Meetings mean business — and they make a difference to the people who attend them. Convene‘s editors share stories about memorable meetings, and what the industry means to them:
MICHELLE RUSSELL Editor in Chief
For more than 13 years now, participating in conferences and conventions has been part of my job here at Convene. I love sitting in a darkened ballroom and being transported by a keynote speaker and masterful storyteller. To me, it’s like getting lost in a great movie or book. And I’m in my element when I’m participating in a media conference and surrounded by people who do what I do for a living. But if you had asked me 30-plus years ago what I thought of conventions, I would have told you that they weren’t my thing. Early in my career, I worked as a copywriter for Hearst Books and helped staff our booth at several conventions (I vaguely remember my first was the American Library Association Annual Conference and it was in Chicago). I’m far happier on this side of the convention aisle — as an attendee, observer, and participant — than as an exhibitor. Those early experiences gave me great respect for professionals who know how to make visitors feel genuinely welcome and at ease in their booth space, and aren’t too salesy.
At Convene, we write about anyone and anything that has to do with meetings, and we find this evolving field endlessly fascinating. But it’s when we travel across the globe or to a nearby city to take part in an event that we are wowed all over again, by what it takes to pull these things off, and how vital this business is.
KATE MULCRONE Digital Editor
I began reporting on the meetings and events industry in June, 2010, just a year after the so-called “AIG Effect” began to play into public perception of meetings. In the last six years I’ve been continually impressed by the way the industry has come together to not only prove the business value of meetings, but to ask deeper questions about what provides the most value for attendees. Walking into the Sands Expo for the inaugural IMEX America in Las Vegas in 2011 put theory into practice for me. Seeing hundreds of meeting planners, suppliers, and destination reps gathered all in one place to do business and learn from each other gave me a deeper understanding of an industry I’d so far explored mostly through phone interviews — and underlined the importance of face-to-face learning and networking.
CHRISTOPHER DURSO Executive Editor
I just celebrated my eighth year with Convene, and I owe this great job to a meeting. Ten years ago, I was serving on the conference committee of my own professional member organization, Association Media & Publishing (AM&P), helping create the programming for the annual meeting, during which I also co-presented a session. Michelle Russell, Convene‘s editor in chief, was a member of AM&P as well, and was in the audience for my session. We didn’t meet then, but we did at AM&P’s annual meeting the following year, when we were both browsing a display table with winners from AM&P’s EXCEL Awards competition — including Convene. I complimented Michelle on her magazine, she complimented me on a brief presentation I’d made earlier in the day, and we got to know each other as fellow association magazine professionals. A few months later, when Convene created a new executive-editor position, Michelle thought of me. And here I still am. So when the Meetings Mean Business Coalition says that meetings and conferences create jobs — I believe them.
In my late teens and early 20s, I worked in three bookstores and earned a BA in Journalism; later in life, I designed book covers and interiors, and even wrote a small book. In general, I feel most at peace in a library, bookstore, or the magazine section of either — but also at conferences devoted to books, writing, and/or print design, which is why I’ve paid my own way to to at least eight or nine of these kinds of meetings. During the times when my day job did not always mirror my passions, escaping to the AWP Conference/the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism/the HOW Design Conference/BookExpo/the Bedell Nonfiction Now Conference/etc. was a way to become renewed and inspired. It wasn’t until I worked at Convene that I realized how much behind-the-scenes work went into these transformative experiences. Next time I attend a writing conference, I’ll have a deeper appreciation for the details.
BARBARA PALMER Senior Editor/Director of Digital Content
My first job out of college was as a news-writing instructor in the journalism department at a community college in Oklahoma City and the first professional conference I attended as a working adult was when I took a group of five students to a newspaper design conference at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. Nobody, including me, had any money. We drove all night to save on lodging and once we got there, we shared two rooms at a no-frills hotel — one room for the women, one for the lone male. We laughed nonstop and we learned things that we put into practice at the student newspaper for months.
It’s amazing to me to consider how far technology has come in making such knowledge available online. But it is not so much what I learned there, but the experience of attending the conference that has left indelible memories. Like the hours while everyone was asleep in the car except for me and a student, talking and listening to music as the miles rolled by, or the six of us, playing pool in a college bar.