About Tom Crawford:

Tom is a 20-year marketing and sales operations professional (see his LinkedIn profile here). He thrives on helping small companies scale and large companies become more effective by implementing customer-centric processes. Six of his years were spent with Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) building processes that allowed the corporate events marketing team to scale. Prior to AMD, Tom held leadership positions in sales operations and customer service, which provided him the foundation to tackle event operations. Tom holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational business management from Pepperdine University. Living in Austin, Texas, Tom loves to cycle, camp, explore new restaurants, and spend time with his family.


Imagine! You enter an organization with no event processes and five event managers who approach events with five different methodologies. There are no budgetary or expense controls. Stakeholders and event managers use their favorite suppliers, and they differ from stakeholder to stakeholder… and from event manager to event manager. Event managers begin discovery of event requests with questions such as, “How much is your budget?” “What size booth do you want?” and “Do you want to give away coffee cups, t-shirts or blinky pens?” Discussions with regard to the color of napkins easily dominate discovery or kick-off meetings. Anecdotal evidence is the primary metric used to define the success of an event. The number of events in which the company participates is unknown, as well as event spending.

Sound far-fetched? Not really. This is the reality I entered.

When I entered the event marketing space as a 20+ year operations professional, my director’s decision was questioned by his staff as to why he hired a guy with no event experience. My new boss replied to the skeptics, “I don’t need an event person, I need an operations expert.” Ta da! Here I was, in a space where meeting and trade show coordinators eyed me as the green new guy on the block… not really knowing what I can bring to the table.

In The End

Four years later, the organization has a much different look.

An annual cycle of event analysis is implemented to plan the corporate events for the next fiscal year based on the company’s road maps, campaigns, launch plans, and other key marketing objectives. Core skill-sets are defined, talent identified and an elite team established within the walls of the company. Tactical skill-sets are outsourced to key providers. Collaborative processes are implemented to manage and track all activities for all events. Event discovery begins with program managers understanding what the stakeholders want to accomplish. Metrics are defined for the goals and objectives. Program managers provide strategic guidance to event stakeholders and help them define the metrics. These same program managers build and nurture the relationships with the stakeholders. They understand the products and associated marketing campaigns. A database collects all event requests and tracks budget to actual expenditures for each event. Variances are investigated and appropriate actions taken. Executive dashboards are updated monthly and reported to executives. Metric results are collected, analyzed and reported back to executive stakeholders in order for them to make decisions for the following event year. Relationships with key event services suppliers are established and multi-year contracts are awarded. Relationships with stakeholders evolved to one of mutual trust and respect. The event team is the expert in the application of an event to a marketing objective; the stakeholders are the marketing content experts.

While I can’t take all the credit for the metamorphosis, I’m proud of the fact that my leadership and achievements were key in transforming this organization from a purely tactical, reactive group, to an elite team providing additional value, praised by executives and used as a model in the marketing organization.

The Evolution

So…how did this evolve so radically? It was not an easy road and, at times, was subjected to budget reductions, political diversions, capability attacks and even sabotage. While a number of stakeholders embraced the new model, others did not. While some staff members looked forward to change and the challenge, others were unable to shed the tactical mind-set.

To read how this evolution occurred, please stay tuned for Part II.

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2 responses to “The Evolution of a Corporate Events Team [Part 1]

  1. In all fairness, most companies move fast needing to be flexible with options to plan and execute events quickly. I believe the cause and effect may have not been pointed out. Beyond too many vendors, the effect was primarily on procurement’s ability to manage multiple vendors that perform similar function. Cost containment is another defined by procurement’s ability to to manage vendor costs and a comparative deliverable that is price competitive. Procurement policy becomes the leverage to reduce “like vendors” into load leveling procurement steps whereby vendors can also be measured for performance, costs and continued improvements. Streamlining cross-functional processes is low hanging fruit, but marching to the procurement drum drives all the checks and balances needed for and effective and measurable event program. Event metrics are another row to plow as soft ROI does not put food on the table. ROMI should be the objective and the tactics used could be a challenge implement that should prove to be worthy accomplishment for any event program.

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