It was certainly a different point of view for Mary Tribble.
She stood last week before a standing-room-only crowd of event planners and caterers. As one of Charlotte's most visible event planners for 2 1/2 decades, there was a time when Tribble wouldn't have been in front of this audience of nearly 400, but in it - looking to land work.
This time, she was the one sharing information about business opportunities during her biggest planning gig yet - the Democratic National Convention.
"If I had still been in business, I would have been one of the people sitting on the chair, taking the notes," Tribble, 51, said last week from her office at the DNC host committee headquarters uptown. "But to be able to be on the other side of it, and being able to give these opportunities to other people, it's just so rewarding."
As chief of events planning for the city's convention host committee, Tribble is the key matchmaker between the hundreds of venue operators and business owners looking to cash in on the thousand or so expected parties and receptions surrounding the convention.
Convention business starts Sept. 4 and ends Sept. 6, when President Barack Obama gives his nomination acceptance speech at Bank of America Stadium.
But events will start at least several days before, including official DNC parties for the media and state delegations at 13 venues in the region, which were announced last week.
Tribble is drawing on her experience as the planner of some of Charlotte's biggest events for businesses and nonprofits.
Her high-profile gigs have included the 1991 NBA All-Star weekend's dinners, brunches and cocktail parties; the 1994 NationsBank laser and fireworks show held uptown during Final Four weekend; and personal party extravaganzas hosted by the city's key business and philanthropic players.
She says she wants to use her DNC post to leave a legacy of opportunities for entrepreneurs here.
She wants to show off Charlotte to 35,000 expected visitors - which includes 15,000 media members.
And she also wants to throw some memorable events.
Her first DNC gig: working with the convention and host teams on last September's "year-out" rally at Time Warner Cable Arena. Officials used the party to unveil the convention logo.
More than 2,000 attended. Merchandise bearing the new logo sold out in minutes.
"We feel lucky to have Mary as a partner on the host committee," said Steve Kerrigan, the convention CEO. "There's no one in town who has more experience planning events, and her resources and connections have been a tremendous asset."
Stepping back, coming back
Tribble didn't expect to be in the thick of Charlotte's highest-profile event ever when she sold her 25-year-old business, Tribble Creative Group, at the end of 2010.
In fact, she was in search of a quieter life.
A Miami native, the art history major from Wake Forest University came to Charlotte with no job in the early '80s. She was drawn to the idea of opportunities in North Carolina's biggest city.
After helping a small agency she worked for plan a grand opening for an architectural firm, Tribble got the idea to strike out on her own.
And as the city boomed, so did her business, as Tribble found herself in the middle of Charlotte's milestone events.
One of her many "pinch me" moments: climbing a two-story ladder, outdoors, to the middle of the crown of the 60-story Bank of America building before the topping out ceremony.
All that go-go-go changed on Christmas Eve in 2008. Tribble's car was broadsided by a mail delivery truck as she drove to yoga practice.
She was hospitalized with a severe fracture of the clavicle, then faced a long recovery at home. The episode had her rethinking her purpose in life and what to do next.
Tribble was ready for travel, writing, maybe even some rare naps.
She was about a month into retirement when city leaders landed the DNC.
Then her phone rang. It was Mayor Anthony Foxx, asking her to take the DNC event planner role. Torn, Tribble asked to mull it over.
"By the time I thought it over for a week or two, I was just 100 percent committed and ready to get involved," Tribble said.
"I have a lot of friends who ask me, 'How is that retirement going, Mary?' "
Not so great - and lots of local businesses are hoping that's to their benefit.
'The pinnacle of my career'
Tribble said about 150 venues in the Charlotte area have committed space to the convention, should it be needed. Spaces include cultural facilities, restaurants, bars, theaters, historical homes, even yoga studios.
The DNC event planning staff of five, headed by Tribble, works as a concierge service of sorts, promoting the right venue to groups seeking event space that week. Events could be Democratic groups looking for daily breakfast space. Or a big business throwing a cocktail party for 500.
Tribble says while she hopes all venues can be used, she also knows expectations are high. Perhaps too high.
Last week, at the third of a series of regular meetings Tribble has with venue operators, 370 came - up from the typical 150. More venues are signing on daily.
"My hope is that nobody's disappointed," she said. But "if we look at these four days as just this transactional way of doing business, then we have missed the whole boat on why this convention is good for Charlotte."
Still, Tribble said she is focused on creating as many opportunities for local businesses as she can.
"I feel like everything I have done professionally in my life has led me to this," Tribble said. "It's the pinnacle of my career for sure.
"I just can't imagine what it's going to be like that week, standing somewhere in Bank of America Stadium, watching everybody pour in, and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I had a part in the nomination of our president. And even further than that, I had a part of being able to show off Charlotte in such a big way.' "
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