Experience Creators You Should Know - Nausheen Ahmad, Loopio

Nausheen Ahmad, of Loopio, 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: Nausheen Ahmad

Company Name: Loopio

Job Title: Events & Experiential Marketing Manager

Years of Experience: 13+

How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
I got into events by chance! I organized a themed birthday party for my son & did everything myself for the event. The event management company (I had hired a mascot & magician) saw all my planning, activities & decor and offered me a job in their Kids Party division. 6 months after, I was promoted to the Account Manager for Events in Hotels & Resorts in the region. That was my first experience handling corporate events
How would you describe your role or responsibilities as a professional event planner?
As someone who has done corporate events for more than 13 years in different industries and multiple countries, and has managed virtual, in-person, and hybrid events, I have a strong understanding of the unique challenges and requirements of each type of event. My responsibility includes managing and coordinating all aspects of an event, from initial planning to execution and post-event analysis. This includes developing a budget, identifying and booking a venue, coordinating with vendors and suppliers, creating event schedules and timelines, managing registration and ticketing, arranging transportation and accommodations, overseeing event setup, including staging & AV, and breakdown, and handling any issues or emergencies that may arise during the event. also responsible for developing and executing a creative and engaging event program that meets the goals and objectives of the client. This may involve developing content for presentations, arranging keynote speakers, organizing panel discussions or workshops, and creating networking opportunities for attendees. I also ensure that the event runs smoothly and successfully, delivering an engaging and memorable experience for attendees.
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?
The most significant difference is the need to prioritize health and safety considerations. Post-pandemic, event planners need to consider new protocols and guidelines. Hybrid events are now more common, as they allow attendees who may not be comfortable attending in-person events to participate virtually. This requires additional planning and technology considerations, such as live streaming and virtual networking opportunities. I have also noticed that prices for all event-related services have increased considerably post-pandemic and venue and F&B prices are almost by 10 to 15%.
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?

One of the biggest challenges when sourcing a venue is finding one available on the desired date! Many venues get booked up months or even years in advance. Another common challenge is working within a budget. Sometimes the ideal venue or supplier may be too expensive, and we need to find creative ways to negotiate prices or find alternatives that still meet the event's needs. To overcome these challenges, here are some strategies that I have found helpful:1. Start early: I start sourcing venues and suppliers as early as possible to have more options and time to negotiate.2. Be clear about budget: I communicate clearly with suppliers and venues about budget constraints upfront, which helps them to tailor their offerings.3. Maintain regular communication with suppliers and venues.
How do you determine which vendors are best suited for your stakeholder's needs while also finding those providing competitive services at affordable rates?
When determining which vendors are best suited for my event, I generally take a 4-step approach1. Conduct research: A thorough research of vendors that can provide the services I need. 2. Check references and reviews: Contact references and read online reviews to determine the quality of work.3. Compare proposals: Request proposals from several vendors, and compare them to determine which vendor offers the best value for money. 4. Negotiate: Negotiate with vendors to get the best possible price.
Are there any key lessons or insights that have shaped your approach to event planning over the years?
Several key lessons have shaped my approach to event planning over the years. First and foremost, always have a Plan B! No matter how well you plan an event, there are always things that can go wrong. Pay attention to the small details that can make a big difference. This includes things like lighting, signage, food experience, seating arrangements etc. Building strong relationships with vendors, clients, and team members also helps in the long run. For aspiring meeting and event planners, I would recommend getting as much experience as possible through internships, volunteering, or working in a related field. Attend industry events, network with professionals, and stay up to date with the latest trends and technologies. Develop strong communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills, and be willing to work hard and be flexible. Finally, find a mentor or role model who can provide guidance and advice as you start your career in event planning.
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 submitting an RFP, be clear and concise in your communication with the hotel. Make sure you provide all the necessary information upfront, including your event dates, the number of attendees, and your budget. Consider using technology to help streamline the RFP process. Many hotels have online RFP forms that you can fill out or use a tool that helps you send out RFPs easily. If you're short on time or resources, consider hiring a third-party planner who can assist with sourcing hotels and negotiating contracts on your behalf.
Are you approaching contracting with hotels differently, post-pandemic?
Yes, my approach has definitely changed post-pandemic. I pay attention to reviewing cancellation and force majeure clauses and working with hotels to ensure they are fair and provide adequate protection for both parties. Also, I have started negotiating flexible contract terms. This includes provisions for rescheduling or postponing events if necessary, as well as contingency plans in case of unexpected changes or disruptions.
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 should respond promptly to RFPs and provide updates on the status of their proposals. They should pay close attention to the details of the RFP and provide comprehensive responses that address all of the requirements and questions. Being transparent about their pricing, policies, and any other relevant information that could impact the event helps us a lot while planning.
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?
At the moment, for any pre-event planning, I use Asana for project management.
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?
One of the best ways to learn and network with peers in the industry is to attend industry events and conferences. There are many professional organizations in the meetings and events industry, such as Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). Joining these organizations can provide access to valuable resources as well. If you can find a mentor in the industry, it can be a great way to learn from someone with more experience and expertise.
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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