Meeting Planning

S.2 Episode 27: Planning Events in an Unpredictable Environment

How did you get your start?

I fell into the events industry through working for a non-profit. You wear many hats and ended up planning board meetings for 30 people each month and moved onto Galas. I consider my first big girl job The Basilica. I remember by then boss asking me if I knew anyone interested in an events job and she remembers it as do you know anyone interested in an events job. 

I think what got me to the point where I am today are the relationships I have built over the years with vendors, volunteers and co workers. I have tried hard to who my value through each event that I produce. I make sure I am along side everyone else when we are picking up the trash or pouring the beer or hauling wood to make the fires at Holidazzle. My first year I became the fire master.

I always want to be a part of making the world a better place and I am very lucky to be able to do that through events. 

How do you plan for an event when you do not know what the weather will be like?

  • Always have a risk management plan that includes weather and make sure all your vendors have a copy of it
  • Talk to the Police, Fire and EMTs about their recommendations. 
  • Plan ahead, where do people go, where does the talent go?

How do you push the boundaries?  

  • When I say boundaries, it doesn’t always mean bringing in something crazy that no one has seem before. Say you have events with a long history, and you have a great team of folks who have been working on that same event for a long time. Help them think outside the box. What can we stop doing and what can we do that’s new? What are some new revenue streams? 
    • Why are we doing something that creates more work and what is the ROI? 
    • How can we look at the space differently? 
    • Why does the stage always need to go in the same place?
    • Yes we do need to do active shooter training and yes we should have the contact information for all the buildings surrounding the event in case someone decides to throw a party and watch the show on the roof and we don’t go into full active shooter mode.

Instagram: Charlesevaneide

EideComCreative

S.2 Episode 25: Don’t Fall Prey to these Event Snafus!

This week Charles, Lisa, and Paige sit down and talk about things they see at events that could be avoided.  Check out these tips below:

  1. Audio in your non – general session areas. A lot of times people are so focused on the main room. If you have a large group you need to get them into room fairly quickly and its difficult to do if you don’t have anything guiding them.  Having audio in the hallways or spaces really helps to get them prepared.  It’s not just audio though, we have a client put an LED sign in the spaces with the schedule so people know what is going on.  You can loop sponsors and scheduling.  There are so many opportunities when your audience isn’t sitting in their seats.
  2. Spending too much time and money on the wrong things. People spend thousands on the little trinkets at the table. Does anyone really care what brand it says on it.  A hotel brand is probably good enough, using that money elsewhere can create a greater impact. Get sponsors to cover the cost of things.
  3. Buffet style food. It could work for some events but at an event, some of the largest donors go there later and they could not start the main program because they were still in line at the buffet. It pushed the whole program back. You need to think of timing and making sure everyone is fed. 
  4. Content being ready too late. Many events that have been done year after year with a flow but I’ve realized a lot of times we are getting to the show and are just receiving the content two hours before going live.  That gives everyone anxiety, you don’t have the time to check everything over and make sure it is going to run smoothly. You have to have that time. 
  5. Not having a singular decision maker. A lot of times we work with a board of directors or a group of people, and it is great.  However, when all of those people become the ultimate say, it gets really confusing for vendor relationships and everything. From a vendors perspective it’s important to know who we should listen to or talk to for changes and additions especially on site. 
  6. Don’t hire vendors too late in the game. You might not get the a – team or vendors might not be able to work well together. 

Instagram: eidecomcreative

charlesevaneide

Twitter: TheMeetingMinds

TheEideCom

S.2 Episode 24: Create Messaging That Lives On Past Your Events

Justin, your title is VP of Health Strategies at American Heart, what does that mean?

We’ve gone to a more locally based organization. All the non fundraising departments roll up to the VP of health strategies. Our advocacy and quality work and more to focus on the local community.

Justin has a lot to do with the bigger picture AHA in town. You do a lot of events, some big and some small.  Tell us a little bit about your philosophy around engaging that audience around a cause, policy, idea and how do you effectively do it.

Elizabeth: It was about 6 years ago where we were looking at our major events and finding survivor stories to talk about our general what do we do?It was pretty big picture broad. We figured out what are we doing in this market specifically and what are we trying to move the needle on. We started to weave that into our events and found the audience really resonated more because it was local and impactful. 

Everyone asks how do we engage the audience deeper in the cause? We are always seeking to engage the audience.

