Corporate Event Expert Profile: John Stevenson, global event program manager at Dell EMC
At Corporate Event News, our objective is to showcase the diverse people, programs, challenges and rewards of corporate events, so what better way to accomplish that than by talking to industry experts? Each month, we highlight a different corporate event professional to help you get to know some of the individuals who make this industry thrive.
This month I spoke with John Stevenson, global event program manager at Dell EMC. Stevenson has a diverse 12+ year background in the events industry, including working as a planner for an association and managing events for third parties at Maritz Travel before joining Dell in 2010.
Danalynne Wheeler Menegus: How did you get into corporate events?
John Stevenson: I was curious about events in college and had a class where we had to plan our own event for our final. I enjoyed the class so much, I got an internship with a non-profit. Following graduation, I was offered a job doing festivals and community events, then after a year took a job with Maritz Travel. It was great to work with so many different groups across different sectors and get to see what works for all of the different clients in all the different locations. Dell has given me the opportunity to work on larger-scale events and take more ownership.
DWM: Did you have a mentor, or someone who influenced you?
JS: There have been a number of people along the way who have helped me, put up with me and encouraged me, from managers to vendors to colleagues. Liz Lathan hired me at Dell and was always supportive, often telling me I could do things that I thought I couldn’t. Diane Cantrell, also at Dell, has given me opportunities, support, and guidance, given great advice on messaging, strategy, delivery. I’ve learned a lot from everyone on the team: working with vendors, the hotel team, designers...seeing things from all the different perspectives. The great things about events is that it takes everyone working together – from the finance team who helps you fund it to the team in the warehouse who is shipping your product in the warehouse – to get it done.
DWM: What have you learned along the way that’s made your job easier?
JS: Efficient communication is key for effective event execution.
DWM: What are your current responsibilities? I know that there are always fluctuations in responsibilities so what you’re working on today might be different from what you did six months ago.
JS: That is so true. I’m currently responsible for C-level events. That could range from a 10-person dinner to a 500-person event. I managed two customer-facing events and one executive event in the past 45 days, so I am currently wrapping up budgets, post-event recaps and proposing some events for next year.
DWM: Would you classify yourself as an introvert or an extravert?
JS: I am an introverted extravert. I can be as outgoing as I need to be, but also like being behind the scenes, especially for events.
DWM: Is there any one app, program, or technology that you’ve found the most helpful?
JS: Oh gosh, just one?! I have a few. I love using OneNote to keep myself organized. I make it like a Pinterest Board with all of the details, layouts, diagrams, looks, feels in addition to contacts, pricing, key points, files and even emails. I also swear by the TripIt app to help me keep all the travel reservations organized in addition to also acting as a countdown clock until the event.
DWM: What is the best event experience you’d had to date?
JS: That’s a hard one as they are all so different and cannot be compared. If I had to pick one… and only one…in February of last year, we held our annual internal sales training kickoff event. There were 4000 attendees plus our executive leadership team from across the Americas, EMEA, and APJ all coming together for the first time. I oversaw and had the pleasure of working with everyone (there were about 40 of us who all worked together to make it happen) to ensure it all went off well – and it did. It always amazes me to see all the details, hard work, patience, laughter and dedication come together for an awesome event. No one can or should do this alone.
DWM: What are the biggest challenges you see corporate event professionals facing today?
JS: I don’t think there are challenges but I do think there is constant shifting within our profession. Specifically, the participation at events by Millennials and the next generation, which is enhancing the way we communicate to participants in addition to delivering onsite.
DWM: What changes are you seeing to better engage and communicate with these newer audiences?
JS: Millennials want to be involved with the process – they want to be part of that build-up to the event, so they can arrive on site and have a good sense of what’s going on, whether it’s the opportunity to give back, the music within the general session, etc. Keeping people engaged is key: the more they click on your registration site, Twitter, Instagram, the better. Ask them questions, get them involved. I’m very curious as to what that next generation is going to want – more AI maybe? I personally would like to see more of this innovation within the industry, which means more people taking risks with events in order to find those answers.
DWM: Is there any place in the industry that you see disruption happening today – or an area you think needs disruption?
JS: I would like to see more disruption in our industry about giving back to communities and being better stewards to our environment within events. There are events and companies doing this, but it would be great it if became an industry standard. For instance, why not offer carbon offsets in your registration site for participants to opt into when they are registering for an event? This could also be a great sponsorship opportunity while creating a great story for both the event and sponsor.
DWM: What do you do to relax – in what little spare time you have?
JS: Spare time? Oh, that. I love to run, whether recreationally or training for a marathon. Travel, theater, hiking, spending time with friends…just taking a ten-minute break to get outside helps sometimes!
DWM: If you could give a single piece of advice on corporate events, what would it be?
JS: Don’t ever underestimate the power of teamwork.
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