made you decide to become an event planner and what do you currently do professionally (aside from teach with SEI)?

Becoming an event planner was not a career I intentionally planned. As a matter of fact, I was running a successful Insurance Agency and never thought I’d ever blossom into an event professional.  However, it was through my philanthropic leadership while I was volunteering at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that I discovered the love of bringing people together in a positive way — this magical feeling came from organizing fundraising events.  Over time, I came to realize that my passion was deeply imbedded in the event industry.  I thought, instead of managing insurance portfolios, why not manage events.  I took my volunteer experience and transferable skills of critical thinking, organization, and building good relationships which eventually evolved into a fulfilling event planning career.  I started at a Trade Show Exhibit firm, then to owning my own Event Management Company and finally to being a Director of Events for a nonprofit organization  I currently consult and teach Event Planning — and feeling very satisfied!


What SEI course do you teach and why do you enjoy it?

I currently teach the Event Management and Leadership course at SEI.  Being confident and well prepared while managing people and projects is critical. This course elevates ones competencies and confidence in the areas of events, financial, service and business management — all absolutely necessary as an event leader in our professional.  I get a lot of joy watching a student excel when they utilize the management tools that SEI has provided when planning a successful project and unveiling their creativity.


What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an event planner?

As we know, having a good relationship with clients, vendors, employers and your event team is very important.  As much as we can feel prepared through the event process, my biggest challenge where the times that communication was lacking.  I have discovered that we can not assume anything when planning an event and that it is better to over communicate then under communicate.


What advice do you have for the current SEI students?  As an event planner, being an astute listener can help ensure you come up with a special event that the client wants.  While listening seems like an easy skill to master, always remember that you involve:  paying attention, understanding and remembering.


When hiring, what type of qualities do you look for in an event planner new to the industry?

For me, it’s all about being positively authentic, efficient and organized.   When it comes to hiring an event planner, I will always choose the person who has a polished appearance, is respected, a positive attitude, is extremely resourceful and is always enthusiastic.

Meet Your Instructor: Mark Sonder, CSEP

We are very excited to introduce you to one of our newest instructors, Mark Sonder to the SEI team!



Industry expert, author, speaker, professor and named “Meeting Industry Guru” by Successful Meetings and Meeting News Magazines, Mark Sonder, Certified Special Events Professional, has worldwide experience in the strategic planning, development and management of multi-million dollar entertainment programs.

Sonder is the Chief Entertainment Officer at the award-winning entertainment agency Mark Sonder Productions, Inc., celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2015.

He has authored the full-length hardcover book on entertainment programs and operations, entitled, “Event Entertainment and Production” (Wiley & Sons). He has spoken from The Philippines to Trinidad and across the USA.

Mark acquired ViewPoint International Event and Destination Management Company, New York City’s full-service premier DMC in 1997. ViewPoint custom designed and produced programs, special events, spouse programs, tours, transportation, show and sporting program tickets. They also contracted venues for meetings, conventions, trade shows, exhibitions and incentives. Sonder sold his company 10 years later.

He is a Lecturer of Tourism Studies at The George Washington University’s Master of Tourism Administration’s Degree Program in Washington DC. In addition, Sonder taught at the Harrah’s Hotel School at UNLV for 6 years.

He was a founding member of the International Special Events Society and belongs to a number of professional industry associations.


What made you decide to become an event planner and what do you currently do professionally (aside from teach with SEI)?

I am the Chief Entertainment Officer at the award-winning 30 year old national entertainment agency, Mark Sonder Productions, Inc. I am on the faculty of the Master of Tourism Administration diploma program as well as its Event Management Certificate program at The George Washington University in Washington DC. I have literally written the book for the meeting and event industries on entertainment, through the Event Series published by Wiley, entitled, “Event Entertainment and Production”.


What SEI course do you teach and why do you enjoy it?

Although I haven’t been assigned as yet, it will be Event Marketing, a course I teach at The George Washington University, or Event Management and Leadership, as I have been a visionary and pioneer in this industry.


What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an event planner?

The largest challenge I have ever faced is an impromptu negotiation which I found myself in the middle of between The House of Blues and a major international pharmaceutical company.  Fortunately, I am a uniter and not a divider so after getting their respective attorneys on the phone while sitting at The House of Blues with the pharma client, it all worked to everyone’s satisfaction and the show went on!


Why do you believe getting a certification is important for event professionals today?

The importance a certification shows fellow industry colleagues, employers and clients alike that that person has gone through a certain amount of training and has passed a certain level of qualifications.


What advice do you have for the current SEI students?

I would be preaching to the choir as you are already enrolled in a fine certification program.  In this challenging economic time where organizations appear to have allocated less budget toward events, please go to work at a pre-exisiting company and receive a guaranteed income through your salary.


When hiring, what type of qualities do you look for in an event planner new to the industry?

Qualities of perspective employees for my company would include:

Exciting opportunity to work with our entrepreneurial company in a fun, casual atmosphere! In this job you will have the luxury of having your office, preferably out of your Washington DC area home! If you meet the following description AND you have the background outlined below, We’d love to hear from you!

In this position you will represent, demonstrate, and sell Mark Sonder Productions’s product and services to Fortune 500 organizations, meeting planners, hotel and casinos. Cold call on new prospects in an effort to meet and exceed sales quota and grow assigned territory. Attend local/regional networking and trade show events periodically. Follow up on inbound calls and inquiries regarding products and services. Maintain accurate and current account records utilizing company contact management system. Attend, the meetings/events/shows in person. Answers to Mr. Sonder.

Requirements for consideration include:

— At least 3 years of successful sales experience

— Strong understanding of various software, and Internet capabilities

— Proven ability to negotiate and close a deal

— Proven track record in exceeding sales quotas

— Experience in selling regionally, nationally and/or internationally

— Recognition as a top producer in current organization

— Experienced and successful in selling 6 figure deals

— Experience and success with sales quotas of $1million+


— High performer seeking perfection in job related tasks

— Absolute passion about job responsibilities

— Ability to solve problems and work with minimal supervision

— Excellent verbal, written and presentation communication skills

— Ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously

— Willing to travel, if applicable


– Entrepreneurial environment

– Challenging and fast changing business environment

– Innovative and creative atmosphere

– Getting the job done is more important than the hours of work

– Customer service oriented

– Fun and casual atmosphere

Compensation is based on total industry revenues from the practice with no base salary. This is a true entrepreneurial venture meaning you get out what you put in. Income has no limits. If interested and qualified, please email Mr. Mark Sonder, CSEP at


Welcome to the SEI team Mark! We are excited to have you on board!