Nominations are now open for the 12th Annual EEAs!
It's time to make your mark. Nominations are now open for the 12th Annual Event Experience Awards!

Industry Innovators 2024: Whitney Butler

The vice president of planning and business development for Platinum XP is always looking to surpass expectations.

In 2023, Whitney Butler and her team at Platinum XP produced the first—and what will be the only—private event held at the new Kansas City airport terminal.
In 2023, Whitney Butler and her team at Platinum XP produced the first—and what will be the only—private event held at the new Kansas City airport terminal.
Photo Adri Guyer

Whitney Headshot (1)Photo: Courtesy of Whitney ButlerWhitney Butler is the vice president of planning and business development for Platinum XP. She's also the president of MPI's Kansas City chapter. She's based in Kansas City, Mo.

How she got her start: "I could write a book on my background alone—it has been so diverse and such a crazy journey! I graduated from Mizzou in 2011 with a degree in communications and started out in the advertising world. In my role, I helped plan internal events at an agency and knew I had found my calling. In 2013, I moved to Nashville and got my first true event coordinator job at the Nashville Business Journal planning more than 40 notable events a year, such as Best Places to Work, Most Admired CEOs, 40 Under 40, etc.

After that, I moved into the nonprofit sector; moved back to Kansas City and worked for an association; went back to nonprofit; and eventually, in 2019, found my way into the third-party events world. My focus was on the special events portion of the business, where I was able to use my creativity and innovation to bring fresh experiential aspects to my clients’ events.

In 2020, along with the majority of our industry, I got furloughed from the dream job I had found and went to work as a corporate in-house planner on a marketing team for an existing client of mine. Once COVID passed, I was able to get back into the third-party world I love so much and was hired at Platinum XP in the fall of 2021 to build the planning division of the company, which had primarily been known for production since its inception in 2008.

In the past two and a half years, our division has grown from a team of one to five planners and is on track to continue at a rapid growth rate. It’s been a wild ride, but I am so thankful for all of these experiences in my life that have led me to where I am today, leading a team of amazing individuals and creating world-class experiences for our clients."

What innovation means to her: "I think everyone can agree that post-COVID, events are expected to be developed and executed much differently. Attendees are now expecting experiences that keep them engaged and immersed in the event, therefore, innovation and creativity are two of the most important things to look at when developing your event. Attention spans are short and people are busy, however, human connection seems more important than ever. Whether it’s an external or internal event, keeping things new, fresh, and exciting for event attendees should be the top priority.

Luckily, at Platinum XP, innovation is top of mind with every event. We have an extremely creative team, and the first step at the beginning of the planning phase for each event is to sit down as a team and brainstorm. If it's a new client, what can we bring to them that they haven’t seen before? If it's an existing client, what can we do to refresh the event so their attendees are always surprised by something new?

It could be something with entertainment, keynote or breakout speakers, technology, production, off-site activities, branding, gifting—the ideas are endless! The benefit and outcome is even greater when we're able to activate our internal production, branding, and media teams within the event and sit down with a larger team to come up with these ideas and how we can all work together to accomplish them."

What sets her work apart: "The talented team I work with and our full-service, in-house capabilities at Platinum XP set the work I do as a planner apart from others. When I'm able to work with my colleagues on everything from planning, production, branding, media, and fabrication, the process becomes a lot more creative and a lot less daunting dealing with individual vendors for each scope. We're able to focus on our client’s specific event goals and how we can accomplish those together as a team.

The past two years we have offered these services, and our clients are absolutely loving having one point of contact with a planner who is then able to work with our team in-house on those various aspects of their event. We bring in leads of each division for strategy sessions and meetings when necessary, but our clients can communicate as little or as much as they’d like outside of their planner point of contact.

One other thing that sets me apart specifically is that I truly care what my clients’ business is about and what their end goals are for their events. Sometimes this can get lost in the third-party planning world, as we work across so many industries and types of events. A lot of time, planners are just seen as logistical executors, but my main goal is to always be seen as a strategic partner. I want to be part of the big picture of what they want to accomplish from their event, not just what we're having for lunch. I ask them the tough questions and make sure their event is innovative and not only meets their attendees’ expectations but surpasses them. I want to know how this can be the best event they have ever attended and what they are going to remember from it for years to come."

In 2022, a blizzard threw a wrench in Butler's plans for a citywide event at a Topgolf in Arkansas.In 2022, a blizzard threw a wrench in Butler's plans for a citywide event at a Topgolf in Arkansas.Photo: Adri Guyer

Memorable moments: "In 2022, I planned a citywide event for a construction client in Rogers, Ark., the first week of March. We had 2,400 people, 12 hotels, 18 buses, the entire convention center, and a full buyout of Topgolf to end the two days of meetings with a private concert from Jon Pardi to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

When we woke up that Friday, it was blizzarding outside, and the entire Topgolf concert event was falling apart in front of my eyes. Luckily, the snow stopped midafternoon, and after a lot of work maneuvering and flexing plans, we were able to proceed with the party and concert just in time. Although it was freezing, it was one of my proudest moments, because weather is totally unpredictable and could have completely ruined a year’s worth of planning I had done. But I stayed positive and focused and was able to get the job done to create an amazing celebration for very deserving attendees.

My equally most memorable event is winning the bid to plan the two opening events for our new Kansas City International Airport Terminal in 2023. The first event was a private gala celebration for 850 stakeholders, and two days later we had to flip the space for a 10,000-person public open house.

To be a part of one of the most monumental and historical events Kansas City has ever had is truly hard to describe. Not only is this project and the attendees the most notable our region has seen in years, being a part of something so special to the travel and tourism industry in which we work was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Her vision for the event industry: "It’s an exciting time in the event industry—the days of the basic, stale meeting are quickly on their way out. It is our job as event professionals to provide innovative ideas and solutions to our clients to keep their attendees engaged and make sure they walk away with memorable experiences. I have already seen such a drastic change in events just the past few years. I'm excited to continue to grow with the industry and see inspiring work created among us.

If we've learned anything the past few years, it’s that people thrive off human connection, and nothing can replace the value of being together. I expect to see a lot more strategy put around those connections and how people can implement actionable takeaways after their events. I am beyond thankful my career has led me to planning these unique experiences for my clients and their attendees to connect and create lasting memories."

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