The Archway had the opportunity to speak with Cyndi Radke, Executive Vice President of Sales and Event Planning for TCMA (A Drew Company), the exclusive manager of Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (RRBITC) in Washington D.C. Additionally, Cyndi is a Bryant alumna – Class of 1981 – however, at that time she was known by her maiden name of Pinckney.
Through her role, Cyndi is a key player in planning over 2,000 events on an annual basis. Let’s find out more about how all of these events come to life, and why these events matter to both the hosts, attendees, and the surrounding community.
Chris: What happened along your career path to lead you to this role? What responsibilities does your role entail? What impact did Bryant have on your career and in your current role?
Cyndi: Although many would say my career path has been varied, I would disagree with that. There has been a constant in my career and that is roles in Sales and Marketing. The products and services that I have represented have been quite different, ranging from telecommunications services to internet recruiting to performance management to telemedicine to meetings and events. Along my career path, I have had increasing responsibilities in the roles I have taken. My passion is to grow businesses (both in profitability, revenue growth and market share) all while building, motivating and leading great teams.
My team at TCMA sells, plans and implements over 2000 events annually, including international conferences, corporate meetings and seminars, fundraisers, galas, weddings and more. Our events clientele range from industry leaders in aerospace, biomedicine, youth advocacy and technology to the diplomatic community, federal government and non-profits. What I love about my job is that I get to work at one of America’s leading Centers of Influence, our team has the opportunity to interact with thought leaders from around the globe and from down the street all while delivering events that are impactful. No day is ever the same. The diversity of the work allows for creativity and innovation while sharing a common vision and mission. Whether I’m interacting with clients, working on budgets, coaching the team or promoting our company being at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, on America’s Main Street in the heart of Washington DC is exhilarating.
I chose Bryant because of its reputation and its stunning campus. But I left Bryant with so much more. Bryant gave me a solid business foundation from which I have used to leverage and grow both personally and professionally. Bryant’s professors were inspirational. Although I have not spoken with Professor Notarantonio since I left Bryant, she left a lasting impression on me with her great lectures on applying marketing principles and marketing strategies. While at Bryant she was a great mentor and that is something that I took from her on how to be a good mentor to others.
Chris: Describe the preparation and planning that it takes to host world-class events? What are some “must-do’s” and “definitely-don’ts”?
Cyndi: As with any business, you first must know your client. What is their mission? Who are they? Who are their clients? And, then understanding the goals and objectives of each program is paramount to hosting world-class events. TCMA is in an enviable position to have an 87% client retention rate. What brings our clients back year after year is that we treat each program as if it is the first time the client is entering the building and hosting their event. We do not rest on our laurels or take shortcuts because of the familiarity, instead we build on the relationships and client knowledge that we continually develop year over year. Whether an event is new to the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center or a repeat group, we treat our clients and their guests the way that they want to be treated.
To host world-class events, we have to anticipate the needs of our clients instead of waiting to be asked for something. We set the bar high for our employees to deliver world-class service, food that will surprise and delight and a variety of spaces to serve as a perfect backdrop for almost every type of event. Consistently delivering on our brand standard gives our clients confidence that their event will be successful at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
Chris: What are unique ways to provide a memorable and meaningful experience for attendees? Does the prime location in the nation’s capital supplement the attendee experience?
Cyndi: In a crowded hospitality field, providing personal, memorable experiences to your clients and their guests is important. There are so many opportunities to do this from the moment a client walks in the door to well after they have left the venue. This is a true differentiator for TCMA whether it be as our receptionist is happily greeting guests by name when they enter our office, to providing a cup of coffee just the way a client likes it, to remembering that a particular client likes the room temperature a bit cooler than the norm, to serving foods that will surprise and delight each guest. Every touchpoint gives us the opportunity to create a memorable personal experience.
Our building is iconic due to its rich history and interesting architecture, it is also unique in that it is the Nation’s “Official” trade center it has a congressional mission to promote trade and cross cultural exchange. Our location provides an experience that is quintessential Washington, DC as we are located in the heart of our Nation’s capital, on America’s Main Street. When you walk into or out of the building, you can feel the heartbeat of Washington DC. We are a 1 ½ blocks from the White House and a quick walk to the Capitol. Our guests can quickly get to the Smithsonian Museums and National Mall in just minutes. Every morning when I drive to work, I first pass the Kennedy Center, then the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam War Memorial, followed by the White House and Washington Monument and then the African American Museum. I am fortunate that this is my backyard and that people come from around the globe to visit our Nation’s Capital – and, that I get to experience it every day.
Meeting “attendees are more likely to remember a meeting if they are fascinated by where it was held.” (Wildman, Smart Meetings) The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center offers unique spaces, many with breathtaking architecture and natural light, which clients and their guests enjoy as these help create memorable experiences.
Chris: Considering many events are heavily focused on cross-cultural exchange, are the food & beverages catered often from other cultures? In terms of communication, are translators ever involved?
Cyndi: Culinary diplomacy has become more popular over the past decade. Food promotes cross-cultural understanding and can indelibly bring people together. The award-winning, in-house culinary team at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center artfully blends seasonal ingredients, regional flavors and uses international inspiration to create and present innovative dishes that impress our guests. There seems to be a 50/50 split for food selection for international events – while some programs cater to a native cuisine, others want an “American immersion” experience. No matter what our clients select for their menu, food, albeit subtly, does make an impact on diplomacy and international exchange.
For the past 10 years, TCMA has been a sponsor the Embassy Chef Challenge. This event brings more than 30 highly regarded chefs from around the world together to provide authentic dishes from their home country for the over 1000 attendees to taste. With over 190 embassies located in Washington, DC, the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center is a perfect location for culinary diplomacy to thrive.
Effective communication is imperative not only in our role as the World Trade Center Washington DC, but to our long-term success as an organization. We have the ability to bring in translators if they are required, although if needed, many guests travel with their own translators. If there is a language issue, we have an international workforce that represents over 33 countries and speaks over 30 languages from which we can draw.
Chris: The rising trend of face-to-face experiential marketing has benefited consumers and companies throughout various industries. How valuable are events within the realm of commerce and government? What are your thoughts on the overall impact events have on the global economy?
Cyndi: Events bring people together – whether from across the city, across the aisle or across the globe. Events, whether they are B2B, B2G or B2C are an important component in an organization’s marketing mix as they provide an opportunity to foster thought leadership, recognize key contributions/contributors and share ideas.
Experiential marketing has become a creative and engaging way for companies to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive global economy and build memorable connections with consumers. The goal of events is to foster the experiential one-to-one connection by quickly and effectively building brand awareness, allowing buyers to engage with a product/service/company which drives lead generation, brand advocacy and, ultimately, sales.
Thank you Cyndi, it’s inspiring to hear from a Bryant alumna who found their passion. Event professionals, as well as students pursuing a career in experiential marketing, all can learn a valuable lesson from you.