Farewell

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While I love writing these posts, I graduate in May and that means that I will no longer be able to have this blog domain at UW-Whitewater. Never fear though, I am planning on trying to keep up with posts about myself and my life on my blog on WordPress. Click here to be directed.

I will try to have some event planning posts on my other blog, but my other blog is dedicated to my life and my future profession. I won’t be posting as often on my other blog as here, but I’m glad that I got the opportunity to share my experiences and insight with you.

Event planning doesn’t just have to be a career, it can be a lifestyle. Never stop learning and seeking information. There is always more than one way to do something, so don’t get stuck in a rut doing the same thing over and over again. Challenge your thought process, challenge yourself, and always strive to create amazing events! I know that my career in event planning is just beginning, so to those of you interested in event planning don’t give up. Believe in yourself and your ability to help other people have a great experience.

Crisis Communication

 

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While no one wants to encounter a crisis, everyone should be prepared for a crisis if it were to happen. Having a crisis communication plan for every possible situation is really important for companies and organizations.  Also having a crisis plan for every situation will ensure that your guests are safe, no matter what.

We live in a scary world where anything could happen at any moment. No crisis situation should be ruled out. While we all want to say that an active shooter is not going to come to our event, we need to keep in mind what we would do and what we would tell our staff or volunteers to do if that situation were to arise.

All crisis situations are not the same level of crisis either. We could have a rain storm that comes in for 10 minutes that we have to bring our attendees inside and then resume a concert, or we could have a thunderstorm that makes us cancel our outdoor event. Ranking crisis situations is something that you may want to consider as well when creating a crisis plan.

Crisis communication plans are important as well. If you were to have any of these crises happen, you will need a way to make sure that you can communicate this to everyone that needs to know in a quick and timely manner. Whatever form of communications system your organization primarily uses whether that is messaging system, radios, cell phones numbers, emails, etc. you need to have all the numbers to all the important people to make sure that everyone can prepare themselves and/or their equipment for the disaster at hand.

When thinking about a crisis communication plan, you also need to consider the publics that will be concerned. Do you have media coverage for this event that you need to inform, police officers, the general public, your social media followers, your stakeholders, your boss, etc. Who do you need to communicate with and when.

The next time you are planning an event, make sure that you have a crisis plan and crisis communication plan. You want to be prepared for anything and want to make sure that your event is fun and safe.

What Your Site Visit Can Tell You About The Venue

The first impression of a venue can really impact whether or not someone wants to contract business with them. Not only can the impression be made in person, but an impression can be formed just with the communication between you and a venue.

For my event planning class at UW-Whitewater, our groups of three have to plan a fundraising event that may or may not be chosen by our non-profit client. While in the planning process, we had to make a site visit to make sure that one of our potential venues would be right for our event.

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We contacted both of our potential venues about three weeks before we wanted to have a tour of the venue and gave them some information about our event. Just the first reply to my email gave me some information about the venues. The venue we ended up choosing emailed back the same day, addressed me, gave us a time to meet, and more information that we might need when touring the venue. The other venue emailed back two days later with a time. I then emailed back to see if we could move the time with the second venue and didn’t get a response until the week of the tour.

When we came for our visit to our two venues, the first venue had someone waiting at the door for us, asked us for our names, and gave us handouts with all of the information we would need that we could take back with us. This man gave us a tour of the entire facility. Once we gave a more detailed description of our event, he worked with us in the moment to show us what we could all do to make our event possible. He was very invested in our event and wanted to help us make it possible. Since we are working with a non-profit, he also told us about their discounts for non-profits as well. He was very inviting and positive, which made us want to work with him. At the second venue, we had to find our guide, who was in her office. She was not very prepared having to find all of her information to give us. She then only showed us two rooms that may have worked for our event, but would need approval to make sure that our event would work for them. They did not have any discounts for non-profits, which may happen at some venues. She also seemed to be very quick and nondescript with her presentation. She almost seemed like she wanted to rush us out of the venue.

As  you can tell from my description of the communication and site visits, we clearly wanted to choose one venue over another. That may not always be the case though. When thinking about what venue you want to choose, make a list of what you will all need for your event. Will you need hardwood floors or carpeted floors? Do you need tables and chairs? Does your speaker need a PA system for your event’s audience? Depending on the time of day, do you need food or snacks at your event? Do you want a cash bar, open bar, or no bar at all? What does the venue not provide that you may need to purchase? Can you bring in outside food vendors or do you have to use the catering service at the venue? These are just some questions to think about when planning your event.

