Birthday parties, company incentive trip, CSR activity, fashion brand launch, real estate press conference, gala dinner and the list goes on.
As an event planner, there’s only one thing for certain – you will never know what comes your way. We asked two professional event planners to share with us how they excel in their jobs. We find out where their inspirations come from, the ups and downs in their careers and just how they see the event industry moving forward.
Stepping into the office every morning, Phuong looks at the event list and briefs his team on the upcoming events or the rundown of the day.
A similar routine is also followed by Simi Yu, Director of Event Management at Shanghai Marriott Hotel City Centre, who starts her day reviewing the event forecast of the hotel.
Followed by event venue site inspection, morning briefing with the F&B department, greeting event organizers and more meetings with other departments – sales, banquet, kitchen, event staff.
“After 8 years of working in events, sometimes I think I know everything about hotels already, but every day new things happen.” Phuong Tran, Director of Convention Services at Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers, said with an infectious smile. And that’s what gets him out of bed every day.
An Inspiration from Mooncakes
With 16 years of sales experience in her pocket, Simi has met quite a few event planners over the years to learn from the best, something she easily transfers to her current job.
Simi recalled the Marriott Bonvoy Customer Appreciation Dinner, by Marriott’s South China team, as one of the most memorable events she has helped bring to life in the four months that she has been an event planner at Marriott.
Knowing it was an appreciation dinner for colleagues from South China hotels, and their clients who had flown over to Shanghai to attend the event, Simi’s team was looking for an event theme and inspiration.
“We really understood the purpose of this event and what exactly at the dinner party that the guests wanted to present.”
The event was held just before the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival and the event organizers prepared mooncakes as gifts for their guests. Seeing the exquisite mooncake packaging design, Simi and her team found the theme color of the event.
Floral table centerpieces inspired by Southern characteristics and the lucky color red, a warm reminder of home for guests even though they were in Shanghai.
“Everything was way more perfect than they imagined.” The organizer expressed to Simi nothing but appreciation and positive feedbacks.
A Three-Page Letter
As Simi puts it, the fulfillment she gets from seeing satisfied smiles from her clients is what excites her about getting to work each day. This is no less true for Phuong who was surprised by actions of appreciation from his clients.
I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to yourself and the team at the Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers for the effort involved in our ThermoFest’19 – ‘Rise Up & Shine’ event.”
It goes on for three more pages, mentioning every name of staff and team in the hotel that had helped with the event.
Phuong received the three-page long appreciation letter in late March this year that almost moved him to tears. The letter was from an Australian kitchenware company – Thermomix, which had brought over 180 of its consultants, staff, suppliers and guests to Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers in Ho Chi Minh City in March 2019 as part of their annual travel incentive.
The three-day event was a mix of a variety of activities and events that consisted of live cooking demonstrations by a renowned chef, gala dinner, team building, conference and activities day.
With an event for a group this size, the organizer found herself in a tight spot. On one hand, she had to organize activities for her group, on the other hand, a limited budget.
The solution was to host an activity day in cooperation with a charitable organization.
Coming from Australia, the organizer had trouble finding a local charity to connect with. This is when Phuong made use of his local expertise and linked up SOS Children’s Villages of Vietnam with his client.
The children’s village brought kids to the hotel where they taught their Australian students simple Vietnamese phrases and performed dances for them.
Phuong’s team had surpassed the organizer’s expectations and was praised for their professionalism and hospitality which made the event run like clockwork.
It isn’t Always a Breeze
Any event planner can tell you more than a thing or two when it comes to challenges they face on a daily basis.
How do you increase the capacity of the venue’s Wi-Fi network, right before the opening of a conference for China’s biggest cybersecurity firm?
Quickly coming up alternatives, Simi made sure her clients’ needs are taken care of even under constraints.
The Qihoo 360 Conference was among the most challenging events Simi had planned.
“Right before the opening of the conference, the guest requested to increase the capacity of the Wi-Fi network to meet the requirements of the live broadcast.”
Due to on-site limitations, the best Simi’s team could do was to increase the capacity of the wired network. Though the initial request for increasing Wi-Fi bandwidth was not met, her client was still satisfied at the end as the alternative worked out perfectly.
At Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers, Phuong’s team once had two events happening right next to each other simultaneously. One side of the room was a business meeting of a gas company, on the other side, a real estate group was holding a launch event for their new apartments.
While the MC was announcing exciting openings on stage for the latter group, the room next door also heard the news, very clearly.
Getting complaints from clients is sometimes inevitable and understandable in situations like this. Phuong asked the organizers to reduce the volume of the sound system.
“The technician reduced the volume, the MC spoke louder.”
Phuong and his team went next door to where the meeting was to get a better grasp of the issue, and realized the problem had still not been solved. So he decided to speak to the MC directly and explained the situation.
The sound interference problem was not completely solved though the situation but was greatly improved after Phuong’s effort. On some days, event planners have to look at the silver linings and accept the fact that not every event will turn out perfectly.
Throughout our interview, Phuong’s radiating optimism and “can-do” attitude had really shown.
When I asked him how he keeps his team motivated and not to get discouraged, his answer was simple, yet speaks a lot about him as a leader and an event planner.
“Learn from the experiences, case studies of both the good and the bad and allow mistakes. A mistake is a lesson to learn, don’t punish the team.”
Event Industry Forecast
Simi sees that 5G mobile network will change the picture of the event industry tremendously in the near future. Larger and more interactive meetings will emerge when the technology is implemented.
“Customization and personalization will be the major trends in the future.” Particularly themed conferences, which she foresees a boom in wellness-themed meetings.
Although at his hotel, plastic bottled water is still provided to its guests, Phuong recognizes the trend of going bottleless with the increasing awareness of sustainability in the industry. He hopes to see meetings going paperless as well.
One thing he notices is the preference for healthy and local food options of his guests, especially with MICE groups, which also serves as a great opportunity for event guests to learn about local cultures.
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