I love a good party. I mean, who doesn’t?

The friends, the food, the laughter… the window-rattling karaoke—or is that just me? Anyway, parties are the best, but the after-party… man, what a let-down. There’s a pile of dishes covering the kitchen counter, half-empty glasses leaving water marks all over your vintage coffee table, and the dog is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. All you want to do is curl up with an episode of Amy Schumer and a red Solo cup of leftover prosecco, but the problem with all that let-your-hair-down fun is that once it’s over… there’s a lot of adulting to do.

That’s why being an event marketer is a pretty fantastic part of my job. Basically, I get to go to a ton of awesome shin-digs, but nobody makes me cook or clean! Now obviously, it isn’t all “party party party”, but it is a heck of a good time. I get to see my clients put their best foot forward, and I get an insider glimpse of what they do and how they do it. And if I’m lucky, I get to help them do it even better.

One of the most amazing things about working at Willow is that I don’t just work at Willow. Sure, that’s the logo on the paycheck, but the work I do isn’t just to help our company—it’s to help every company we serve do what they do, and do it well. So for instance, when I attended an event hosted by NAMIC (National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies), I wore a NAMIC t-shirt. For all any of the attendees knew, I was a NAMIC employee. And wow, was that an eye-opening experience. Participants shook my hand, thanked me for the work I did, and told me what a fabulous organization NAMIC is. I wasn’t just helping hang signs—I was a partner, part of something much bigger than just an insurance convention.

Of course, when I attend an event with a client, there is work to be done. Beforehand, our team conceptualizes, designs and prints custom signage specific to the event. It’s a lot of logistics—what size, where do they go, and what purpose do they serve. Some of the signage is basic branding, announcing the event, or helping attendees get to the right location. Some might be window clings or table tents with pertinent information like wi-fi passwords, agendas or social gatherings. We’ve designed everything from clings for hotel doors encouraging participants to tweet about the sessions when they get back to their rooms, to an industrial truck tarp!

I get asked a lot about the key to marketing a successful event (no, really, I do).  And for me, the best advice is knowing when to zoom out. Does that make sense? With so many moving parts, planning and marketing a large event can be overwhelming at best. We tend to “zoom in” and get hyper-focused on one issue that may or may not be all that important. Whether it is or not, when we get a little too intense about one single element, all those other moving parts stop moving so well, and our previously well-oiled machine starts to get all jammed up. You can agonize for hours over whether to order turkey or ham on the sandwiches (a club is the obvious solution here, BTW), but if none of the attendees know where lunch is taking place, there’s a problem. So it’s really important to be able to pause, reset the lens, and zoom out. Look at the whole picture, and figure out where the gaps are, then make a plan for filling them.

That’s actually a pretty great part of what I do, because a lot of times, the clients are so close to the event, they can’t see the club sandwich for the turkey (you get where I’m going with that metaphor?).  As an outside set of eyes, I can see places where things could be tightened up and made more efficient. I get the opportunity to pull them back, help them zoom out, and show them the bigger picture that they’re having a hard time seeing. And I get to do all that because I’m not just someone they’re paying to do their marketing. I’m one of them. Here, we call it the “Willow Way.” It’s how we do business, but more than that, it’s who we are. We’re partners, we’re trusted advisors, and we are a member of their team. We aren’t just a guest at the party—we’re helping to throw the party.

And the best part is when the bash is over—I get to kick back with that leftover prosecco, relax, and reflect on a party well-thrown… without worrying about a single dirty dish.

Maggie Hendrickson headshot

Written by Maggie Hendrickson

“I genuinely see the good in people.”