Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2017

Q&A With Kaiser Permanente’s
Alexandra Carvalho-Lukachova

MeetingMentor recently caught up with Alexandra Carvalho-Lukachova, CMP, senior meeting planner for Kaiser Permanente. Based in Oakland, Calif., Kaiser is an integrated care consortium that combines a nonprofit health insurance plan with its own hospitals and clinics. Lukachova is part of the event marketing team in the marketing department arm of the health insurance division. She is also president of the Northern California Chapter of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). Her term ends January 2018.

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What are your main challenges with regard to your meetings?
Budgets are always a challenge for not-for-profit organizations. Being member-funded, we are very cautious about expenditures; there are no lavish retreats, and 99.9 percent of our meetings have a business focus. Given our budget constraints and that we only meet in areas where Kaiser provides services, getting the space we need can be a challenge.

How do you address those challenges?
With budgeting, there is only so much you can do. Beyond that, it’s about establishing strong relationships and connections in the industry and teaming up with the right partners to create quality programs that meet our budgetary needs and our space requirements. We might not always have the sleeping-room-to-meeting-room ratio that a hotel would like, but we want to work with partners that understand the value and volume we bring as a brand.

What else are you doing to address challenges?
Getting the space and rates we need in tier-one cities, especially those with no new builds coming online, is difficult. So we’ve started looking at moving some of our larger meetings out of tier-one cities to places like Palm Springs, where there are rates we can justify, and also we can get the meeting space we need. And we’re booking further out. Typically in the past, we had to book a year out from the meeting, the reason being that our leadership is not privy to what the [health care] market is going to do more than a year ahead of time. But because it’s getting increasingly difficult, with such a short lead time, to get the space we need that meets our budget, we’re now moving to 24 months out for booking meetings.

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Meeting planning consistently ranks among the top 10 most stressful jobs in various career surveys. How do you cope with the stress?
There’s a meme going around in social media that says something like: “Meeting planning is like riding a bicycle, only the bicycle is on fire, the room is on fire and so is everyone in the room.” And that’s for each event! I’m very lucky to work for an organization that is very supportive of work/life balance. I also have the pleasure of working with the most amazing [event management] team. That makes it possible to put a hard stop to work when I can, so when I am able to be out at a soccer tournament with my kids, I can just be doing that. And of course it’s critical to work with the right partners who understand what’s important to your meetings and to your brand and who will advocate for you to help deliver quality programs. — Regina McGee

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