Planners You Should Know - Emma Schorr, National Alliance on Mental Illness of NYC (NAMI-NYC)

Emma Schorr, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of NYC (NAMI-NYC), 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 spotlight's 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: Emma Schorr

Company Name: National Alliance on Mental Illness of NYC 

Job Title: Manager of Events

Years of Experience: 6+

How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
My interest in the events industry started while in college attending Elon University. I participated in planning our campus Dance Marathon event where students raised funds for a nearby children’s hospital. My final year I had the privilege of being the Vice President of Finance and Fundraising and have been hooked on planning events, especially for meaningful causes, ever since. Since then I have worked for JCC Maccabi, an Olympic style set of games held around the country hosting 8,000 attendees, and now for NAMI-NYC, (National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City) an organization that provides free of charge programs and resources to individuals and family members affected by mental illness. This organization is doing such important work by making mental health care accessible to all – it’s what made me want to pursue this role and what makes me proud to work there.
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?

When putting on an event, it is inevitable that something will go wrong. Whether it is weather related or having to move a table to a different location, something will always need to be handled on the fly. While that has always been true and continues to be true, there is an extra element of flexibility in post-pandemic event planning. The pandemic has proven that we really have no idea what can go wrong and the impact it will create, so going forward in our events we need to be flexible and know that things may change drastically. We have to lean into whatever situation arises and just make the best of it.
What was your number one challenge in hosting your first in-person event(s) and how did you overcome it?

The number one challenge was trying to engage our past event attendees and increase return rate. The last time we had an in person event was 2019 so to not have another event until 2022 made it challenging to re-engage all our past participants who either forgot about our event, didn’t feel as strong of a connection anymore, or who no longer lived in the community. To overcome this, we had to take the time to connect with all of our past participants on a personal level. That involved individual emails and phone calls asking if they would like to return or telling them individually why/how valuable they were to our organization. While definitely time consuming, we found our community really valued the attention and personal touch they received as we re-connected with them. After the pandemic especially, attendees are looking for more opportunities of connection and creating relationships.
What is the top learning that you uncovered from the last two years that you’re implementing in your planning process today? (any other tips or tricks you want to share?)
One of the most important things that we have implemented today is that while an event may be virtual, there are still ways to create meaningful connections and touchpoints, which is so crucial in creating a successful event. If attendees can’t meet in person, they still need to feel as if they are creating relationships and that they aren’t just alone behind a computer screen. There needs to be implementation of breakout rooms, chat features, and individual phone calls – ways to make sure that the attendees can stay engaged and interact and still receive some social benefit that they would get if they were in person.
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?
When it comes to new tech we are focusing on how to not only continue to create hybrid events, but to also still add in other solely virtual events regardless of the fact that we can meet in person again. We have found that with hybrid or virtual events we are able to reach a larger audience than ever before – breaking some of the potential barriers that prevented attendees: travel, timing, or cost. Pre-COVID our reach was very focused on the NYC community, but with virtual events we have been able to reach additional cities, states and even countries.
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?
The best way to grow in this industry is to attend as many events as you can outside of your own. Going to other events will allow you to see the event from an attendee perspective which is so important to continually have while planning your own events. Additionally, this will give you the opportunity to see what other ideas are being tested in the industry and see if any may fit for your event. Lastly, while I wouldn’t recommend approaching the events team at their event as they are juggling multiple jobs at that moment, I would suggest emailing them afterwards expressing that you were in attendance and would love to connect to debrief with them and bounce some ideas off of each other.

This post is part of the HopSkip Planner Spotlight Series where HopSkip spotlight's 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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