Planner Profile: Samantha Vogel, CMP

Samantha Vogel gets ready for one of GameStop’s expo events.

Q&A with Samantha Vogel, CMP
Manager, Meetings and Travel, GameStop

While teaching 11th grade English, Samantha Vogel came to the realization that the type of work she most loved was to design and create unique experiences. Ultimately, this realization led to a career in the meetings and events industry. “I knew I wanted a job in an industry that offered me the opportunity to design those experiences, so I went to work for the RK Group at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center in San Antonio,” she said. “From there, I went on to fundraising and designing large-scale non-profit events and eventually ended up on the corporate side with GameStop. But, what all of these positions brought me was an opportunity to do what I love to do, work collaboratively with others to create these experiences, and build relationships in my community.”

Named one of ConventionSouth’s Meeting Professionals to Watch in 2017, Vogel has created and managed a number of large events. Recently, she shared some of the details of her experiences.

Q: What are your current roles and responsibilities as a planner?

GameStop is a global retailer of multichannel video game, pop culture collectibles, consumer electronics and wireless services, operating more than 7,500 stores in 14 countries across Europe, Canada, Australia and the United States.

As a planner with GameStop, I’m responsible for working with both internal and external stakeholders to create unique, hands-on experiences for both our GameStop employees, as well as our passionate consumers. These larger-than-life events give people a chance to see, hear and touch the products that fill our GameStop stores and get them excited about bringing these products home to enhance the FUN in their lives.

Ultimately, what this means is I oversee a $8.3 million sponsorship goal for our annual GameStop Conference & Expo, including design of sponsorship packages, management of vendor relations for over 120 vendor companies, vendor registration for over 2,000 vendor attendees, and production of all sponsorship elements. I also oversee the layout and implementation, as well as on-site management of our annual 250,000-square-foot GameStop Expo show floor.

Additionally, I manage our EB Games Annual Conference in Canada with a million dollar+ budget, as well as our annual Field Management Meeting. These events keep me busy with tasks such as: site selection; budgeting; strategic content and design, registration, staging and personnel management; on-site management; marketing, communications, sponsorships, expo development, surveys and post-event reports.

Q: What types of training and education have been important to your work as a planner?

I’m a CMP and a member of PCMA. Each year, all the planners on our team attend Convening Leaders. I love the chance to see what’s new in the industry and network with other planners across the country. This opportunity to educate ourselves helps us push the boundaries for our event each year, bring exciting new elements and hopefully find new and innovative ways to engage attendees, reduce costs, and provide better vendor ROI.  We’re also able to pick up certain currents in the industry that can help us stay ahead of the game and plan in advance for what’s coming.

Also, I always jump at the chance to sit on Customer Advisory Boards. These volunteer opportunities connect you with other planners looking to improve the way planners and cities interact with one another. I love hearing the cutting-edge ideas CVBs have to ignite and engage citywide groups, as well as the ideas planners have for cities to better grasp what’s important to planners and
attendees. It’s also a great way to get involved in communities that directly impact your attendee experience.

Q: What types of changes have you seen in this industry and how have they affected you?

Vendor return on investment has really transformed since the recession and I’ve seen this change transpire in both the non-profit and corporate sectors. Vendors are realizing in this age of technology and
individual empowerment, that they can connect with consumers and employees directly. That means when they decide to connect to consumers or employees through a third-party event, they expect more one-on-one connections, and to be able to better track engagement and outcome.

This really puts pressure on planners to design innovative ways to ensure that vendors are getting that one-on-one time with attendees. The days of vendors being happy seeing 10,000 people in a booth are waning. These days, vendors prefer to have a more authentic one-on-one experience with 1,000 people.

Q: What are the best things about your job?

What I love most about my job is collaborating with others to design a vision and then bringing that vision to life! There is nothing more exciting than seeing the months of work you’ve done come together to create a unique, engaging and exciting experience for your vendors and attendees.

My favorite part of planning is thinking outside the box to come up with innovative ways to connect vendors and attendees. Luckily, in the gaming industry, our vendors and attendees are always up for trying new, and sometimes interesting, experiences.

Q: What are the biggest day-to-day challenges you face?

Time management and delegation. As planners, there’s never enough time in the day to manage all the details you need to attend to. It’s so important to surround yourself with a team you trust and learn to delegate.

Q: What are some of the most interesting (good or bad) experiences you have had as a planner?

I always say as a planner, there’s no telling what will come your way. In my experience, I’ve dealt with everything from porta-potty security to videos analyzing vampire body parts. As planners, we all have hundreds of interesting experiences, both good and bad. But finding those moments of true joy in what you do are always the best experiences; like seeing firsthand the funds I’ve raised at an event at work in a hospital NICU saving babies…absolutely indescribable! Or seeing thousands of passionate gamers go CRAZY because they are the first in the world to see a never-been-seen video-game…that’s fun!

Q: What advice would you offer to other planners?

Stay calm and find a way to decompress. As planners, we know that no matter how long you plan, or how detailed you are, nothing ever goes perfectly. The trick is to stay calm and think on your feet. There’s always a creative solution at hand, and if you can find it while remaining calm, you’ll look like a pro. 

Being a planner also means we have one of the top 10 most stressful jobs in America, right behind being a police officer, a pilot, or in the military. Hey, managing millions of tiny details is exhausting!  So, we have to find a way to decompress. It’s really important to make time for yourself in today’s 24/7 tech world.