When Steph Pfeilsticker graduated from Valparaiso University in 1998, she didn’t know much about event planning. But after a temp job assisting with special events at Aurora Healthcare, she was hooked. Planning fundraising events and golf outings for the American Heart Association followed, then two other association-meetings positions. After five years with associations she looked to the corporate world for her next challenge. “I had been a Thrivent member all my adult life,” she says, so when a planning job opened up, she applied, and in 2005 joined the team.
EVOLUTION Two years later, Pfeilsticker enrolled in a nighttime MBA program at Bethel University. “I saw that I needed to be more strategic. I thought the team should be shaping what we were doing from a business perspective, especially with the amount of resources invested in our events.” She earned her degree in May 2010.
AHA! MOMENT Pfeilsticker was working toward her Certificate in Meeting Management, when, during a workshop, she heard about a hybrid meeting. “It just clicked,” she says. “I realized I could build a business case that we could increase sales by doing our national sales meeting as a hybrid meeting, delivering the meeting to reps wherever they are.” Earning the CMM requires submitting a business plan, so she adapted that plan, submitted it to management, and was off and running toward Thrivent’s first-ever hybrid meeting. The results were spectacular. It was no surprise that the company saw sales increases from face-to-face attendees of the meeting. The shocker was that the sales boost from virtual attendees was more than double the increase of those face-to-face attendees.
KUDOS Pfeilsticker’s hybrid project won several nominations and one award from the International Special Event Society (ISES). And at press time, she had just won two awards from the Minnesota Chapter of MPI—Outstanding Planner Member of the Year and Outstanding Event of the Year.
LOOKING AHEAD Pfeilsticker’s next business plan made a case for the creation of a virtual strategy department at Thrivent. So far, she’s the manager and sole member of the group, but interest in virtual and hybrid meetings picked up so quickly that she recently let go of her responsibility for the company’s incentive programs and field events. - Alison Hall