6 Spring Slaughter Survival Skills

If you have been living under a rock and have not seen our #SparkBTS this past June, well let me fill you in. Spring is by far the busiest season for us at Spark. In true form, we like to affectionately call this Spring Slaughter.

Spring Slaughter is a marathon, not a sprint. And a part of crossing the finish line, like any marathon, requires prep, pacing, and a few tricks of the trade. This isn’t my first Spring Slaughter, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way – in this case, and for the love of alliterations, let’s call them survival skills.

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Meet The Team: Ciara Leibel

Meet the Team is a blog feature that highlights one of Spark Event Management’s talented staff members. This month we talk to our newest recruit, Ciara Leibel, about her introduction to the world of events.

1. What is your name and position at Spark?

Ciara Leibel, Administrative/Event Assistant.

2. Where were you prior to Spark?

I spent the past four years completing my Bachelor of Commerce Degree at MacEwan University in Edmonton. When I wasn’t studying, I was travelling around the world exploring as many new countries as my four-month summer and my bank account would allow for.

3. What is the most surprising thing about the event industry?

The hours that event staff dedicate to their work is remarkable! No perk of working in the event industry – travelling to new cities, listening to high-profile speakers, meeting new people – comes without endless hours of email correspondence, client meetings, mail merging, menu selections, registration inquiries, print deadlines, and list goes on and on…

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The Story of My Worst Client EVER

 

Bringing on a new client often has its challenges. It takes time to develop a strong relationship to the point where you both trust and understand one another. I consider myself very lucky to work with a number of amazing clients, many of which I even consider to be friends. With that being said, in September, I started planning an event for a new client that is rarely ever satisfied or happy, despite my best efforts.

Below is list of some of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to face with this client, and this event, and some of the lessons learned along the way. Hopefully they help you avoid some of the challenges I’ve encountered so far.    

1. It’s All About The Budget


To say this client is budget conscience is an understatement. When it comes to the budget for this event, their motto is “it better be cheap like borscht”. Don’t get me wrong, I understand where they are coming from – they are paying for the entire event themselves and want to manage costs. But if you ask me, demanding (and expecting) free liquor from the venue is a bit ridiculous. 

I’ve learned the best way to deal with tight purse strings is to set clear expectations at the beginning and get approval before moving forward. Once the budget is approved, you can still shift things around as needed if you want to spend a bit more in one area, but at least this way you have an overall price and can make cash-conscious decisions.

2. Blurred Vision


This client could benefit from some corrective lenses, or maybe they’ve had one too many complimentary cocktails, I’m not sure.

I am constantly dealing with conflicting opinions on basically everything. From flowers to food, it’s different opinions abound – as long as it’s the best for the least amount of money. It’s unclear who has the final decision and we have spent months going back and forth on something so simple as the venue. Even once a decision is made, the client questions everything, and has trouble moving forward without input from different stakeholders. Basically, there are too many cooks in the kitchen all trying to make a gourmet meal at a fast food price.

As with the budget, establishing key stakeholders at the start of the project is critical to success. Figure out who has final say and if needed, make sure to get decisions in writing. This can help you avoid going back and forth reworking aspects of the event you thought had been finalized.

3. The Type-A Personality and the Perfectionist


Everyone wants their event to be perfect, and I get it, so do I. Each event is a representation of me, so I’m going to give it my all and try my best for you. Even so, working with someone who has a Type-A personality and demands nothing but perfection can be challenging on many levels. It’s easy for them to get caught up in the details and fixate on certain aspects of the event.

Help your client see the big picture by taking care of the small details for them – ultimately that’s why they hired you. Provide them with set options to choose from and their corresponding budgets. This allows them to weigh the pros and cons of each and make a decision easily.

4. The End is (not so) Near


This event is still a year away. Really. Even so, it seems like everything has to be done and finalized immediately or the world is going to end. You might think I’m being dramatic, but getting the save the dates sent out has been nothing short of an apocalyptic event. Between the design of the email blast and finalizing the guest list, the client continues to have a bird over milestones that are still quite far out.

