PF Chang’s Event Planning Manager, Lorrie Fickas of Arizona, shares her success stories using DoubleDutch, her career insights, and what keeps her at the forefront of technology.
BL: What drew you into the world of events and what do you love about it?
LF: I believe we carry this common thread of where we begin is where we end. In high school I was on every committee out there. Then I went into the US Navy for five years and ended up managing events for crews of over 900 members. I love to make people happy, I always have. Even if an event seems horrible from my point of view, and you deal with all the stress and sore feet, that all goes away when you see your attendees smiling. That’s hugely rewarding for me in my career.
BL: Tell me about the type of events PF Chang’s does.
LF: We do both small and large events. Our small events are internal meetings where we fly 20-50 partners in for leadership meetings year round. Our bigger event for example would be sponsoring the PGA Tournament. This is where I set up an event tent that is a mirror image of our restaurant, bring in hourly employees, set them up with the ability to clock in and out, we develop menus, pricing, cash and credit machines, and conduct onsite cooking and execution. I deal with the sponsorship logistics with PGA and taking on the role of restaurant manager for a full week. It’s pretty insane.
BL: Do you see DoubleDutch as a content channel?
LF: Yes! Although I don’t manage the content. Our VP of Operations handles all of that. I essentially manage the logistics and delegate out content. So she looks over what our most valuable content is and puts that in. Above and beyond that we are even uploading our partner’s content. So for example we had a large charity event in Orlando recently and we had to collaborate with our sponsors and partners to ensure their brands were well represented and the appropriate collateral was placed in the app.
BL: What excites you about the new features DoubleDutch has released?
LF: The ability to bundle my events in the new platform! I love the unlimited access and ability to repurpose an old event and retool it for a future event. It makes my life so much easier. Time is money and time is limited – I value time as much as I can and try to work efficiently, the event copying allows me to do that.
BL: What problems did DoubleDutch solve for you at your event?
LF: Oh gosh! Everything at a glance. The ability to go paperless was huge in the beginning. Now it’s the ability to see an engaged and educated audience. I can have the whole event live in the app – from attendee questions, to topic channels, keynote speakers, bios – everything lives in there digitally now. Our internal conferences have one big goal – have our employees walk away feeling empowered to do their jobs better. DoubleDutch helps us do that because our employees have all the info they need at their fingertips. They can pull powerpoints, collateral, etc., and really retain the information. It’s so powerful.
BL: What advice would you give to someone new to DoubleDutch?
LF: Give yourself time to understand the app’s functionalities and set it up efficiently so you’re successful. The first event we powered with DoubleDutch we only opened up the app to our partners three weeks after we purchased. We didn’t give ourselves enough time, this year we have weekly planning meetings so that we don’t miss out on any valuable app functions or content opportunities.
BL: What else will be different next time around?
LF: Well for one – it’s not in our home state and instead in a much, much larger resort/convention center. So the digital map will be huge for us, as will beacons which will be big for making sure our partners are following the right event path. We are really excited to use those features. We never want our conferences to be the same as last year, DoubleDutch helps us look at feedback from last year and make changes for this year.
BL: Any advice on involving your partners/sponsors in the app?
LF: Well besides allowing them to upload content, we encourage them to use the activity feed to build their brand awareness and create stronger partnerships. We actually are okay with them uploading their logo, telling people about their company, what excites them about being a supplier of PF Chang’s, and how we can make our partnership stronger. This isn’t just part of our top sponsorship package, we allow all sponsors at every dollar to use the activity feed to reach our audience. Why don’t we charge extra? I look at it like this: You build trust in relationships, trust builds partnerships, partnerships create successful business.
BL: What results were most important to you?
LF: Well first, everyone who used DoubleDutch, internally and externally, absolutely loved it! Everyone was highly engaged, competitive, rating speakers, bookmarking presentations, taking our surveys, etc. So that was great. Beyond the education piece, we can just never, ever go back to paper agendas or info. Once we had the app, it only made sense to make sure our brand image was represented digitally. So we have our agenda, bios, excursion and charity info, photos, brand info, etc all in the app. Who in the world wants to take a paper survey and enter that in a database? Nobody. Just use the app to collect the feedback and analyze it. Like I said, time is money.
On top of all that, it was great to look in The Studio and see the post event results. So, what motivated and inspired our partners- their bookmarks, session ratings, comments, responses, and overall engagement. All that data at your fingertips is priceless!
BL: Let’s talk about you! What is your motto?
LF: Be happy. It’s simple. I don’t have time for stress. You can always find the silver-lining in any situation and then find happiness. My sister was diagnosed with cancer on a Wednesday and died that Saturday, so I learned – what you’re stressing about today might not worry you tomorrow, so just go with it, everything works out. Find your happiness.
BL: And lastly, I love asking #EventProfs – what is the one thing you won’t travel without? Basically, what’s in your bag?
LF: HA! My lipstick and my phone. I ran two-half marathons and had both. Lipstick for the photographers, and phone to call my family to check in.