Pandemic Planning 101 from Million Dollar Event Career Course

A portrait of Gianna Gaudini, who offers an event career course

When the creative brief from your initial event strategy session calls for brand and reputational impact, how do you measure if you are successful?

The events team around Google Lunar X Prize, a $20 million, 10-year competition for scientists and students to be the first team to land a rover on the moon worked with Academy Award-winning directors to shoot a documentary with the stories behind each team, screened it at SXSW and hosted an after-party. They even flew in some of the rovers for people to see. Success was measured based on attendance, views on the videos and reported as brand deposits with “key opinion formers.”

Read more tips for negotiating contracts amid Covid.

This is just one of the examples from a new Million Dollar Event Planning Career learning course by former Google Marketing Events leader and author of “The Art of Event Planning” Gianna Cardinale Gaudini. Now Global Head of Events, Training and Certification at Amazon Web Services, she has realized that the challenges meeting professionals are facing and the way they are learning has changed since she published her book pre-Covid.

That understanding led her to record a 10-chapter course that went live this month complete with exercises that covers everything from career path to CSR and Inclusion. “Event planners don’t always have time to go to a class or read a book. Sometimes we learn best with snackable content in 5 minutes a day,” she said.

Career Changers

Some of the content is anecdotal from her 20 years in the industry, a winding road that led from specializing in California’s wine industry and getting her sommelier certification as the “Decantress” to producing women in tech events, running global events for SoftBank Vision Fund and her current role at AWS. The constant through all of this? Her passion for tackling new challenges and inspiring others.

Whether you are new to the industry, looking for career advice to find your niche or planning to shift careers in the industry using the skills you have and exploring new territory, these short videos are filled with tips and entertaining stories.

Read Gianna Gaudini’s tips for keeping virtual attendees engaged.

Contract and Negotiation Tips

We skipped to the good part—Negotiating Rooms: Cancellation, Attrition, Rebooking and Reselling—where the big idea is planning for contingencies. “There are always unexpected internal or external changes, even pre-Covid,” Gaudini said.

She suggests stipulating that cancelation charges are calculated on a sliding scale based on the distance out from the event rather than signing a 100-percent cancellation policy due after the contract is signed. The thinking is that the farther out the event is cancelled, the more likely the hotel will be able to resell the rooms.

There is a fine line between requesting enough rooms and too many. Requesting 70% allowable attrition gives you flexibility to account for people not showing up.

Another pro-tip: for multi-day programs, request that attrition is cumulative. That way, it is not calculated per night, but over the course of the event, which may zero out the impact. Ask for an occupancy report for each night so you know if the rooms resold.

You can subtract that from your attrition policy. “Hotels rarely include resell clauses by default, but usually will if you ask for one. It is a matter of law that they have an obligation to resell,” she said.

Read about the true cost of postponing an event.

Example: “The Hotel shall use its best efforts to resell rooms and function space affected by attrition or a cancellation. The total amount paid to Hotel for rooms and function space resold after cancellation shall be calculated and such amount shall be refunded to Company. The refunded amount will be received by company no later than (30) days after the last scheduled meeting date.”

Bottom Line

“We need to focus on being more strategic rather than reactive when planning in-person and virtual,” Gaudini said. “We jump right to the ‘how’ instead of stepping back and starting with a creative brief.”

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