Q&A with Brittney Burns, Events Manager at Virtual
What do you do at Virtual?
At Virtual, I manage events for a technology-focused, non-profit association management company. This might mean planning conferences and member meetings. Virtual’s event planning team plans numerous Board of Directors and association working group meetings every year. We run events in 35 countries for participants including the U.S. Secretary of State, Supreme Court justices, and Fortune 100 CEOs!
What is most exciting about your role?
Every event is different. Our event planning team has created a Harry Potter-themed reception to boost networking, a gala dinner to celebrate an industry leader’s lifetime achievements, and a golf outing that helped raise money for charity.
What are some of the core duties, functions, and responsibilities of your role?
My skills and responsibilities can range from managing all event logistics and customer service to on-site coordination. A full list might look like the following:
- Developing and managing comprehensive event budgets
- Processing registrations and event inquiries and overseeing on-site registration
- Providing turn-key Board, committee, plenary and member meetings worldwide
- Planning and running conferences, forums, expos and technical workshops
- Coordinating audio visual needs
- Driving the plan for the event, including building the agenda and planning a theme
- Managing trade show participation
What types of services does your role require?
My responsibilities vary depending on the association and can include sponsorship management, speaker management; agenda development and logistics planning. Sponsorship management involves fostering and managing relationships with event sponsors, such as companies or media. Through sponsorships, associations are able to bring in revenue, which is often critical for managing the costs of a non-profit, association event. Behind the scenes, I work with my clients’ membership committees to create compelling event agendas, including identifying members or industry experts who can present on key topics and trends that fit with the event’s theme. Once identified, I work with the speakers on everything from developing a strong speaking presentation to promoting their background and photo on the event’s webpage. Simultaneously, I am involved in logistics planning with multiple vendors, which requires planning and managing everything from the food and beverages to the audio/visual, event, and reception design.
What part of this job do you personally find most challenging?
Keeping up-to-date with the newest event technologies can be challenging. Google may have just hosted an event using virtual reality technology and your client suggests you incorporate it into their next event. It’s important to help your client understand how to achieve event success given their budget and timeline while keeping pace with how to bring the latest “Wow” technology to your next event. We deal with a lot of strict competing deadlines and it’s my job to continue to innovate while keeping all the pieces moving forward.
What types of skills or talents are essential to being effective in your job?
Strong interpersonal, organizational, multitasking, creativity, and problem-solving skills. To successfully run an event, a planner needs to have his or her eye on the big picture while ensuring that multiple details are getting done all at once, whether it’s in preparation or execution of the event. It’s important to be confident when relating to and problem-solving with high-level executives, government officials, vendors, co-workers, and sponsors, among others. When planning an event, everything is changing. I find I need to be flexible enough to develop a solution and depend on my creativity to make it a great one for my clients.
What type of skills are needed to be successful in this role?
Event management planners need to be strong at being both a team player and an individual contributor. A successful event planner can easily work as an individual contributor, but can also work well in a team environment and, more broadly, with other departments. A planner has to be able to communicate quickly while ensuring all other pieces of the event puzzle are still moving forward.
What do you find to be the most rewarding part of your job?
For me, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing an event I’ve planned come to life, run successfully and meet its objectives. Not everyone gets the opportunity to travel far and wide, network with a broad range of professionals, and be creative day-in and day-out. In events, you can experience a huge variety in your work from collaborating with different types of associations to planning different types of events at new venues. Plus, a great job is always rewarded by a client’s pat on the back. All of these rewards combined are all the motivation I need to get started on the next event and keep me fulfilled for the long haul.
What advice do you have for others looking to get into this type of work?
The biggest question you need to consider is if you are truly passionate about event management. It’s an incredibly rewarding career, but any job in the event management field will often require long working hours and frequent travel. I highly recommend applying for an internship with an event management company or association management company like Virtual. I’ve advanced my career by working with some of the industry’s best event management professionals who are highly passionate about their work and always looking for innovative ways to advance the event management specialty.