I arrived at the Hilton Omaha to prepare for my first event as the team lead. Diane, the guru of all-things-events and my mentor, had instructed me on the run-down. I was in charge of pre-conference check-ins and general setup until she arrived. Everything had to be perfect; this was my test.
Our meeting was a leadership and strategy conference for science and engineering executives. We had done the meeting before, but this year we were trying something new—a “Power of Perspectives” discussion panel comprised of local experts and executives. The other new element was the location: Omaha. So, we were working closely with Visit Omaha to ensure the event went off without a hitch.
I set up my office in the conference room and noticed we were missing a box of registration materials, and the volunteer list was about five short. Diane had trained me well, and I kept her advice running through my head. “Just imagine the experience from the attendee’s point of view.” Would they notice the missing name tags? I asked myself. Would they notice if we were a little short staffed? Knowing the answers to my questions, I set out for reinforcements.
Diane would be arriving later that evening, and we were scheduled to meet in the Hilton lobby to make sure everyone was on board with our weekend’s goals. I had to get everything in order by then.
I scrolled through my iPhone and clicked on my contact from the Visit Omaha team. We needed a couple more College World Series tickets for tomorrow’s event, and I knew they could help. I explained to my contact that one of our VIP clients had asked if he could bring his two sons, but she did not need further explanation.
“I expect to have those tickets ready for you at the front desk within the hour,” she said. “I’ll drop in a couple extra just in case.”
Tickets arranged. Perfect. I hung up the phone and spotted my assistant, Courtney, across the lobby scribbling furiously in her event binder. She was outfitted in her pantsuit and tennis shoes. Smart girl.
“Courtney, please check on the rooms for the VIP arrivals and make sure everything is fresh. The early arrivals are scheduled to be in around 5 pm. A volunteer is picking them up from the airport. Also, please get in touch with Visit Omaha; we need more volunteers.”
“Will do, Bev,” Courtney said, writing everything down in her binder.
“We are missing a box of name tags, so I’m on hold with FedEx,” I said pointing at my phone. “I’ll head upstairs to set up signage. See you in a few!” I rushed back toward the elevator with my phone glued to my ear. There was a lot to be done, but our team would pull this event together.
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That evening, our event team sat in the lobby waiting for our check-in meeting. I heard Diane before I saw her, the heels of her pumps clicking across the floor as she made her way toward us. She was wheeling her carry-on suitcase behind her. “Bev, what’s the status?” Diane said, coming to a halt in front of our team seated around the lobby table.
“We’re all on board. Everything is as scheduled. The volunteers are accounted for, thanks to Visit Omaha, and all check-in materials arrived thirty minutes ago. Courtney reconfirmed with the vendors and our sponsors have already set up their tables in the conference room. All is in order,” I said, taking a deep breath.
“Thanks, Bev,” Diane said, raising her venti Starbucks to her red lips, taking a sip. “It looks like all of the puzzle pieces are fitting together. And the tickets for the game tomorrow?”
“Two extra just in case,” I said.
“Good,” Diane replied. “Remember, our number one priority here is the attendee experience. We want it to be exceptional. When is go-time for tomorrow?”
“Registration opens at 8 am,” I said.
Diane nodded, “Be ready to greet and welcome the attendees. Before we head off to bed, I just want to do a quick run-through of our touch points for tomorrow…”
Visit Omaha was responsible for putting together our local panel of experts; based on the diversity of the resumes, we all had high hopes that it would be a success. I waited outside the conference room for two hours listening in on the discussion panel until I heard the applause.
I opened the door and made my way toward the panel table that sat atop a small stage. The name tags and signage looked great. One of the executives in a bright blue suit stood up at his place on the discussion panel. “Bev, the room was electric! And the ideas were completely applicable to our organization. I’m certain that everyone benefitted.”
Diane walked over and joined our conversation.
“Well, you’ve done it,” the same executive told her, reaching across the table to shake her hand. “You can count us in for next year. This is the best meeting that I’ve been to in a while.”
“You have to thank Bev here,” Diane said with a wide smile. “She’s the lead on this one.” I shook his hand, then Diane and I turned to walk toward the exit together.
“Remember, Bev, when the pieces fit together correctly—”
“—you have a beautiful picture,” I said smiling. And our Omaha meeting had become exactly that, a beautiful picture.
“Now I’m ready for some baseball!” I said to Diane as we parted ways outside the conference room doors. From what I heard in the hallway, the main part of our event—the reflection panel—was full of high-level, innovative thinking. I was confident that everyone in that room was inspired by the conversation. So far, everything was a success.
The final part of our Omaha event was a night at the ballpark with local barbecue.
I spotted Courtney in the hallway, and a sting of panic stabbed me. “Courtney—the barbecue! I forgot to confirm it for tonight!”
“I just got off the phone with Hartland BBQ, and they’re at the venue setting up. I decided on the brisket and the smoked chicken. Also baked beans, coleslaw and potato salad for sides. Do we need the corn?”
“Yes on the corn. Thank you so much. Meet me at the stadium—I’ll head over there now to set up signage.”
If that meeting was electric, then the energy on the streets just outside the hotel was like a thunderstorm. People everywhere were festively outfitted in their team’s colors: purples and reds and yellows. They were walking toward the stadium, already cheering their teams on to victory in the College World Series. The smokiness of cooked meats and the distinct grain and hops of freshly poured beers wafted by and forced me to relax and to take in a deep breath.
This meeting had been a victory for my team. We had done it. And Omaha proved to be a winning partner.