A Not So Royal Account of “The Intern Queen Party”

Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm interns Nick Gilyard and Taylor Hatch.

intern oooqueenTuesday night marked the third annual Intern Queen Party, hosted by the “Intern Queen” herself, Lauren Berger, a well-known career and internships expert. The event was both a celebration and a chance to network with a panel of top intern coordinators and executives from companies such as Mashable, Cosmopolitan, and US Weekly.

At least, that’s how the event was advertised.

We were very excited to be Peppercomm’s intern representatives at this much anticipated event. But, most unfortunately, it was a disappointing evening. The event was billed as a fun and exciting venue for interns to network and obtain career advice from professionals. But in reality it was a party to promote the Intern Queen’s personal brand..

The problems began in the line outside the Ann Taylor Flagship Store, where the Intern Queen Party was held. Since the first 100 guests inside were promised a gift bag, we arrived an hour before doors were scheduled to open and were surprised to see a line of 50 interns had already formed.
It seemed we were waiting to enter a club rather than an event with professionals. Many of our fellow interns—almost entirely female—were dressed in tight clothing with short skirts and sky-high heels. After about 45 minutes, a bouncer came through the line, rejecting numerous fake ID (yes, hopeful interns actually tried to use fake IDs at an event filled with potential employers) and handing out pink wristbands to all legal guests for the open bar.

We were greeted by music blaring from the DJ on the second floor, and Bartenders in tight, pink shirts that read, “Keep Calm and Intern On” handing out drink after drink to those swarming the bars. Of course, we have both attended professional events where drinks were served, but we had never seen this happen at an intern-centered event (perhaps because most potential employers and mentors prefer that interns not be buzzed when asking for advice). It reminded us of a college party, with people rushing to the bar for as many drinks as possible before it closed.

At Peppercomm, we see a lot of brands run into trouble when the service they think they are providing doesn’t at all match up to the experience the customer is having. This is why it’s so important to listen to your consumers and to experience your brand or service through their eyes. So here are some things that The Intern Queen brand might want to take into consideration:

•    RSVP has a purpose. It is unacceptable to insist that attendees RSVP, print out tickets and wait in line for over an hour only to get inside and realize people who are clearly neither interns nor invited professionals are wandering in off the street. This makes the customer who took the time to preregister feel fooled and undervalued.
•    First 100 should mean FIRST 100. Promising the first 100 people into the event a gift is a great way to ensure that people show up early. But having people show up early only to open a second line for what could only be perceived as VIPs minutes before the door opened is dishonest, which is never a good thing.
•    Space matters. If the point of the event is to network and listen to a panel but there are entirely too many people to do either, you’ve failed your guests. We could not make it up to the third floor when it was time for the panel discussion due to the sheer number of people attempting to crowd the stairs. Even attendees who did manage to make it to the panel complained that they were so far away they could not even hear the experts’ advice.
•    Be inclusive. If your invitation is open to everyone (males and females) but the event caters only to women (with teal, oversized totes as gift bags and professional makeup artists doing touchups for free) then you are being misleading and exclusionary, two words that can be extremely damaging to any brand.

The criticisms we’ve made thus far about The Intern Queen Party would be nothing but minor complaints or annoyances if it weren’t for the element that has plagued many a brand: deception. As interns we developed certain expectations after reading about Ms. Berger and the promotions for her event.

Perhaps our expectations were a bit naïve, but we expected an event for interns and hosted by such a well-respected career expert known as the “Intern Queen” to serve interns in a meaningful, career-minded way. Instead, we were handed copies of Ms. Berger’s book and offered the opportunity to pose with her in pictures, making us feel used rather than valued.

Based on our experiences and observations at Peppercomm, we even commented that the Intern Queen Party had all the elements for a great example of public relations. Obviously, it is both acceptable and smart to build word-of-mouth around your brand. Some strategies include generating an eye-catching line outside the door, offering giveaways of your product, and encouraging photo-ops.
However, when you succeed at generating attention for your brand while failing to provide value for your customers, that is nothing but bad PR. While we appreciated the opportunity to attend the Intern Queen Party, frankly, we left feeling more like jesters than royalty.

15 thoughts on “A Not So Royal Account of “The Intern Queen Party”

  1. Bobby- I’m glad to hear another guy’s take on the event as most of my friends that attended were female.

    I also agree that name tags would be a wonderful idea. I know Lauren would like to keep the event relaxed/fun, perhaps giving the company reps. a crown or other royal article of clothing will be a fun way to help distinguish the employers/internship coordinators from fellow interns.

    Thanks again for your insight.