Another aspect that you will need to consider is the budget for your event. Many venues have room rates, permits, etc.  When planning your event, you should do the research to see if your event will be possible with the money you may have set aside or if you will need sponsors or in-kind donations to make your event possible.

Make sure that you are giving your venue a good impression as well. When communicating with your potential venues make sure that you have the same standards for yourself that you have for them. Try to be timely with your communication,  have concise and descriptive responses with venues, and try to always be positive with your communication. While this venue wants your business, you also want your event to have a great venue for your event to thrive in. Don’t forget to be courteous.

Overall, communication is the key to a good site visit. You can learn a lot about a venue by the way they treat you. When looking for venues, you want to make sure that the venue is going to treat your guests with the utmost respect and will help you make your event successful. Searching for the best venue for your event can be challenging at times, but the key is to find the venue that will best fit your event.

Social Media Event Promotion

When thinking about event promotion and engagement, a great tool to use is social media. It tends to be relatively cheap and today many people are on social media. When looking for ways to describe this concept to you, I stumbled upon this great infographic.

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Social media is a great way to share many different types of content. You can share videos, photos, text, gifs, live video, or a combination of these. Your brand or company can share these at anytime, but the real test of how your social media is reaching others is through the promotion of events on social media.

This infographic shows that in the organizing phase of an event social media is highly used by event organizers and can be a great way to start growing excitement and involvement in your event and learn more about the people who want to attend your event. Another advantage in the organization phase is that you can find a lot of support whether that be in other organizations or in finding suppliers that can help your event succeed.

Putting your event out on social media can help get your event exposure.  Whether that be through hashtags where people can see others posts about your event, people sharing their registration where others can see that they are attending that event,

During the event, hashtags can be really great way to engage your attendees. Allowing others to post and share their content with other attendees can help them not miss out on any moment of the event. Encouraging your attendees to check in can also show others that people are attending your event, and can make others want to join into the fun that others are having. Sharing live video from the event can also engage those people who are not able to attend the event. On many social media sites, live video is emphasized and will be shared with more of your followers than other posts since many of these sites want to have more people utilize live video. During your event, your social media sites can help attendees’ questions be answered by you or by other attendees quickly. Prizes for certain social media aspects can also be a great way to engage your audience and encourage them to use your hashtags or use social media more to share your event with others.

After your event, you can still keep people engaged by sharing your videos of the event and the results that your event created. Sharing pictures, video, and results of your event on Pinterest and what went right can help people get an idea of how your event was run and can help them plan events like yours. It can also help increase attendees for the next year if you plan to make this event an annual event. Sharing the presentations and information from your event can many times help others in the future. For people not able to attend your event, they can learn more and have the information that they missed through these presentations. Through surveys, social media posts, polls, etc., you can learn more about what your attendees liked, what should be changed, and what could be added to your event for the next year or even just to have an idea of how the event went overall. Your event doesn’t have to end on the last day or the end of the night. Keep your social media community going. Keep sharing photos, videos, and information afterwards. Create a social media calendar to spread out the information about your event for the future. If this is an annual event, about 6 months before the event is going to happen the next year, share that information. Start a countdown to the next event. Keep your audience engaged so that it doesn’t die out.

Overall, social media can be a great way to promote and engage users before, during and after your event. This infographic does a great job of visually demonstrating how social media can create an impact at your event. Don’t discount social media as a promotional tool.

 

Don’t Forget to Say Thank You

Thanksgiving is the time of year when we all look back on what we are thankful for.  We think about who we need to thank and what we should be grateful for. This holiday season think about the people who have influenced your life. Whether that be a teacher from elementary school or a mentor that is currently in your life. Thank the people who have helped you grow and learn. If you follow someone on social media and they may not know you, but they have helped you, thank them.  Thank your supporters or the people that may not even know they help support you.

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Also, don’t forget when planning an event to thank the people who help your event run smoothly. Your vendors, event planning team, volunteers, and attendees. Thanking these people may not look the same, but making sure that others feel appreciated can help form and strengthen relationships that will make future events more successful.

Showing your appreciation for others can help you bond with them. Encouraging others is always important to create a positive productive environment. Don’t forget to make others feel important and like they are wanted at your event and in your life. Many people can help you along your path of life, so make sure you let them know how they have impacted you. In the future, try to pass that good will along to others whatever way you can.

