Penny Sippe reveals what it takes to launch events post-pandemic

Penny Sippe

Penny Sippe, founder of Australian Cocktail Month, and former Experiential Manager for Bacardi, knows a thing or two about running high quality events in the drinks industry.

In her Bloody Big Drinks Summit talk, aptly titled ‘When Life Gives You Limes, Make a Margarita’, Penny explains that making the best of any given situation is crucial to operating events.

And this mantra isn’t just a platitude for Penny, it’s deeply personal. After nine and half with her previous employer, Penny was made redundant in September 2020, as a result of the pandemic.  

“I took the opportunity to take a bit of time, and give my career a reboot,” Penny says.

“I really thought about what I loved about the industry, and what the industry needed, and came up the idea of Australian Cocktail Month.”

This is not to say that things did not move quickly for Penny. Within a few weeks, she had moved beyond the ideation stage, and was into planning and development.

“When I came up with Australian Cocktail Month, I wanted to create that elusive ‘win-win-win’ situation: it was winning for the brands, it was winning the cocktail category as a whole and for venues.”

“Ultimately, there’s a fourth win, which is it was winning for consumers.”

Penny’s story, though uniquely her own, contains crucial lessons for anyone working in the events industry today.

“Always learn from experiences,” Penny says.

“In the experiential industry, a lot of these events or executions – they’re there for one day, or a few hours. You don’t have the benefit of being able to finesse and develop things over time.”

“No matter what the execution, understand the skills you’ve learnt and developed from one project can be rolled into the next. There’s always learnings from everything you do.”

Given the time-sensitive nature of events, Penny says it is important that they need to immediately connect with audiences and consumers. These pressures have only increased since COVID hit, so it is crucial to constantly look for improvements.

“I’m always striving to deliver better executions and better events… to ensure that everything I do is better than the last.”

Crucial to any successful event, Penny says, are suppliers.

“Whether you’re a small business, a one man band, or working for a bigger company, I truly believe that suppliers are the extension of your core team.”

“You need to treat them with the respect they deserve, and you’ll be rewarded with what they deliver.”

Given the short window that events have to make an impression with consumers, it is crucial for that organisers have strategized thoroughly. The messaging has to be clear throughout, and organisers need to have a clear plan which accounts for both best and worst case scenarios.

“The run sheet is your bible,” Penny concludes.

Australian Cocktail Month will return for May this year, expanding to include 12 cities across Australia, and working with between 120 and 140 bars.

Penny’s full Bloody Big Drinks Summit talk, in addition to over 60 expert panels, presentations and conversations, can be accessed here.

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