How do you get to the Olympics and the Super Bowl? Practice. Just ask Ben Witte, Proof of the Pudding’s Senior VP of Operations and one of our many Meeting & Event Management Certificate program instructors.
He might not be a world-class athlete, but Ben definitely gets a gold medal for coordinating events such as the 1996 Olympics, the 1994 and 2000 Super Bowls, and the 2001 and 2007 NCAA Final Four games. Here, he shares advice for newcomers to the business, the importance of math, and why Atlanta is central for success.
With decades of experience under his belt, Ben said there are certain qualities hospitality professionals must have. Among them are being able to juggle and plan and possessing stamina and patience.
Math is also a crucial skill. And Ben would know – seated dinners for 13,000 members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and providing services for 10,000 people in executive suites definitely takes knowledge of numbers.
“20 people per gallon of liquid, 50 people per side of chef table/buffet – every aspect of our business is math,” he said. Leadership is also key. Ben describes this as “being a head coach of the team, making sure the entire team understands the plan.”
Having a personal trademark is also essential. Ben entered the business at age 13 as a bus boy at a piano bar in Chicago. His parents, who also worked there, were memorable to customers due to certain idiosyncrasies.
“My mom always had a flower in her hair. My dad was ‘Witte Like City,’” he said. For future meeting and event planners, he stresses, “You need that one thing people will remember YOU for.” (What’s Ben’s trademark? Check his LinkedIn profile to find out!)
As one of multiple industry professionals who teach in our program, Ben says education is foundational for careers in service. His best advice: “Save all of your notes. Learn as much as you can because in 10 years, you may be in a part of the business you never thought you would be and you will need those skills you are learning in class.”
For our graduates, Atlanta is prime for hospitality due to its many advantages. Ben lists the airport, convention centers and hotels as attractive benefits for event planners seeking a host city. His involvement with organizations such as Atlanta Food Bank, Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau also showcases his prominence and commitment to the capital.
After 25 years – and counting – with Proof of the Pudding, he is still intrigued by the thrill of events and turning a customer’s dream into reality. He said, “[In] our business, there is no finish line. The best part is when someone tells you it cannot be done, and your team crushes it!”
For aspiring and novice hospitality and event managers, Ben advises to always listen to your critics and customers, have an open mind, and to never stop learning. He adds, “Never think you have ‘made it.’ Always do your daily role to the best of your ability. Run it like you own it!”