After years of employment in the hospitality sector, I moved to New York to work under the direction of Jim McNabb at McNabb & Associates who also became my mentor. When I returned to Toronto in 1992, I started up my own event planning company, namely Roick & Associates. It felt natural that years later Jim and I would continue our collaboration and amalgamate our companies to become McNabb Roick Events.
Since then we have ventured into various other roles in this industry. In Toronto, we opened a rental company, a décor/furniture company and entered into two other partnerships as venue operators. We also dipped our toes into venue operation and for the first five years were the exclusive caterer and event planner at the newly restored Design Exchange.
At the end of this term, we recognized there was a lack of larger capacity venues so having the experience and confidence decided to take on a new project. In 2002 we restored the 7th floor of College Park, a historically protected Art Modern design space. Renamed after its architect Jacques Carlu, The Carlu was then opened and we successfully operated the venue for twelve years before we sold it.
What do you enjoy most about your role in corporate event planning?
Our clients come from every sector of the industry, from services to tangible products, so it is always a challenge to design unique events with this vast array of mandates and themes. Developing and designing an event can be very cerebral as well as creative. We research the client’s brand, delve into their history and collaborate with their internal teams to generate knowledge, enthusiasm, and motivation to get it right.
How do you keep up with the constant change in the industry?
We read. There are thousands of publications that apply to the event industry’s scope of work, including interior design, landscape design, art, gastronomy, technology and of course fashion, to name a few. Literally around every corner, there is inspiration that keeps our event designs timely, dynamic and relevant. There is so much talent in the world to tap into.
Do you have any advice for a company having a hard time choosing a theme? Is a theme necessary?
A theme can be fun and it can drive the creative and design process, but we tell our clients that it isn’t necessary when creating a successful event. I always say you can never go wrong with a theme of elegance.
That being said, we steer our clients to themes that are purposeful. We analyze why and how it would pertain to their mandate and objectives so there is a meaningful connection between the two.
What are some practices to follow that will help you to create the Wow factor that attendees seek with a limited budget?
Much of our event history is steeped in theatre. For decades, we have designed opening night events in Toronto, New York, and London’s Broadway and are well versed in various techniques that include theatrical Wow moments. With a restricted budget, there are two ways you can still achieve the Wow factor.
There are the intimate moments focusing on the individual, such as photo opportunities or immersive environments that will generate a high return on your limited investment with social media posts. Then there are the larger moments that are all-inclusive, bringing the guests together for the experience, such as tapping into the vast array of unique entertainment that has grown over the years via YouTube and reality talent shows. Spending money on those types of performances costs less than hiring celebrities and can generate collective unique experiences, which keep the guests talking about your event for days or even years to come.
How do you measure the success of an event?
Of course, it is the quantifiable data you collect from media and social media that most companies rely on as a measure of success, but it is also the “old school” type of attention. Clients care about the personal messages they receive post-event. Having an esteemed guest take the time to write a personal note thanking them for the experience is increasingly rare and therefore a true testament of the event’s reach.
Over 80% of our clients are repeat clients and have entrusted us with their event year after year. Having sponsors jump on board for another year with their financial commitment and having the event sell out quickly are also very good indicators that the last event was a success for their partners and returning guests.