Experience Creators You Should Know - Jessica Francis Kasprzak, Sprout Social

Jessica Francis Kasprzak, of Sprout Social, 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: Jessica Francis Kasprzak

Company Name: Sprout Social

Job Title: Director, Events

Years of Experience: 25

How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
I started my career in events on the non-profit side of planning- fundraising, advocacy, community, etc. before moving to corporate events in 2007. My mother was the executive director of a community/recreation center when I was growing up and I witnessed firsthand the power of events and experiences. I also witnessed the power of loose child labor laws in the 80s and ended up helping set up, tear down, and the registration tables of many events they produced. I'm kidding about the child labor laws- there was absolutely no place I would have rather been than in the thick of events and community gatherings. From there, I became really active in a lot of local and national non-profit organizations as a volunteer, advocate, and board member and started helping plan a lot of conferences and events. That led me to my first job as an event planner and I haven't looked back since!
How would you describe your role or responsibilities as a professional event planner?
I believe it is my responsibility to take the investment and trust my company has placed in me and to deliver results in the most cost-effective, efficient, and successful way possible. Events are an incredible investment and I do not take the responsibility lightly. There are so many ways to impact the experience of an event you produce, so professional planners are here to ensure the experience is at the forefront of the execution - from registration through the post-event follow up. Because they are also some of the most visible marketing your company may engage in, it is also our responsibility to ensure the brand is well-represented in a thoughtful and professional manner. Everything you do onsite can impact a prospect or customer, so it is our job to represent the business in the best way possible.
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?
My first event post-Covid was unique that it had a hybrid feature and needed more tech support than most events pre-pandemic. I think the pandemic changed our entire industry in ways we are still uncovering. But the thing that doesn't change is the power of bringing people together. There is a certain magic that happens when people can interact onsite and in person. While I think there will always be a time and place for virtual and hybrid events, I am so thankful we are meeting each other in the wild again and watch our entire industry come back to life.
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?

Sourcing can be tough for event teams as it's often a small but definitely mighty team of marketers. Those challenges are even harder when you're looking in cities or venues you have little experience or on-the-ground colleagues. I often use my network of planners to bounce venue ideas or get feedback on properties or locations.
How do you determine which vendors are best suited for your stakeholder's needs while also finding those providing competitive services at affordable rates?
Our entire industry is all about relationships. You determine the vendors best suited based on their services, pricing and the relationship you build with them through the sourcing process. I multi-bid everything I do, as it is the only way to make sure your pricing is competitive. But the professionalism of your contact, the information they provide, the responsiveness in your communications, etc. are all indicators on how they would be if/when you give them your business.
Are there any key lessons or insights that have shaped your approach to event planning over the years?
There is no detail too big or too small in events. From a typo in a save the date or intro message through the last message you send post-event, every detail should be carefully and thoughtfully considered, as it can impact the experience of your guests.My other lesson is there is no ego in events. Events belong to the community or organization you represent. I have washed cars, cleaned floors, served drinks, helped with emergency transfers and travel, you name it and I have probably done it at an event. In our industry, you do whatever it takes to get the job done and done in the best way possible. It's the magic that truly makes events great.
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?
Plan EARLY. Hotels, venues, vendors are booking up faster than ever before. Last minute planning in events usually means less than ideal venues and much higher costs.
Are you approaching contracting with hotels differently, post-pandemic?
Not really. I like to work with as much ramp and lead time as possible, and that has not changed from pre-pandemic to current times.
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 lot of hotels are not considering site inspections as they once were. I think a lot of planners need that peace of mind of walking the space to be sure it's the best fit.
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?
Most events now have a hybrid option, which wasn't as prevalent in events pre-2020. Outside of tech for the virtual experience, I wouldn't say a lot of other tech has evolved in the last 2 years for planners.
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?
Relationships are everything! Connect, connect, connect. Reach out to senior planners and network- use your LinkedIn network to find other planners and event marketing professionals. Join professional groups and attend continued education and learning sessions. Our networks are our professional currency- you never know who can help you with event advice, venue introduction, or maybe even your next career move. To any planners reading this- find me on LinkedIn! I love to meet and network with fellow event marketing professionals and am always available to help mentor new planners entering the profession.
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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