Episode 17

With Lacy Roesler from the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce

Overview

Gain a deeper insight on event planning for a large Chamber of Commerce membership based organization.  Lacy Roesler, Manager of Partner Events and Engagement at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, talks to us about the wide range of events and initiatives she manages for the chamber. She shares insights from years of event management experience, including working at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.

Available on iTunes or Spotify

Key Topics

  • To step up and learn fast – get a mentor
  • Austin Chamber of Commerce events
  • Event planning for business to business events
  • Managing RRP’s (request for proposals)
  • Event promotion
  • Quick tips and great advice

Show Notes

Full show notes available on our blog.

Upcoming Event

Power Up Austin Women – What it takes to scale your business

Leigh Christie, Senior VP of Global Technology and Innovation with the Austin Chamber of Commerce, will moderate a guest panel of business executives on scaling your business and thriving in today’s economy.

Tuesday May 7, (3:00-5:30PM)

Find out more and get tickets on Ticketbud.

Click for more upcoming events by the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Interviewee Information

Lacy Roesler

Lacy Roesler has an extensive background in event management including working at the Long Center for the Performing Arts. Lacy is currently the Manager of Partner Events and Engagement at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. Lacy is team leader on all Chamber events, from large signature and advocacy events, to networking socials and member engagement opportunities. Lacy manages event budgeting; managing the bidding processes and RFPs for audio visual, food & beverage, and venue selection; logistics; speaker and sponsor coordination; all day-of event logistics execution, and registration.

Transcript

Lisa: Welcome to Ticketbud Tidbits!
Lacy Roesler joins us today. Lacy is the Manager of Partner Events and Engagement at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. As Event Manager, Lacy is team leader on all Chamber events, from large signature events to networking and member engagement opportunities.
Lacy has extensive experience and background in event management, including working at the Long Center for Performing Arts.
Welcome to the podcast, Lacy!

Lacy: Hi! Thank you.

Lisa: Could you share with us a little about your background working in events, and what you do now, for the Austin Chamber of Commerce?

Lacy: Sure! I came into this just kind of organically. It grew up – I started working in the service industry, in restaurants; hostessing, waiting, bartending through college. I moved to Austin shortly before I graduated, and was working at a restaurant – Houlihan’s, which is now Fogo de Chao. I actually have an event there tonight, on their rooftop lounge.
When that was closing, some of our regular customers had been from the Convention Center. They had reached out to me and said “Hey, let us know if you need a job.” And I did. I was like “I do need a job. You know I need a job!”So, I started there, doing the bar and concessions. I did that for three years, which was a huge job, really. It’s a very complicated schedule and inventory and ordering process. You know, there’s five halls. There’s multiple ballrooms. There’s 30-something meeting rooms, plus Palmer Events Center. So, you have to schedule like “I need this person here, and then they can go there and work that event. I need this truck.”

It’s a lot of logistics, so I really had to grow into that. I was the third person. There were two supervisors, or I guess there were two managers, and I was the supervisor, just kind of to help take the workload off of them, and fill in shifts that they needed.

Then, shortly after I started, one of them immediately got fired. They were like “Do you want his job?” And I thought “Well, yeah, I want his job!”

Lisa: I’m taking it! I’m stepping up!

Lacy: “Yeah, sure I want his job, but I don’t know what he did.” So, I actually had to – not had to, but I befriended one of the guys on staff, who had clearly been there a long time. He was one of the go-to guys. I was like “I really need you to help me figure out what I’m doing here.”

Lisa: You got a mentor.

Lacy: Immediately, I’m in charge of a staff of like 40 people, who didn’t know me, who didn’t want – like, I was their age, or younger than some of them. I had just graduated college, and I was like “I can’t look like an idiot. I need your help!” He and I are still best friends, to this day.

Lisa: That would have been a huge learning curve, straightaway.

Lacy: Yeah. That was a big one. Just how do you get set up? What all goes into it? When I started, I would arrive at an event that had basically already been planned, and then I just managed it, and made sure that it went the way that it was supposed to. So, I would say that was my first event planning experience.

