DC Event Planner Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd

Who she is: Founder of one of DC’ hottest event planning firms, Behind the Scenes Events

What she does: Ranked one of the top meeting and event planners in Washington, DC, for 2009 and 2010 by the Washington Business Journal, Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd’s firm opened its doors in July 2008. Her goal is to offer organizations and individuals access to affordable, full-service meeting and event-planning solutions.

Why she does it: “I have worked in the DC meeting and event industry for more than a decade, starting my career in 1999 at the Greater Washington Board of Trade,” she shares. “Positions with the Walt Disney Companies and as a freelance wedding and special-event coordinator have provided opportunities with A-list celebrity clients and top-ranking government officials. I love my job!”

By Hope Katz Gibbs

“From ‘total you’ empowerment conferences and women-in-business programs, to parent-focused seminars, health and wellness symposiums, and community sporting events, women-focused functions are all the rage,” says DC event planner Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd. “Some standard elements inspire their success.”

All these events seek to foster an environment of equality to create a safe and inviting atmosphere for attendees, she notes. And they strive to empower guests to share of themselves, and enable women to build camaraderie through business and personal networks.

“They often focus on specific women’s issues such as heart health and breast cancer awareness,” Roxanne adds. “As a woman, I think that’s terrific. As an event organizer, I face a new challenge because a ballroom packed with women requires a special touch to ensure that the organizers and guests get the most of their time together.”

Whether the goal is to inspire, celebrate, or foster friendships, here are some of Roxanne’s top tips on how to make your guests feel at home.

1. Heat it up. The room, that is, because women commonly run a bit colder than men when it comes to body temperature. They also aren’t usually clothed in suits with coats, shirts, and ties. So pay attention to how cool it is in the room so that guests stay comfortable and focused.

2. Stretch your imagination. I love the new trend in conferences that gets participants up and moving. My favorite is the yoga break, which is offered in between speaker panels. Not only does it help the participants stretch out the kinks so they can stay relaxed and alert, it allows for extra set-up time on-stage. I call that a win-win scenario.

3. Let them talk. Definitely allow ample time for networking. Women, on the whole, build their businesses through relationships, so give them plenty of opportunities to chat, connect, and make new friends.

4. Keep it light. Offer healthy food alternatives in lieu of traditional conference fare. Go for a buffet of colorful, flavorful tapas versus the rubber chicken dinner.

5. Mompreneurs rule. Because more women with young children are staying in the workforce, make sure you consider their needs. Have facilities for lactating mothers, and arrange for daycare drop-off for events that last several hours.

6. Give it away. Don’t underestimate the importance of conference chachkis. Swag bags filled with women-friendly novelty items are always appreciated. Many of the attendees may even want to sponsor some of the items, especially if they can include their logo or other marketing materials. Do spend some time considering this with event organizers.

7. Girls on the run. If you are considering hosting a sporting event dedicated to a woman’s cause, you aren’t alone. Here are a few ways organizers are catering to the ladies:

  • Host an event expo prior to the race that features women’s sporting apparel (fashionistas who make women’s athletic clothes love to show off their goods at these). Also offer seminars that teach women to avoid common injuries such as
    shin splints and Achilles tendon injuries.
  • Offer mobile hand-washing units and ample toilet paper.
  • Allow strollers at low-distance mileage events so more women with little ones can attend.
  • Remember, diamonds are a girl’s best friend. So have fun with it. The Nike Women’s Marathon, for instance, did away with the traditional finisher’s medal. Instead, winners got a rhinestone-encrusted tiara. Fabulous.

The Women