Name: Sonya Easley
Title: Senior Manager, Meeting Planning and Field Coordination
Organization: Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma America
Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
Birthplace: New Jersey
Education: B.S. Hospitality Administration/Management, University of Phoenix
• Senior meeting and events specialist, Johnson & Johnson (2004-2011)
• Meeting and events consultant BASF (2012-2014)
• Senior manager, meetings and conventions, Valeant Pharmaceuticals (2015-2017)
• Senior manager, trade show, meeting and event management, Getinge (2017-2018)
As a young woman, Sonya Easley had a passion for fashion. She went to design school and worked in the fashion industry for several years. In fact, she was part of orchestrating Bryant Park’s famed 7th on Sixth shows — the hottest ticket in New York Fashion Week. The high pressure and fast-paced environment of these shows honed Easley’s organization skills, attention to detail and ability to interface with the public — all qualities that proved essential in her future roles.
“I love the excitement of being able to strategize and plan an event based on goals and objectives,” said Easley. “One of my former stakeholders that I worked with paid me the biggest possible compliment when he said, ‘Sonya has a way of taking your vision and bringing it to life.’ It’s one of the things that drives me every day when I get up and work on a project: How can I execute this and create the experience the person has envisioned? ”
Easley jumped from fashion into tech, working for companies like Lucent, where she oversaw the VoIP launch and organized trade shows and various meetings ranging in size from five to 3,000 attendees. With budgets in the millions, Easley coordinated every detail, from speakers to travel arrangements to registration and A/V equipment. When the dot-com industry went belly-up, Easley moved over to pharmaceuticals, the New Jersey region’s next-biggest industry, working with massive corporations like Johnson & Johnson and Valeant.
“I worked across all sectors — meetings, trade shows, events — I got to do them all,” said Easley. “I’ve grown to where I am in this industry because I approach it not as planning a meeting but as planning an experience. When someone has a vision, it’s my job to create it.”
Easley loves a challenge and thrives under pressure, which is when she says she does her best thinking.
“It makes me think strategically, where I realize I only have one shot to make it work,” she said. “When you create an experience where people feel a part of the meeting, you’re creating the culture that is going to drive the business. I want everyone who goes to that meeting to feel like they’re valued.”
Easley also makes a point to know all the likes and dislikes of her team of directors, for example, one loves Junior Mints, another loves orange-flavored Monster drinks and one loves gummy bears, so Easley makes sure those favorites are on hand at their meetings. “If we’re going to take people away from their home and make them sit in a conference room all day, I want them to be as comfortable as possible and have a little treat they love,” she said. “That little touch will put a smile on their faces and it goes so far.”
Easley is so successful in her role because she practices what she considers the golden rule of being a good meeting and event planner: remembering that the meeting is all about the attendee and making it an event people want to attend.
“You can’t be in this business because you want applause,” she said. “You have the opportunity to create what they walk away with, which is really a gift.”