I have to say, I am drawn to the idea of rebirth. Whether it is a landmarked building, a company, or even a city, I can never turn away from a good comeback story. This is probably why most of the organizations I have led over the past few years have always had to be brought back from a period of decline. This probably also explains why I could not resist when given the offer to revive the Wharton Undergraduate Marketing Conference (WUMC).
Introduced in 2008, WUMC needed a bit of a reboot for its 2012 conference. I was charged with assembling a professional and informative conference that drove attendance. The first thing I did was to surround myself with amazing people with a diverse skill set. Rule 1: it’s hard to go wrong when you have an amazing team (thank you Management 237, which is a special linking course only for M&Ts!). Between the eight of us, we had the experience and dedication to take control of different aspects of the project and really push the envelope.
When all was set and done, we had a lineup of five high quality speakers who covered different aspects of marketing. Professor Jonah Berger, for example, focused on viral content while a later session focused on data driven decision making at McDonald’s. All the details were in place (including WUMC branded chocolate bars!) and it was game time.
The week of the conference however brought about two speaker cancellations and on the morning of the conference I discovered that our reserved space was double booked. This brings us to the number Rule 2 of event planning and project management: STAY CALM. As long as you have a great team (and if you followed my first rule, you do) no challenge is too great. We had backup speakers that we called up and found, and, to our relief, our space was not double booked as we originally thought.
In the end, the conference was fantastic. Attendance was up 100% year-over-year and the feedback was very positive. I had set the groundwork for fantastic future conferences and trained talent to build on the momentum from this year. People often are surprised when they find out that I am in M&T because I tend to get very involved. However, after seeing the M&Ts year after year and how involved we all are, I wonder why the rest of campus has not come to expect it!