Our Office Hero series shines a spotlight on the unsung hero of the office. You know who they are. They work their magic behind-the-scenes, making it all come together without a hitch, and selflessly enjoy enriching other people’s lives. They are Administrative Professionals, Marketing Coordinators, Office Managers, HR Coordinators, Small Business Owners and the like. They plan countless events in a year while juggling the demands of a jam-packed to-do list. They have a passion for rocking events the same way we do, and we enjoy hanging with our kind. Our hope is that over time, we will have honoured countless women and men while creating a space for thought provoking conversation, event stories, best practices and maybe even a few laughs.
Allow us to introduce you to this month’s Office Hero, Krystal Ho, Manager of Corporate Relations for iQMetrix.
Does the name sound familiar? Perhaps you saw the story CBC did last year about the company retreat she planned to Nicaragua? Yes, you heard me right. CBC covered her company event (watch the video here). Their interest came from the fact that she had recently transformed their annual company retreat from being a way to help their Winnipeg and Regina offices escape the winter weather into an opportunity for employees to experience giving back to the community which is one of their core values. While in Nicaragua, they built 3 educational facilities, including a classroom and outdoor garden for an elementary school in Los Campos, a classroom and bathroom for a preschool and special needs school in San Marcos, and helped build the first school in the community of San Juan de Orienté. As if that wasn’t enough, they also adopted a small town of about 200 homes called Esperanza and built the infrastructure to bring running water to the homes for the first time ever. Amazing! She made this happen by partnering with two volunteer organizations called La Esperanza Granada and Free the Children.
Krystal is a rare gem. She’s a natural planner and caregiver. She spends a lot of her day supporting a robust Executive team and leading the HR department in Vancouver, called People & Culture at iQmetrix, while also making the time to plan many small meetings, annual retreats, large conferences, strategic planning sessions and countless dinners in a year. She gives endlessly, sleeps very little (only 3-4 hours per night!) and firmly believes the “little things go a long way” like arranging a laundry detergent check out system so volunteer teams can wash their clothes at the end of a long, hard, dirty day.
Read on for more of Krystal’s story and event planning advice…
Eventsage (ES): Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is one modern day convenience you couldn’t live without?
Krystal (KHo): I hate to say it but…my cellphone. I am always connected to work 24/7. I even wake up a few times in the middle of the night to check and will not get out of bed in the morning until I have answered every single email from colleagues in different time zones. I am completely OCD about unread email – I know, it’s bad!
I’m honestly not a big social media junky, but in addition to this, my family also lives away so being able to Facetime and catch up in group texts makes me happy. At iQmetrix, the line between colleague and friendship is rather blurred so we are very connected. Needless to say there are offside memes and hilarious pictures flying around via text, non-stop.
ES: Once in the office, what’s a positive thing you do each morning to get your day started off right?
KHo: iQmetrix provides fresh, organic fruit for our staff so that’s my breakfast. Our common area is a great social hub and I try to catch-up with different staff every morning. We also have an onsite iQmetrix personal trainer in the morning, so getting in a good body blast before starting work gets the endorphins going and sets a great pace for the rest of the day!
The iQmetrix common area and soundproof Zen Room – great for meditation or a quick nap!
ES: What are some things you do to keep yourself grounded and energized?
KHo: Spending time with friends, family and my Frenchie. A couple evenings during the week I care for children; because I love to, not because I need to. I also exercise very regularly and try to practice meditations – I need it!
ES: What’s going on in your company right now that’s cool?
KHo: Well as this article is being released, approximately 400 of us from iQmetrix locations across North America and Australia, are all currently on the beach in Cuba until Feb 8th on our annual company retreat! Cheers!
On the work front, there is a lot of disruption in the market right now as retailers are designing their technology strategies to serve customers better in-store and across multiple channels. This opens up a lot of opportunities that we are poised to take advantage of because of our technology, platform approach, and retail expertise.
ES: Let’s talk about events and get your Sage Advice.
How many events, and what kind, are you asked to plan each year?
