21CF Chats: FOX’s VP of Special Events Karin Pofsky on importance of first impressions at upfronts, bringing the brand to life

21CF Chats: FOX’s VP of Special Events Karin Pofsky on importance of first impressions at upfronts, bringing the brand to life

Events

The guest experience at the annual FOX Broadcasting Company Programming Presentation and Post-Party in New York City today is of utmost importance. For Karin Pofsky, VP of Special Events for FOX Broadcasting Company, this starts even before the invitations for the upfront are even sent out.

We recently spoke with Karin to learn about the ins and outs of the registration and invitation process, the importance of first impressions at the venue (Beacon Theatre), and the most rewarding part of her role.

What are your responsibilities for FOX's upfront event?
Anything the guest experiences prior to the show starting falls under my purview. The first experience a guest has makes a lasting impression, and that first experience is always my responsibility.

What goes into that first experience?
The “guest experience” begins with invitation to the party through to the experience at the Beacon Theatre and ends with transportation to the party. I oversee the guest registration system for the New York show as well as the three satellite cities: Chicago, Detroit and LA.

What is that registration process like?
All guests are sent an invitation specific to the location that they are being invited to – about 2,500 people in New York and between 100 and 350 in each satellite city. Invitations are designed by [VP of Design and Creative Services for FOX Broadcasting Company] Karen Nefsky’s team and uploaded into our database/invite/registration system. Everyone invited received an electronic invitation, and their RSVP is recorded in our database. Guests are assigned tickets for the New York show and their tickets are sent to them prior to the show on Monday. I then manage anything that is guest- or front-of-house-related for the show in New York and the satellite cities.

What about the crew?
We have a crew of nearly 200 people who make the show happen, and while I don’t direct them in the technical nature of their jobs, I do make sure they are all fed, housed and credentialed. I have a team of amazing people who handle satellite cities and various other aspects of my role so that I can oversee everything. 

And how has your role changed over the years?
I started in 1998 and at that time, we didn’t have a database system for registration. Clients were invited by sales, and our ability to track them and collect data was limited. Now with the database, we can continue to communicate with them and track who attends, etc. The size of the event has grown tremendously as well.

What differences should we expect to see this year? And what drove those decisions?
The differences are often show-related. Each year, we focus on our new shows and are challenged to bring them to life in the short time frame. When guests walk through the lobby of the Beacon Theatre, we need to communicate the fun, irreverent nature of our brand, while maintaining a steady corporate image that covers all who are presenting at the show. Each year, we try to do something to catch attention in front of the venue and highlight a show. In years past, we have had cheerleaders, cows and food trucks on the street in front of the Beacon Theatre. There’s no telling what you might find when you arrive at the FOX Upfronts.

What poses the biggest challenges for your role planning the upfront this year?
The challenge remains the same from year-to-year at the upfronts: It’s the last-minute nature of the decision-making process. It’s also what makes our jobs fun. Our team is always prepared to take an idea that comes up in a brainstorming session and bring it to life, whether that means getting livestock permits to have cows on Broadway in New York or handing out slushies to promote “Glee.”

How does the upfront compare to other big events, like the Super Bowl?
Upfronts are very different from anything else we do. It’s one of the few events that involves everyone in Creative Services. It’s a team effort and feels like a team success when it’s over. The Super Bowl is a much different event. During a year that FOX has the Super Bowl, we travel with 700-900 guests and are responsible for everything they need, from their air travel; to the program; to their meals, parties, activities and ground transportation. We are working 24/7 from the time guests arrive on Friday until the go home on Monday. For the upfronts, the work is behind the scenes and the guests experience is one day for a few hours. That being said, it’s the most important event we do for the network all year, so it weighs heavily on us and everyone gives 150 percent to make the show a success. 

What's the most rewarding part of the planning process for these big events?
I find the teamwork – the feeling of accomplishment as a group – the most rewarding. Also, standing back when an event is in full swing and watching the show run perfectly or the guests have a great time at a party is the ultimate sense of accomplishment. In live events, you really have only one chance to get it right. It’s a great feeling when you do!