Planners You Should Know - Erin Mosher, NAEA

Erin Mosher, of NAEA, 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: Erin Mosher

Company Name: NAEA

Job Title: Senior Director, Education and Events

Years of Experience: 11

How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
Most association events staff fall into the role, but I have been interested in the service/non-profit industry since I was in high school. I was taking hospitality classes at the local academy in my county which lead to my major in college being hospitality management. I have been involved with different non-profits since I was a kid and have always been mission driven when it comes to work and my passions. So when I got into the working world, I was able to combine both my passions of mission-driven work and the service industry in the association/non-profit events sphere. There is something about knowing that an event you helped produce will somehow make a difference in someone's life, either professionally or personally.
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?
I wouldn't say we are post-pandemic yet. We are still planning our in-person events very similar to how we did in 2021. Our attendees are still very cautious as events are still seeing Covid breakouts at them. We are giving optional social distance seating and name badges to alert comfort with being near other attendees. We provide masks and hand sanitizer for anyone who would want them on-site. I would say the amount of people who are partaking in these options are getting smaller and smaller, but it is still necessary for our group to provide them for attendees to feel safe at our events. The biggest difference between our 2021 and 2022 events was in 2022 all of the precautions at in-person events are now optional versus required in 2021. So it is up to the attendees to take the precautions they see fit to make them as comfortable as possible.
What was your number one challenge in hosting your first in-person event(s) and how did you overcome it?

We hosted our first in-person event in July 2021. Our biggest challenge was making sure we communicated the requirements to attend and the precautions we were taking to make attendees feel safe. It was different messaging to potential registrants about the value of the event and how we as an organization were mitigating risks to attend. We overcame it by thoughtfully messaging our members and providing experiences that they had been missing during the height of the pandemic. We were lucky to have no outbreaks during that event, and the attendees left feeling connected to their peers and gained new knowledge in their field.
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?)
Something I have always done with past organizations and was made necessary for my current organization was scenario planning. We had multiple scenarios mapped out for how the events could shape in terms of budget, schedule, format, and risk factors. We continue to do this today. We actually just had to move an event from in-person to virtual. With our scenario planning done ahead, we were able to turn the switch in just two days. I think all event planners are experts in preparing for the unexpected and it is more necessary today than it ever has been before.
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?
Be empathetic. Understand that hoteliers are trying their best with limited resources just like we as planners are. With that in mind, come to the negotiating table with your needs mapped out in advance and be prepared to have just your "must haves" reached and your "nice to haves" taken off the table. I think planners are seeing the horizon change when it comes to what vendors and hoteliers are able and willing to do when it comes to events. We need to rethink what our "normal" concessions would have been before the pandemic and adjust to what is now able to be provided. Now more than ever we have to come to the RFP table prepared with different scenarios and options mapped out and work with our vendor teams on flexible options, so both sides' goals are met.
Are you approaching contracting with hotels differently, post-pandemic?
We are one of the many who are shortening our lead times. We are no longer booking more than two years out as we adjust our event strategy to meet new member demands. We have adjusted our concession requirements down but asking for more flexibility in terms of space and room nights from the hotels. We understand we may not get a 0% attrition like before, but with that, the hotel needs to provide some additional flexibility elsewhere. This is a standard part of the conversations now.
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 can be more flexible and willing to work with planners. Planners are being asked to be more flexible with their events by members and the industry. Hotels need to understand that and come to the table with options. I think viewing any event or contract as a partnership where both parties are helping each other reach their goals is the way forward. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more hotels cutting services and concessions and hiking up prices. It is hard to view that as a partnership and not as a one-way street.
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?
We had just implemented an LMS when the pandemic hit. We began to use it for more than we originally planned. It has been instrumental to our success over the last few years. All of our in-person content is sold on demand, and we have ramped up our webinars over the years. We now have a content library our members turn to when they need specific education on a topic of interest to them. The whole team has also turned remote with no plan to return to the office. So our project planning software has been a lifesaver so we can all collaborate in the cloud to move projects forward.
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?
Join your local event planning chapter! PCMA, ASAE, and MPI, just to name a few. Larger cities have smaller groups as well. In the DC metro area, there are smaller groups for the suburbs like the Reston Herndon Meeting Planners who put on in-person and online education events. There is also a national meeting planner Facebook group that I have found so helpful for connecting with other planners and for resources. Request to join that for a safe place to ask questions and connect/vent on anything happening in your event planning process. No vendors are allowed in the group. I also love to connect with the local CVB, and they often partner up to put on some excellent educational events in the DC metro area.

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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