Breaking the event down into smaller tasks can help make project milestones seem more achievable. Instead of focusing on sending out the save the date, make the first goal to complete an initial draft of the guest list. From there you can start narrowing down (or in this case adding) guests based on stakeholder feedback. Set goals and deadlines for each milestone and stick to them. This will help eliminate some of the pressure and stress associated with critical project deliverables.

5. Little Know It All


Every so often you come across a client who thinks they know everything and refuses to listen to your suggestions. The only thing you can do in this case is just give in and do exactly what they want. This is something I would normally never say, but sometimes all the sacrifices are worth it, be it for the money, the prestige or the profile of the event and the doors it can open for you down the road.

Or, you could just tell the client to take a hike get out of your office and never return. Normally I would never dream of doing such a thing, but a girl can only take so much, so that’s exactly what I did with this particular client.

As good as it felt, trust me, there’s a downside: If anyone knows an event planner specializing in destination weddings where the budget is tight, the client is a Type-A perfectionist with no clear vision that still insists she knows best and the save-the-dates still haven’t gone out… please let me know… my event manager just told me she quit.

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Meet The Team: Erinn Johns

Meet the Team is a blog feature that highlights one of Spark Event Management’s talented staff members. This month we talk to one of our graphic designers, Erinn Johns about her time at Spark.

erinn-150x1. What is your name and job title?

Erinn Johns, Creative Lead

2. Where were you prior to Spark?

Learning Dutch, and perfecting my bike riding skills in the Netherlands.

Before heading abroad for a few years, I was the lead designer and brand manager for a wine and spirits distributor (yup – free samples of some of the worlds best wines!) Working with a team in both Alberta, and BC I managed their brand, maintained digital and print marketing campaigns, created sales team materials, and designed event collateral to name just a few responsibilities. In addition, I also managed various other clients, and worked closely with an agency as a contract designer.

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We’re Hiring (Again)…..Join Our Team!

A few weeks ago, we posted a part-time administrative + event assistant position that we were looking to fill to help out while Andrea enjoys her maternity leave. The process has been a long and time-consuming one and we’ve had some ups and downs, but we have yet to find the right person for our team, so we are still looking! 

At Spark, we truly believe that our culture + philosophy of hard work, passion, dedication and quality is our greatest competitive advantage and we need to find someone who understands that in order them to thrive and flourish in their role. The bad news is that this sometimes takes a few tries, some patience and it can be a daunting task, but the good news is that the opportunity is still available and we are still looking for that perfect person.

Committed. Smart. Passionate. Wildly Talented. Energetic. Fun.  These are some of the words that I would use to describe the insanely talented group of ladies that I get the pleasure of working with every day. At Spark, we believe in going above and beyond for our clients. We believe in a work hard, play hard philosophy. We believe that quality and customer service is paramount to our success.

No matter how long it takes, it is always exciting when we get an opportunity to grow our team, so I am thrilled to let you know that we are still looking for a part-time administrative + event assistant to join the Spark crew. We’re looking for someone uber-organized, insanely efficient and a little OCD about details.

Our beloved Andrea is on maternity leave and although she is irreplaceable, we are hoping to have this person join our team to help out while she is gone. There is definitely a tonne of opportunity for growth and development for the right person and we are committed to providing  a space where this person can learn and grow in the role.

If you or someone you know sounds like they may be a fit for this role, please share this posting with them.

A more comprehensive job posting can be found here.

Thanks in advance for sharing!

Cheers,
Anh

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Meet the Team: Andrea Zurawicz

NAKA_Spark_LittleRed_Andrea-Cropped-2Meet the Team is a blog feature that highlights one of Spark Event Management’s talented staff members. This month we talk to one of our senior staff, Andrea Zurawicz about her time at Spark.

1. What is your name and job title?
Andrea Zurawicz, Event Manager

2. How did you land a job with Spark?
Anh and I worked together in Edmonton years ago, where she taught me (almost) everything I know about events. I later moved to Calgary. Spark was a year old and I was looking for something new so we teamed up once again. Simple as that.

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Managing With a Fresh Perspective at PMINAC

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There was no shortage of vibrancy and excitement in May at the Project Management Institute Northern Alberta Chapter (PMINAC) Conference. With updated branding, a new spacious venue, and a refreshed vision for a conference experience, the Spark team partnered with one of our long-time clients to make months of creative rebranding come to life.