 

Event Planning Organizations You Should Be Joining

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As I have said before, networking is one of the best ways to get jobs and internships. One amazing way to do that is to join an organization related to your major or desired career. Every association and organization is different whether that be their fees, their meeting locations, etc. Make sure before you join an association, that you find a local chapter or are able to connect with the association. Here are some amazing organizations that you should join and participate in:

The International Live Events Association (ILEA) is all about helping event professionals focus on the event as a whole. Student memberships are available for $50 for a year membership and are only available while you are student at a two or four year university. You will receive professional development opportunities, educational opportunities,a subscription to Special Events Magazine, member discounts to events, and more. Click here to learn more about the organization.

The International Association of Venue Managers(IAVM) is all about what is at the core of event planning, venues. The membership fee for students is $75, but with membership you can connect with industry leaders, find a mentor, learn more, you get a membership to a facility manager magazine, a weekly e-newsletter, and much more. Click here to be directed to IAVM’s website and learn more!

Wedding International Professionals Association (WIPA) is the primary source of expertise in the event industry. Student Apprentice Membership is $50 for students who currently have a part-time or internship position in the weddings industry. Benefits include attending meetings at a reduced rate  and helping at meetings when requested. Click here for more information about WIPA.

The National Association for Catering and Events (NACE) helps you build the skills, have the tools, and receive the education you need to be successful in a career in catering and events. A student membership will help you connect with fellow students, learn trends, meet professionals, and receive scholarship opportunities. Student fees are $50. Click here to learn more about the association.

The National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners (NCBMP) is dedicated to the training of African American meeting planners. Their student program pays for conference registration and travel fees and you will also get course materials. In order to become part of the student class, you will need to be a junior, senior, or grad student,and apply. The majority of this experience is conference related. Click here for more information about the NCBMP.

The Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) is all about promoting professionalism in the hospitality industry. Student membership is $25 and comes with networking opportunities, training opportunities, job bank, mentorship program, and more. Click here to learn more about the ESPA.

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) is one of the largest meeting and event organizations in the world. It provides great education, networking opportunities,and speaks for the growth and innovations in the industry. Student membership is $40 a year. It gives you access to industry research, recorded event sessions, MPI online community access, e-newsletter access, discounted rates for events, and much more. Click here to learn more about them from their website.

The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is a student subgroup of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). This group helps students get more public relations experience, has exclusive job boards, many organizations on campuses, and more. National fees are $55, but some chapters may charge more for chapter membership. Click here for more information about PRSSA.

I have been a part of both MPI and PRSSA, and I have gotten great opportunities from them. I love learning more about my industry and networking with others. Please consider joining one of these organizations or dig deeper to find an association you want to join and learn from.

Books by Professionals for Event Planning Students

Reading books about the industry you want to work in can help you learn more about the industry and help you keep up with trends in the industry. There are many websites devoted to event planning that have great lists of the top books to read for event planners to learn more. In this post, I will share some of their lists and highlight a few books that I feel will really help students. I will also share some books that I have read or worked with in my life.

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Bizbash is one great site for event planners to find inspiration from and learn more about the trends, venues, supplier, etc. in the event planning industry. Click here for their slideshow of the Top 20 books for event planners. This list has a great variety of event planning books with advice for wedding planners, for productivity, about hospitality, principles of meeting design, etc.  Two books that especially stood out to me on this list were Reflections of a Successful Wallflower by Andrea Michaels, which is written by a legendary, award winning event producer who was the first inductee to the Event Industry Hall of Fame, and Boring Meetings Suck: Get More Out of Your Meetings or Get Out of More Meetings by Jon Petz,which is lighthearted, engaging, and funny in places with great content that is definitely not boring.

Event Manager Blog is another great resource for event planners. Instead of  suggestions for hard-copy books, they have suggestions for free e-books. Click here for their list. They have suggestions for management, planning, wedding planning, fundraising, networking, and marketing. A few that stand out to me are Volunteer Management Practices and Retention of Volunteers by Mark A. Hager, which has research on keeping volunteers which can be very useful for events, and Smart Networking: End the Resistance, Prepare for Success and Get 24/7 Results Without the 24/7 Effort by Liz Lynch, which gives some great tips for networking.

If you are someone who is interested in public relations and event planning, NYC PR Girls has a great list targeted towards women interested in PR. Click here for this list. One book on their list that really interested me is Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (And Other Social Networks) by Dave Kerpen, which gives great insight into social media if you are looking to learn more. Another book that interests me as a woman is The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own by Nina Garciawhich can help you learn about what to add to your wardrobe before you start working.

