Shae Stangl, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center’s client experience coordinator, is nearing her two-year work anniversary. As part of the event services department, Shae coordinates external events held at the Center including weddings, fundraisers, holiday parties and more, transforming dream events into a reality. Working in the event planning industry takes a special kind of passion, and Shae shares how hers began and why operating as the Center’s client experience coordinator is the perfect fit for her.
“I was a theater kid growing up,” she shared. “I knew I didn’t want to teach, but I was interested in performance and arts management. Back in 2011, when I was going to school, they didn’t have as many majors for arts management available like they do now.” Starting her undergraduate journey, Shae double majored in vocal performance and music admin.
Not wanting to accrue mountains of student debt, she started working at a bakery part-time to pay her way through college. “That bakery was where I discovered my love of bridal clients; it was there that I realized I wanted to pivot into the special events industry.”
Shae was motivated by her newfound inspiration from the bakery. She changed her major and received a bachelor’s degree in business, meeting and event management. After graduating, Shae pursued a career in event coordinating and opened a bakery in 2016 with her friend, Kristina where she works part time as a bridal specialist. While Shae is no longer a partner for the bakery, she enjoys working with the clientele during the height of wedding season which runs from June until late fall.
Shae’s first venue coordinating position was as an event coordinator for a banquet and conference center where she coordinated special events including corporate events and weddings from 10 up to 800 guests. As Shae put it, those events were like the “bread and butter” for the facility during the summer months.
After leaving that position, Shae turned her focus toward local government and transitioned into the role of executive director for the Chamber of Commerce. In this position, Shae coordinated events with 20,000 guests in attendance, as well as focused on development impact which included memberships, sponsorships and solicitations. She also worked with the department of tourism focusing on tourism, hospitality and tax dollars for the city. Eventually, Shae missed the pace and the creativeness of the special events industry and decided it was time to make a change. Shae started looking for event planning positions and got excited about the client experience coordinator position available at the Center. “I realized that this is my perfect job, and I have to apply.”
As the Client Experience Coordinator, Shae manages external events and public non-ticketed events at the Center; her day-to-day looks different based on what the calendar has filled. On a non-event day, she focuses on administrative work including emails, invoices, meetings and advanced planning to map out upcoming events. “As far as advancement goes, it requires a lot of looking at the calendar, going through my timeline for checkpoints for each event, and making sure I am where I need to be with each one,” Shae remarked. “Since I’ve been at the Center, no two days have been the same. Every event is different and, even if they’re annual, as well as the communications that take place; it’s very invigorating.”
Planning is not only a good idea in this industry, but also crucial. For herself, Shae likes to be thinking two months ahead, often juggling numerous events at the same time. When the season is in full swing, that could be approximately 34 events happening across two months. “I think some people might find the number of events I’m working on at one time surprising or the amount of detail that goes into each of them,” Shae shared. “Things as microscopic as using glassware instead of plastic cups, or the stairs need to be roped off at 8:05, not 8:00, really to the minute design are the things that we pay attention to.”
For every event, there is a stage manager and front of house coordinator collaborating. “The type of event defines who take the lead in coordinating,” Shae said. “I take the lead on front of house events that relate to programs and patron experience. If it’s an external non-ticketed event, I take the lead on that, and the stage managers answer questions about lighting or sound needs.”
Each season, Shae coordinates a wedding or two, and several Galas, receptions, conferences and various other corporate and networking events, including the Fusion Women’s Conference, a full-house event bringing women in business together in Thrivent Hall. She also coordinates ancillary events that are with a show such as a dinner or reception in the Fox Cities P.A.C.’s Founders Room prior or during a show. Any public or community-focused events also fall to her. “It’s kind of all over the board,” Shae said laughingly. “We do so many things.”
An event day for Shae means that she’s not at her desk most of the day. Starting her day, Shae comes into the office and checks emails to make sure there’s nothing pressing to address. Then it’s off to check in with the Center’s facilities team, house managers and event managers to answer any questions they may have. Shae does a walk through to ensure the layout matches the client’s vision and greets them when they arrive. “At the end of the day, my job is to advocate for the client and make sure that their event is what they want it to be,” Shae remarked.
For Shae, communication is a vital key to the success of coordinating events. Shae commented, “As a naturally more collaborative person, communicating with others helps alleviate some of the stressors that arise in event planning. I enjoy having “a meeting of the minds” to problem solve and generate ideas.” Shae is also appreciative of how responsive her team is to hearing thoughts, ideas and opinions. “The team of people I work with are great, and I have so much respect for my boss (Senior Manager of Guest Experience, Pilar Martinez) and my boss’ boss (Chief Event Operations Officer, Ryan Brzozowski) and their style of leadership. They allow me to comfortably have open dialogues with them to express myself.”
A challenge for some in managing projects but a strength for Shae is flexibility in shifting gears and changing course at a moment’s notice. “I have the ability to pivot subject matter or task very quickly, so it’s a great strength in this industry and this position,” she stated. “My brain doesn’t really shut things off and that’s helpful during an event when there’s a need for awareness of what’s happening. You can’t have tunnel vision and focus on one thing; you have to keep a pulse on everything else. It’s a good chaos for me and I thrive in that environment.”
Shae is proud of the Fox Cities P.A.C.’s successes in developing an improved sense of efficiency on processes and the addition of more accessibility services for the event services team during events. “Not to sound like a broken record, but being transparent and collaborative with other departments helps.” Shae added, “Overall, I feel I’m pretty good at building and establishing relationships with clients. There’s this excitement when we get to talk and work through ideas.”
If you’re interested in transforming your special event from a dream to a reality, let the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center make hosting your event even easier! Whether it’s a corporate or networking event, a big life moment to celebrate, the Fox Cities P.A.C. is the ideal space for an unforgettable special occasion.
Written by Philomena Dorobek, Brand Storyteller
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center