Is the corporate event pace slowing down? Not for Margaret Launzel-Pennes. As vice president of worldwide events, distributor communications and video production for Los Angeles-based Herbalife, her duties include overseeing international events, incentives and vacations for the global nutrition and direct-selling company. Her work involves hosting as many as 100,000 independent distributors annually in events that take place in a dozen different countries each year.
SPECIAL EVENTS: How do your special events help the company prosper?
MARGARET LAUNZEL-PENNES: The primary focus of Herbalife events is to drive sales, recognize achievement, provide inspiration and forge a strong connection between distributors and the corporate entity. Our distributors' experiences at special events create the stories they will tell to customers and new distributor prospects they are hoping to recruit — “I just got back from XYZ, and you can't imagine the amazing event I attended!” It helps them paint the picture of what a special company we are and how happy that person would be to either use or sell our products. We are a company of stories.
SPECIAL EVENTS: What are hallmarks of an Herbalife special event?
LAUNZEL-PENNES: We find the most unusual venues in the myriad of international cities where we host events, then create our own creative white paper. We ideate the theme and bring it to life through decor suggestions, entertainment ideas and a variety of unique nuances. Some of our special events attract upwards of 15,000, people, and it's nearly impossible to create one event that will cater to the variety of tastes and interests of a diverse group. So we execute the theme on a variety of levels, giving everyone an opportunity to enjoy their time at the event. I personally walk through every event with my event managers and event partners and continue to ask “what if…,” so that no matter where our distributors look or what they see or hear, they are continually surprised and amazed by their experience. You won't experience our special events anywhere else ever. We guarantee it.
SPECIAL EVENTS: Is the economy changing how you create and produce events?
LAUNZEL-PENNES: One of the unique things about the Herbalife events team is our extraordinary breadth of experience. There isn't a single type of event that I or someone on my team hasn't produced. We are very strategic about how we work in terms of pricing, margins and markup. I ran a destination management group for four years, so I know what to look for. We know how costs can escalate out of control when numbers of attendees increase or things get added on, and we are very stringent about meeting and beating our numbers without ever compromising the distributor experience.
SPECIAL EVENTS: How do you produce events worldwide?
LAUNZEL-PENNES: Our “Extravaganzas” attract upwards of 18,000 people in some regions, so to a degree, where we host events is largely predicated upon the size of the main venue. A core part of my team comes out of the concert arena — producing concert tours for artists as diverse as Prince and the Irish Tenors — so they know the cities that have the venues of the size we need. Once we have selected a city — a long and arduous process so that we can gain as much convention and visitor support as possible and gain our distributor leadership buy-in — then we begin to drill in. We have key individuals in EMEA, Asia and Latin America who work closely with us to identify venues, caterers, decor companies, entertainment, etc.
A key factor in our ability to create a consistent experience region to region and to maximize our overall spend is the fact that we are really good at streamlining the process. We have one theme, create one RFP — which is translated into multiple languages depending on the cities we are selecting — create a comparison grid that compares qualitative and quantitative factors, and then assign teams that comprise our worldwide events group members, our corporate regional team members and our distributor leadership to analyze, recommend and select the various elements.
We do a series of site visits attended by key internal and external team members, ranging from a technical overview of the main venue to a tasting. We stay very, very close to the process at all times.
Contact Margaret Launzel-Pennes at 818/909- 9600; [email protected]