Experience Creators You Should Know - Kate Perlman, AbbVie

Kate Perlman, of AbbVie, 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: Kate Perlman

Company Name: AbbVie

Job Title: Senior Event Planner

Years of Experience: 13

How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
My journey in the events industry began during my college years when I interned with Victoria’s Secret PINK in experiential marketing events. It was there that I discovered my passion for event planning, thanks to the incredible professionals I had the privilege of learning from. Their creativity and dedication inspired me to pursue a career focused on designing experiences.
Continuing my journey, I had the opportunity to intern at The Walt Disney World, where I honed my skills in crafting five-star experiences and white-glove service. The lessons and insights I gained during my time at Disney continue to shape my approach to producing events today. Building upon my experiences, I then went on to manage events professionally for the headquarters of retailer Burlington Stores, followed by a role at AbbVie, a leading pharmaceutical company. For me, there is no greater reward than seeing months of meticulous planning and creativity come to life in the form of an unforgettable event. It is this fulfillment that has driven my pursuit of a career in the events industry, and I am grateful for the mentors and opportunities that have shaped my path along the way.
How would you describe your role or responsibilities as a professional event planner?
As a professional event planner, my role and responsibilities revolve around orchestrating memorable and successful events for my clients. Here are some key aspects of my role:
1. Event conceptualization: I work closely with clients to understand their vision and objectives for the event. I collaborate with them to develop creative concepts that align with their goals and audience.
2. Planning and coordination: I take charge of the logistical aspects of the event, including selecting and booking the venue, managing vendors and suppliers, creating timelines, and developing a comprehensive event plan. I ensure that all elements, such as catering, decor, entertainment, and technical requirements, are seamlessly integrated.
3. Budget management: I help clients establish a realistic budget for their event and then manage it effectively. This involves negotiating with vendors to secure competitive pricing, tracking expenses, and making cost-effective decisions without compromising the quality of the event.
4. Event design and production: For smaller events, I oversee the design and production of the event, collaborating with professionals in areas like lighting, audiovisuals, staging, and decor. I strive to create immersive experiences that bring the client's vision to life.
5. Vendor and team management: I liaise with various vendors, such as caterers, motivational speakers, entertainers, and rental companies, to ensure their services align with the client's expectations. For larger events, I also manage an event team, assigning roles and coordinating their efforts to ensure smooth execution.
6. On-site coordination: During the event, I am responsible for overseeing the implementation of the event plan, managing any unexpected issues or changes, and ensuring all elements come together seamlessly. I focus on guest experience, troubleshooting, and maintaining a positive atmosphere.
7. Post-event evaluation: Following the event, I evaluate its success by gathering feedback from stakeholders. I assess what worked well and identify areas for improvement, allowing me to continually refine my skills and enhance future events.
Overall, my role as an event planner encompasses every stage of event execution, from initial concept to post-event evaluation. I aim to relieve clients of the stress and complexities of event management while creating memorable experiences for all involved.
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?
Planning in-person events post-pandemic introduced unique challenges related to health and safety, flexibility, and technology integration. Some of the most notable differences included:
1. Health and safety protocols: Pre-Covid, such protocols were not a primary concern. Planning then involved incorporating measures like enhanced cleaning, social distancing guidelines, providing sanitization stations, and monitoring attendee health.
2. Flexibility and adaptability: Post-pandemic planning required a greater degree of flexibility and adaptability. The ever-changing nature of the pandemic and associated regulations meant being prepared for potential changes in guest counts, venue capacities, and local restrictions. Contingency plans were crucial to ensure seamless event execution.
3. Technology integration: While technology played a role in pre-Covid events, its significance skyrocketed in the post-pandemic landscape. Hybrid event options, live streaming, and virtual participation became essential considerations. Integrating technology for remote attendees, live interactions, and virtual networking became key components of event planning.
4. Attendee comfort and reassurance: Post-pandemic event planning focused heavily on addressing attendee concerns and providing reassurance. Communicating health and safety measures, sharing information on vaccination requirements, and demonstrating a commitment to maintaining a safe environment became paramount.
Despite the unique challenges, many core planning elements - as selecting and booking venues, coordinating with vendors, developing event timelines, managing budgets, designing event experiences, and ensuring smooth on-site operation- remained largely unchanged.
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?