I mean, the Convention Center is headquarters for a small event here we do, called South by Southwest. I have to order all of the alcohol for that.

Lisa: Oh, wow! That’s a big chore in itself!

Lacy: Yeah. You’re just going, the whole time. It’s grown, in the ten years since I’ve been there. But it was huge, even then.

Lisa: So, you learned fast.

Lacy: Yeah. Sink or swim!

Lisa: That’s not easy to do. That’s going straight out of the gate.

Lacy: It’s a lot of fun, though.

Lisa: Yeah. You now work for the Chamber. Can you talk a little bit about the different types of events you coordinate for the Chamber of Commerce?

Lacy: Yeah. The Chamber is robust, in this city, for sure. We do all sorts of events. Today, what I have is a Leadership Champions Reception. This is for our really top-tier members; CEOs, decision-makers, the people who are really involved.

There are volunteers who are on committees, helping just get the Chamber’s work done. This is just sort of a networking engagement thank-you for them.
We do Pulse on Policy. I have one of those tomorrow. They’re really great events. They’re a small audience.

Tomorrow, we’re having Congressman Bill Flores, so it will be like 35 people. And he’s straight from D.C. He’s working in the Legislative session currently, and he’ll give an update on what’s going on, how specific bills are going, where he sees this going.

So, they’re highly informative. Small, networking events. Large awards ceremonies.

Lisa: The full gamut, everything. That will keep you busy.

Lacy: Yeah.

Lisa: I know that there is an event coming up, PowerUp Austin Women event. Can you tell us a bit about the PowerUp Austin series, and other events you have coming up?

Lacy: The PowerUp Austin series was actually started by my boss, Lyn Chasteen, a couple of years ago. She actually received an award for it, at the International Chamber, their major conference every year. They’re smaller events. I would say 65 to 100 people.

This year, we’re doing one every month, and we have three different tracks. PowerUp Austin Women is something that we’ve added this year. The purpose of that is to elevate women in business, or to help women grow their business. I mean, this is content delivered by women. Obviously, it’s for anyone.
Then, we have a Tech Talk series, which is in conjunction with Hugh Forrest, who is the Chief Programming Officer for South by Southwest. He is fantastic. Obviously, he has a ton of excellent connections. These are small interviews that he does with people who have really made it in the tech sphere, lately. Then, there’s the other sponsor-driven content.

Lisa: You’ve also got the Austin A-List Awards coming up.

Lacy: Yeah, that’s super exciting. That’s at ACL Moody, which is a fantastic venue. That’s where ACL Live is filmed.

Lisa: It’s a great venue. I’ve been there for a few shows.

Lacy: It’s a great venue, so I love doing that event. It’s very exciting. It’s where we recognize up and coming businesses that started in Austin; SailPoint, Bazaarvoice have won awards in the past.

Lisa: Ticketbud is nominated this year. We’re excited to go!

Lacy: I know! Congratulations! We’re excited to have you guys.

Lisa: We only found out about that yesterday, so it’s like “Woo Hoo!” It’s awesome.

Lacy: Yeah. Judging closes, I think this week, so very exciting. Then, we have the Greater Austin Business Awards coming up on August 21st, at the JW. That’s another really good one. That’s my favorite.

Lisa: How does Austin Chamber use events to sort of engage with businesses in the community?

Lacy: The Chamber is a membership organization, so people are looking for networking. They want to meet B2B clients, they want to meet new customers. They just want to meet people who are going through the same struggles as they are. So, we do a ton of networking events, to engage our membership.

We do events to recognize the work that businesses are doing in Austin, which is what the A-List Awards and the Business Awards are about. We just had the Austin Gives Generous Business Awards, which recognizes philanthropy in business. That program recognizes businesses that have committed to giving back at least 1% of their pre-tax profits, to philanthropic organizations.

We have the State of Education, to sort of recognize and discuss what’s going on currently, in education, and sort of get everyone informed on the priorities, which I think is going pretty well.

Lisa: What are some of the key differences and additional considerations, when coordinating corporate and business-to-business events? Your background, you’ve sort of done both.

