Planners You Should Know In 2022 Series- Jaclyn Zendrian, CurePSP

Jaclyn Zendrian, of CurePSP, 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: Jaclyn Zendrian

Company Name: CurePSP

Job Title: Senior Director- Events

Years of Experience: 13

How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?

When I lived in Baltimore, I signed up with a temp agency, and they placed me with The Johns Hopkins University Neurology Development Department. It was simply something I fell into, but then it became something I made my own. Funny enough, my mother also interviewed a few weeks earlier for the same job, and when they passed on her, she gave the Executive Director my resume as an alternative option. I had a great rapport with my boss, and she allowed me to shape the position I was in to suit my skills. I liked choosing the venues and menus, finding the vendors and working with them, and building relationships. I enjoyed the collaborative nature between business skills and the creative mindset. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I didn’t figure it out until I was 27. Sometimes, the universe provides an opportunity, and it was up to me to make the most of it. I decided I wanted my career to be in events, and I let my boss know, and she was supportive. Almost every job I’ve had since then has had the brain as a commonality.

When I was hired at CurePSP, I was the Conference Manager overseeing two events a year. I saw several opportunities for growth in the position, so I started taking on more events in the organization. After working there for a few months, the organization underwent a restructuring. The headquarters moved to New York City, so I packed up my cats, moved back to where I was originally from and was eventually promoted to the executive leadership position I’m now in.

My career experience is not only in this position but also volunteering with the International Live Events Association (ILEA), the New York Metro Chapter board, and becoming their chapter President from 2020-2021 during the pandemic. Being a part of this organization allowed me to expand several skill sets, such as strategic partnerships, budgeting, expectation management, and conflict resolution.

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?

Many of the events that we plan are for patients, so we’ve always taken extra precautions with this population. Now that we’re planning our first in-person patient conference for this fall, we’re making sure that people know the expectations far ahead of the event. We put information regarding Covid in the waivers and on the registration pages, and if they would like a refund for feeling unwell, we will issue them without question. Even though many places have done away with mask and vaccine mandates, we have not at our in-person events. We also offered hand sanitizer as giveaways and at each table in our spaces.

What I have found most remarkable about planning in the “post-pandemic” world is that my relationships with my vendors are stronger. We have this shared experience, and we know who is reliable, was there for one another, and was willing to work with each other on canceled contracts. These things are valuable and can’t be measured but are ultimately remembered long-term.

What was your number one challenge in hosting your first in-person event(s) and how did you overcome it?

As the President of ILEA, New York Metro Chapter, I helped organize our first in-person event, The Big Apple Celebration, in June 2021. The biggest challenge with this event was that we were only limited to 50 guests when it usually brings in 200 people, and it happened with complex NYC pandemic restrictions. The team I worked with decided that whatever venue we chose to work with would have to have outdoor space and commit to these COVID protocols. To minimize the COVID risks to make people feel comfortable enough to attend, we chose to do the following: 1) Vaccine and testing requirements were made clear from the beginning – on the event registration site, in registration checkout with an attestation, in the registration confirmation email, and in multiple reminder emails. 2) Guests were informed that face masks were expected to be worn. 3) We had someone continually sanitize the bathroom after every person exited. Also, commonly touched surfaces throughout the space were routinely disinfected. 4) Extra masks were available upon request. 5) A COVID testing company was available in-house for anyone needing testing. Guests could wait for the results in an isolated location with a glass of bubbly to lessen impatience. 6) We incorporated a COVID waiver into registration and added that language to the registration site; attendees were expected to wear masks.

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?)

Always work with people you trust whenever possible. Relationships go a long way when things go sideways. For every one of the vendors I worked with before the pandemic that reasonably let us out of contracts, I made it a point to not only work with again after the pandemic but also refer to others because I trust them, and they do good work. These organizations did everything they could to support us, and I wanted to support them. The events industry is not as big as you think it is, even in New York City.

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 recommend working with a hotel broker or someone well versed in hotel clauses and negotiations. Because I work for a smaller organization, I have less buying power. When working with a hotel broker, she has relationships I wouldn’t have and knows hotels better than I do, and can offer insights, advice, terms, and clauses that I might not know. Plus, it’s a time saver, and I can focus on other, more urgent matters.

Are you approaching contracting with hotels differently, post-pandemic?

I think I rely more on the advice of my hotel broker as to what the trends of that industry are. Force Majeures is more critical than ever, and having an out in an emergency cannot be underestimated.

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 feel like they don’t incorporate the corrections I make to the contracts. I can’t tell you how many times they incorrectly wrote my organization’s name into the document, and our legal department won’t sign off on it, which slows the entire process down.

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’re using a variety of virtual event platforms. The two we use the most are Classy/Classy Live and StreamYard. Because of the nature of the diseases we work with, progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), corticobasal degeneration (CBD), and multiple system atrophy (MSA), patients eventually can’t travel because they are movement disorders. Our patients, families, and caregivers have taken well to the virtual events we’ve put on. These platforms allow us to educate, fundraise, and connect with many different groups.

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?

I’m a fan of the International Live Events Association (ILEA)! They are one of the reasons I have been successful as a planner. They’ve provided many networking and educational opportunities to further my career.

I also highly recommend The Event Planner Expo happening in NYC from October 11-13th! I’m speaking at a fireside chat on October 13th at 4:30 PM, and HopSkip will also be exhibiting! For complimentary 1-day VIP tickets to the Fireside Chats on Thursday, October 13th, where I'm featured, use promo code: JACLYNCOMP, or to experience all 3 days use promo code JACLYN50 for 50% off tickets


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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