Valerie Bihet, owner of The Vibe Agency, says not to let the accent fool you. “I’m from Paris, Texas,” she laughs.
The next person Bihet convinces of her supposed origins will be the first in her 18 years of telling the joke. But you can’t blame a girl for trying, especially when she started her career in events at Magic Kingdom.
A long way from her days as public relations and special events manager at Disneyland Paris, Bihet is still drawn to movies for inspiration. She finds ideas for new destinations to explore, F&B to serve and technology to try while enjoying a good film. “The Fifth Element” remains one of her favorites.
That’s just one of the many secrets to how Bihet has gotten so “goooood” at her job. Working on the behind-the-scenes crew at Disney, followed by Club Med and now her own company, Bihet is a veritable planning star.
All Eyes on Her
Now based out of Miami, she confesses to having a wish list for clients, but brands have her on their dream team too. Dior, Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre, L’Oreal and Barclays have entrusted their events to Bihet. “In the luxury industry, when you work for one brand, all the other brands are watching you,” she says.
That pressure doesn’t scare someone like Bihet, who’s produced more than 1,000 events, including Disney’s 50th anniversary celebration, Club Med’s 50th anniversary and the Tour de France.
“I like challenges,” she says.
Take this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. French shipping company La Poste rehired Bihet to handle logistics at the trade show, but added designing the booth to her duties. Bihet developed an eye-catching concept involving a massive tree (above). It stood out in a forest of displays at Las Vegas Convention Center. “I can say I am a strong woman because I am 46 years old and made it with three nights of no sleep,” she says.
When deadlines are tight and obstacles seem large, Bihet looks back to organizing an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in the Philippines. Among the attendees were 12 heads of state and presidents of tech companies like Microsoft and Uber. The event was just after a terrorist attack in France, adding extra security challenges. But she built a team of 450 volunteers who proved up to the task, and met former President Barack Obama to boot.
Bihet met a crossroads in 2000 while still with Club Med. She’d grown professionally and personally in Florida, where she was based. After five years, she was told it was time to return to Europe. “They said I had no choice,” she recalls. “I told them, ‘I do have a choice: I quit.’”
Over lunch with a colleague, Bihet developed a concept for a meeting. The company bought the idea and asked her to run it. “In five minutes, you can create your own company,” she says.
And while Bihet is not interested in moving, her background in planning corporate travel proved beneficial to Vibe’s growth. When the U.S. economy went south, she looked across the Atlantic to companies she could bring overseas for events. Bihet spoke their language, literally and figuratively.
“I am used to working with big brands; I know what those people are expecting,” she says.
Working across different industries has allowed Bihet to adapt successful ideas from one arena to another. For example, the planning behind Club Med’s anniversary involved a boat race across the world. She modified the concept for TAG Heuer’s 150th celebration, only with a Tesla replacing the boat.
“When you see the magic is working, you know it’s perfect,” she says.
Valerie Bihet says these destinations are up and coming for incentives:
Tonga Scotland Portugal Argentina Croatia Nashville
The Rule of 10
Bihet lives by the “rule of 10.” She says each finger should represent someone you know who can help in a crunch. And if you call one of those people, they can then draw upon 10 colleagues they know. That network can be a lifesaver. “You need to think quickly: ‘Who can I reach that can help me make it happen?’”