Meeting Planner Spotlight – Valerie M. Luporini, Vice President at Inland Marketing & Communications, Inc.August 27th, 2016 | hereschicago
Here’s our interview with Valerie M. Luporini, Vice President at Inland Marketing & Communications, Inc. and this month’s meeting planner spotlight!
How did you get into meeting & event planning?
When I was 10 years old, I asked my mom if I could help with my little sister’s birthday party. As soon as she said yes, I started planning. I came up with a theme, handmade all of the invitations, worked on designing the event (made decorations), and enjoyed watching it come together on the day of her party — the planner/project manager was discovered.
But seriously, I started planning professionally in my freshman year of college when I was hired by MasterCard and got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters planning fundraising events. What a great time to get into the industry — meeting budgets and amenities were plentiful. I was traveling, conducting site visits, planning and executing events domestically and internationally, and gaining invaluable experience.
Without even planning, no pun intended, I found my niche. This natural fit drew out my newly discovered talents and kicked-off my career. My responsibilities grew, and I loved it. As a young girl, early in my career, I produced an amazing week-long program in Sydney, Australia that included a board meeting, excursions, and turning a set of famous stairs into a black-tie event. I believe this position and the experience I gained from it gave me a strong foundation that got me where I am today.
What were some of the hurdles you experienced? What are the biggest challenges of meeting and event planning today?
As the industry changes, it’s a constant challenge to prove the value of conducting in-person meetings that include technology instead of using technology to replace the human contact portion of these important programs.
While I still love what I do, budgets are not as plentiful, and planning timelines are not as generous. I think the biggest hurdles I encounter are trying to produce high-quality events with a leaner team, lower budgets, and tighter deadlines. I rely heavily on my project management skills and relationships as I am challenged daily to be creative in designing my events and stretching my dollars.
I have worked hard to build strong relationships with my industry friends and am grateful for all that they do to help me accomplish my goals.
What advice do you have for those seeking to secure a job as a meeting or event planner?
Plan in an industry that you’re interested in and you’ll be that much more successful. Our skills work well in any industry, and I believe being passionate about your cause will make your career that much more enjoyable.
What have you learned being on the job as a meeting and event planner?
Learning by doing has taught me to think on my feet and be creative so I can solve problems quickly. It has also helped me develop my project management skills due to all the details that are involved in my programs.
Do you see any new trends in the meeting & event industry?
I feel the idea of the human touch is coming back. I was afraid virtual events were going to take over, but I’m happy to see technology being used to enhance our industry instead of change its course completely.
What type of meetings and events you plan?
With over 100 events a year, my professional projects include employee meetings and appreciation events; industry conferences for both sides of our business (finance/leasing); tradeshows for our leasing side; and fundraising programs for our community partners. In my personal life, I’m involved in producing fundraising events for local non-profit organizations.
What do you love about planning events and meetings in Chicago? We have an amazing city with a plethora of options and resources. I was born and raised here and love the city even more as I build relationships with my industry peers who share my excitement. The backdrop that our skyline provides, combined with the quality and variety of options, gives me the perfect formula for successful events.
What skills do you feel it takes to be a successful meeting and event planner?
Creativity and multi-tasking are a must in this position, and the more you plan the better you get.
Who has been the biggest influence (professional and/or professional) in your life?
My boss at MasterCard helped me build my foundation as a planner by believing in me and putting me on the front line early on in my career. I learned to manage people, projects and get things done efficiently and effectively. It’s kind of funny; we spent so much time together and worked so well together that several vendors thought she was my mother.
She is now retired but still makes herself available to check-in on me. Thanks Judy!
What kinds of things really make you laugh?
My husband. Without even speaking, he cracks me up (in a good way). Other than that, I love a good comedian, whether it’s a friend or family member being silly or a professional comic referencing funny situations that I can relate to based on my relationships or life experiences.
A few shout outs; Eddie Murphy, Kevin Hart, and Sebastian Maniscalco.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
Besides home, Sydney, Australia; I could never get sick of looking at the opera house.
Who is your best friend? What do you like about him/her?
My husband and my cousin. I couldn’t get through my days without either one of them. They make me laugh and keep me grounded.
What’s your biggest goal in life right now?
Stopping to enjoy life more often than I have in the past has become top priority. We live in such a fast-paced world where every moment is getting documented with cameras and social media. I’m trying to enjoy more cell-phone-free weekends and travel time.
What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday?
Getting on the motorcycle with my husband and heading west for the day.
What was your family like growing up?
Let’s just say we’re all still laughing. Growing up in Chicago with a big Italian family never leaves me without stories. From big dinners to big dinners, LOL, it was loud, fun, and crazy all at the same time.
What should I know about you that I’d never think to ask about?
When I was little, I loved the song Joy to the World by Three Dog Night so much that I started singing it in church whenever the priest mentioned Jeremiah. I guess I didn’t realize he wasn’t talking about Jeremiah the bullfrog; my poor parents.
Have you received any praise or accolades recently?
Yes, from one of the founders of our company for continued success on one of our largest annual conferences and my dedication to the company.
What type of music do you love?
Really you want me to choose a type? Growing up in Chicago with a dad who’s an amazing musician and parents who always had music playing in the house; I was exposed to so many genres and artists. I’m sure I would not have such a diverse music collection without this upbringing.
My parents helped me come to love Dean Martin, Lou Rawls, and artists from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Throughout my teens, I loved dance music and pop music. As an adult, I learned to appreciate jazz and blues. Sorry to all those country music lovers but with the exception of a few songs, I’m not a fan of the “country twang.”
What is your favorite restaurant or bar (Personally)?
Café Baba Reba for as long as I can remember.
When not working, what do you love to do?
That’s easy, spending a day on the motorcycle, turning off my phone, and taking my camera out to a new spot and/or playing with the kids.
Besides your professional talent, do you have any personal talents? (Play guitar, etc.)
I’ve been given the gift of a good eye and the passion for capturing a story in a single shot. My camera is my outlet. I’ve been shooting since my parents gave me my Brownie camera but freelancing since the last ‘90s.
While it’s not a talent I’ve given a lot of time to, I’ve inherited a little bit of my dad’s musical abilities. No not singing, my husband will confirm that one. If you put a keyboard in front of me, I can pull off a few tunes and “play by ear.”
Have you ever sung karaoke? If so, what song?
YES! HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT. I’d have to say that my best performance was at my wedding with my very heavy brooch bouquet.
What are you passionate about?
Being a good person, helping others, and making a difference as often as I can.
Do you have any Association affiliations?
MPI and PCMA
Are you a Cubs or Sox fan?
Sorry, I’m a hockey girl. I love my Blackhawks. But I’m always open to cheering on either of our Chicago baseball teams if someone has tickets to a night game and the weather is good.
What’s your go-to meal when you’re home alone?
Italian cheese and olives.
What’s your favorite thing about your hometown?
Again, really you want me to choose? Since I was little girl Buckingham Fountain and Navy Pier have been two of my favorite spots. Then I grew up and realized there’s more, we have some of the best restaurants within driving distance.
What was your First concert?
What are your thoughts about Hereschicago.com?
Surviving in our industry is all about relationships and having industry friends who you can count on. Do I need to say more? Thanks for the resources, connections, and being the friend/resource that we can all count on.