How to Build a Center of Excellence Within Your Organization

At Convening Leaders 2024, four event leaders shared their insights on building a strong center of excellence with their teams.

Author: Casey Gale       

A center of excellence is a “standard operating process and a team structure for your total events program,” Rachel Andrews, senior director of meetings and events, marketing, for Cvent explained at the opening of the session “Strategy + Structure = Success: Building an Event Center of Excellence Within Your Company.” The session, which Andrews moderated, brought together four panelists who oversee events at a variety of organizations to discuss how they’ve built centers of excellence within their own teams. Here are takeaways from each panelist that event organizers can apply to their own organizations.

Deborah Caldwell headshot

Deborah Caldwell

Deborah Caldwell

Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific Head of Events, Bank of America

“In our team, establishing subject matter experts has been a great way to focus on career development. Many of you have got smaller teams. My team’s not huge in Asia Pacific and particularly when you boil it down into the countries, not everyone can get promoted every year. Not everyone can be the boss. And so actually, subject matter experts have been quite a fun way [to] give people stretch assignments or ways that they can really focus and become an expert on an area that we’re trying to improve within our center of excellence. …Some people have a passion around security, so what are the things that we need to focus on from a security perspective [at our events]? That’s been quite a good thing.”

Rose P. Strickland headshot

Rose P. Strickland

Rose P. Strickland

Vice President, Events, Neuberger Berman

Neuberger Berman is a very small team, so we don’t have the luxury of having someone just focus on the event technology within your event or someone creating your invitation and registration website pages. We have to have a one-stop shop on our team because there’s four of us. And by having everyone and empowering all of our team members to become well-rounded event experts, we are able to do the bulk of the events that we do every year and are able to — sometimes there are pop-ups within the marketplace — and we have to turn around an event within 48 hours. The only way we can do this is because everyone can take a role and fill in for one another at any given time. Now, I would say that training is super, uber important and you want to train everyone on your team, whether you’re implementing a new platform within your event centers of excellence or if there is a new best [practice], and you just want everyone on the team to have that training.”

Ajith Krishnankutty

Ajith Krishnankutty

Vice President, Marketing, Capital Group

“We really set out on a journey to understand the strategic intent of why we want to do events within an organization. What we [decided] was called ‘design for memorability.’ We then thought about it and said, what are the pillars we need to touch in order to get to the memorability aspect? And we said that we want to create exclusive access for our clients, we want to tailor every single dialogue to resonate to the client. And the third piece is, how do you make it much more enjoyable and at the same time enriching? …That’s the framework we landed on. Step two was, how do we land on a roadmap? A roadmap is nothing other than your strategic pillars and your focus areas. We decided on the focus area of experience design.”

Lori Allen headshot

Lori Allen

Lori Allen

Vice President, Global Event Operations, MetLife

“[Governance] is really your building block and your foundation for a center of excellence. How do people at your firm engage with you? How do they know about you? Are there benefits from working with you and are there consequences if they don’t? How you answer all those questions I just rattled off [should be included in] a meetings policy.”

Casey Gale is managing editor of Convene.

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