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: Janet Brazil
Company Name: Media.Monks
Job Title: Senior Event Manager
Years of Experience: 10+
How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
I studied Microbiology in college, but my best friends were hospitality majors. Their jobs were WAY more fun, and easy to pick up shifts of. One thing led to another, and I was joining committees with them and traveling to events as well. Long story short - working with friends is so fruitful and so fun! After trying to work in a lab once I got my degree, I realized that it wasn't quite a personality fit, and I opened myself up to new opportunities working in events.
How would you describe your role or responsibilities as a professional event planner?
As event planners, our job is to create experiences that tell the story of the brands we work for. If its Tiffany's, it needs to feel regal, elegant, and exclusive. If its Specialized Bicycles, it needs to feel rugged & rebellious, and still premium. We need to be storytellers through every touch point of the brand. And create an enjoyable experience - most often through surprising and delighting our customers. And lastly - we're responsible for making sure our group is safe and secure.
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?
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?
When the pandemic started, I was quite literally in the epicenter of it. I was hosting a 3 week event in Girona, Spain, and was there when Trump announced that the borders would be closed in 48 hours. TLDR; it was an epic journey to get back home, and things were not the same for nearly 3 years. Now that I'm getting back to post-Covid events, I find them to be incredibly similar to pre-Covid, events, with some small tweaks. Post-Covid events are incredibly purposeful. In a world where many people work from home, and so much of our meeting life has gone digital, in-person events have sharpened their existence in order to make sure that the guests are truly having their needs met and not wasting time commuting, investing, etc. What's incredible is that the impact of the in-person events has not dwindled - humans in sales and similar environments have found that in-person connection is essential to success. The requests for them are booming. One major thing that's changed for me is considering safety. The weight of the responsibility of hosting people, given the things we've witnessed in the past three years, is heavy. Recognizing ways that we can prepare for as many situations as possible, cooling our heads to problem solve, and making our guests feel cared for are crucial. I'll never forget the feeling of being in Spain and needing to get myself, our guests, and our staff home from thousands of miles away.
Finding sustainable solutions in an events world can be incredibly challenging, and very rewarding. I've been fortunate in that my personal for sustainability aligned with the brands I've worked for. It can be tough, especially when we're looking for setups for 8hrs or fewer, wavering head counts and expectations, and wanting to show our guests the best we can offer. But if you do your research, many vendors are offering promising solutions to finding sustainable solutions - whether that be with signage materials, offsetting solutions, reusable materials, recyclable swag concepts, or trash sorting.
How do you determine which vendors are best suited for your stakeholder's needs while also finding those providing competitive services at affordable rates?
Referrals are everything! We have a wide network of referrals through our company and through companies I work with. In a game show, I'd call this the "call a friend" option. Reach out on LinkedIn, Instagram, or through your messaging programs. I like to work with vendors who come up with a recommendation. The second thing I look for when sourcing vendors are prioritizing small, local, and diverse vendors. This value is important to my clients as well as we find ways to support our community with our business. On the surface, this may sound expensive. But, if you build a strong network, and make the right choices based on your priorities, cost-effective solutions that meet your needs are out there - you just have to ask and do the research.
Are there any key lessons or insights that have shaped your approach to event planning over the years?
The first is to treat everyone like a VIP. We know that at every event, there are VIPs, and then there is the general guest list. And no matter whom you interact with, there are small or big ways to make someone feel valued. This goes for partners, vendors, colleagues, and guests alike. The second is to build your network at every touchpoint. You never know whom you'll want to connect with again!
Have empathy and be as supportive as possible - organize your thoughts and requests, respond in a timely manner, and don't cast as wide of a net when requesting hotels as you used to.
The pandemic was a moment when the world could shine a light on the discrepancies that the industry is facing in terms of diversity and minority involvement. There are a number of tools, groups, job boards, etc., that help big companies like us connect with diverse vendors and partners to continue to pull off rich experiences across the board and include as many perspectives as possible.
The industry offers a number of useful (and some not-so-useful) learning opportunities. I recommend that planners take a certification course through one of the many platforms - Google, LinkedIn, Eventbrite, etc. - or marketing courses through their local community. If your company offers education credits - do not sleep on those! They want to invest in you!