Lacy: Right. I’ve done wedding planning and galas. You know, B2B, definitely timing. You want the right time of day, and location. If you’re getting married, people will come out on a Saturday, and they’ll drive wherever. They’ll go out to Dripping Springs, they’ll go to the Hill Country. You can do a destination wedding.

For a B2B event, it needs to be convenient. It needs to fit into their busy lifestyle. So, we try and plan things that start at 4:00, so that people can leave a little early. Everyone enjoys “I’ve got a thing. I have to go. I’m so sorry!”

If it’s a luncheon, you have to be very aware of the timing on that. It’s hard for people to get away for it. You get an hour and a half, which is really a lot of time for people. You can’t really take two hours. They need to get back, and get to work. So, I would say definitely be aware of timing.

Lisa: What are some of the challenges for coordinating these sorts of events?

Lacy: Especially in this city, I would say calendar. You know, there’s something -.

Lisa: So many things.

Lacy: Yeah. There’s like gala season, or the Generous Business Awards I just talked about. We have to look up when is Philanthropy Day? When is this? What are we up against? Obviously, everybody knows not to do anything during South by or ACL or F1.

But it being at the Long Center for nine years, it’s right across the street from Vic Mathias Shores right there. There’s always a run, a walk, a this, a festival, something. So, just looking what you’re programming up against, I would say is probably the first challenge.

Lisa: That makes sense. I’ve definitely discovered that, me being new to Austin, there are so many things going on. I can barely keep up.

There are some elements in the event planning process that are going to be the same, regardless of event size, I would assume. So, where do you start, with coordinating events?

Lacy: Date and venue is where I always start. I go back to weddings. As soon as someone gets engaged, everyone goes “Do you have a date yet? Do you have a date yet?” Well, until you have a venue, you don’t have a date.

You can say “Oh my God. I want to get married on July 12th.” Okay, sure. Have you found a venue? Because what you do is you pick where you’re going. Then, you see what they have available, and that sets your date. So, just be aware of that. You’re not going to make up a date.

Not that long ago, it was 11-11-11. Everyone wanted to get married on 11-11-11. Well, those people have been planning for three years. You’re not getting that date.

Lisa: It’s not happening the year of.

I know that you do a little bit with RFPs, and managing the bidding processes for that. What sort of things do you do for it? How does it work? Can you win an RFP across all events, or is it for individual events?

Lacy: You can. The main RFPs that we do are hotel contracts for the major events. That goes back to – that starts with what date are you looking for? We kind of have to give a range, and say “I need a Monday or a Wednesday, the first two weeks of November. What do you have for 600 people?” Or at this time of day – it’s a lunch, it’s an evening event.

So, the first round is definitely hotels, because you want to get the best rate that you can. That’s a very challenging process.

Then, we do RFPs for anything; printed programs, actual physical awards that we’re giving out, AV providers. We do have a relationship with an AV company, Markey’s, which is not to be confused with Marquis, here in town. This is M-A-R-K-E-Y-‘S. They have basically won our business across our events.
We will take them as an outside provider, into a hotel, where they already have someone else set up, because they are just so wonderful to do business with. Their pricing is fantastic. Their technicians are fantastic. We don’t necessarily even put out an RFP anymore, because their service is so great, and their pricing was so competitive that we don’t need to ask every time. We know we’re using them.

Lisa: How do you go about promoting your events to the community?

Lacy: As soon as a contract is signed, and you have a date and an actual event that is happening, we have a kickoff meeting with our DigiCom team – Digital Communications. It used to be MarCom. Now it’s DigiCom. And we get a plan together.

It will include emails blasts to our members, other partner organizations that could potentially send out emails for us, based on what they do, and the type of event. Blog posts, social media. For the Business Awards, which is our biggest event, we are partnering with The Statesman and with KVUE, to do a combination of spots and home page takeovers, on The Stateman’s website.

We have some print ads for different things. So, it can be very robust. Then, of course, some of the smaller things. The Leadership Champions Reception tonight, that’s invite only. So, that’s a curated single ask.

