Virginia Finnerty is the owner of Plan Ahead Events of Coral Gables and has more than 15 years of experience in event management and planning, travel management, budgeting and catering. She has also worked previously as an executive assistant to a CEO and was responsible for planning, travel arrangements, meeting coordination and expense containment.
Q. Why should a business work with an event management firm?
There is the misconception that businesses save money if they do things in-house. What happens is you save money if you have the budget to have someone on staff who does that exclusively. That may be possible, but to outsource is much more effective because you don’t have the cost of having another employee. Even in the worst of times, if you are going to have an event, the most efficient way to have it is to hire a meeting planner.
Q. What are some of the challenges that a business faces when working with a firm in this economy?
I saw scared companies that didn’t want to have events at all, which is sad because by withdrawing from events, you’re telling people, ‘We’re in trouble.’ What is frustrating for us as meeting planners is that companies just buckle down and put their heads in the sand instead of trying to have the event in an affordable way. There are ways to still hold an event. The event doesn’t have to be something spectacular, but we saw companies so scared that, even if they did have the budget, they didn’t want to give the impression of spending money.
Q. What are some of the newer services and products a firm can provide for a business?
Meeting planners used to just plan the event. Now, we are almost becoming marketing people. It’s very interesting how that’s happening. Maybe because our clients are budget-conscious and maybe because we are anxious to work with clients, we’re more willing to take on those additional responsibilities. I see more of that in the future, figuring out how to reach out to people, not just figuring out how to make the event happen.