As pandemic restrictions continue to lift and professionals around the country ease back into normal work routines, many companies and organizations have resumed in-person work events. Networking events, holiday parties, fundraisers and grand opening events are all back on the table after being sidelined for the better part of the last two years.
That’s why marketing agency MA1440 is proud to welcome Nancy Swabb as a strategic partner to support our corporate event planning, marketing, and management services. Nancy brings over 30 years of experience in corporate event planning and marketing to our team. We sat down with Nancy to discuss her career in event planning, the ins and outs of planning a successful event, and some of her career highlights to date.
Q: Nancy, why did you decide to get into event planning?
A: Event planning combines marketing, branding, diplomacy, organizational skills, and visibility for clients. There are a lot of moving parts, which can be stressful at times, but the excitement of creating memorable experiences for clients and their guests attracted me to this space initially – and it’s what’s kept me here!
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience as an event planner?
A: My first job out of college was at a small business to business marketing firm. After that, I worked for nearly two decades as the Communications & Events Director for a nonprofit. I organized a huge annual fundraising gala, in addition to an annual meeting, lectures, and a charity bicycle ride that had up to 10,000 participants at its largest.
In 2013, I started focusing more on the business and corporate events space. Having a communications and marketing background, I consider myself to be an expert at applying strategies to help clients accomplish their event-related goals. It’s not just about having a party with good food and drink – it’s about the whole experience. Goals might include strategic branding, launching a new product, celebrating a sales team, achieving a specific financial outcome. I can help clients achieve those goals by engaging with their target audience, or bringing attention to their message or cause.
Q: Would you say you have a favorite type of event that you enjoy coordinating?
A: I love helping clients celebrate milestones. It’s rewarding to be able to help them recognize top performers or celebrate anniversaries. High-visibility events are also exciting, where there might be VIPs, dignitaries, or media attention involved. I also love when clients choose to have a charity tie-in that lets them support a good cause as part of their event.
Q: What is the most unusual or unique event you’ve planned?
A: For over 20 years, I served as the Ride Director for an event called The L.A.T.E. Ride. It was an after-midnight charity bicycle ride that benefitted a parks advocacy group in Chicago. It was a 25-mile ride through the city starting at 1:30am and ending at sunrise! We had such a loyal following. It was an annual event, and thousands of people looked forward to it year-round. It was a unique opportunity for people to see the city at night, while they’re normally sleeping! At the end of the ride, participants would watch the sunrise over Lake Michigan at Buckingham Fountain, which was very special and memorable.
Q: What are some common challenges in event planning that you face? How do you get around those challenges?
A: The biggest challenges are those unforeseen issues that occur in real-time. You really need to be an astute problem-solver who can think of their feet. I try to anticipate issues that a client might not think about, like leaving wiggle room in your event timeline, having a backup plan should a speaker cancel at the last minute, and always double-confirming with all vendors, panelists, honorees and anyone playing a visible role in an event. At the beginning of the planning process, I research other local events that might compete with a client event or that might affect traffic or parking. I bring on vendors I trust and can rely on – that’s key. And I stay calm!
Q: What are your top priorities when you’re planning an event?
A: First and foremost, it’s a client-first approach. And it’s making the event an enjoyable experience for the participants. You always want to keep the guest experience in mind. I prioritize being a good listener from the outset, in addition to keeping brand and strategy at the top of my mind and of course planning an event in a way that can be best executed within the budget. Keep the team informed, adhere to timelines and budgets, and keep a close eye on all the details, from early planning to post-event analysis.
The team at MA1440 looks forward to working with Nancy for years to come. As a reminder, here is a brief summary of Event Planning services MA now offers:
- Event theme development
- Budget development and oversight
- Contract negotiations
- Decor, floral and styling
- Entertainment and music
- Food and beverage
- Guest gifts
- Invitations and program creation and production
- Logistical support and on-site management
- Photography and videography
- Registration and ticketing
- Site search and selection
- Timeline and schedule management
- Marketing and promotions, identity, collateral material and signage