In my event planning class, we are currently using Event Planning and Management: A Practical Handbook for PR and Event Professionals by Ruth Dowson and David Bassett. Especially for those just starting out in the industry or looking to learn more about the industry, I would definitely suggest this book. Ruth and David give some great examples from their own experience, while also teaching you the ins and outs of the event industry.

One book that I read for a class assignment, to read a book related to your major, was Rogue Elephants: One PR Girl’s Fight Through the Human Jungle by Jane Hunt. This was a great book to read if you maybe feel down on your luck or that you cannot make it and need some inspiration. This book has ups, downs, and everything in between to help you learn not only about PR, but also about the events and campaigns that she worked with that were really successful.

These are just a few lists and a few suggestions, but acquiring or renting some of these books are a great way to learn more about the industry before you event enter it. These books can really help you know if this is the industry for you and what to expect whether good or bad. These professional want to help others and share their experiences, so take advantage of the books that are out there.

Planning a Tour

Many times when planning for groups or conferences you will need to organize a tour. As a part of my position on the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Executive Board, I was tasked with planning group tours to public relations agencies to help our members learn more about working in public relations. Planning tours for any group is a process that can move very fast or very slow, but it all depends on the venues you are working with.

The first step to planning a successful tour is to contact your members to find a date that will work for them. If you are planning a conference, this will be easier because you will know what date your conference is. Especially when working with college students, coordinating schedules for any more than 5 students can be really difficult.

Once you pick your date, you will also need to approximate how many people will be attending your tour and what time you will be planning the tour for, so you can let the venue know. It isn’t necessary to know exactly how many people will be attending, but you will at the very least need to have an estimate. You will need to have a time decided, so that you can make sure that there is someone there to give the tour. For the time, if you are planning multiple tours, you should have a time range picked out ahead of time and offer your different venues slots during that time period. Make sure to also account for travel time and food/bathroom breaks.

Depending on how many people are attending your tour, you may want to contact bus or van services to help your attendees get from venue to venue. Also, if you have a large group you will want to call ahead of time to restaurants that you have in mind for your attendees to eat at, just to make sure that they are prepared for a rush and are able to serve your attendees in a timely manner.

Once you have your date, time, and approximate amount of people for the tour, you are ready to start contacting venues. Try to have a plan with all of your details laid out before you call or email the venue. You don’t want to be that person who emails and then sends 3 more emails with additional pieces you forgot. Make it clear in your phone call or email what you are looking to get out of the experience or what you want your attendees to get out of the experience. Especially if you are contacting over the phone, make sure to take notes on all of details, so you don’t forget.

Successful PRSSA tour to  PR & Advertising agencies in Milwaukee,WI. Pictured: Boelter + Lincoln Ad Agency.

Successful PRSSA tour to PR & Advertising agencies in Milwaukee,WI. Pictured: Boelter + Lincoln Ad Agency.

Planning tours can be very time consuming and potentially stressful. Making sure to contact venues well in advance is key to having a well planned tour. With any event, you need to plan for any possible problem ahead of time. Tours can be very effective in teaching, gaining business, and showing others the city or industry that you are working with. When considering a tour, look at it as a learning opportunity not only for yourself, but for the attendees that you are catering to.

 

 

Interview with Alison Milgram

This Wednesday, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Alison Milgram, who is a senior meeting manager at the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) in Chicago,IL. I wanted to share this interview to help educate others as best as I can.

Q: What type of events have you planned and worked with?

A: In my career, I have mostly worked with associations, so I have planned large conferences, board meetings, galas, and dinners. I have also worked in hotels, so I  have seen the catering side of events with many corporate events and weddings.

Q: What experiences would you suggest that students interested in event planning should have?

A: This isn’t really an experience, but I feel that being a social person and being well traveled can really help you in your job. When planning an event, you need to make sure that you have an interest in the details.  Event planning is all about taking a blank slate and create something fantastic for others.

Q: What has been your favorite type of event to plan? Least favorite type of event?

A: I love working big galas and dinners! I enjoy taking a typical chicken dinner and making it special. I love picking out napkins, plates, a great menu, decorations, and all of the glitz and glamour.

My least favorite type of event to plan is definitely board meetings. They are a necessary evil. I love being creative with events, so having to plan a cookie cutter event is just not as much fun.

