Welcome to our latest feature where we unlock the secrets of successful event planning with Laura Wilkens, the esteemed Director of Operations at Hosts Southern California. With years of experience under her belt, Laura brings a wealth of knowledge to tackle common challenges faced by event planners. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the field, her insights are invaluable in creating memorable and efficient events.
The Art of Timing: Balancing Early and Late Planning
Planning Too Soon: Laura emphasizes the importance of timing in event planning. While it might seem prudent to start early, Laura advises against it. “Planning too soon can lead to frustration,” she explains. Issues like seasonal menu changes, budget fluctuations due to unforeseen factors like fuel pricing, and keeping up with new décor trends make early planning a potential pitfall. Laura suggests a balanced approach, tailored to the event’s scope and goals, and offers decision timelines to guide planners.
Planning Too Late: Conversely, procrastination has its pitfalls. Laura warns about the limited availability of prime venues and the importance of early booking, especially in regions with high demand. She stresses the need for timely contracting of services like custom décor and entertainment to ensure an optimal guest experience.
Budget Transparency in the RFP Process Laura likens hiding your budget during the RFP process to window shopping without intent to buy. She highlights the necessity of a realistic budget, not only for planning purposes but also to create impactful experiences for guests. Being upfront about budget constraints saves time and prevents the need for multiple proposal revisions.
The Creative Process: Allowing Time for Brilliance According to Laura, great ideas often need time to incubate. A rushed proposal can miss essential elements, leading to a lackluster event. She advocates for sufficient brainstorming and creative development time to craft proposals that truly ‘WOW.’
Evaluating DMCs: Beyond Price and Creativity Laura points out a common oversight: focusing solely on price and creativity when evaluating potential DMCs. She stresses the importance of operational strength, ensuring that fantastic ideas are not just conceptual but also logistically feasible. “Ops makes it happen,” she asserts.
The Importance of a Local DMC Presence A DMC’s value lies in its local expertise. Laura advises against working with DMCs without a physical office or dedicated staff in the desired destination. Local presence means better relationships with suppliers, knowledge of logistics, and uncovering hidden gems.
Venue Selection: A Critical Early Decision Laura warns against independently booking venues before involving a DMC. This common mistake often overlooks critical details like venue-specific rules and transportation logistics, which can negatively impact the guest experience.
Airport Transfers: Making a First Impression Navigating airport transfers is crucial. Laura highlights the importance of a DMC in providing clear instructions and support for attendees, setting a positive tone for the event.
Transforming Spaces: The Magic of Quick Turnarounds Laura showcases the DMC’s ability to swiftly transition spaces for different event segments. This capability is vital for events with tight schedules, like transforming a general session room into a gala space.
Engaging Attendees: Keeping the Energy High To maintain attendee attention, Laura suggests interactive experiences and refreshing F&B elements. Activities like gaming stations and wellness corners, along with creative food options, can significantly enhance engagement.
Laura Wilkens’ journey from aspiring teacher to a leader in event planning illustrates her passion and expertise in the field. Her approach combines creative vision with practical logistics, ensuring every event is not just a plan, but a memorable experience. Her dedication extends beyond her professional role, as she enjoys exploring San Diego, traveling, and cooking for loved ones.
Meet Laura Wilkens: Laura graduated from San Diego State University with initial plans to be a teacher. Her career path took a turn when she joined the hospitality industry, a sector she fell in love with. Laura’s journey through hotels, DMCs, and corporate catering reflects her pride in working with creative and dedicated professionals. Today, as Director of Operations, she masterfully blends her creative and logistical talents, ensuring each event is an extraordinary experience.