Meeting planner profile: Mariella Irivarren, CMP, BMO Financial Group

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MariellaPresent: BMO Financial Group
Past: JPdL Destination Management, Toronto | Acuren Group Inc.
Expertise: Corporate events, client seminars and road shows, external client-facing events
Specialty: Client-focused corporate events

Tell us about yourself

I graduated from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs with a major in Communications and a minor in Marketing. Upon returning to Canada I started working as a receptionist while looking for a job in the events industry. During this time I decided to go to George Brown College and earn my certificate in Event and Meeting Management. Also, I joined MPI shortly after, and have been working up the events ladder ever since!

Tell us about your work

My role consists of planning, organizing and executing multiple bank events across North America. Although I have planned several internal events, my main portfolio is based on client-facing events. It is a challenging yet rewarding job that allows me to make decisions, add value as a professioanl, and be a trusted advisor to my clients. It allows me the opportunity to contribute to the decisions that impact our organization at different levels.

How did you get to where you are today?

I believe I got to where I am today through networking and hard work, and by taking opportunities rather than waiting for opportunities to knock on the door. By completing my event program, joining MPI, joining the leadership committee within the chapter, and constantly networking with others, I believe I was able to accomplish much at a young age and get to a place where I am truly 100 per cent satisfied and passionate about the work I do and the people I do it with.

Why are you good at what you do?

I am good at what I do because I put passion into everything. No matter the tasks, I will always take on the challenge and see things on the positive side. There is soul into everything I do, because I really love my job and every opportunity I see as a change to continue learning and challenging myself. I believe people who are in our industry are very passionate people, because that is really the key to being successful with such a demanding job, and to love everything we do.

What are some of the challenges you face?

Work-life balance is definitely the biggest challenge I face. When one has a role in a stressful career, sometimes overtime hours are necessary, lots of traveling is required and deadlines need to be met. Add to that the hour-and-a-half commute I have each way and there never seems to be enough time to do things outside of the work environment. Staying healthy goes hand in hand with this one — such an important part of me, but often challenging to stay consistent because of the little time and added stress. In a work environment, tight budgets and creeping deadlines are always at the top! The main ways in which I try to maintain a healthy balance is by taking time off when needed. After a long program or a large stretch of travel, sometimes a day to recharge is the best medicine. Another thing I do is try my best to leave the office at 5:00 p.m. and NOT look at my work phone after hours unless it’s urgent.

Is there anything you would change in our industry, given the chance?

If there is anything I could change about our industry now is the amount of waste and environmental damage our industry causes every year. If I had a magic wand I would make every event environmentally friendly and find a way to prove the positive financial, social and environmental impact of eco-conscious events so we can really see the results. This is an area that still needs much work in our industry.

Walk us through a typical day at work.

No day is the same in the life of a corporate event planner! My day is usually filled with emails, phone calls, meetings, and a lot of travel. From working in teams with colleagues and managing client relationships, the job is very dynamic and I get to interact with many people on a daily basis. Often we are filled with deadlines for projects, putting out fires and managing multiple vendor relationships. What’s not to love about our industry?

What have been some of your biggest achievements?

Although my role has been filled with multiple individual and group achievements in many different levels; my biggest professional achievements include: planning my first large corporate event by myself successfully and with very little experience; planning my largest conference to date, which pushed me in so many ways; and winning the 2014 MPI Planner Member of the Year, as well as the 2015 Rising Star award. All these achievements along with many more have consistently allowed me to prove to myself that I am in the right industry and doing what I was meant to do.

What do you like best about the meetings industry, particularly in your region or city?

What I like best about the meetings industry in the GTA, is the close-knit community and family that we have. Toronto is a big city with lots of event opportunities and professionals. Some are competitors, but all are collaborators. From what I have seen and experienced myself, we very much help each other succeed in this industry — from mentorship opportunities, business referrals, vendor collaborations, community sourcing, etc. The meetings industry not only in Toronto, but around the world is known for being very social and collaborative.

Who are some of your notable clients?

My clients tend to be internal bank employees and/or executive hosts from my organization who need to organize a particular program for a specific purpose. That’s when they call our team to assist with all the logistics around a particular program. We deal with a variety of people, from executives, marketing managers, directors, etc.; each client is notable in their own way.

What are some of your most memorable events and why?

The most memorable event for me has to be when I planned my first large-scale corporate event. It was an internal company holiday party for about 250 people. This was the first time I had the opportunity to plan the entire event from A to Z, manage a complete budget, invitations, registration, logistics, execution and attendee management all at once and by myself. It was an opportunity to impress my then-boss, especially given the little experience I still had in the industry. Happily, I was able to pull-off a very successful event that kept attendees raving for days! That was the moment I knew I loved what I did and chose the right industry.

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