Justin:  Being ahead of the curve on the local surface. We can always find good national stories, but we get in front of the local community and show what we are doing in the local community. Do you like all new borns get screened for heart defects, that’s what we did.  And not all states and markets have done that but we have and we can point at our local staff and volunteers. Advocacy has been a huge part of AHA and that is where I started, the person at the state capital working on our policies. That has been a big part on how we impact the change. 

Moving into the rubber meeting the road Elizabeth, you are writing the show flow for these events, how do you take the advocacy work you do and really weave it into the messaging in a way that doesn’t bore the audience?

Elizabeth: Policy can get in the weeds, I frequently have to edit. Internally you have to work through what are we doing as an organization over this year and what are things we want to move the needle on.  Not all will fly or sell in an event. Which one’s are going to?  This last women’s lunch telephone CPR is what we focused on and that was something people could get their heads around. We are trying to pass a law that would put in place a standard so the dispatchers would know how to walk people through CPR. We wrapped that message into our luncheon. Part of the beauty was that our audience members could engage and actually send a petition to their legislators. Its a way your audience can feel connected to your mission. 

You have events all the time, how do you make sure the flavor of the year doesn’t get lost next year?

Elizabeth: As a non profit we have various avenues we reach out to our volunteers. Even though this year we focused on that next year we won’t even though it hasn’t passed. We have cultivated those people and we will continue to touch base through texts or emails without having another event.

In the non profit space, how do you communicate the message?

Elizabeth: A good example would be our gala this last fall. We did a restructure and zeroing in on social determinant of health. How can we make the healthy choice the easy choice? That is an area we are starting to expand where we have been.  How do you bring this to an event? We found a survivor, a stroke, she had the symptoms and waited to go the hospital because she didn’t have health insurance. She was a single mom, a nurse. That hindered her choice to seek health. That told that story as well as we brought in a group and did a rap about healthy food. Then we were able to use that moment to talk about our work in food access. We bring in different elements to talk about where we work and where we are going to do more and illustrate why.

Justin: You have to take risks for greater impact. 

Although these issues are not political, how do you make sure its not turning into a political thing?

Justin: You keep it outcome and patient focused.  Keep it away from the political arena and create the heartfelt feeling. Pitch the stories correctly but we also protect our brand so we are not known as a partisan organization. 

Elizabeth: It’s about people, people can’t argue with someones personal experience. They might not agree with the angle or push but they can see why we push and they can’t argue with that. There is a lot of talk on our end behind the scenes, about what issue we pick, and how we talk about them. 

Visit https://www.heart.org/en/affiliates/minnesota/twin-cities

Instagram: charlesevaneide

Twitter: Themeetingminds

S.2 Episode 23: 70,000 People in One Room?!

Tell us about you.

Like most people I ended up in  meetings and events by accident.  I was in my last semester of college and there was a test class called special events. A professor asked me to take it. I jumped in and never looked back. I had no idea this industry existed. I have been in events ever since. I’m so thankful I accidentally fell into this industry. I moved out west for a little while and got into doing events for an education company. Came back to Indiana and started working for the FFA 11 years ago.

Your events are big,  tell us about the event.

We have several different events. FFA is a student led/based leadership organization. We have several different conferences we put on through out the year, our big one is the national FFA convention and expo held every hear in the late fall. Last year I was just shy of 70,000 people. The majority of those events are students. We host about 350+ events in a 3 1/2 day period. 

Tell me about these events.

We host 9 general sessions the opening session we have to repeat 3 times to get all the attendees through! You get the kinks out by the third one 😉

We have leadership workshops, a large expo with about 450 exhibitors, we build a shopping mall. We have about 40 mall vendors. Career tours, service projects, and we different leadership networking events. And we have competitive events.  We have a concert and three rodeos. 

Do you ever gather everyone in one space at one time?

No not at one time. We come close during the opening session. 25,000-30,000 people.

How does National FFA get students to come to the event?

Each state has an FFA and there are several chapters within each state. A lot of students get to come because they are competing. For those not competing it depends on the local level.  There are teachers that will bring a different set of students each year, some school comes every other year. It depends on their local program. Overall, our complete membership numbers: over 650,000 FFA members. Usually we end up with 10 % of our membership as our attendance.  The more that our membership continues to grow, I see our convention attendees growing too. 

Have you ever considered breaking it up?  What has been your process to stay one event?

We have had that conversation quite a bit over the last several years. How big is too big? For us we have a couple of factors. 

  1. Capacity and what a city can hold. We use multiple venues and we try to stay within a 50 mile radius so when the bus drivers are driving, they are not behind the wheel for more hours than what they can be. 
  2. Experience: we want you to be able to walk through the expo and be able to go to a booth, or have a seat at a conference.