Here are a few common hurdles and some strategies I've used to overcome them:
1. Limited availability: It’s common to encounter venues with limited availability post-pandemic, especially during peak seasons. By reaching out early, negotiating flexible dates, and moving quickly, we can increase the chances of securing the best venues.
2. Budget constraints: To overcome this, I prioritize budget planning from the outset, conducting thorough research to find cost-effective options without compromising quality. Negotiating prices, exploring package deals, and seeking out promotions can also help to optimize the budget.
3. Communication gaps: Effective communication is vital for successful collaborations with suppliers. In particular when planning international events, language and cultural barriers can hinder the planning process. To mitigate these challenges, I establish clear lines of communication, and provide detailed briefs and documentation. Overcoming challenges in working with suppliers requires proactive planning.
By building strong relationships, conducting thorough research, and being flexible, event planners will be best equipped to navigate these obstacles.
Are there any key lessons or insights that have shaped your approach to event planning over the years?
Here are a few key tips and tricks that I would recommend to aspiring meeting and event planners:
1. Communication is key: Effective communication is vital at every stage of event planning. Clearly articulate expectations, actively listen to clients and stakeholders, and maintain open lines of communication with vendors and team members. Strong communication skills help build trust, resolve issues promptly, and ensure everyone is on the same page.
2. Plan with flexibility in mind: Events can be unpredictable, and circumstances may change. It is essential to plan with flexibility and adaptability, considering alternative options and having contingency plans in place. Being prepared for unforeseen circumstances will help you navigate challenges and ensure a smooth event experience.
3. Attention to detail is crucial: Paying attention to the smallest details can make a significant difference in the success of an event. Double-check contracts, schedules, and logistics to avoid any last-minute surprises. Anticipating potential challenges and having backup plans ready demonstrates your professionalism and dedication.
4. Build a reliable network of vendors and partners: Cultivate relationships with reliable vendors, suppliers, and partners in the event industry. Working with trusted professionals who consistently deliver quality services can save time, reduce stress, and enhance the overall event experience for your clients.
5. Embrace technology: Stay up-to-date with event management software, online registration platforms, virtual event tools, and other technological advancements in the industry. Utilizing technology can streamline processes, enhance attendee engagement, and provide valuable data for analysis and improvement.
6. Stay organized and prioritize time management: Event planning involves juggling multiple tasks, deadlines, and stakeholders. Effective organizational skills and time management are essential. Use project management tools, create detailed timelines, and prioritize tasks to ensure you stay on track and meet deadlines.
7. Continual learning and professional development: The event industry is ever-evolving. Stay updated on the latest trends, technologies, and best practices through industry publications, attending conferences, participating in webinars, and seeking out professional development opportunities. Continual learning will keep your skills sharp and your approach innovative.
8. Stay calm under pressure: Events can be fast-paced and stressful, especially when unexpected challenges arise. It's important to remain calm, composed, and solution-oriented in high-pressure situations. Your ability to handle stressful situations with grace will inspire confidence in your clients and team.
Remember that each event is unique, and there is always room for creativity and personalization. Embrace your passion for event planning, be open to learning from each experience, and adapt your approach based on the specific needs of your clients. With dedication, attention to detail, and a focus on client satisfaction, you can create memorable and successful events.
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?
When faced with hotels that are short-staffed and a shortened lead time for RFPs, event planners can take several steps to overcome these obstacles:
1. Plan and communicate in advance: As much as possible, plan your events well in advance to allow for ample lead time when requesting proposals from hotels. Communicate with your stakeholders early on to understand their needs and event requirements, which will help you streamline the RFP process.
2. Prioritize key information in the RFP: When submitting an RFP to hotels, ensure that you include the essential details right at the beginning. Clearly state the event dates, preferred room block size, meeting space requirements, and any other specific needs. By providing concise and clear information upfront, you make it easier for hotels to assess their availability and respond promptly.
3. Be flexible with dates and options: Due to limited staffing and increased demand, certain dates or room types may be more challenging to secure. Maintain flexibility in your RFP by providing alternate dates or considering different room configurations. This flexibility increases the chances of finding availability.
4. Establish clear communication channels: Establish a direct line of communication with the hotel's sales team, and respond promptly to their inquiries or requests for additional information to facilitate a smooth RFP process.
5. Utilize technology and automation: Leverage online RFP platforms that streamline the process and help you efficiently manage multiple RFPs simultaneously. These tools can automate tasks like sending RFPs, collecting responses, and comparing proposals, saving you time and effort.
Adaptability, clear communication, and a proactive approach will help you secure suitable accommodations for your events.
Are you approaching contracting with hotels differently, post-pandemic?
