Over the past decade, I’ve made a name for myself in the Philadelphia hospitality industry, holding positions in event planning, sales, and marketing for brands such as Dave & Buster’s, Brûlée Catering, The Palm Restaurant, and crafting experiential marketing activations and brand launch strategy for Austin-based startup Snap Kitchen.
In 2017, I launched Beth Lawrence Meetings & Events after a layoff from my full-time job. When my company began, I was focusing not only on events and experiential strategy but on marketing, PR, and business development. I pivoted in 2018 to focus solely on events, and co-own a Marketing, PR & Sales firm called The Industry Formula with my best friend.
I am proud to work with small businesses, large associations, corporations, and nonprofits to create unique experiences that connect–businesses with customers, associations with members and partners, corporations with their communities, and nonprofits with potential donors and partners.
I was awarded 2018’s Best Independent Meeting Planner by Pennsylvania Meetings & Events Magazine, and I’ve been featured in the Trade Show News Network, Corporate Event News, EXPO-sed Conferences Podcast, Marilyn Russell’s Remarkable Women, the Balance Boldly Podcast, Mid-Atlantic Events Magazine, and more.
How long has your company been producing events? What is your main focus?
Since starting my business, I have worked with business owners in the tech, blockchain, cannabis, hospitality, wellness, and lifestyle industries to craft unique experiences that will connect them with their customers, partner brands, and communities they serve. Ranging from intimate finance conferences; to intimate VIP dinners for international delegates; to multi-day citywide conventions; to a carless, 10-mile experiential pop-up that aimed to bring a healthier mindset to Philadelphians.
I am fortunate enough to focus on projects that I am passionate about–which, as I’ve seen over the years, can’t fit into one ‘box.’
What do you enjoy most about your role in corporate event planning?
I love working to create an experience from scratch–it’s like the most fun jigsaw puzzle I’ve ever solved, every time. Seeing attendees bond with one another, learn and have shared experiences is so rewarding. I also love seeing sponsors, exhibitors and partners make genuine connections with attendees and form partnerships.
Face-to-face communication, meetings, and community-building are so important in business, especially in this increasingly digital world. Being able to facilitate those meetings? There’s nothing like it.
How do you keep up with the constant change in the industry?
I graduated in 2009, which was a very challenging time to graduate with an event planning degree. Therefore, I’ve always had to ‘roll with the punches’ and innovate at every turn. It helps that I am very focused on networking and continuing education, and try to keep as involved with organizations like MPI and PCMA as much as I can.
How do you mix the current trends with the traditional to create a meeting that is engaging and informative?
When it comes to trends, it is important to delineate which are here to stay (for example, which trends have permeated continuing education, networking, and branding), and which trends are something you’ll see at every event, all year round, for one year. Furthermore, it’s important to identify what ‘trends’ actually fit with my current clients, as opposed to the other way around.
One example that comes to mind is event decor. In 2019, I attended so many events that had giant, life-sized, illuminated letters that either spelled a phrase, displayed an acronym, or named the brand that was responsible for the event. The first event that I attended with the letters, I thought it was clever, upscale and simple. By the 10th, I couldn’t believe that the planners didn’t consider the over-saturation that we had seen that year.
Do you have any advice for a company having a hard time choosing a theme? Is a theme necessary?
While a theme isn’t always necessary, consistent branding is. With experiential strategy, I take a deep dive into an organization’s brand assets, mission statement, brand pillars, and key partners to identify opportunities to have the branding subtly permeate the event. I call this “The 5 Senses of Your Brand.”
If you are looking for a certain theme, an analysis like this is a great place to start. You want to make sure your attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, partners and members all understand the theme’s relation to your overall goals and objectives, and not just select a theme because it sounds like it would make for a great photo opportunity.
What are some ways to personalize a corporate event?
With experiential strategy, there are so many ways to personalize an event and bring in the branding. Of course, there are things like logo placement that are obvious, but everything from the meal that you serve to the music your attendees listen to can be a personalization of an event. Once you have a ‘brand playbook’ of experiential strategy ideas, it’s about looking at the event location and audience and seeing what elements you can bring in to the space.
Many venues also have internal elements that can be customized; for example, SPiN, the ping pong social club, offers event hosts the option to customize ping pong paddles and tables with their logos. This is a great way to incorporate a brand into all elements of the event in a cool and subtle way.
What do you see as the corporate event industry’s greatest challenge, currently?
Currently, without question, it’s the coronavirus and the impact that it has on global business. It’s really spotlighting the ways in which we do business, communicate, travel and brace ourselves for an impact such as this on a global scale. Event shutdowns are definitely necessary in affected areas, but it’s tough to make that final decision to shut down, disappoint attendees, partners, speakers, and sponsors and communicate to the media.
How do you leverage event technology and what would you consider the biggest game-changer?
There are so many options to bring technology into your events–from branded event apps to gamification, live-streaming, and completely virtual events. I love SlidesLive, which offers professional conference recording and live-streaming solutions, especially in cases where, for one reason or another, the event pivots toward a more virtual experience.
What is your favorite city for events and why?
My favorite city I’ve planned an event in is Toronto. It’s a gorgeous city, with lovely people, and countless opportunities–especially in the cannabis industry, which is the type of event I was planning at the time. The public transportation system to and from the airport is easy and inexpensive, and the city itself has so many experiences to offer attendees.
What are some practices to follow that will help you to create the Wow factor that attendees seek with a limited budget?
I always look for strategic partners that can help offset costs with in-kind sponsorships, but I always make sure to offer this opportunity to an organization that I truly believe would benefit from the exposure and the attendees that will be at the event.
Another way to think about maximizing your budget is to challenge your exhibitors to up their experiential game, offering something to attendees that goes beyond the traditional ‘table-and-swag’ approach. I’ve offered everything from a Wellness Lounge to interactive Instagram installations and everything in between.
Sustainability is a current movement that can be challenging for large events. What is your approach?
In Philly, we have partners who will pick up excess food and distribute it to shelters and nonprofits throughout the area. They became famous during the NFL Draft in the City in 2017, and have since expanded their programs and offerings.
If a service like that is not available, I do my best to work with the catering teams to ensure we approach the event from a sustainability perspective. For example, not pre-pouring wine, offering bread tableside as opposed to bread baskets, and not overfilling the buffets initially. Small changes really do make a huge difference.
How do you measure the success of an event?
My clients tell me that I am unique because I care about their events, campaigns, and businesses as much as they do. I take the time to dive deeply into the overall brand, the goals and objectives of the event, and the key stakeholders and outcomes desired. An event is only successful (and my company is only successful) if the original goals and objectives of the client are met. Whether the objective is to tell people about a new product or service, connect them to the community, or make sure their sponsors are happy, I make sure to keep the original goals in mind every step of the way and weigh each part of the event against them.