We take that into consideration each year.

We see a 1-2% increase in attendance each year. By the time we get about 5-7 years down the road, it will become a reality. 

When you are doing this, how do you ensure safety of minors?

It is the first and foremost thing I think about every year. Large events are just not as safe as they used to be. We have an amazing partnership with all the government service entities. I couldn’t do this without their help. They are apart of my planning. They make sure the street is safe as well as where the events are. 

What things do people need to think about for a large conference in a new city?

You have to ask what the working relationship is between police, fire, FBI etc and how they work together. The other thing, we created our own internal emergency safety plan. We have our own structure for our staff but also so we can keep ourselves safe as well as attendees. 

How do you choose the right city?

We send an RFP, with a 5-10 year lead time. Last time we sent it out to 14 cities and it quickly got narrowed down to 3 cities. I have a committee that helps with the process. It takes several months to go through that. 

You guys have had some big names.

Yes we have been so lucky!  We try to get people right when they are on the cusp of becoming really big. We are a non profit and don’t have the pockets large corporations have. A lot of them love what the organization is and love being around the students so the artists have just as much fun as the students. 

What tips do you give to planners?

I have two that I use: 

  1. You have to build a good team around you. We feel like we have to do everything. We have to be the super hero, we make magic happen. 
  2. Get involved in a local meeting planning association. 

mhazlett@ffa.org

Instagram: eidecomcreative

Charlesevaneide

Twitter: TheMeetingMinds

S.2 Episode 22: Take a Risk: Think Outside the Four Walls of a Ballroom

Think outside of the ballroom!  This week we are challenged to take a risk on venue choice, picking something exciting and unique.  Ashley from the Driskill, a community loved hotel in Austin Texas joins Charles and Lisa to talk about managing a unique venue and brining in meetings and events. 
Tell us about you.
Like a lot of people that end up in hospitality, I kind of stumbled into it. I had a passion for events, all the way back to high school, planning my prom, being social chair in college. I would not want to have to plan events with me then knowing what I know now! I wanted to make it a professional career, stumbled into my first job at the Hyatt and the rest is history.  Been here since, moved to five different cities.  It’s been a wild ride, never would have expected that.
Tell us about what you’re doing now.
I’ve never worked at a hotel like this 189 rooms, part of our unbound collection, 133 years ago. It is always been a cornerstone of the community.  In the 60’s it was going to be torn down, the community put together a bake sale and sold bonds to save the building. We feel an obligation to our community to stay true to the history of the hotel. 
Our audience is about events and ideas around them. What does non traditional spaces mean and give us ideas and examples of things you’ve seen and done.
Every hotel has something non traditional they can use for meeting spaces.  Whether its a patio or terrace, think of it not just as a reception venue.  Could you use it as a break out?  Get outside of the boring four walled ball rooms, and have fun with your events in non traditional ways. We use just about every space in the hotel.  We are small so we have to get creative. We infuse touches of history so every space feels important and important to what you are doing.
I love how you mentioned spaces that help you to think outside the four walls of a ballroom.  Tell me some of the experiences you’ve see happen.
We cater to much smaller programs, depending on the scale of the meeting, our customers come here because they want an intimate environment so they can idea share.  There is a lot of wellness and purpose discussion that happens at meetings at our hotel. We have a lot of natural light, unique architecture. For a lot of our customers its not just sitting in a general session, there are breakouts and networking and we have spaces that serve all that.
What tips do you have for people looking to get into the hotel and hospitality side of the events industry?
It depends where they are in their career.  I saw a lot of planners got their experience in hotels, so I did that. Don’t be afraid to start from the ground up.  There is no position too small. If you tackle it with energy and creativity you can move up quick.  Reach out and connect with others, directors of sales or events at hotels.  
What is the biggest lesson you have learned?
The thing that I’ve surprised myself with is how comfortable I’ve gotten with resolving problems.  A lot of our job is anticipating problems, but you can’t anticipate everything.  Trust yourself to be able to problem solve on the spot. No problem doesn’t have a solution. 
What is the advise you give to people that are new?
I wish there was a manual for how to do events! Keep your eyes open absorb and learn everything. Ask questions.  I’ve been able to work with seasoned teams I’d spend a lot of my time observing. You have to be patient, you can’t beat yourself up after making mistakes. Don’t be afraid to come to me and tell me you made a mistake I’ll be more upset if you don’t tell me. 
thedriskill.com
Instagram: thedriskill
Instagram: charlesevaneide
eidecomcreative
Twitter: TheMeetingMinds