Experience Creators You Should Know - Corinne Stayton, Delaware Bankers Association

Corinne Stayton, of the Delaware Bankers Association, discusses how she honed her skills over the pandemic to now be in position to overcome the challenges 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: Corinne Stayton

Company Name: Delaware Bankers Association

Job Title: Director of Events

Years of Experience: 12

How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
After graduating college with a degree in Elementary Education, I landed a job at the Delaware Department of Education working with Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs). I helped build the Delaware HOSA -Future Health Professionals charter and was an integral part of making their events a success. I then served on the management team for all eight Delaware CTSOs coordinating logistics for state and national leadership conferences, community service projects, and professional development opportunities. My experience at DDOE led me to my current position with the Delaware Bankers Association as Director of Events. While my original intent was to become a teacher, I was ultimately able to marry my work experience with my passion for education by providing continued learning opportunities thru engaging events!
How would you describe your role or responsibilities as a professional event planner?
I plan and execute high-quality training programs and events for over ten annual events ranging from 25-500 participants. I manage event budgets, site selection, vendor negotiation, event registration, marketing, on-site staffing, event design and production, and pre-and post-event reporting. I negotiate, execute, and manage vendor contracts: venue, food and beverage, audiovisual, transportation, speakers, and software applications.
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?
The silver lining during the pandemic in the event space was this opportunity to offer events online, broadening our outreach and connecting us to new partnerships. Pre-pandemic, we utilized a mobile app for our largest event, so some similarities were pivoting to full-on virtual events. It was exciting to learn how to offer events online, which replaced the process of venue logistics and F&B requirements. In-person events will, however, always thrive over virtual events for networking and human interaction. Post-pandemic, we continue to offer hybrid events, providing attendees with the flexibility they've become accustomed to, but we still encourage people to attend in person.
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?

Costs continue to rise in the meeting and event space. Rarely was there a room fee pre-pandemic, but that has now become the norm. It used to just be an F&B minimal in lieu of room fees. As a result of that and other rising costs, we've had to slightly adjust our registration rates and reevaluate the space we book. We continue to negotiate pricing and select the venue and/or supplier that most meets our needs.
How do you determine which vendors are best suited for your stakeholder's needs while also finding those providing competitive services at affordable rates?
Delaware is a small state, but we have a great variety of venues and vendors to select from. Over the years, I've built close relationships with my own personal preferred vendors based on their competitive pricing, ease of working with, and quality of services. Thankfully our members and stakeholders support these decisions and when they don't, I adjust accordingly!
Are there any key lessons or insights that have shaped your approach to event planning over the years?
I find that in any profession, there is a strong need to be adaptable. In the event space particularly, no matter how well-prepared and organized you are, there will always be something that goes wrong. It's how you handle the things that go wrong that make your events an ultimate success! I also find that kindness and compassion go a long way...there's been plenty of times I worked with a vendor that wasn't meeting my expectations. Simply address the issue and move on. People learn and grow from mistakes.
With hotels short-staffed, and RFP lead time shortening, what is your advice to other planners to overcome these obstacles when requesting hotels for proposals?
Work with the same vendors and make personal connections with new prospects.
Are you approaching contracting with hotels differently, post-pandemic?
Not really. I like to work with the same vendors, which significantly helps with the contract process. I also find that when you have a rapport with a vendor, they tend to be more flexible should something change with your event. The contract language is pretty consistent across the board, so any new vendor I'll compare to an existing contract and ensure I have certain clauses implemented before signing.
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?
Include mutually beneficial contract terms such as force majure, indemnification, and cancellation policies, and offer more concessions!
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?
As a result of the pandemic, we now offer hybrid events for all our continuing education programs. We continue to use a mobile app, which includes live-streaming capabilities. When not using a mobile app, we record the live session and then upload it to YouTube as unlisted so we can share it only with those who are registered. We also now have registration available online! March 2020, we were still using paper and pencil for registrations!
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?
As an event planner, I receive a lot of invites to other events and online networking opportunities. At first, I wasn't sure about online networking, but every time I've attended something online, it's been a huge value! I also thrive off of making connections with people and connecting people with other people!
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 w,orld. 

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