In just a few short weeks, the BizBash IdeaFest NY will be upon us – filled with interesting educational sessions and a truly enjoyable tradeshow. It’s a great opportunity to make connections and I had the exclusive chance to interview one of the speakers from the Event Innovation Forum. Meet Noelle Provencial – event planner and creator of Camp Groupon!
Noelle, can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I left South Florida to attend the Medill School of Journalism, dead set on becoming a TV news reporter. It wasn’t until I spent a few months reporting for the NBC affiliate station in Topeka, KS, that I realized local news was not for me. From there I ended up going into hotel sales, handling mostly large corporate group business. That was the first time I was really exposed to the event industry, but I still never would have thought I’d end up on the planning side of things. While I was working at the Fairmont Chicago, I started an online lifestyle magazine with 2 partners called PoorLittleRichGirls.com, which was a weekly e-mag for women with high style and low budgets. While working on PLRG, we quickly discovered that our primary revenue generator was hosting small events at local bars, restaurants or boutiques…so from there we amped up our event side of things, and that has led me to my current role at Groupon, where Events are my life.
When you first had the idea for Camp Groupon, how did you approach sharing the idea with others?
Camp Groupon was definitely a collaborative idea – so there were many group brainstorm sessions and meetings where we combined ideas to come up with the final concept. Originally, we were challenged by our head of Marketing to come up with a scalable & sustainable event program that Groupon could “own” – and that really embodied the three main parts of our brand – our city discovery, our amazing local merchants, and our unmatched consumer experience. Once we had the concept down, I presented to our Global VP of Marketing, and from there to our CEO.
What do you think made Camp Groupon so successful?
On the operations side, I can confidently say that my team & all of our event staff were the biggest part of making Camp Groupon a success that weekend. Everyone went above and beyond to make sure that the flow was seamless and that our attendees were taken care of at every turn. Overall, the Camp Groupon concept I think really resonated with people, even though it was so novel – there really aren’t travel companies out there that are putting together the type of weekend that we produced – which beyond the travel basics (hotel, food, transportation), included events w/ A-list talent, surprise performances & gifts each day, and 100% of the activities were not available to the general public. Combined with an amazing price, the weekend really was a VIP experience.
What did you learn in implementing the new event?
Where do I begin!? This was one of the biggest learning opportunities of my career – and maybe of my life. To start, since the program required support from so many departments within Groupon, I learned more about things like customer service, engineering, web design, market research, sponsorship management, design and editorial processes than I ever expected. And even though at the end of the day we had great cooperation from an array of different teams, it was very challenging to align so many teams – each with their own business goals and projects – to work against a single goal.
For those interested in pitching a new idea to their CEO, what is your best piece of advice for them?
I can’t really speak to how it is at other companies, but I know that what helped me was focusing on our commitment to celebrating the core parts of our company’s mission…highlighting internal support from other stakeholders…and also having all of our bases covered in terms of contingency planning so that our financial risk was as minimal as possibile. I think that it also helped that my team and I were so excited and passionate about the program, it was contagious.
Since joining the fast-growing daily-deal site Groupon in 2010, Noelle Provencial has produced more than 100 events that including a 1,500-guest hangover brunch at South by Southwest in Austin, an 8,500-guest screening of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on Wrigley field, and hometown holiday parties for more than 3,000 employees. Earlier this year, she conceived and produced Camp Groupon, a ticketed weekend-long “urban adventure” for 500 people. Before Groupon, Provencial co-founded PoorLittleRichGirls.com, a deal site for Chicago women. The Northwestern University graduate previously worked at the Fairmont Chicago.