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JoAnn Gregoli: “Trust your gut and listen to that inner voice”

Being a thought leader makes you an authority in your field and gives you more credibility with potential couples. It is extremely important to invest in yourself and achieve higher goals. Never settle for mediocre, always strive to learn and grow. One thing I learned is that by giving back and sharing you will find […]

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Being a thought leader makes you an authority in your field and gives you more credibility with potential couples. It is extremely important to invest in yourself and achieve higher goals. Never settle for mediocre, always strive to learn and grow. One thing I learned is that by giving back and sharing you will find a purpose for your life.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing JoAnn Gregoli, owner of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli is an event planner/producer with offices in New York, New Jersey, Rome and Marrakesh.

She co-authored the Knots Guide to Destination wedding and was one of the first planners to host destination weddings. She is a speaker, author, mother and wedding producer. She is also a single mother of 6 children. She describes her life as controlled chaos and knows a thing or two about balancing life and work. She gained her knowledge about travel, as the daughter of a travel agent.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I actually became involved with planning events as early as the 6th grade where I produced fashion shows and parties for my local school. I became obsessed with weddings while on vacation, whereby I would literally attend every wedding on the property, every hour on the hour. I knew then that I was hooked on weddings. I went to college and graduated with a degree in public relations and marketing. My first job was working for a public relations agency that was responsible for the building of the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey. We worked for years, raising funds and developing the design of this center. For me, it was the feeling of accomplishment to see the birth of a project from start to finish that gave me purpose. Travel was always my passion in life so the combining of my two loves, planning/producing and travel was a natural progression. I knew that introducing destination weddings to the industry it would change the way people viewed weddings and how they could go from a local wedding to a memorable 3-day event.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

As someone who has planned destination events for over 30 years, I am able to provide insights into the world of destination events due to my extensive knowledge of travel. I also believe that a person should learn as much as possible and gain knowledge in their area of expertise. I do not rely on websites or online reviews for any of the destinations that I recommend. It’s all about life’s experiences that give me the ability to guide my clients and peers. I visit as many locations as possible and meet as many vendors as I can on each visit. I like to immerse myself in the culture and learn from the locals.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

My greatest achievement is when I was asked to plan and produce Rupert Murdoch daughter’s wedding in Beverly Hills. It truly was a momentous occasion, where I met 2 Presidents and many celebrities, that one event literally put me on the map for destination and celebrity weddings. It was extremely challenging due to the logistics in Beverly Hills and the need for secret service to be present for 2 presidents was a little stressful. However, my motto is never let them see your stress, a great planner must stay calm no matter what challenges they are presented with. The whole event felt like an out of body experience.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I ever made was to assume that other countries understand the same terminologies as Americans. I had hired a jazz band for a wedding in Rome, thinking it was blues jazz , their interpretation of jazz was a Dixieland jazz band complete with costume. Lost in translation is real and one must never assume that people know what you mean. When you are dealing with a different language, everything must be reviewed very carefully and put in writing. There is no detail too small when dealing with destination weddings one must do their homework to be successful.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different from an influencer?

A thought leader is someone who offers guidance and insight to those in their field. A thought leader must possess a positive reputation amongst their peers in order to help others by providing knowledgeable information and insight. Thought leaders are able to teach and inspire others, thought leaders are true visionaries.

An influencer is someone who possesses the ability to have power over people’s buying decisions because of their knowledge and influence.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

Being a thought leader makes you an authority in your field and gives you more credibility with potential couples. It is extremely important to invest in yourself and achieve higher goals. Never settle for mediocre, always strive to learn and grow. One thing I learned is that by giving back and sharing you will find a purpose for your life.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

Figure out your area of expertise, whether it is a destination planner, celebrity planner or local planner, find your market and go after it. Focus on one element, you cannot be an expert in everything. Make sure you truly find what makes you happy and you will be successful. Next, fine-tune your craft and make yourself a speaking expert in that field. The more exposure you get the more it will drive traffic to your business. Knowledge is power, learn everything you can about the market that you are targeting. If you are going to find your niche, attend classes, conferences, seminars and educate yourself.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

Having grown up in the world of travel, I had vast experiences traveling abroad at a very young age. I would summer in Europe and the Caribbean, as my mother was a travel agent. That opened my eyes to the world around me and I became intrigued by the travel. I felt that travel was the best education in the world and you were able to learn so much through my travels. I knew the market and I learned quickly how to host destination weddings. I become more of a glorified travel agent. I knew that my passion was travel and having traveled my whole life allowed me to experience different cultures and share that passion with my couples.

I never place limits on myself, reach for the stars and go after what you want. I always believed you should ask for what you want, if the answer is no, at least you still made an effort to ask.

Creating your own destiny was something taught to me many years ago. I learned that you can create a market for yourself, even if it never existed, find an area that is lacking and make your own path.

Trust your gut and listen to that inner voice, if it feels wrong, walk away. Never underestimate your own intuition,

Step out of your comfort zone and dare to be different. Don’t settle for status quo, show that you can think differently than others and show how you can change the world.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach?

The person who influenced me the most as a thought leader is Carley Roney, co-founder of Knot. She truly not only disrupted the market of weddings, but she changed the way that couples were able to access wedding information. She is passionate and a hard-working mom who never lost sight of her mission. She was my mentor who helped me navigate and find my voice online. She was honest and always led by example. Carley is a true visionary, she took an idea that turned into a reality that changed the way weddings are planned.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

I do not think it is overused, I feel the influencer is way more overused than the thought leader. A thought leader is a great term that identifies someone who takes a lead in their field. Every entrepreneur should strive to be a thought leader, it will help to elevate their brand and industry. A true thought leader is someone who is a visionary, but they must remain relatable and not become egotistical.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

In order to avoid burnout, take time for yourself. I enjoy meditation, yoga and exercise self-care is very important to keep inspired and motivated. I find that exercising on a regular basis and eating a well-balanced diet makes all the difference in the world. Also, find your zen place, I love to be near or on the water, I find peace in the sound of crashing waves, do what works best for you.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

During this pandemic, I shifted my focus on a grassroots effort to help out. I was able to energize and motivate 250 women, whom I have never met to sew and produce PPE for front line workers. I would encourage and inspire others to get involved in community service or philanthropic work. It is by far the most rewarding and fulfilling thing one can do for themselves. Once you shift the focus off yourself and focus on others who are less fortunate you will appreciate what you have much more.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Knowledge is power and “Find your passion and you will never fail at anything in life”

First, you can never know too much. You must constantly grow and learn as much as you can in life. Knowledge in your field, gives you the power to teach and inspire others.

Second, once you find passion in your career, it will never feel like work and you should enjoy every second of your job.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have lunch with Bruce Springsteen, (after all I am a Jersey Girl) his music has inspired me over the years and his causes are all near and dear to my heart. Bruce uses his platform to create awareness for social changes that need to be addressed. He stands for what he believes in and makes sure that his causes are front and center at every concert, He has a mission and passion in life.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joanngregoli/?hl=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Elegantoccasionsinc/

Twitter: Joann_Gregoli

Email: [email protected]

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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