Mentorships, transparency and white whales
For meeting planners new to the industry, experience and connections are the glue that holds the universe together and ultimately provides the tools for current and future success.
Smart Meetings chatted with four Gen Z meeting planners and explored aspects of the meeting industry that they deem vital to their success and the tools that they still need to make it in the field.
Looking to more experienced professionals for mentorship can take many forms. For people like Kassandra Monta, event coordinator for Wolters Kluwer, during her post-grad experience she found it difficult to find a support system in the event industry. “It seems like all meeting and event planners either work alone or have a close-knit group they work closely with,” said Monta. “I think it is difficult since the industry is so broad.”
However, once landing a position at Wolters Kluwer, things quickly changed. “I work with extremely experienced planners daily. There’s not much of a space for young event professionals to connect post-grad and early on in their career, I think it would be a great opportunity to have a space or platform where we could connect,” she said.
Spencer Glazer, event coordinator for Wolters Kluwer, who started on the hotel side, had a supervisor who offered a helpful push in the right direction. “I was in college. I didn’t know really what I was doing. But I think sometimes people just need someone to give them that little push and we’re all capable of so much.” The supervisor believed in him, making it easier for Glazer to believe in himself. “I think that confidence definitely helped me believe in myself,” he said.
Roadblocks are par for the course as a meeting planner, as Zoe Pappas, a meeting planner from Kautter Wenhold Management Group, pointed out. Demonstrating an understanding of how to manage budgets can be the red or green light for advancing a career.
“Many organizations want to host conferences at expensive venues but do not want to pay the price or are unaware of how expensive hotel venues and banquet food are,” Pappas said. suggested transparency as a possible solution, “While it is hard to tell a client, ‘No’, being transparent and giving options/solutions in the key to build trust and relationships in this industry,” she said.
MCI Registration Specialist Mackenzie Ramos sees staffing as a major challenge happening now. “Due to the pandemic, many events are experiencing record numbers of attendees due to the return of in-person attendance. On the other hand, many hotels, venues and vendors that we have worked with are understaffed as a result of the pandemic,” said Ramos. “We are finding that our event suppliers have had to start saying, ‘No’ more often, especially with last-minute client demands and changes.”
Glazer agreed. “Everyone wants a meeting right now. We always have to have backup options.”
This has forced planners like Ramos to think on their feet when things don’t go quite as planned. “I like to start with how we can use what we have. Suppliers are at max capacity, which necessitates that events prioritize the essentials. I think that moving forward, planners will have to navigate the balance between client expectations and supplier resources,” she said.
The Hospitality, Marketing Crossover
In a previous Smart Meetings article, we touched on the connection between hospitality schools and marketing schools. We asked meeting planners whether they saw any value in their connection.
“As a hospitality major, it would’ve been amazing to have been offered marketing classes. First, it would be great to have the basics of graphic design and Photoshop,” Monta said. “I find myself always having to create my own marketing tools for my events. I love Canva for this, but it would be great to have access to more complex tools. It would also be great to learn how to read and apply marketing trends. That way, I know how to best market an event to reach the most audience.”
Pappas, who received her bachelor’s degree in marketing and a masters in hospitality management, sees the crossover firsthand. “I believe marketing and hospitality go hand in hand. As a planner, you immediately realize how important utilizing social media platforms is to not only market the event but even communicate with your team. I work completely remote, and you need to be able to use Microsoft Office, Outlook, Teams, Adobe, Doodle Poll, etc. Today’s society, it has become a standard to learn PC and Mac functions. Overall, the insights I have been given are improved skill sets with social media.”
Not Just Your Party Planner
The words “events” and “party” may come to mind for some when they think of meeting planners, but for those working their way through the industry, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I always laugh when people say that because that’s exactly what I thought growing up,” said Pappas. “As a meeting planner, I see my role as ‘holding down the fort.’ I am the front face with the client receiving all the details and requests for the event and ensuring it’s executed properly. Just like wedding planners do not want their bride to know something went wrong, I do not want my client to know something went wrong before and during the event—I will resolve it or bring up solutions to the best of my ability.”
White Whales of the Future
Everyone has their one thing they’d like to accomplish in their career. For meeting planners, there is always a goal, or a pinnacle event point to reach.
For Glazer, incentive trips were always something he’s been interested in.
“I’ve always known I wanted to do incentive trips. I think they’re so fun. You’re planning something exciting for someone and something they want to go to. I think sometimes we plan events and people don’t really want to go because it’s a sales meeting. But an incentive, everyone wants to go.”
For many young meeting professionals, leaving behind a better world is the ultimate goal.
“Gen Z planners can truly set the tone for the future of the industry,” said Ramos, “The younger generation is typically more focused on corporate social responsibility and green practices, so I am excited for the future of sustainability in events.”