Outlook 2023: Lauren Cognato is diving into event planning at Capital Region Chamber

A woman on an outdoor course smiling, holding up peace sign
Capital Region Chamber of Commerce Events Manager Lauren Cognato likes to stay active in her free time with outings such as this visit to the ropes course at Adirondack Extreme in Bolton Landing.
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CAPITAL REGION – Lauren Cognato didn’t study event planning at Skidmore College. Instead, she spent her college years studying for and eventually obtaining a degree in early childhood education.

With that degree in hand, the Brooklyn native became a middle-school teacher in Windsor, Vt.

But after a couple years she realized the job wasn’t for her.

“I decided for various reasons I’d rather pursue a different career,” she said.

So she packed up and headed for Saratoga Springs.

“I really enjoyed my time at Skidmore and love the Saratoga Springs area. It’s a wonderful community and it’s always felt like home to me,” Cognato said.

She began working in the Spa City’s hospitality industry, including bartending for a time, before heading over to 101.3, where she did their events, and then Trans-Border Global Freight Systems, where she dealt in logistics.

But her heart was always in event planning.

“I really enjoy planning events,” she said. “There’s something about an event and bringing a smile to people’s faces — providing a unique, memorable experience — that really speaks to me. I really enjoy what I do.”

Now she’s nine months into her job as events manager for the Capital Region Chamber — and loving it.

She recently helped plan the annual dinner, a 1,100-person sit-down affair, and is now preparing for a season full of events, including a golf tournament at Mohawk Golf Club in Niskayuna.

Cognato said some changes are in the works, particularly for one of the Business After Hours events in the summer, but couldn’t go into detail on what they were.

“I’m very much looking forward to it,” she said.

The new gig has come with some challenges — especially prices due to inflation, she said.

“Inflation has really brought prices up as far as food and beverage go, amongst other things like AV (audio/visual) costs,” she said. “It’s a fine balancing act with events. We always want to ensure a quality event, yet we also have to be mindful of ticket prices so that our events continue to be accessible for our guests.”

She said part of the job is learning to negotiate and find creative ways to host events.

While inflation is the latest challenge, most things have returned to what people were familiar with pre-COVID, including having buffets and booking places for events.

Cognato said attendance at events has remained steady even with COVID, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and flu as concerns.

“Occasionally guests do wear masks to some events, but from what I hear the reasons vary greatly. Some guests are worried about COVID, but we’ve also encountered guests who feel fine but are getting over a common cold and just don’t want others to potentially get it.”

She said one of her top priorities is continuing to raise awareness of the chamber’s events.

“I think as long as we continue to get the word out there and let people know that our events are going on, our attendance will still be strong,” she said.

She also has reason for optimism after seeing large crowds for the recent Schenectady Holiday Parade and Soup Stroll.

“I love seeing all of the positive momentum in Schenectady,” she said. “I am not surprised as there are so many wonderful restaurants and businesses, especially downtown. It definitely gets me excited for our Good News Awards Luncheon on April 12. Good News is always extremely well-attended, and I believe the turnout this year may be even bigger than last year.”

Cognato also said many people are ready to network again.

“Our networking events have taken off and our members really look forward to them,” she said.

Cognato said her experiences as a teacher and then working in logistics have helped her tremendously.

“You would not believe how useful lesson planning is when it comes to planning events,” she said.

She also said much of the job has to do with being flexible and ready to pivot when necessary.

“There are always going to be things especially in the event world that come up last minute, and the more flexible you can be and the more you can learn to go with the flow the better,” she said. “I’m such a planner and an organizational nut that sometimes it’s a little hard for me, but the more I get into it the more I realize that taking a deep breath and learning to pivot is the most important thing.”

Cognato said her goal is to just get people excited about the chamber.

“We do have a lot of really cool things to offer, so I think getting our messaging out there and getting people to be excited to be engaged with the community is my goal,” she said.

When she’s not planning events, Cognato, who was an English teacher, still loves to relax with a good book. She’s also dabbling in archery, baking or cooking, and participating in local theater.

Lauren Cognato
COMPANY: Capital Region Chamber of Commerce
TITLE: Events manager
EDUCATION: Skidmore College
BEST LESSON IN BUSINESS: “Roll with the punches.”
WORDS TO LIVE BY: “Ignoranti quem portum petat, nullus suus ventus est.”
Translation: “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” — Seneca the Younger

More Outlook 2023: Looking Ahead – Our annual report on Capital Region business

Categories: Life and Arts, Life and Arts, Outlook 2023

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