The Secrets to Successful Event Planning with Karen May

Some dreams are designed from birth, others are stumbled upon by accident. That’s how Karen May, Founder and CEO of Scottsdale Private Event Venues and Scottsdale Hangar Parties, sees her rise to success. What started as a series of unplanned events led her to be one of the premier event planners in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Karen’s journey in the event planning world started when she was only 16. A humble job at a golf course would soon lead her to experience something that would change the trajectory of her life. The wedding planner in charge of a wedding at the country club was in an accident and Karen stepped in and took charge.

Karen was instantly captivated by the thrill of event planning. She spent the next few decades working at hotels and yachts refining her craft.

Like Mary Kay Ash, Founder of Mary Kay Inc., and famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Karen did not attend college. When it came time to decide whether she wanted to attend college or work in the industry she was already growing in, she decided to stay. Her work ethic, passion, and creativity in the busy world of event planning helped her climb the ladder of success.

It was only three years ago when Karen decided to take her extensive experience in event planning and build a brand for herself. She founded Scottsdale Private Event Venues and Scottsdale Hangar Parties as a way to do more of what made her happy.

It’s been her entrepreneurial journey that has allowed Karen to turn blank slates, like an empty hangar, into fun and unique events that host up to 2,500 guests. Her fun and playful personality allow her to see things outside of the box and create experiences you can’t find anywhere else.

“I truly enjoy making something out of nothing,” said Karen.

Karen is known for her elite and unique private parties, and it’s something she takes very seriously. Whether it’s a national company or a well-known celebrity, safety and privacy are top of mind for her and her team. Together they strive to provide the utmost privacy, free of paparazzi and possible party crashers.

Scottsdale Private Event Venues’ current focus is hosting incentive events for national companies. Karen and her team are hoping to give these brands a new taste of Arizona by providing exclusive experiences only her team can deliver.

“We provide new, unique, different, and fun experiences, like helicopter rides around the Valley,” she said.

For Karen, working with clients that share those values is essential. Since many of her clients are from out of state, she treats the initial meetings as a vetting process to learn more about their needs. Whether it’s a phone call or an in-person meeting, she makes sure that their personalities click.

“I can spend up to a year working with these companies helping their idea come to life, so compatibility is very important to me,” she said.

For companies looking to hire an event planner, Karen highly suggests doing your due diligence to make sure you’re a match. Make sure to do a background check to ensure you’re not getting scammed, which has become common in the event industry. She also recommends checking for insurance and reputation, two things that can save you a lot of headaches while planning an event. 

As a self-taught expert, Karen has learned everything she knows about event planning from being out in the field every day. In her opinion, it takes passion and creativity to make it in the industry. Of course, staying on budget and making your client look like a rock star is also key.

“Attention to detail is very important. I have 30 binders on my desk, and I know what each of them is for.”

Although Karen never attended college herself, she pays it forward to up-and-coming event planners by speaking at local colleges and universities about what it takes to make it in the industry.

“Event planning isn’t always a glamorous job, so I’m honest with the students about what it entails.”

While it’s not all glamorous, Karen lives for the moment her client walks in and is amazed by the results. Her unique twist on venues, layouts, and entertainment has set her apart from others in the industry. Her reputation precedes her, and the community is taking notice. She was recently recognized with the Smart Woman in Meetings 2019 Award for her significant impact in the meeting industry.

Karen is looking forward to what the future has in store for her and her business ventures. She hopes to continue working with innovative companies that have big and bold visions as she does.

“There are a lot of opportunities coming my way, so I’m very excited for what’s to come.”

You can find Karen meeting with clients, hosting lavish private events, and efficiently responding to emails in Scottsdale where she resides with her husband and six rescue dogs.

To learn more about Karen and Scottsdale Private Event Venues, visit