Experience Creators You Should Know - Libbie Buehler, Westfield

Libbie Buehler, of Westfield, 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: Libbie Buehler

Company Name: Westfield

Job Title: Senior Event Planner

Years of Experience: 10

How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
The events industry wasn't on my radar initially, but after college, I did know I wanted to pursue a role that would let me work with an exciting variety of people and leverage my skills in planning and communicating. Event planning happened to check a lot of the boxes I was looking for. As I have grown deeper in my current role, it's allowed me also to pursue my passion for project management and find some wonderful mentors through my stakeholders.
How would you describe your role or responsibilities as a professional event planner?
I oversee corporate event planning for our Commercial Lines insurance. A big part of my role is understanding the business needs of my internal clients and designing events that help them reach their marketing and business goals and weave into the larger landscape of efforts taking place as a brand.
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?
Much of my work pre-Covid was centered around larger legacy events and carrying on traditions. Covid gave us a fantastic reason to pause and reflect on why we were having events and focus specifically on what we needed them to do for us. As a result, we've listened to our audience more and have found success in smaller, intimate events that allow for more authentic interactions with customers.
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?

Everyone is facing similar challenges with having limited resources. Concern for the experience is always present, and I often find myself being honest with venues and asking what is reasonable for them to execute. For my event to be a success, it needs to be physically doable for them. Sometimes simple changes like menus or setup can make a huge difference in venues being able to confidently execute what I try to, which in turn gives me peace of mind. I approach the partnerships as a true team - even though I am a client to them, we have similar goals, and I want to set them up for success, too. Clearly communicating my "must-have's" and identifying my flexible areas is where I always start.
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 have conversations upfront with my stakeholders on their values. Do they value budget above all, or is this experience a make-or-break for a large piece of business? We decide together what takes priority, and vendors are chosen with that in mind. We also agree upon thresholds and ceilings so that I can do my best when negotiating on their behalf.
Are there any key lessons or insights that have shaped your approach to event planning over the years?
Listening is everything! The more I approach a stakeholder with curiosity and listen, the better product I am able to provide to them, and the better my instincts will be on providing them with something they're going to love.
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?
I like to add in 1-2 locations to source the RFP to, that I wouldn't normally gravitate towards. Sometimes I am surprised by how well they can meet my needs or how fast they get back to me.
Are you approaching contracting with hotels differently, post-pandemic?
I'm having more upfront conversations with stakeholders about current norms for terms, conditions, and financial liability with contracts so everyone is on the same page as we work towards a decision.
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?
I'd rather know availability sooner and wait on pricing out the pieces.
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?
Virtual platforms have been crucial in helping us connect with a different audience than those we typically see in person. The pandemic got us used to using this tool more, but honestly, we're finding it's very common for attendees to want to be home at the end of the day, as many have children and family obligations. It's a great tool for the right need and audience.
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?
Sometimes the greatest learnings are from people adjacent to your role - from vendors to marketing specialists; it's helpful to ask what trends they're seeing and noticing in their own roles and reflect on how you can incorporate that into your work! Learnings come from all levels, and if you stay curious and seek out others, you can find valuable nuggets at functions beyond the typical mixers and networking events.
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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