Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

January 2014

PCMA's 20 in Their Twenties: The Future of the Meetings Industry

By Christopher Durso, Executive Editor
that I have had in the meetings industry so far was the last day of my most recent meeting that I worked on, the 2013 Annual Meeting for the American Neurological Association in October. We began working with this association after a management changeover only in July, and had a large amount of work to do in order to catch the association up with where they needed to be 3.5 months prior to their Annual Meeting. There were a lot of challenges, I was training a brand-new-to-associations meeting coordinator, and was working with a very high-profile keynote speaker, former President Clinton, for the very first time. The last day of the meeting, after President Clinton completed his keynote, I was able to let out a huge sigh of relief that the meeting somehow managed to come together beautifully and that we were done. I received a great amount of very encouraging feedback, which made the very hectic 3.5 months that the team had leading up to the meeting worthwhile.

Where would you like your career to go?

My ultimate career goal within the meetings industry would be to become a director of a very large, standalone-association meetings department, overseeing a full staff of meeting planners and coordinators. I would not want this to be a medical or nursing association, as I would want a change of pace from the types of meetings that I have already done and would want to experience new challenges and different components to a large annual meeting.


Rachel Walsh, CMP
Director of Meetings, Sentergroup Inc. Chicago, USA

What do you like most about your job?

As a planner at an association management company, I get to work with lots of clients, planning lots of different types of meetings. While this often means that no two days in a row are the same, there is a common thread — the constant build toward the next event. Regardless of the client, the place, or how big the event, the best part is seeing all the pieces come together. Before you know it, though, it's over and on to the next. I consistently try to focus on enjoying the event as it unfolds, however many twists and turns may unravel. After all, this is why we put in all the work!

What's the best day you've had in the meetings industry so far?

One of my best days was day one of a big meeting early in 2013.I had been wanting to do a mobile meeting app with a client for some time, but the right opportunity had not arisen. Finally, circumstances aligned and it was feasible. I pushed hard to get the app approved, and the client even agreed to go 100-percent paperless. Needless to say, I was nervous, especially since we combined surveys and CE collection in the app. When attendees were arriving at the registration desk with the app already downloaded, I knew it was a win. We ended up with an over 75-percent download rate, which is huge for first-time adoption.

Where would you like your career to go?

My dreams are constantly evolving, but I am most recently inspired by my hometown of Indianapolis. I would love to be involved in an event as impactful as Super Bowl XLVI has been for the city. The ability to have an immediate effect on event participants while also leaving a lasting mark on a host city is not only a true achievement, but would also be extremely meaningful on a personal level.


Alleeshia Williams
Coordinator of Meetings and Business Partnerships, Institute of Food Technologists Chicago, USA

What do you like most about your job?

Member and attendee interaction is my favorite part of my job. I enjoy bringing happiness and satisfaction to the meetings that I manage.

What's the best day you've had in the meetings industry so far?

The best day that I've had in the meetings industry thus far was receiving the call that I was accepted into the inaugural class of PCMA's 20 in Their Twenties program. It's amazing to be recognized within the meetings industry, and I am elated for the opportunities this will provide.

Where would you like your career to go?

I would ultimately like to become the founder and CEO of an organization that focuses on mentoring and developing young professionals, tailored to the training and development of inner-city, urban youth who have less of an opportunity to access the meetings industry.


Kathleen Smith
Marketing Manager, etech events Orlando, USA

What do you like most about your job?

Event technology is so flexible — you can use it to create any type of brand experience or environment. My favorite part of my job is speaking at conferences about event technology and getting people to think strategically about using technology to create experiences that achieve their objectives. It's awesome to see the light bulb go on when people start to think differently about their technology systems and then realize that they can use it as a blank canvas for any type of digital content. And even more so, they start to think about how to use it to encourage attendee behaviors like engagement and interaction.

Where would you like your career to go?

I'm a technology marketer, so I'm passionate about tech and its application for improving experiences. Wherever my career takes me, it will have something to do with leveraging technology. I have a personal goal of holding a leadership role by the time I'm 30, because I enjoy driving progress, solving problems, and motivating people.

I thrive on using technology to defy the limitations of what can be done and increasing expectations relative to the value it brings to the bottom line.

I have a passion for technology, and I see myself in the midst of this world of rapid creation at a leadership level. I enjoy motivating people to create amazing products, experiences, and events. I want to have a career that reflects that energy.


David Wagner
Meetings Manager, Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Alexandria, Va., USA

What do you like most about your job?

I love many parts about my job — from working with volunteers to the nitty-gritty details of a contract. I'm not sure that I could be happier in another position. One part of my job that is unique requires me to learn and integrate myself into a different culture, Deaf culture. All of my meetings take place in American Sign Language (ASL), so the problem-solving aspect to my position is abundant with sight lines and communication access. Solving these types of problems to ensure that everyone has equal access truly makes my position worthwhile and keeps me going at the end of a long day on site.

What's the best day you've had in the meetings industry so far?

A single day?! Any day that has a positive, measurable outcome is a good day in my book. However, the best day I've had in the meetings industry was certainly Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. This was the last day of our 50th-anniversary conference in Indianapolis. I joined the organization five months prior to the meeting, and had to very quickly pull together all the different parts to put together a positive conference experience that was memorable to celebrate our organization's 50th anniversary. With an abundance of help from my fellow staff members, many volunteers, and all of our suppliers, the conference was a success. Anyone who has planned a conference or been involved i with the process of taking on an anniversary conference knows the amount of stress that is purely historic in nature. Knowing that your work will be etched in the memories of your attendees forever, that is pressure to succeed if I have ever seen it. After the dust settled and survey results were tallied, we were met with ovations of joy and gratitude. Finally, I stopped holding my breath — five months later.

Where would you like your career to go?

I thoroughly enjoy working in the association world. In my past life having been a sales manager, I do appreciate that aspect of our industry as well. At the end of the day, I believe that planning meetings in an advocacy setting fits my personality and the inner urge to advocate for others. Related to

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