Program Manager Jill Kennerson researches New Orleans Mardis Gras style for authenticity.
It’s 8:30 PM on a Tuesday evening and guests are having a wonderful time dining and drinking with their co-workers in one of the BOCA RESORTballrooms in beautiful South Florida. The decor is an elegant ITALIAN theme that does not over power the fact that this is a working dinner; but truly enhances the already gorgeous ballroom. The transformative atmosphere inspires and encourages fresh thinking.
Guests would not know it, but the event they are attending took only one hour of timed and intense on-site set up, albeit over 50 hours of office time by the extremely capable hands of KONCEPT EVENTS professionals. The one skill all great event professionals possess is the ability to make an event appear effortless. Here KE shares with you the inside story on what it’s like to be an event Program Manager over the course of a two day client event with two separately themed decor nights. Night one is a decadent in-door Italian dining experience and night two brings to life the classic feel of New Orleans style Mardis Gras.
The event prep started two months prior to the actual event date. Once KE PROGRAM MANAGER JILL KENNERSON was assigned this particular event from one of the Senior Sales Managers, she hit the ground running contacting all of the vendors and began seriously coordinating all details of the decor, staffing, logistics, and time management for the event dates.
“I love doing events that rely heavily on decor,” says Program Manager Jill. “It’s great to be able to take a whole look from just an idea in our office, and bring it to life on site. It takes at least three other people’s planning beyond mine to create any particular event, but being able to execute it and then experience the client’s happiness is what makes being a Program Manager so worthwhile.”
Flash forward: it’s time for the two-day event. Kennerson and resident WAREHOUSE MANAGER CRAIG KALPAKIAN pack the KE Sprinter at 9:30 AM. Strategic packing of the floral division’s custom centerpieces is a honed skill that ensures a secure drive from the warehouse to the event site. Packing the vehicle too early in the day runs the risk of flowers wilting in the Florida heat; but packing too late causes stress on the strict timetable. Kennerson’s almost six years of event experience has taught her how to execute something even as seemingly minor as packing a vehicle; something that if done wrong can negatively impact an entire event.
Once the vehicle is packed, Kennerson prepares to head to the event site. Kalpakian will be joining her with a 4 person team at 4:00 PM with the vehicle to unload. Before Kennerson leaves for the site, she makes sure to grab her signature KE aqua bag and pack it with the essentials: parking passes for her crew, petty cash, a lighter, extra pens, a snack, chapstick, business cards, and the “KE Event Resume” that holds all of the vendor and client contact information for the full run-of-show.
The entire team arrives right on time (KE on-time is 15 minutes early) at the Boca Resort and hits the ground running. The day one event starts at 7:00 PM and the team is only allowed 60 minutes to set-up the entire space as the room space was used for a different training seminar just before the dinner is to take place.
“Tight set-up windows for resorts and hotel are pretty typical. A major part of my job is to manage, be aware, and plan for all of the venue’s unique set-up rules including load-in times and restrictions, whether or not certain materials can be brought in, where we can store supplies, where electrical outlets are and more. Basically every single detail has been thought about, discussed, and planned for with the KE team well in advance,” Jill explains.
The entire ballroom is set-up with the gorgeous Italian themed custom centerpieces and linens at 6:30 PM; true to the plan. As the final centerpiece is laid, as if on cue, the client walks in to double check the status of the room. Kennerson, of course, is easy to spot with her KE blue bag and rushes to greet the client the second she arrives. The client was thrilled with how the space turned out and that the timetable was followed impeccably.
Kennerson stays on-site throughout the event to assist with any of the client’s needs and to act as a liaison between the client and the resort. She also strikes the event at the end of the night. The room must be turned over and ready for the hotel to set-up for the next morning’s training session.
NOTE: Unbeknownst to the client, Kennerson has (at any given time) at least five other upcoming events for different clients that she is currently coordinating.
Day two’s event was a massive success poolside at the Boca Resort. The fun Mardis Gras theme had guests in the party spirit. The decor and centerpiece buckets of brews, masks, chips and Mardis Gras beads were interactive elements. Guests consumed the beverages and were able to wear the beads/masks and take them and the chips home with them at the end of the night. This helps to make clean-up and break-down ever so slightly less daunting. The crew packs the sprinter vehicle to return the decor that KE houses in their inventory back to the office. The remaining elements are rental items that various vendors pick-up an strike in unison with the KE crew. Kennerson is responsible for making sure that every vendor has arrived and done their job property while also managing her own staff.
After a good night’s rest in her own bed, Kennerson is on to another program the very next day…making the next client feel like her singular responsibility and priority just as she did the last!