We have learned many lessons from the pandemic, including how to approach hotel contracts differently. Here are a few ways in which event planners may consider approaching hotel contracts post-pandemic:
1. Flexible contract terms: Contract terms may include more flexibility to account for unforeseen circumstances. Clauses addressing force majeure, cancellation policies, and rescheduling options may be revised to provide both parties with greater flexibility and clarity in case of unexpected disruptions.
2. Health and safety considerations: Contracting with hotels post-pandemic may involve discussions and agreements regarding health and safety protocols. Event planners may seek assurances that the hotel follows recommended guidelines, implements robust cleaning and sanitization procedures, and has protocols in place to handle any potential health emergencies.
3. Contingency plans: Contracting may involve discussions on contingency plans in case of unforeseen circumstances or emergencies. This may include exploring options for rescheduling or modifying the event setup to accommodate changing regulations or health concerns.
4. Virtual or hybrid event considerations: In a post-pandemic environment, contracts may address the potential for virtual or hybrid event components. Agreements may include concessions for advanced technological requirements to support remote attendance.
5. Risk assessment and insurance coverage: Event planners may conduct more comprehensive risk assessments and evaluate insurance coverage options. This may involve reviewing policies related to event cancellation, liability, and force majeure to ensure adequate protection in case of unforeseen circumstances.
It's important to note that the specific approach to contracting with hotels may vary based on the nature of the event, location, and individual circumstances. Event planners should work closely with hotels to address their specific needs, prioritize attendee safety, and adapt to the post-pandemic landscape.
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?
One area of improvement that I believe hotels can focus on when responding to RFPs is to include photos of their function spaces in their proposals. Photos of function spaces allow event planners to better visualize the potential of the venue for their specific event. This visual reference helps planners assess the suitability of the space, envision room layouts, and determine if it aligns with their event concept and requirements. Having visual examples readily available saves time and effort, enabling planners to assess multiple venues more efficiently and make informed choices based on the visual appeal and functionality of the spaces. We don’t always have time to conduct site inspections in-person, so photos or virtual walk-throughs are the next best thing.
By including high-quality photos in their proposals, hotels can differentiate themselves from competitors and leave a lasting impression on event planners. I recommend ensuring that the photos are representative of the actual spaces, showcase different room setups, and highlight key features. Providing a variety of visuals that cater to different event types and sizes will further assist event planners in making well-informed decisions.
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?
Due to the pandemic, the events community has indeed experienced a significant shift towards embracing new technologies. Here are a few examples of the new tech I have used:
1. Virtual event platforms: With the rise of virtual events, I have been utilizing virtual event platforms that provide interactive and immersive experiences for attendees. These platforms offer features like live streaming, chat functionalities, networking lounges, and virtual exhibitor booths, allowing me to create engaging and dynamic virtual event environments.
2. Event management software: Event management software has become an essential part of my planning process. These tools help streamline tasks such as attendee registration, session scheduling, and data management. They also facilitate communication with stakeholders, provide analytics for performance tracking, and help automate various event-related processes.
3. Video conferencing and collaboration tools: Video conferencing tools have become integral for hosting virtual meetings, client consultations, and team collaborations. Platforms like Microsoft Teams or Zoom enable effective communication and allow for virtual site inspections, vendor meetings, and client presentations.
4. Event mobile apps: Mobile apps specifically designed for events have become increasingly popular. These apps offer features like personalized schedules, interactive maps, attendee networking, real-time updates, and surveys. They enhance attendee engagement, facilitate information sharing, and provide valuable insights for event organizers.
5. Contactless check-in and registration: To prioritize health and safety, contactless check-in and registration solutions were essential. QR code-based systems or mobile apps enable attendees to register, check in, and access event materials or badges without physical contact, ensuring a smooth and safe on-site experience.
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?
Absolutely! Learning and networking are vital for professional growth and success in the meetings and events industry. Here are some of my suggestions:
1. Attend industry conferences and events: Look for events that focus on topics relevant to your interests and attend sessions, workshops, and panel discussions to expand your knowledge and connect with like-minded professionals.
2. Join professional associations and organizations: These groups often provide access to educational resources and opportunities to expand your network and learn from experienced professionals.
3. Seek out mentorship opportunities: You can find opportunities within industry associations or reach out to professionals whose work you admire.
4. Earn your CMP Certification: CMP Certifications demonstrate a high level of creditability and dedication to continuing professional development in the meeting and event planning field.
Remember to never stop learning!
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. 

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