KHo: I plan at least 10 across all locations with several more in our local office. Annual company trip (400+), Executive Retreat, Leadership Summit, Team Retreats, External Executive Events and Seasonal celebrations (Christmas and Summer). I collaborate with our marketing team on logistics for major tradeshows and client events. One of iQmetrix core values is Community. We have a peer-based sponsorship committee with a large philanthropy budget. I help with coordination of different charity events across the different offices and am the main contact for our local charity partnership. I’m the type of person who needs variety in their day, so my job is the perfect fit!
Putting the “fun” in fundraising.
ES: If you could hire any famous band for a closing ceremonies gala, who would it be?
KHo: Blink 182 would amaze our employees – we are a youthful group at iQmetrix and it’s safe to say we all rocked out to Blink at one point! Our clients are also awesome and young at heart, so they would love them too – in fact I have looked into getting them to play at one of our past events but too much moola $.
ES: If you could hire any speaker for a training session, who would it be?
KHo: Do they need to be living? If not, Ghandi or Mother Theresa and living, Richard Branson – an inspiration to us all. He can turn nothing into something and has a really cool outlook on life. We have had such a wide variety of speakers at all of our events from professional athletes, philanthropists, professors, and hypnotists. I have found it can be a challenge to find someone that encapsulates an entire audience, but I sure think he could!
An iQmetrix session led by Krystal.
ES: What is your biggest challenge when planning an event?
KHo: Travel logistics!
KHo: We have offices across North America; one of our largest is in Regina, which is a very difficult city to fly out of (especially at -40 degrees in the winter). Too much travel/connections can really ruin an entire experience because it’s the FIRST and LAST impression of the event!
ES: How do you overcome it?
KHo: Before selecting a destination for a large trip, it is one of the first things we assess – how easily can we get people out of Regina et al. I have a dedicated travel specialist to assist me with these things – having a partner with strong relationships with different carriers and providers can be a huge benefit!
ES: What is the coolest highlight of an event you’ve planned or attended?
KHo: Our 2015 Nicaragua trip was by far the one of the most amazing times in my LIFE! It was so empowering to see everyone roll up their sleeves and do such incredible work. My favourite thing about any successful trip is the buzz it creates and the energy that stays with the group when we return home, lasting up until the next destination announcement. I take the announcement very seriously and like to plan something special for the team to promote the trip. To announce our Cuba trip, I staged a stunt with our CEO and my iPhone fake-syncing at our All Staff Meeting in June. Afterwards, we had traditional Cuban empanadas and of course, mojitos prepared and handed out in each of our office locations.
Krystal with a colleague and some of the children from Esperanza, Grenada, Nicaragua.
ES: What’s are the most important tips you can share with our readers for planning meetings or events?
KHo: I have many lessons to share:
- Always go above and beyond.
- Think of EVERY element of potential failure and have a failsafe back up plan.
- Treat your group as you would your children; take care of all the things you can for them as much as possible. While all the preparation and behind the scenes work might be taxing on the planner, it is a lifesaver for your guests and is always appreciated.
- Many places may have not have handled such a large group, so its on the organizer to show them the ropes. Don’t be afraid to ask or suggest anything!
- Find ways to capture your to-dos so you can let them leave your mind until you’re ready to deal with them. I send myself text messages and emails and use post-it notes religiously. These things help me manage any anxiety and stress I might be feeling during the planning process because they allow me to capture the information so it can leave and then re-enter my brain later.
- For meetings, consider buying small items like toys, play dough and candy. It gives people something to occupy their hands and keeps them going throughout the day and during a break.
- Love what you do, do what you love.
- And most importantly, if you have an idea, then make it happen and run with it!
ES: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
KHo: Always, always set expectations low so people are prepared for the worst. Then they’re nicely surprised when things turn out contrary to their expectations. That’s the trick of under-promising and over-delivering. If you’re going somewhere and the food is mediocre, let everyone know in advance that the food is terrible and to not have high expectations. Then when they expect terrible and it’s not actually terrible, it tastes even better!
Want to stay connected with Office Hero Krystal Ho? Be sure to connect with iQmetrix on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. If you’re interested in joining the team (who wouldn’t be after reading this article), visit their careers page.