By Amanda N. Wegner

Alyssa Frank didn’t set out to work in the meetings and events space. Instead, she “slid” into the industry. Frank is the director of marketing and communications for Northwestern Mutual in Minnesota, where she is responsible for the brand management, local marketing activations and experience for six offices across the state, including Minneapolis, Edina, Woodbury, St. Cloud, Duluth and Minnetonka. Frank works in the network office in Minneapolis.

Frank initially joined Northwestern Mutual part-time at the front desk during college. When her manager learned she was in school for graphic design, Frank was tasked with design work and creating marketing materials for the office. After finishing her degree, she was offered a full-time position, which included event planning for the local network.

“I didn’t know that event planning was a career — hospitality was not offered where I went to school, so I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” says Frank. “… But I loved all the detail of connecting with clients, connecting with the experience, the follow-through. That was all I wanted to spend my time on.”

Frank’s first event was a check presentation at the Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. Northwestern Mutual has been and continues to be committed to accelerating the search for a cure for pediatric cancer, and the guest of honor was Jay Scott, the father of Alexandra “Alex” Scott, who founded Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a pediatric cancer charity.

Through the years, Frank’s work has evolved from not only planning and executing client experiences for Northwestern Mutual but also internal experiences to celebrate and recognize members of the organization.“Clients expect it,” Frank says of external events, “but internally, financial advisors and team members are so thankful for the event because it connects them to each other and the organization in a more comfortable setting.”

Frank’s favorite internal event is an annual recognition gala, which she likens to planning a wedding. “From the invitations to the linens to the musical performance, it’s so elegant. And it’s an awesome event because it really gets staff involved and spouses partake as well.”

Frank notes that she has learned the planning part of her role “100% on the job,” which is why she joined the Minnesota Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) about three years ago. “I didn’t have anyone else, any peers doing what I was doing, no one to learn from,” says Frank. “When you have a community you can learn from and engage with, when you build a network of people you know and trust, event planning becomes easier.”

Building relationships with other planners, suppliers and vendors also helps events run smoothly. “Through MPI, you get to know all these people. When you remove trust barriers from event planning, it’s so much more seamless.”

When Frank joined MPI, she “dove in headfirst” and immediately joined the membership committee.

She recommends that other planners joining the organization get immediately involved. “You get back what you put in, so go for it,” advises Frank. “Don’t just go to monthly meetings. Once you immerse yourself in the community and go all in, you will get back so much.”

Pre-pandemic, Frank’s role on the membership committee aligned with her work at Northwestern Mutual, creating experiences to recruit new MPI members and celebrating current members, “because without our members, we would be nothing,” she notes. The following year at the height of the pandemic, she became the director of membership care and retention. “That was a great position because it gave more connection points, and I was able to help make an impact on members at such a difficult time in the industry,” says Frank.

“The pandemic was challenging for the events industry, and needless to say, the support system MPI created is incredible.”

Frank is now the vice president of membership for the chapter. “I work with a great team to cultivate relationships and continue to be a support system. It’s good to be back to work,” she says, referring to the pandemic, “but things are still changing and challenging, like inflation. Having a network of people in your back pocket to share how they handle these same challenges is incredibly important.”

As Frank has grown in her career with Northwestern Mutual, so has the Minnesota network’s event planning work. Once the only staff member working on events and experiences, the marketing team now has a designated events and experiences coordinator. “It’s exciting to see the team grow, and I’m looking forward to our coordinator joining MPI next. That will help her and the organization’s meetings and events blossom even more.”