PMINAC is a project management association that strives to provide its members with a variety of opportunities for both career and personal growth. Their vision is to be a leader in the Northern Alberta project management community by offering their membership opportunities for education, collaboration, networking and special events.

Having worked with the PMINAC for over 8 years, our team has a strong understanding of their strategic objectives, target audience, and we have strong existing relationships with committee members and event stakeholders. This year, the PMINAC wanted to go back to the drawing board and reinvent the conference. Coupling our thorough understanding of the organization with new, creative ideas, our team was able to create a brand new conference with an aim to create an energetic, upbeat, fresh experience.

The goal was to bring new energy, innovative perspectives, a refreshed brand and a true guest experience to the event. Many professional associations that are powered by volunteers can often get drawn into the familiar, repeat branding, programming and ideas from previous years because that is “how we have always done it.” Our team challenged the PMINAC to step out of their comfort zone, take a risk and try something new.

The new event branding was fun, fresh and colourful. We incorporated into all aspects of the event including program design, venue, AV, décor and social events. The new Northlands Edmonton EXPO Centre was the perfect venue for our fresh start, with its floor to ceiling windows, which helped to keep the energy up for the two-day conference. The venue complemented the conference theme in a flawlessly executed manner.

At Spark, we love to take on challenges, be creative and think outside the box. We truly believe that if it does not feel uncomfortable, you are not growing!

With PMINAC, we stretched our imaginations, took some risks, learned some lessons and worked with the client to change, grow and reinvent the conference. It is imperative that you partner with an event management firm that understands the importance of your brand and can help you tell your story. Our team loves being able to help you discover your brand and we love, even more, being able to work with you to create an event that speaks to that brand. 

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"The Spark team is passionate, committed and invested in working with their clients to raise the bar. They have helped the PMI Northern Alberta Chapter take our event to the next level. They are energetic and professional and have become and integral part of our conference team."

–         Dan Campbell, PMP, PMI Northern Alberta Chapter

 

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Meet the Team: Kim Mercader

NAKA_Spark_LittleRed_Kim-Cropped-3Meet the Team is a blog feature that highlights one of Spark Event Management's talented staff members. This month we talk to our new Marketing Coordinator, Kim Mercader about how she landed her first big girl job with Spark.

1. What is your full name?

Kimberly Mercader

2. Where were you prior to Spark?

I recently graduated from Mount Royal University’s Public Relations program. While I was completing my degree, I have been balancing school and various internships and contract positions. The positions were all very different and I worked for a range of corporate, not-for-profit and even start-up organizations. I completed internships at a number of organizations, from Art Commons (previously known as EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts), the Calgary Airport Authority, PCL Construction, Soul Connexion, and the Aritzia Support Office in Calgary.

3. How did that work prepare you for working at Spark?

My experience over the past four years has prepared me for the wide range of tasks and projects I am responsible for at Spark. The agency life has a variety of clients, assignments and differing priorities and you need to be adaptable to all of these changes. You need to be able to prioritize but also commit to all the tasks assigned to you. It is a different change of pace and my marketing and communications background has given me ideas and inspiration that I can apply to our client projects and events.

4. What is the most surprising thing about the event industry?

I just wrapped up my first conference and I am surprised how much energy it took out of me! Events are definitely not as glamorous as you’d think, but definitely rewarding. Exhausting, but so worth it in the end!

5. What is something most people don't know about you?

For someone who is very detail oriented at work, my days off are the exact opposite. I enjoy taking it easy and not having a set plan. I love backpacking and travelling without an itinerary.

6. Describe yourself in three words.

Creative. Loyal. Intuitive.

7. Describe your work at Spark in one sentence.

Get Sh!# Done!

8. What is a typical "day in the life" of you look like?

Every day is different when you’re working with a variety of clients. I start my day working with our clients and managing their marketing and social media campaigns. This includes monitoring what’s going on in all the different industries we work in. The rest of the day is always a surprise. Priorities change, client demands shift and this usually shapes the day into something different than what I had planned. Nevertheless, there is never a dull moment.

9. What is the single best thing about your job?

As the youngest recruit on the team, I look up to my coworkers and cannot stress enough how much I learn every day. The best thing about my job is working with inspirational people who kick ass in what they do and they do it with a smile on!

