Q&A with VP of Student Affairs, Victoria Fabiano (NYU Stern '15)
NYU Stern's LSG Spring Fling is a popular annual event hosted by the Langone Student Government (LSG) in New York, NY. This year reached new heights with 620 attendees, the largest turnout in the history of the event. VP of Student Affairs, Victoria Fabiano (NYU Stern '15), kindly shares some behind the scenes observations and insights on organizing this year's hugely successful Spring Fling!
Q: Welcome Victoria! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
My name is Victoria Fabiano and I'm an MBA student at NYU Stern. I started Stern in Spring 2013, was elected a Core Group Leader and then was appointed VP of Student Affairs for the 2014-2015 school year. I'm originally from Connecticut, grew up in Texas and went to The Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU, where I obtained my bachelors in consumer psychology and marketing. For the past 5 years, I've worked in product and brand management at companies like Dannon and Estee Lauder. I now work in business development at Google.
Q: Please tell us more about the 2015 LSG Spring Fling. What was the source of inspiration for development of this event? How has the event evolved from previous years?
LSG Spring Fling is an annual event hosted by the Langone Student Government (LSG). This year, we had 620 attendees, the largest turnout in the history of this event! The Spring Fling was originally concepted as a spring semi-formal, exclusively for the part-time MBA population and each year it has become more and more popular. We recently added a charity component; the past two years we've donated to Stupid Cancer to help raise awareness. In addition to a great DJ, 5 hour open bar and a generous dinner & dessert buffet, we try to add something new and different. This year we had a photo booth (free to all attendees), where students can take pictures or videos!
Q: Tell us more about your overall experience as an MBA club officer and leader at NYU Stern. What do you learn that will apply to your future career?
There are so many experiences that I will cherish post-MBA! I learned to be a generous listener and ensure that all diverse perspectives are heard, especially when brainstorming/strategizing for an event. I learned that mistakes or accidents happen, even with all the planning in the world, and it's imperative to be flexible and quick on your feet. I also learned how rewarding it is to be able to bring a community together via memorable, unique events.
Q: How did you market your event? What worked best to reach your target audience? What would you recommend to other event organizers?
We had a three-pronged approach to marketing: digital, print and in-person (WOM). We created a Facebook event and invited all students who are part of the LSG Facebook community, and we included the event details/registration in our weekly email newsletter. We set up a table in the lobby of Stern, along with a poster, to spread the news to the study body. Lastly, we created flyers and put them around campus to raise awareness and drive students to buy tickets online.
My recommendation is to ensure you don't market your event through one channel. We know that a certain subset of students are not on Facebook or they simply do not check their email, so encouraging students to invite their friends personally was a great way to leverage WOM marketing to increase registrations.
Q: How did you organize the event as a team? What were some of the challenges and how did you overcome them? What have been the main factors that have led to your successes?
As the VP of Student Affairs on the Langone Student Government, I work with an extremely talented team of 5 AVPs. Jane Yum, one of the AVPs was point person for this event. We divided the work: she managed the venue relations (including selecting the food, attending a walk-thru and finalizing the floor plans), as well as securing the printed marketing materials and securing the photo booth. I created the marketing materials and all communications, organized the photographer, DJ and lighting, coordinated night-of volunteers (to help with the door, tickets, etc.) and purchased swag.
The main challenge came from lack of face-to-face time, as Jane and I both work full-time and attend school. We figured out very quickly that our schedules were not aligning so we mapped out the milestones for the event-planning and assigned pieces that we knew we could execute autonomously. Constant communication and a shared Google document allowed Jane and I to work in tandem effectively and efficiently.
Q: How did you handle motivating those who do not "report" to you?
Transparent communication and alignment of objectives were incredibly important. For instance, when working with NYU Stern administration, there were times that their lead times did not align with vendors or venues. When that was the case, Jane and I communicated our request, explaining the situation and many times Stern was able to expedite the process on our behalf. We tried to create partnerships with individuals and organizations, fostering a two-way dialogue instead of only pushing our requests or needs.
Q: What were some of your observations regarding the management of large and diverse teams?
My role as VP of Student Affairs has the largest team on the student government. I tried not to adopt the idea of "delegating" projects or events to my team, but rather empowering them to create, plan and execute on events they were interested in and/or passionate about. One team member, Maya Salwen, organized the entire LSG Ski Trip on her own. The rest of the team and I supported her in any way she needed, but ultimately she took the project on and did an excellent job planning and managing it with only a few checks-in from me.
Creating a culture of ownership and autonomy is really important to me. I also try to understand each person's objectives so I can help in every way possible to achieve them!
Q: Can you talk a bit about building culture and community as an MBA leader and event-organizer?
Building culture and community in a part-time MBA program can be challenging. Many students work extensively and are challenged to find time to balance, work, school, family and social lives. In this role, I had to make sure that the large scale events catered to a majority of the population -- so often times, consulting school calendars, other social events, and really thinking about commute times for students were heavily factored into the planning process. Our time is very valuable as part-time students, so my team and I made sure that our events were high quality, exciting and community-focused!
Q: What advice would you offer to other student leaders and teams organizing big events?
Organization, organization, organization! Create a shared document where you can build out a timeline, but also be flexible when deadlines are not met! Build in a cushion and allow for things to go wrong -- as they always do! Have a recurring meeting with your team and the other organizers to ensure everyone is aligned and accountable. Remember to have fun and plan events that you'd like to attend!