Name: Katherine Wright, CMP
Present: President of The Wright Solution (Event Management Inc.), Member of the Leadership & Development Committee, MPI Toronto Chapter and mother of a one-year-old baby girl.
Past: Corporate event manager in the pharmaceutical industry, account director for a corporate communications firm, co-founder and operations director of a destination management company.
Expertise: 22 years event-management experience.
Specialty: Bilingual (French/English), pharmaceutical/biotech
CM&E: Tell us about yourself.
I’m a passionate person – I’ve got passion for this industry and passion for my family and friends. I’m passionate about wine. Anyone who knows me, knows that I get “twitchy” if my wine cellar gets down to below 80 bottles. But my biggest pleasure these days is my daughter. She makes me laugh at least twice a minute and I couldn’t be happier to have her in my life.
Tell us about your work.
I love event management. The magic for me is being able to provide someone an experience that they could never have on their own. For instance, as an individual, you could never dine next to the Stanley Cup in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but as a part of an organization, you are able to share that experience with your colleagues. I get to give you that. Whether it’s with food, the ambiance, the destination, location or entertainment, it’s an amazing feeling to impress people who are awed that “this” (event) is all for them. Planning is second nature to me; I’ve been organizing events since tea parties for my stuffed animals when I was three.
How did you get to where you are today?
I was a marketing major in university and working full time as a receptionist. I was then hired as an event coordinator to help with sales training and continuing medical education events. I thought I wanted to go into pharmaceutical sales. We got so busy that I never really pursued that. I joined another pharmaceutical company and managed all of their internal and external events. I achieved my CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) designation and eventually became the manager of my own department.
I then pursued a different area of the industry – corporate communications. My role was as an account director, managing a multi-million dollar account. What an experience! I’m convinced I will never again work with a more talented group of people. I eventually decided to go out on my own and incorporated The Wright Solution Event Management Inc. in September of 2003. I now employ four people and have achieved multi-million dollar sales.
Why are you good at what you do?
I think I’m good at what I do because I’m organized (OK, anal-retentive and a complete control-freak) but I also excel on-site. I’m able to remain calm in all types of situations and work through a logical solution to prevent and/or manage issues that arise. I’ve had kitchens catch on fire prior to Awards Galas, power failures before and during General Sessions and even a death on a program!
Is there anything you would change in our industry, given the chance?
There’s been a lot of talk about “standardization” in the events industry. I don’t believe there is a “blanket solution” for the challenges faced which brought about this solution of standardization. I do believe that technology will play a great role in the future of the events industry and that we all need to be better versed in the tools available to us and how to use them (particularly social media).
Walk us through a typical day at work.
A typical day on-site begins at 5 am. Checking on breakfast by 6 am, putting out directional signs, reviewing in-house reports, checking on AV set ups, re-printing name badges, re-confirming ground transportation, meeting and greeting VIP guests, adding boxed lunches for people who changed their flight home, running to the liquor store to stock up on beer for the hospitality suite, taking someone’s shoes to be re-soled, changing a slide deck and printing out speakers’ notes, buying cold and flu medication for someone who’s under the weather – is it noon yet?
Time to check on the buffet lunch…Requesting more break-out rooms for a workshop that now has become role-play sessions, changing dinner reservations, finding a Kosher meal for the Awards Gala, ordering flowers for someone’s wedding anniversary – it’s break time you say? Where is the birthday cake for so-and-so? Book a massage for someone with a bad back from the five-hour flight from Vancouver, run photocopies of a newspaper article that is critical, make sure the fitness centre will have enough towels for the 5 pm crowd, re-confirm the floorplan, linens and centerpieces for the Farewell Dinner, check on the green room for the entertainment, prepare the list for that night’s room drops, get the giveaways to the bell desk, pre-order the cars for the VIPs so they don’t have to wait for the valet, print off driving directions – the General Session let out early?
Better make sure the bartender in the hospitality suite is ready for the rush…advance to the venue for the evening event, double check the DJ’s sound is adequate, add a riser and podium for the speeches that weren’t supposed to happen tonight, request some fruit plates for the 10 people who apparently now have nut allergies, put out the reserved signs on a few tables, greet guests off the buses, have them seated for dinner. Check on the dinner service. Load the buses, make sure the hospitality suite is re-stocked. Double check on the room drops. It’s midnight you say? Well then, goodnight…
What have been some of your biggest achievements?
My biggest achievement was definitely starting my own company. It was a dream of mine and the fact that I’ve been able to grow this business (we are in an expansion mode at the moment) is incredibly rewarding. I am challenged every day and grateful that I work with such an incredible team of people and have wonderful clients. I’m also very proud to have served as MPI Toronto Chapter’s President in its 25th year and to have been awarded MPI’s very prestigious, Meeting Planner of the Year.
What do you like best about the meetings industry?
The relationships. I know this industry can be overwhelming for those who are new to it. It can even seem “clique-y” at times but I can assure you that this is not the intent of those who have been involved in the industry. I have formed very valuable alliances and relationships with vendor partners and meeting planning colleagues alike.