Q: What challenges do you think are the most relevant to event planners?

A: The biggest challenges today in our industry are safety and security. Ensuring participants are safe, while not freaking out your participants with a ton of security or freaking yourself out. I’ve written many emergency action plans, but trying to write an emergency action plan, while trying to keep people safe from active shooters is hard.

 

Q: Why did you choose to become an event planner?

A: I actually didn’t choose to become an event planner. I just fell into it. When I was in college there were no hospitality degrees. I took a part time job working on a conference and loved it. After college, I took a job as a receptionist and the HR person at that company knew the HR person for an event company that really sparked my career.

Q: What is the worst event vendor that you have worked with?

A: I have never really worked with a bad vendor. There have definitely been bad experiences. If you work with a good vendor, even if  it is a bad experience, they will work to make things better on the spot.  I had one luncheon that the food was ruined, but at least the final bill was discounted.

 

Q: What is it like working for a professional organization made for meeting planners? Do you feel a lot of pressure?

A: Yes, there is a lot of pressure and it can be intense because there are no worse critics than people in your industry. My goal is always to push boundaries, be a trendsetter, and show scalability. Our association always wants to show our creativity and how to scale it to any audience. We also always have a goal of helping educate meeting planners and helping them succeed.

Q: What was it like planning an event in a different country?

A: It was challenging, but  I love it. I love travelling and learning about different countries. I definitely have a travel bug. I have planned events in Canada, Australia, and Europe.  One little thing that I learned while planning an event in Canada was that when they have a tea station, they do not include honey, which is a standard here. It is not really that different, but you learn little nuances and what they call certain things.

Q: What is it like travelling for conferences that you have worked/ travelling for work?

A: I am one of those people who would hop on a plane at anytime and go anywhere. I love travelling. I am lucky at my job because we usually have  more than one site for our event location. I get to check out a location and then a few months into planning, I can go back and check to see if the event still make sense in this space. Then, I can go back again and see how the event has evolved. I get to know the cities I work in well and have a good sense of the space before going into the event.

Q: Is it nerve-wracking planning something for 30,000 attendees? How do you manage your stress during these situations?

A: Not as nerve wracking as you may think. The nerves come from the type of event rather than the amount of people. It doesn’t matter if you have 30 people or 30,000 people, if an event has more moving pieces it can be more stressful. Make sure to surround yourself with good people that know what their doing and can guide and help you. Working with someone that has planned the type of event you are working on before can really decrease your stress as well.

Q: Any advice for students interested in event planning?

A: Finding a mentor is key. Mentors will share their experiences, and are willing to give you advice. I did not have mentor at the beginning of my career, so I just took advice from each manager that I worked with at an association management company. I took the good advice from good people and took notes from the bad people. I would also say to definitely get involved with associations within the industry. Networking and meeting people can really help you succeed and learn from others.

Q: I am currently looking for an internship or part-time job, where would you suggest the best places to look are?

A: Hotels are always hiring in someway, and personally I loved working for Hilton Worldwide. Hotels can give you  great experiences with hospitality. Some other great places to look are Meeting Professionals International (MPI),Smith Bucklin, of course, where I work, Professional Convention Management Association(PCMA), and other job sites.

Q:What is your favorite part of event planning?

A: I love going into the convention space when it’s empty before any of the attendees get there and taking it all in. Once all of the event structures are built, you are able  to see that you created something beautiful, and have other people enjoy something you spent so much time and effort on.

Networking

One of the most important skills for any professional is networking. Meeting new people is skill that can help you make connections that can lead to internships, which could lead to jobs. For event planning, networking will help you meet people who could be potential partners, vendors, mentors, and attendees.

I starting going to networking events my freshman year of college. Your first networking event will be kind of nerve-wracking, but will also be really enlightening. The first networking event I went to, I had a lot of people who were impressed that I was even at a networking event. Many gave me their cards and offered me a job once I had more experience. You don’t need to start your freshman year, but start as soon as it is possible for you.

As a part of the executive board for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), I got to bring some of the people I met at networking events to the UW-Whitewater campus to speak to the other students. This just created a better bond with the speakers. Many of them have contacted me after speaking at Whitewater with positions that have opened at their companies.

Networking  can open up so many opportunities and you can learn so much from professionals. Hearing other professionals’ stories can help you learn from their experiences, and then you can also ask their advice. Being able to communicate and learn from others is something that is necessary for any job, so if you haven’t started networking, start now. You can learn a lot.