Andrea Gengler is CEO of Rock Events, a team of professionals that provides event services to Rocket Companies and recently launched as a stand-alone company serving external clients with its venues, available to the public for rentals. For about a dozen years, the group has supported the diverse business needs of the Rocket Cos. organization, with its flagship Rocket Mortgage based in Detroit.
Gengler and her team of about 35 are responsible for the creative design and execution of hundreds of internal events and productions each year ranging in size from 35 to 19,000, along with business travel, ticketing, hospitality, and sponsorship agreements for larger events like the Rocket Mortgage Classic. They also manage venues that include OCM16 atop the One Campus Martius Building; The Madison, featuring a multilevel outdoor space; The Icon, set on 18-plus acres along the Detroit River; historic State Savings Bank; The Beacon at One Woodward; and a lower-level event space in the Chrysler House Building. They eventually expect to offer planning services to external clients, too. Here, she shares her insights into making events come together while keeping things fresh.
M+E: What do you look for when selecting a venue?
AG: I can tell you what we’re usually not looking for. What we’re usually not looking for are ballroom-type venues. There are times when you might need one of those, but we’re traditionally looking for interesting venues. We tend to really stay city core, so in the Detroit market, we tend to do events in Detroit [and similarly in] Cleveland, and the same in Phoenix. We really want to support the city and support the businesses in that city.
[Other than that] it really depends on what size of an event we’re having and what the goal is. We definitely try to [get the size of the venue right]. I don’t want to be in a venue that holds 300 people for a party of 50 because it lacks energy. And we like character. We love discovering new venues.
M+E: What else is important to you?
AG: We spend a lot of time focusing on the guest experience. I hate when people arrive and can’t figure out where they’re going, or [when you] have a food station where people stand in line then discover they don’t like [that particular] food. We tend to do a lot of signage. It’s always a balance between the ideation and the execution. You can ideate all you want, but if you don’t execute … people aren’t going to remember the topiary rabbit if they couldn’t find the door to walk in or where to pay for their silent auction.
M+E: Any horror stories?
AG: I did an incentive once where the entire group’s flight to Ireland was canceled and we were trapped in Atlanta with no hotel rooms. That was a fun one. We’ve had a food station catch on fire as we were opening the doors—nobody was injured; we got it put out. But it was a very exciting moment, I’ll tell you that.
You just get used to it. I think the longer you’ve been in the industry, it’s hard to remember the worst nightmare because you’re used to things going sideways all the time—just another exciting day. You have to have a sense of humor, right?