Corporate Event Expert Profile: Keri Ibbitson, Global Events Lead, NAM & LATAM, Philips
The CEN event expert profile series features interviews with some of the many talented corporate event professionals who make this industry thrive.
Keri Ibbitson says she first got involved with events when she was in college — before she even was aware that careers in event management existed. She’s now worked in the field for more than 10 years, eight of which have been in a corporate environment.
What is your current role and company?
I am the lead of events for the North America and Latin America regions at Philips. I oversee the portfolio of events in those markets, and work with our global experience marketing and leadership team to help implement best practices and processes for events in all of our regions.
What are your current responsibilities?
I’m responsible for internal programming, B2B/B2C proprietary events, and large tradeshows. I oversee a team of event managers who execute these programs, and I help to bridge the gap from our global event organization. That means helping align the market event strategy to Philips’ global event strategy by leveraging global processes, tools, resources and best practices. The aim is to deliver a consistent Philips experience worldwide, but also to drive impactful and strategic programming decisions in the markets.
What types, sizes and quantities of events do you manage?
We look at events based on audience, reach, KPIs, business opportunities and brand impact. Size varies. For one of the main healthcare congresses we attend, we created a full immersive experience consisting of both a proprietary event and a 20,000+ square foot booth. It’s like building a small hospital, with no detail too small. The content development that runs alongside takes a village of some remarkable people. We also execute hundreds of smaller but equally strategic events. We deliver the same Philips experience regardless of the program size.
What was your career path to get to where you are today?
After transferring universities, I got involved in student activities to meet people, and wound up doing major event planning on campus (Hey NACA!). While completing my Master’s degree, I participated in a graduate assistant program, researching how student funding was used towards on-campus programming. I then had to make recommendations and plan events for the student body based on the findings.
After graduation, I tried a desk job in marketing research. But I quickly determined that running marketing analytics in SPSS was not for me. I applied to entry level marketing assistant roles and (based on my event and analytics experience) was hired by a small software startup to support their field and tradeshows. Shortly after I started, they were acquired by Dell and I was restructured into a global event marketing role supporting multiple product portfolios.
After several years at Dell with some great mentorship, I took an events role in the health-tech space with a company called Rally and was there for three years. My main focus at Rally was B2B; going to our clients, raising awareness, getting people engaged in an in-person activation.
About six months ago I was presented with the opportunity to lead a team at Philips. It was a hard decision to leave a great family of people, but I have been enjoying the new challenges and opportunities presented within this organization and field. I’ve been stretching those familiar corporate event muscles, helping implement process and best practices, while pushing the boundaries of what events can deliver to a business, and I’m looking forward to the journey ahead.
What lessons have you learned from your previous roles?
When I was at Dell, I said “yes” to just about any program opportunity that crossed my way. Tradeshows, kickoffs, proprietary roadshows; if it needed an event manager, I’d give it a go. It was a great way to learn. And Rally dramatically changed (for the better!) my understanding of what a corporate event could be. Event goals weren’t defined by booth scans and SQLs — instead we focused on NPS, engagement metrics, and registrations to free health tools and support.
Are there any apps, program, or technologies you'd recommend to other event professionals?
Solutions like GoogleDocs and MicrosoftTeams are great for remote teams, and eliminate versioning issues. Any shared team flow that allows your team to co-create in real time, and cleanly capture and organize your planning. Also, project management solutions like JIRA or a Salesforce customized solution help to control traffic, plan budgets and create holistic views of your event activity in a clean and transparent way. When you have many stakeholders, having something that can manage the traffic and give clean data points keeps conversations efficient and impactful.
How has COVID-19 affected your job and your events?
Like most organizations, we’re pivoting quickly to identify the best means to communicate with our customers right now. We’re evaluating appetite for content across segments, and taking a measured look at how to replace face-to-face interaction with virtual engagement. We’re already seeing a lot of positive feedback from our early programming efforts.
We’re also finding the silver lining to this standstill. It gives us the opportunity to really evaluate our event portfolios, and the strategic thinking behind each event engagement we make. We’re able to have proactive discussions and measure the importance of where we go, why, and how we do it. We’re updating our assets and training core groups on integral processes.
What are you doing for fun while social distancing restrictions are in place?
I’m fostering puppies! And boy, did I forget how much work it is. Normally I am traveling, and must love others’ pets from afar. Being home has allowed me to get puppy snuggles, and focus on something sweet and innocent in these crazy times. [Editor’s note: Ibbitson has been a foster fail victim, and now has a puppy of her very own.] Also, my yard has never looked better.
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