A light switch turned on in the head of Debbie Friedman-Hueller when she job shadowed a corporate events planner her senior year at Hamline University in St. Paul. “This is exactly who I am and what I want to do,” she remembers thinking as she learned about the role. “The collaboration, the creativity, the checking things off to-do lists. I couldn’t believe there was a career out there like this.”
Today, as the manager of meeting and event operations for Land O’Lakes Inc. in Arden Hills, she leads the event coordinator team while also managing event planning, design, and strategy for internal, business-to-business, and business-to-consumer events. The gatherings touch nearly all 50 states, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Europe, and they include national sales meetings, incentive programs, trainings, education conferences, and vendor meetings. She remains happy with her career choice.
“From a very early age, I just understood that you have to love what you do in order to do it, in order to make work meaningful,” she says. “It’s very important to me to show my two daughters how their mom collaborates with different people every day to create something that we all can be proud of. I love being challenged time and time again to design and deliver experiences that bring a brand to life, celebrate attendees for a job well done, or inspire an audience.”
That said, Friedman-Hueller is not a fan of cookie-cutter events. She says, “My mission is to ensure that no two events that we create are ever the same. I’ve earned a reputation for looking at an event and rejiggering it, reimagining the whole thing. I enjoy pushing myself and respectfully challenging my stakeholder partners to think and do things differently, and to take what I call ‘little bets.’ It’s just really looking at each event through a new lens.”
When asked for an example, Friedman-Hueller shares, “One recent program springs to mind: an awards night for a sales incentive trip. We sent out a preshow communication to attendees to come dressed as if in the 1920s. As dinner in the restaurant was winding down, our hired 1920s-era courier ran in carrying a newspaper we created and shouted ‘Extra! Extra! Come outside and read all about it!’ As attendees started funneling out of the restaurant, they walked on a red carpet across the property that led to the ballroom. We hired three dozen old-timey paparazzi using old-fashioned flash cameras.” She adds, “It was a carefully curated, high-octane, yet very personal experience that we hope attendees will look back on in five, 10 years and say, ‘Hey, remember that event?!’”