10. What do you want people to know about Spark that they might not know from the website?

The dynamic and varied skillset of each of our team members ensure that all your bases are covered. We are amazing at what we do and are willing to go above and beyond to meet your needs. Our passion for events and our clients is reflected in every deliverable and in everything that goes out the door.

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Joining The Club – Why we’re part of the BBB

At Spark we believe in relationships. There are a lot of ways we build good relationships with our clients – lots of face-to-face time, saying what we said we’d do, and most importantly, creating spectacular events for clients that align with their business goals.

However, we decided to take that commitment to our clients to the next level by joining the Better Business Bureau (BBB). This isn’t as simple as just putting the BBB logo on our website – to us it symbolizes our dedication to excellence and transparency, and the process to become a BBB member held us accountable to that.

According to the BBB website, if a business has been accredited by BBB it means the bureau “has determined that the business meets accreditation standards.” BBB accredited businesses like Spark pay a fee for the accreditation review as well as monitoring for continued compliance. Here are three of the top reasons we took the step of joining the BBB:

Reputation: We want our clients – especially those who haven’t worked with us before – to have confidence that they’re working with a company that’s not only creative but also credible. It’s not enough to have fabulous ideas – we want you to know we’ll follow through on them. Having the BBB logo on our website instantly lets people know we’re an honest organization.

Transparency: We would hate to imagine anyone having a complaint about us, but in the (hopefully rare) case that someone would, BBB gives us a way to respond and ultimately resolve it. This lets us be transparent and deal with the issue directly, and potential clients can see how we dealt with it under our BBB profile online. 

Networking: We also love being part of the BBB because of the networking opportunities – we get to attend (and plan) some awesome events like the Torch Awards that give us the opportunity to meet people from different industries and organizations. And potential clients can find us on the BBB website under the Accredited Business Directory, which means anyone searching for an event management company there will see us there.

We’re so proud to be an accredited business with the BBB and hope it gives our clients even more comfort working with us. For more info on our local BBB, go to http://www.bbb.org/calgary/.


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Meet the Team: Alexandra Rachey

AlexRAMeet the Team is a blog feature that highlights one of Spark Event Management's talented staff members. This month we talk to Event Manager Alexandra about her role at Spark, what is surprising about her work and how she landed in Calgary.

1. What is your full name?

Alexandra Rachey

2. Where were you prior to Spark?

Working in Selkirk, Manitoba as a Marketing Coordinator for Sunova Credit Union.  I was there for just over four years and was one of three people in the Credit Union's in-house marketing department. Sunova doesn't use an agency, so I was involved in all aspects of the organization's marketing and communications from campaign planning and development to advertising copywriting, managing the community investment program as well as event planning.

3. How did that work prepare you for working at Spark?

While working for Sunova, I was largely involved in planning the annual staff appreciation night. This gave me a taste of event planning and led me to pursue event management fulltime. My background in marketing and communications has also helped me in designing marketing materials for events, writing scripts for speakers as well as preparing a variety of other pre-event marketing materials. More importantly, it taught me to juggle multiple projects all at once and be able to manage varying deadlines, priorities and stakeholders.

4. What is the most surprising thing about the event industry?

It's not like the movies (sorry Jennifer Lopez). It's a lot of work and long hours. You rarely see what happens behind the scenes at an event (including one time when we tried to get a printer through airport security just so we would have it onsite). 

5. What is something most people don't know about you?

I have incredibly curly hair and spend a lot of time trying to make (and keep) it straight.

6. Describe yourself in three words.

Determined. Hard Working. Wine lover

7. Describe your work at Spark in one sentence.

Busy but fun!

8. What is a typical "day in the life" of you look like?

One of the greatest things about being an event manager is that each day is different from the next. On a daily basis, I work on a variety different projects and events. From booking entertainment to deciding on a menu to creating an email blast, nothing ever really stays the same day to day.

9. What is the single best thing about your job?

Working with some really great clients and getting to meet all of the awesome people that attend their events.

10.What do you want people to know about Spark that they might not glean from the website?

We take the time to get to know each client/organization we work with and personalize their event so it positively reflects and represents that organization. 

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