Leadership Spotlight on Michael Wright (MBA ’20), PE Conference Co-Chair

The Booth Experience connected with Michael Wright (MBA ’20), one of the two Private Equity Conference Co-Chairs, to hear about his experiences planning and running the conference.

TBE: This conference is a tremendous undertaking and one of the largest events that any student group hosts. What was the overall planning process like?

MW: Planning the conference was a tremendous leadership experience. It was both lengthy (nearly a year of planning) and involved (averaging 25-30 hours per week during the peak period in the weeks leading up to the event). We managed 15 first-year volunteers and coordinated with countless other constituents (speakers, panelists, moderators, sponsors, venue personnel, Polsky staff, attendees, and others).

TBE: Was there anything that surprised you about the planning process?

MW: The thing that most surprised me during the organization process was the amount of time we spent following up with people. That sort of “blocking and tackling” is an underappreciated but essential part of management—simply making sure things get done.

TBE: Given you and Chandler Watlington (MBA ’20) were both conference volunteers as first years, was there anything you did differently to improve upon last year’s conference?

MW: This year, we experimented with new features for the conference, like the mobile app, which ended up being a tremendous success and something that Polsky will be using at other events going forward. Najib Jai (MBA ’21) proposed the app and spearheaded its deployment with James Havlock (MBA ’21). Chandler and I both liked the idea and let Najib and James run with it. Another part of management is learning to trust your team!

TBE: What did you find most challenging?

MW: The most challenging part was coordinating the moving pieces of panels and sponsors. I likened it to a crossword puzzle; each part depends on the other, but once you get one down, the rest fall into place.

The conference featured three keynote speakers, as well as two sets of concurrent panels, all organized by Michael, Chandler, and their team of student volunteers.

TBE: Did any unexpected roadblocks come up during the planning process?

MW: The most unexpected part was the emergence of the coronavirus. We had one moderator and one panelist cancel on us the Monday before the conference, which required us to scramble to fill their spots. We watched a lot of news that week and talked with interested parties about the whether we needed to cancel the conference. To quote Chandler during that time, “There had been many things that I thought could derail the conference, but a global pandemic wasn’t one of them.” Ultimately, we ended up deferring to University guidance, which, at that point, still green-lit events.

TBE: Now that the conference is in the past, and feedback has been incredibly positive, did you have a personal highlight?

MW: The coolest part of the experience was giving opening remarks and introducing Dean Rajan to the 400+ attendees at the conference. It was the largest audience that I have spoken in front of.

Finally, the most rewarding part was seeing all of our work come together and hearing from people that they were having a good time. I do not plan on organizing another conference anytime soon but am grateful to have had the opportunity to add to the (19-year!) legacy of the Booth Private Equity Conference.

More insight and takeaways regarding this year’s conference are detailed in a post from last week that can be found here.

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