Meet Jennifer Dela-Cruz, one of the sharp and creative new breed of corporate event planners and a Senior Meeting Planner at RBC, North America’s fifth largest bank. We recently sat down with Jennifer to chat about her career, accomplishments, and what she’s planning for 2009/10.
WTTC: What type of events are you planning for 2009-2010?
JDC: Internally: town halls and conferences; externally: press conferences, shareholder meetings, and sponsorship events
WTTC: What was your best event of 2008? Why?
JDC: Blue was an exceptionally high profile and high-end experience celebrating RBC’s sponsorship of the Toronto International Film Festival and RBC’s Blue Water Project. The CEO of RBC, Gord Nixon, hosted the event, and guest of honor was Robert F. Kennedy Jr, head of The Waterkeeper Alliance. In attendance were over 700 high value clients, VIPs and festival celebrities. Major Canadian acts performed. Blue was a ‘green’ party providing an intimate and exclusive environment, enhancing the RBC brand and profiling RBC’s Blue Water Project, and a major donation to the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. This event was recently awarded “Most Outstanding Event” by Canadian Perspective Magazine.
WTTC: When working with suppliers what attributes are most important to you?
JDC: Clear and concise communication is an imperative attribute to have with suppliers. Having a clear understanding of each others needs is what builds a great relationships and great events.
WTTC: Is price always the over-riding factor in making a decision?
JDC: No. There are three attributes of looking at an event — cheap, fast and great quality. Most of the time you can only pick two and unfortunately great quality doesn’t always comes fast. Understanding the event needs and accommodating them is the over-riding decision maker because sometimes the best events are the cheapest! Who knew a “Rock, Paper, Scissors” tournament would be the highlight of a meeting!
WTTC: What are your three biggest challenges on a day-to-day basis?
JDC: I wouldn’t call what I deal with day-to-day a challenge. Items that keep me on my toes are: trying to find a space with no flexibility on dates, short lead times, and changing dates.
WTTC: Our Website is all about making the information gathering task fast and easy. In the spirit of this, do you have a special tip you would like to share with other planners?
JDC: My tip to other planners would be to get involved. Find an association that you can be a part of that helps you to develop your skills and build strong relationships with your partners, internally and externally.
WTTC: If I was to give you an unlimited budget, what would your fantasy event look like?
JDC: My fantasy event with an unlimited budget would depend on the audience. But I would really like to produce something like The Oscars where there are multiple performance elements… even food service. An event that is all about the experience and will touch each of an attendee’s senses is a dream production.
WTTC: What is the one key element of an event program that you just can’t do without?
JDC: My headset! No really! I would say that having a facilitator/emcee is an element that I try to encourage with my events. You need “time police” to maintain order and keep the day flowing.
WTTC: In this do more with less environment, how important is creativity? Can you share an example with our readers of how a great idea helped you overcome an event disaster?
JDC: Creativity is very important in all environments. If the same event is held quarterly, it should be different every time not the same “talking heads” with different topics and the same kind of reception. Everyone attends receptions, but why not theme it? For example one of our annual conferences was held in a small venue where we didn’t want to have reception and dinner in the same space as the meetings. So what we did was to theme four rooms based on states and countries where we recently opened offices — Texas, California, The United Kingdom and Brazil. All the rooms were on one level, side-by-side, and with respective décor in each room. After the reception, we used the hotel restaurant for the group dinner bringing elements of each reception as centerpieces for the tables. So we were able to re-use the décor and create a new and interesting reception dinner format.
WTTC: What will be the hot event and meeting destinations of 2009-2010?
JDC: I think in general, the hot event and meeting destination would be something local and unique. Being able to find a local venue and turning it into a extraordinary experience will create the WOW in any event.
WTTC: When deciding on a destination city, what are the key things you are looking for?
JDC: Airport accessibility, local attractions and events that you can leverage on, and how many employees are already at the destination.
WTTC: How important are green meetings to your organization? Do you think it will be more or less important in the future?
JDC: Green meetings are part of RBC’s Environmental Blueprint. As one of the developers of our internal document “Blueprint for Holding a Green Event,” I hope that the awareness will continue to grow into the future. There are so many simple ways of reducing your footprint in a meeting — from changing bottled water to pitchers of water to purchasing renewable energy instead of purchasing attendee gifts — that I don’t think it will become less important, in fact the optimist in me thinks it will become second nature.