As Google's longtime event planner, I have over a dozen years of experience producing best-in-class meetings for one of the most recognizable brands in the world -- from core business initiatives to Google Cloud Next (last year, GCN reached over 30,000 attendees). I often get asked,"What makes a successful planning strategy?" and, "What are the secrets to executing a memorable event?" I've been answering and reshaping those answers throughout my career.
Among the many facets is your team. Though a planner undoubtedly takes on numerous roles throughout the creation of an event, collegiality is essential. Team dynamic can make or break an event, and that encompasses both internal team and agency partnerships.
The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Art of Event Planning: Pro Tips From an Industry Insider. It examines the necessity of a strong squad, and the characteristics to scope out as you build your dream team.
Building Your Dream Planning Team
More or less, the planning team can be broken down into three overarching groups: strategists, producers and creatives. When combined, this trio is the secret sauce for producing an impactful meeting. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, understanding your unique team fit will translate into a stronger performance for both you and your colleagues, vendors and suppliers.
A successful team is both a melting pot and mosaic. I see many planners play all three roles through the process. And although that might be necessary, it doesn't have to be the goal. Instead, combine the ideas of multiple experts and delegate crucial tasks to better bring an unforgettable event to life.
Essential Team Member: The Strategist
In the most general sense, strategists define the event's vision. They answer the question, "Why are we having this event?" and play an integral role in allocating key resources to support meeting goals.
Strategists determine the planning foundation. They ask question like, "How do I engage a target audience in order to do X,Y and Z?" and "How is live experience better for our marketing goals than a digital event, and how can we scale our live experience?" They're contemplative, systematic and inquisitive. They know how to get the information they need using different frameworks. Strategists inspire their team to push toward specific results and don’t stop until they get there.
Realize that the strategist might not be a traditional planner but instead come from all sorts of sectors (consider finance, consulting and marketing). I make this point because it's essential to remain cognizant that some of your key players might lay outside the traditional realm.
Essential Team Member: The Producer
Are You a Producer?
Think of everything that has to come together to organize a Napa wine-tasting trip with friends or a spouse's birthday party.
While planning, you've probably considered the types of drinks your guests enjoy and spreads of food utilitarian enough to satisfy everyone's needs. While granular, this is one finite example of how a micro producer plans for successful events.
Producers flesh out the agenda content and logistics for bringing a meeting to life. Producers not only curate the content for a meeting, but they oversee the implementation of all elements leading up to the day. They ensure everything is on brand, budget and, most importantly, schedule.
Great producers recognize assumptions and challenge them. They consistently ask the question, "Are we about to solve the real problem?" And almost ad nauseam, they wonder, "Is this great idea possible? Can we produce it on time and within our budget?" or "Will company goals be met if we proceed using this event as the marketing medium?"
Producers play out the big picture while driving progress and making concepts tangible. They are eager to test everything — from idea validation to usability testing. And they all share a key similarity: They make things happen.
A producer has a multidisciplinary role and might specialize in different areas (like focusing on live-streamed events or concert production). They need to be grounded with a strong eye for aesthetics but have an analytical mind for absorbing insights, providing feedback and evaluating solutions.
Essential Team Member: The Creative
Creatives develop the aesthetic foundation and detailing for the meeting. They help flesh out a concept, render it dimensionally and choose the materiality and color palettes. Creatives might have experience with graphic design, user experience with interior design and/or art direction that parlay well into the planning world.
Creatives devise the overall feel of an event while developing brand identity and guidelines. They design scenic elements and choose overall schemas. Creatives probe into the finest details to make an event memorable but also key into overall strategy, keeping brand vision at the forefront. They'll likely try a number of approaches and either make a discovery or head back to the drawing board.
Questions like, "What does this color and font selection convey to the audience?" or "Can we use these materials to create a more premium experience?" are part of a creative’s daily thought process. If you don’t mind constant iteration and are inspired by breathing life into something completely new, then you have the makings of a creative.
It’s the job of all three roles -- whether made up of several individuals or embodied by one single meeting planner -- to ensure your company or client’s brand comes through, tying the strategy, creativity and content together seamlessly.
I often talk about standing out and establishing your niche within the massive planning industry. Maybe you fit in with honing your creative skills, or maybe you're more of a strategist in the planning process. Regardless of stance, one of the things I stress is that there are specialists and generalists, and there are advantages to operating as either.
For me in particular, I didn't get a CMP or any of the formal planning certifications, but I still wanted a way to build skills. So I got multiple certifications that improve who I am as an individual planner. I got my sommelier certification and I got my interior-design certification and I also learned how to be a maverick of contract negotiations.
As you're thinking long-term about your career, and about the team of planning gurus you continue to build, it's a good idea to figure out if and what each individual, including yourself, specializes in. If there's a niche you're passionate about and can become an expert in, you can actually make yourself even more marketable as a planner.
Cardinale Gaudini is an award-winning executive event producer and author
Art of Event Planning with over 15 years experience in the marketing and
hospitality industry. Gaudini is the global director, head of events, for the SoftBank
Vision Fund, and previously worked on the Google events and experience team as
an executive producer for over nine years. Gianna earned her interior design certification from the Interior Design Institute, is certified Court Master Sommelier and authors the popular wine lifestyle blog, Decantress Wine Diary.
She resides in San Francisco with her husband, Garrett, and son, Giacomo. When she isn’t producing events or writing, she enjoys exploring Napa wine country, cooking, entertaining,
running, and unwinding with a yoga class or a good book.