Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 2013

Their Meetings Match Their Cultures

By Hunter R. Slaton

Robert W. Baird & Co. is an employee-owned wealth-management, capital-markets, asset-management, and private-equity firm based in Milwaukee. Ann Woelfel, CMP, is the company’s vice president and manager of corporate events. When asked whether Baird has an internal “philosophy of meetings,” Woelfel said it doesn’t, because it doesn’t need one — all it needs is its own culture. ‘We always follow the main company culture guidelines, and they flow into all the work that we do.’ “We always follow the main company culture guidelines,” Woelfel said, “and they flow into all the work that we do.”

Staying on Message Robert W. Baird & Co.’s culture emphasizes transparency, shared destiny, and celebration — values that are made part of its annual meeting. In addition, each year’s annual report theme — this year, it’s ‘Staying True’ — is communicated throughout the conference.

First and foremost, Baird is looking for seamless and flawless execution of its meetings, which begins with understanding the core objectives of the program — and that in turn means working with internal stakeholders to determine ahead of time what those might be. From that point forward, it’s all about getting the details right, to create the ideal Baird experience. “That means thinking about creating the essence of our culture in every step of the process,” Woelfel said, “from the first pieces of correspondence until [the attendees] are back on the plane on the way home."

Baird’s annual meeting takes place in Milwaukee, alternating years as its own freestanding, 700-attendee event that’s webcast live to all of Baird’s U.S. branch locations and as a co-location with a private wealth-management symposium. To get company culture just right — with its emphasis on transparency, shared destiny, and celebration — Woelfel and her meetings team work closely with a variety of internal departments, the marketing group chief among them, “to create concepts that embody the Baird story.” Each year the company’s annual report has a theme that also is carried over to the annual meeting. This year’s theme is “Staying True” — and, Woelfel noted, “We want them to feel that theme throughout the conference.”

Because Baird has been identified as a Best Company to Work For, it may come as no surprise that making its employees feel valued is key. “We always call ourselves the Baird family,” Woelfel said, “and treating everyone in that way — especially at our annual meeting and at recurring events, which are celebrations of our culture and our successes — is very important.”

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