Experience Creators You Should Know - Julie Arocha, Latinos in Action

Julie Arocha, of Latinos in Action, 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: Julie Arocha

Company Name: Latinos in Action

Job Title: Director of Events

Years of Experience: 2

How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
When I began working for Latinos In Action it was during their 20th year of LIA. As the end of the year was approaching, I asked my boss what we were doing to celebrate 20 years. He said we are having a Gala and I need your help in planning it. Little did I know he meant to take charge of the entire event. After the success of the Gala, my boss asked me to take over events with Latinos In Action. It's been a great learning experience and I love the transition I have made into this career. I firmly believe in our mission of empowering Latino youth to lead and strengthen their communities through college and career readiness. I love that I get to be a part of implementing our mission by planning and executing our student events across the nation year-round.
How would you describe your role or responsibilities as a professional event planner?
My role as a professional event planner is definitely a collaborative effort. I work with a great team who supports me and we all share the same goal of empowering Latino youth to lead and strengthen their communities. Some key responsibilities of an event planner are creating, growing, and maintaining trusted connections within a community. Paying close attention to detail as a planner is so important in addition to being organized, efficient, and adaptable to change.
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?
I took on the role of event planner as the world was easing back into in-person events. The planning was different because as an organization, we had to ensure entities, attendees and venues were following CDC guidelines and the guidelines kept changing almost daily. Pre-Covid I don't think anyone questioned CDC guidelines. We also collaborated with many Colleges and Universities pre-Covid and post-Covid they could not open their campus for outside events. Obtaining a venue for our Leadership Conference and Leadership Bootcamp became a heavy lift for our organization. Our scheduling of events was set back. The setback affected students, teachers, administration, bus drivers, our team, and many more.
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?

Some of the challenges I have faced when working with suppliers is a shortage in supply. I've had to alter catering orders due to a limited amount of ham, cheese, bread, and other food items. Suppliers also have firm guidelines in terms of packaging and delivery. Many of the venues we have worked with are short-staffed and unable to provide certain services such as plated meals or bussing tables. I've had to increase staff presence and volunteers at certain events to ensure the event is fully covered. Patience, understanding, and thinking outside the box have been crucial in overcoming these challenges.
How do you determine which vendors are best suited for your stakeholder's needs while also finding those providing competitive services at affordable rates?
Trust and confidence in a vendor determine whether they are best suited for any of our events. As a non-profit organization, finding competitive services at affordable rates is extremely important. I've found that our trusted vendors will match rates or even offer a better rate if we maintain our existing relationship with them for the service.
Are there any key lessons or insights that have shaped your approach to event planning over the years?
Building relationships and establishing a strong network is essential to planning and executing a great event. I feel post-Covid adults, students, and children are all in need of connectivity, face to face interaction. As an event planner, it's important to recognize this need and develop a way to bring people together in a positive and influential manner.
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 ahead, and keep a general proposal on hand that can be modified to fit another request so it's easy to transition or alter quickly. Plan for your needs and minimize wants when it comes to a shortage of staff.
Are you approaching contracting with hotels differently, post-pandemic?
The majority of our contracts are with Colleges and Universities. We utilize one hotel for a summer event and have worked with them for several years. Post-pandemic the hotel has managed to work with us without altering contracts or the planning of the event.
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?
Hotels can improve response time when a proposal has been submitted. During the contract phase, it would be nice if hotel staff periodically checked in with the planning process.
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?
Our organization has started to utilize Qualtrics and Click-up.
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?
Social media is a powerful tool to network and learn about other organizations and other methods to stay involved and connected with others. Also, joining online groups and online discussions is key to learning and building a network with peers.
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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