Lisa: Okay. I was going to ask if you’ve got any quick tips for event organizers? Something that you can share with the listeners?

Lacy: Plan ahead, definitely. Stay organized, be organized. Get your timeline. Give yourself enough time. Time is sometimes the only thing that will be on your side. That includes day of, especially. People tend to think “Oh, if it starts at 4:00, we can get there at 2:00.”

I had some struggles convincing internal staff, because at the Long Center, everyone is an event staff, more or less. At the Chamber, people have their own jobs. They’re kind of like “Why do I have to get there so early?” I say “Look, if you’re having 15 people to your house at 5:00, do you start getting ready at 3:00? No. We’re having 1,100 people. We will start this at 4:00, the morning before.”

So, definitely give yourself enough time. That way, you’re not panicked.

Lisa: Because there’s always something that won’t work or will go wrong.

Lacy: Something will literally – I mean you know with the podcast, something will go wrong, and you want to have enough time to be able to respond to it thoughtfully. You don’t want to panic and just knee-jerk, and make the wrong decision, or not even have any decision options available, just “We’re not doing that anymore,” or something. So time, for sure.

And get a tool, Asana. I know there are a ton of different project management tools out there. We use Asana. I love it. You can ping different people. You can assign things to people. It pings you. “Hey, did you know that you have this due today?” “Thank you very much! I would have overlooked that!”

So, definitely get your tools together. Get your calendar together. Use a spreadsheet, write it down, whatever you need to do. Just manage your time.

Lisa: It does help a lot, a tool like that.
What advice do you wish you had been given, at the start of your career? I always like to ask guests that.

Lacy: You know, I like that question, because I actually received a lot of great advice at the beginning of my career, and still. Event planning is intense. It’s stressful. People who are training you or working with you, they know that it’s intense and stressful, and they want to help you. They want you to be successful.

So, self-care, for one thing. Things do get so stressful, especially in the days leading up to a huge event. I had a boss one time, I was in my 20s. He was like “I know we’re getting ready for the big gala. You might be tempted to go out and blow off steam, and stress drink with your friends. I’m not telling you how to live. I’m just saying you probably don’t want to do that. This is not the time to be hungover.”

Get a good night’s sleep. Take a multi-vitamin. Decompress at night. Do things to take your mind off, like exercise. Even though you’re up and moving around a lot during events, do something to really get your endorphins going, so that you can crash, and have a good night’s sleep.

Lisa: Then, I was going to ask about a great event you have attended.

Lacy: I love events! I’m such an event snob. I love going to events, and just judging everything that’s happening.

The Texas Medal of the Arts Awards, that they do at the Long Center, I love that event. I’m a Texas girl through and through, and it recognizes all of the amazing artists in any sort of category you’ll know. You’ll have designers. I’ve met Eva Longoria there, ZZ Top, Emmett Smith.

It’s a star-studded event. It’s very fancy. Four Seasons comes in and does the catering. I love that event, just because it’s such a party, and it’s such a celebration of how diverse Texas is, and how much artistic energy we really have here.

Lisa: That sounds amazing!

Lacy: It is a super cool event. And then, the Business Awards that I do with the Chamber, I love that event. It’s so big, it’s so exciting. It’s 1,100 people. It recognizes the businesses, and the individuals that make up those businesses, that are really working in this region, to provide jobs, or to make sure that the kids who go to school, that they’re getting the right education, to populate the workforce.
So, that’s a great event. That’s really my favorite event. I just love it!

Lisa: Okay. Well, thank you very much for coming in and talking to us today, Lacy.

Lacy: Sure!

Lisa: I’ll just mention the Chamber’s next event, again. It’s PowerUp Austin Women: What it Takes to Scale Your Business. It’s on Tuesday, May 7, from 3:00 to 5:30 PM. Leigh Christie, Senior VP of Global Technology and Innovation, with the Austin Chamber of Commerce, will moderate a guest panel of business executives, on Scaling Your Business and Thriving in Today’s Economy.

You can get your tickets now, on Ticketbud!
Thanks so much for joining us! Until next time, this was Ticketbud Tidbits!

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