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Planners You Should Know In 2022 Series- Jamie Roman, CAI - Illinois

November 22, 2022
Reading time: 4 min

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: Jamie Roman

Company Name: CAI - Illinois

Job Title: Programs and Events Manager

Years of Experience: Less than 1

How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
I was previously in a different industry for almost 13 years, and the pandemic caused me to consider whether or not I was happy in my current position. I evaluated my skillset to see where I might be able to pursue a different career path. I realized that many of the skills I had through my previous position were strongly geared toward project management and event planning. These skills, combined with my passion for education and bringing people together, lead me to program and event management.
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?

As someone who is fairly new to this industry, I am navigating the complexities of the post-pandemic hybrid world. Many of our clients enjoyed the convenience of virtual learning and networking, while others insist that in-person is the only way to learn and network with their peers. I have found that offering a balance of at-home convenience and still providing opportunities for in-person networking satisfies the majority of our clients. In the pre-Covid world, managing the calendar of events was standardized and almost automated. In this new, post-pandemic culture, clients want to see unique events that motivate them to leave the convenience of online attendance and network with others. We are constantly being challenged to invent new ways of learning, connecting, and building relationships.
What was your number one challenge in hosting your first in-person event(s) and how did you overcome it?

The number one challenge in hosting in-person events so far has been budgeting. It is difficult to determine how many attendees there will be for an event, with some still uncomfortable meeting in person. This creates difficulty in determining what the budget for an event should be and what types of resources are needed in order to host the event.
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?)
As someone who has only been a program and event planner for a short period of time, I am finding that the key to retaining membership and increasing attendance numbers is not allowing the programs and events to become stale. There are simple and cost-effective ways to redesign a program or add a new aspect to an event that keeps existing members returning and entices new members to join. Additionally, the opinion of those you serve cannot be undervalued. My purpose in this role is to serve others, and collecting feedback and truly adjusting based on that feedback is crucial to the survival of our business.
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 requesting proposals, my advice is to request it as far in advance as possible. Providing the vendor with ample time to return the proposal will lessen the stress for both of you. Stay organized! A calendar with deadlines, including reminders of when to begin requesting your proposals, can make a world of difference when it comes time to budget and plan your event.
Are you approaching contracting with hotels differently, post-pandemic?
Though our organization does not necessarily contract with hotels for our events, we do use various venues to host our events. Post-pandemic, we are careful in our decision making when it comes to cost vs. what is included in the contract. We are remaining conscious of the fact that we live in a very unpredictable time when it comes to event-hosting, and we are careful to only sign contracts that will benefit our budget and keep us on track.
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 think venues in general could benefit from offering multi-year contracts. Though some events travel around, many firms have a lasting relationship with a particular venue and return each year for the same event. With that said, offering options for multi-year commitments can benefit in a number of ways, including discounted prices or locked-in rates, and the ability for both parties to not have to return each year for a new RFP.
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?
As a newcomer to this industry, it has been exciting to learn about all of the technology offered to host our learning and networking events. We are utilizing more interactive platforms, such as GlueUp, an event management tool that also serves as a forum for attendees. Tools like this will keep us moving forward and not stagnate for our annual recurring events.
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?
My advice: SAY YES! If you are invited to a networking event or an educational opportunity, accept the invite. There may be times when you are unsure because you may not know anyone else attending or you are new to an industry and aren't sure if you'll be accepted well. If you get an email about a learning opportunity, whether it be in-person or virtual, no harm can come from attending and learning something new. If you are invited to network with your peers or attend an event you have never before been invited to, definitely go. You never know what opportunities await when you push yourself to go outside of your comfort zone and put yourself out there.
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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