In 25 Years As a meeting planner, Carol Krugman, CMP, CMM, has seen it all. Although best known as a Latin America specialist, she has held programs in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East, as well as in the United States and Canada. She has lived in France, Mexico, and Brazil. She has served on the board and on several committees for Meeting Professionals International, and received the organization's “Rising Star” and “Tomorrow's Leaders” awards. She is the author of Mexico: A Planning and Information Guide, and co-author of Global Meetings and Exhibitions (John Wiley and Sons), a new textbook on international meeting planning. And the list goes on.

Carol recently embarked on a new path, relocating to Boston to take a position as director of client services for event-marketing powerhouse The George P. Johnson Co. She took some time out of unpacking boxes to speak by phone with Alex Gudmundsson, editorial assistant of our sister magazine Special Events, on how the Auburn Hills, Mich. — based company is expanding the scope of experiential events.

Q: So what brought you into the world event marketing?

A: I spent 10 years in academia. In the early 1980s, I went to work in the international division of Merck Sharp & Dohme — first in public relations and then in product management. From there I moved to the agency side, working at two medical education and communications agencies.

I started my own company in 1990, had a great run with it, and then decided to join George P. Johnson. The pharmaceutical industry has been my focus and passion for more than 20 years now, so it is very exciting to be a member of the GPJ team at this time of growth and renewed commitment to this industry.

Q: You bring a strong background in incentives to your work. How has that business changed?

A: Twenty years ago, with a predominantly middle-aged, white-male attendee profile, incentives were organized around traditional activities such as golf. Not much attention was paid to the needs and desires of women.

Fast forward through the 1980s and 1990s, as the age of incentive qualifiers began to drop with the advent of the IT industry. Finding locations and activities to motivate members of the MTV generation and beyond became much more challenging. “Adventure” destinations and programs surfaced alongside leisurely golf and beach outings. An increasingly well-traveled, more sophisticated participant base has made incentive program development more challenging at a time when budgets are being cut and incentive planners — like their colleagues in meeting and event management — are being asked to do more with less.

Q: What are some strategies that successful event marketers will be using in trade shows?

A: For one, we don't want people to just visit exhibits we develop and leave with a brochure that gets thrown away before they leave the exhibit hall. We always want to engage them, and to find new ways for them to interact with our client or our client's product. We want to learn as much as we can about what they want and need while they are in that space.

The exhibit experiences we create differ from industry to industry, but the central objective is always the same: When they leave that exhibit space, we want customers to be empowered and act in a way that is beneficial to our clients and their products and services. That is, we want the exhibit experience to contribute to the growth of our client's business in a clear, measurable way.

Q: GPJ has the image of specializing in work for automotive industry clients. Is this accurate?

A: Our roots are in the automotive industry, so it is easy to understand this perception. But for a very long time, George P. Johnson has served global brand companies from a number of industries in the areas of event services (logistics and content), technology, sales and production, as well as providing strategic services geared toward consolidating and maximizing our clients' event spend through consistent branding and measurement. We continue to serve the automotive industry, but our clients today include Fortune 1000 companies from diverse industries across the globe.

Q: What is the difference between an “event” and an “experience”?

A: Experiential event marketing goes beyond the traditional definition of what an event should accomplish. The true event “experience” is designed to support and highlight the marketer's brand and business objectives. An experiential event is designed to launch that audience on a specific cognitive or emotional journey that will result in actions that achieve the marketer's goals.