    -Nick

  2. Great write-up! I was also at the Intern Queen party, and while it worked out great for me, there were issues.

    A huge issue I had was distinguishing employers and internship coordinators between fellow interns. Especially since many coordinators are in their early-mid 20s, it was almost impossible to tell who was who. I suggest to Lauren Berger herself that the coordinators should have different colored name-tags, so let’s see how that turns out.

    I really enjoyed the panel, especially since afterwards I talked to execs from both UsWeekly and SiriusXM, who gave me their email information and LinkedIn profiles, as well as sound, personal advice.

    I think the event was great “as a panel” but as far as networking, it didn’t really work out. Barely anybody I spoke with had business cards, many seemed to be entirely too concerned about drinks. As a male there, I did feel very off-put as well.

    I’ll definitely still go next year, but hope there is a little more networking involved.

    • Thanks for reading, Bobby! It’s helpful to hear your perspective and good to know that the Intern Queen party was a positive experience for other interns. Perhaps our opinion of the panel would have been different if we were able to get closer.

      I think having different colored name-tags is a great idea, as well as making the event a little more gender-neutral. Thanks for your thoughts and hopefully we’ll see you there next year!

      Best,
      Taylor

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  5. Hi Nick and Taylor,
    Thank you so much for the feedback. This is extremely helpful. The goal of this event is always threefold: to celebrate the end of internship season (throw a fun party for you guys), provide an educational value (our panel of top execs from 11 different companies), and to promote our brand. Each year, we learn more and more about what the attendees want. We will take your feedback into consideration when planning the event for next year. Your notes about controlling the line are particularly helpful – as that’s always a work in progress.
    If I can ever help with job advice or internship advice, feel free to send me an email. We’ve worked with Peppercomm in the past – and they have a great program. When I was in college, there was no Intern Queen, there was no Internqueen.com, and there was no one to help me with my career/internship search. Hopefully, if nothing else – I can serve to point you in the right direction or introduce you to someone who can be helpful.
    Best,
    Lauren Berger

    • I am glad you found our criticism both constructive and useful Lauren. I agree that there is a need for a platform like yours to provide advice/guidance as people search for intern programs. I also think you have done a terrific job making internqueen.com that platform and I would love to see the event side of things mirror the advice you give in “All Work, No Pay.” Thanks again for taking the time to respond to our post and I will absolutely be in touch in the future.
      Best,
      Nick

    • Hi Lauren,

      Thank you very much for your comment! I’m glad to hear that our feedback is helpful to you. I know that the success / failure of any intern event is subjective, and that many people thought that the Intern Queen Party was great. However, we hoped that by writing this post we could expose interns to a new perspective– from attendees who were hoping for a more professional event that better facilitated networking with top executives.

      Thank you also for offering your advice and guidance. It would be great to hear about your intern / career experience as well and I will definitely reach out to you in the future!

      Best,
      Taylor

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  7. And, kudos for recognizing that, as is the case with United Airlines, McDonald’s, New Jersey Transit and so many other organizations, what the Intern Queen promises in her messaging is NOT what the customer experiences.

    • Thanks Steve. As both consumers and PR people, I think we can all agree that when you are made a promise you want expectations met at a minimum and in the best case scenario have them exceeded.

  8. Love this, Nick and Taylor. I’ve watched the growth of this brand/career with some interest and have been curious if it’s actually an effective recruitment tool for aspiring professionals or a platform from which a single person is launching a career. I’m sad to hear there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground and its skewing toward the latter. However, it’s no surprise to me that the two of you saw through it and are taking away what is key to landing a job, which is none of the above things you described!

    • Thank you, Lia! What you described was exactly our main issue with the Intern Queen Party. It was difficult to reconcile the not-so-serious atmosphere with our goals to meet and network with professionals, especially given the crowds at the event. It’s always interesting to see how different these kinds of events can be!

  9. Really smart observations, Taylor and Nick. I always go with the mantra of the beloved hosts of “What Not to Wear”: Dress for the job you want. But to go beyond this, I would “act like the job you want”.

    I attended this event last year hoping to find some strong recruits for internship program. Unfortunately, I was unable to really talk to anyone since the music was so loud. Also, many of those in attendance seemed more concerned about the step and repeat and the free drinks rather than networking.

    It sounds like you both are ahead of the game and recognize the importance of meeting people in the industry. There are a lot of events to get caught up in over the course of your career–just make sure you’re picking the ones that make sense and are the most helpful for you. A free gift bag isn’t going to land you an internship or entry-level job.

    • Thank you for your comment, Laura! It’s interesting to hear your experience at the event as a professional hoping to meet potential interns. I wholeheartedly agree in dressing for the job you want– it’s better to be overly professional than overly casual in these situations.

      I think the point is that there’s nothing wrong with making professional events fun and exciting, but there’s an appropriate time, place, and balance. Having as many distractions as this event did when mixing professionals and interns for networking purposes is a recipe for disaster.