Experience Creators You Should Know - Anna Rossi

Anna Rossi discusses how she honed her skills over the pandemic to now be in a position to seize the opportunities that the new meetings/events landscape brings.



This post is part of the HopSkip Planner Spotlight Series where HopSkip spotlights planners across the industry to bring awareness of how they adapted to COVID-19, communicating and lessons learned and sharing how they are viewing the meetings and events industry in a post-pandemic world. 


Name: Anna Rossi

Job Title: Event Director, Producer, and Creator of Top-Tier Global Experiences

Years of Experience: 10

How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
I'm a second-generation events industry professional. I grew up watching my father create two of the world’s largest and most prestigious enrichment programs for high-achieving students. In college, I focused on the audio-visual side of production and became fascinated by events in general. I was exposed to different parts of the events world and eventually found the role of Producer to be my professional identity. It's come in handy over the years to have worn many different hats, though, I can dive deep into any aspect of my events if I need to. My passion became creating events and experiences that inspire high-achieving students to greatness. It felt very natural to me. I love working with smart, motivated high-school and college-age students.
How would you describe your role or responsibilities as a professional event planner?
I specialize in producing purpose-driven events and experiences for high-achieving high school students who are interested in medicine or medical science. In my role, I have the responsibility to produce events like The Congress of Future Medical Leaders and FutureDocs Abroad. Both have the potential to inspire and motivate the next generation of leaders who will have the greatest impact on humanity. It's an honor to serve this type of audience. The Congress is a 3-day honors-only program stadium event held just outside of Boston, MA, each summer. We invite some of the greatest minds in medicine — men and women who are leading the medical miracles of the 21st century, onto our stage to mentor our students and show them a bigger future for themselves. We combine the educational content with the energy of a rock concert to create a safe, fun learning environment where the students can engage with thousands of others just like them. It's a beautiful thing to watch. FutureDocs Abroad is a two-week, all-access international medical internship program. We put our students into an intense medical environment overseas, where every single day, they are taking part in exactly the same activities that third- and fourth-year medical students experience as they observe physicians. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to gain real-life experience in gross anatomy labs, operating rooms, and medical treatment rooms. At the moment, we have programs running in Vietnam, Tanzania, and Costa Rica.
How do you compare planning your first in-person event post-pandemic, to planning meetings/events pre- Covid? What was different and unique? What was similar?
Adaptability and reverse engineering our processes has been paramount in a post-pandemic event world. We’ve seen how just the slightest change in local regulations can impact event plans on the highest level. My post-pandemic event plans include a new level of contingency planning focused on keeping our participants safe. At a time, it felt like we were pivoting day to day, but I’m very proud of how we’ve continued to deliver a consistently exceptional product before, during, and after the pandemic.
What challenges have you faced in your work as a meeting and event planner, when working with suppliers or sourcing a venue and how did you overcome them?

Consistency of outcomes is always a challenge. At the end of the day, it really comes down to doing your homework and dialing in on the terms of your agreements, making sure everyone understands the assignment, and holding everyone, including yourself, accountable.
How do you determine which vendors are best suited for your stakeholder's needs while also finding those providing competitive services at affordable rates?
Choose a partner who is as passionate about your vision as they are about their own services and whose success can be measured by the depths of their relationships. It’s all about integrity and professionalism. There will come a time in everyone’s career when you’re up at 2 AM staring at the ceiling, dissecting everything that may go wrong on the big day. These moments are a jolt of the reality that putting the right people on the team is absolutely essential for the success of your event and, ultimately, your reputation as a producer. You’ll sleep better knowing you put the right people on your team. It’s a great thing to be budget-conscious, but don’t spend any less than you need to deliver excellence consistently. Otherwise, you may find yourself paying the price later down the road.
Are there any key lessons or insights that have shaped your approach to event planning over the years?
There are really no shortcuts in this industry. You can optimize, and you can iterate, but you have to put in the work. Remember that there is no such thing as a one-man show. Inspire a great team by always leading by example.
Are you approaching contracting with hotels differently, post-pandemic?
Though my overall contracting process has not changed, I have a heightened alertness toward reducing financial risk. I am finding myself spending more time on the force majeure clause and triple-checking the terms of the cancellation windows.
What is the biggest area of improvement that you think hotels can make when either responding to your RFPs or during the contract phase of your event?
A personalized touch. When I send out RFPs to potential properties, I make them very detailed, because I am looking for a partner who understands their client's mission to the level that they are able to tell me WHY they want the event at their property.
Due to the pandemic, our events community had to evolve, adapt, and grow. Many planners started to embrace new technologies as a result of the pandemic. What new tech are you using today in your planning process as a result?
In 2020, we took The Congress of Future Medical Leaders, a 3-day in-person event with 10,000 paid attendees, and rebuilt it from the ground up to a spectacularly received 100% virtual event in less than 90 days. We were already a virtual company pre-pandemic, which allowed us a head start in that we didn't have to re-work internal planning processes and instead could fully focus on driving our product into the virtual dimension without losing any production value. Together with our A/V partners at Crescent Event Productions, we brought Zoom into an entirely new dimension. During the pandemic, Crescent built a state-of-the-art stage and studio in their warehouse, complete with a video wall, downstage confidence monitors, timers, dynamic lighting, and my personal favorite element: multiple 40" monitors directly facing the speaker, feeding all of the faces of the Zoom room participants, allowing the speaker to get real-time visual feedback from the audience. The experience was so well received that we didn't go back to in-person until 2023. Even when we did go back to in-person, we still offered the virtual experience because it offered all of the key experiences of value that the in-person attendees received, such as Q&A engagement and breakout sessions with their peers.
Since education and relationships are two major pillars in the meetings and events industry, any suggestions on how other planners can learn and network with their peers across the industry?
The best education you will get is by experience. Develop professional relationships with those right there in the trenches, and create connections that will lead you to new experiences. Stay curious by exploring what other producers are bringing to the table across the entire industry and test certain elements you see in your own work. Get outside your niche! You'll never believe what opportunities a contact from an entirely different genre can bring.
This post is part of the HopSkip Planner Spotlight Series, where HopSkip spotlights planners across the industry to bring awareness of how they adapted to COVID-19, communicating lessons learned and sharing how they are viewing the meetings and events industry in a post-pandemic world. 

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