Experience Creators You Should Know - Kimberly Inniger, ORCID

Kimberly Inniger, of ORCID, 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: Kimberly Inniger

Company Name: ORCID

Job Title: Events & Outreach Specialist

Years of Experience: 7

How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
I truly fell into events. As college graduation approached, a recruiter found me on LinkedIn, and even though my degree had nothing to do with event planning or management, she thought I’d be a good fit for an entry-level position within the event department of an association. I started during the busiest season, so I hit the ground running and was baptized by fire. It was a fantastic learning experience for me, and three months after starting, my role had been expanded to leading 13 volunteer-based committees, eight different conferences, and managing over 5,000 event participants.
Throughout my career, I’ve planned and managed everything from 15,000 attendee congresses, concerts, music festivals, weddings, galas, fundraisers, and intimate 10-person board meetings. I love the energy of events, but during the pandemic, I felt compelled to search for a role that allowed for more time at home and a more consistent schedule. When I came across my current position with ORCID, I liked that it was heavily focused on digital events because it was one of the few event types in planning I didn’t have extensive experience in. Fast forward to today, I am a certified Digital Event Strategist, and our digital events are thriving!
How would you describe your role or responsibilities as a professional event planner?
As the Events & Outreach Specialist, I am responsible for ORCID’s internal event strategy, manage digital events, and lead logistics for in-person workshops for our members. I am also responsible for swag procurement and provide various support to our staff as they travel to external events in person.
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?
In general, most aspects of planning are the same, but there are now additional boxes to check on my to-do list. Even though we are technically post-pandemic, it is still top of mind when planning in-person meetings. Planning post-pandemic meetings includes finding ways to facilitate testing and promote a healthy-as-possible environment, along with offering both in-person and remote participation.
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?

Given that we are a global team and our community exists around the world, we plan and participate in meetings everywhere. So, occasionally, language barrier issues can delay the planning process as everyone tries to find the right words to understand each other. Time zones can also present challenges when I’m in the Eastern time zone and my hotel or restaurant contact is, for example, in Central Europe. Initially, I do my best to schedule a quick video call with suppliers, even if it means working outside of my normal hours, to clearly express needs and expectations. I find that, once we are all on the same page, we’re able to overcome challenges presented because we’ve built a rapport and trust that we’re all working towards the same goal—a successful meeting.
How do you determine which vendors are best suited for your stakeholder's needs while also finding those providing competitive services at affordable rates?
I find it easiest to balance stakeholder needs by understanding what is a must-have vs a nice to-have. Of course, stakeholders don’t always explicitly express what their must-haves are, so when starting a new position, it can take time to learn how to prioritize. As a scholarly non-profit, we are very budget-conscious, and I appreciate working with flexible vendors who are able to find cost-effective solutions to meet my stakeholder needs.
Are there any key lessons or insights that have shaped your approach to event planning over the years?
I have two mantras that I live by that have been passed down to me by mentors: 1. Plan for Plan B, and 2. We’re not saving lives, for Plan B means being ready for hiccups the day of. No matter how perfectly in order Plan A is, something will come up, and you need to be prepared for it. Plan B consists of the most likely disturbances and how to deal with them. For example, if a presenter for a webinar is disconnected mid-presentation because they’ve lost internet, how do you keep the webinar going?
My recovery plan consists of engaging attendees in Q&A to the best of our abilities while attempting to reconnect the presenter via phone audio. For my second mantra, when I remind myself that I’m not saving lives, it’s not meant to discount the hard work and dedication I put into my work every day. Instead, it’s meant to remind me that it’s okay to disconnect at the end of the day and pick back up in the morning or on Monday. Nothing catastrophic will happen upon logging off, and if it does, it won’t be the end of the world, and I’ll be able to work through it when I log back in.
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 and plan often. I find over the last few years that it’s even more imperative to book as soon as dates are confirmed. It’s also important to have more contact with the hotel and other on-site contacts throughout the planning process to remain informed on any issues that impact staffing, catering, etc.
Are you approaching contracting with hotels differently, post-pandemic?
I am more conscious of force majeure language and work with our legal team to ensure that contracts are as mutually beneficial as possible in the event of cancellation or postponement. I’ve worked on the venue side of planning, and I worked in it during the pandemic, so I certainly understand the pressure and stress that venues faced during that time. I approach contracting with that experience in mind while also maintaining the needs of my stakeholders.
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?
Timely communication can often be a struggle. I’m the kind of person who gets a little antsy when emails go unanswered, so even a quick ‘I’m underwater right now, I will get back to you on X date’ is enough to satiate me.
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?
With the focus on digital events for the last few years and with my primary focus being digital events, I upgraded our webinar platform. When I first started, our webinar platform was straight out of 2005, severely lacking a usable UI and missing a lot of tools that encourage audience participation. After a long scouting process, we upgraded to Zoom Events, and the difference in quality in our webinars is palpable.
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?
Stay connected to your networks and expand your network where you can. I am a member of PCMA and take part in a lot of their activities, including their Digital Event Strategist Slack channel. I also keep in touch with my mentors and coworkers from previous roles because they’re a great resource of knowledge, even if our industries aren’t aligned. Finally, my current role exposed me to a whole new industry, and it was a significant learning curve. To learn more about this community, I cultivated my own network by attending events and connecting with my counterparts. At first, I felt like a fish out of water, but now I’m swimming right along with my 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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