Behind the Scenes

Something Called Event Planning

It is a one-of-a-kind-job. And one-of-a-kind industry.

During a dental check-up this week, I asked my dentist how his daughter, a recent college graduate, was doing. He told me that she was waitressing and doing “something called event planning”— which she was crazy about, but it wasn’t exactly what he’d call a career move.

I launched into my spiel about what a great job meeting planning can be and why I love this industry. (It’s a little routine I’ve perfected for uninitiated family, friends, and acquaintances over the nine years I’ve worked for Convene.) My dentist had attended his share of conferences, but he was surprised. Like so many other people, he’d never really thought about the back end of those meetings requiring professionals who practice a discipline.

Executive Editor Chris Durso and I have been doing a lot of explaining about this industry recently in the course of interviewing people for two new editorial positions at Convene. A few candidates didn’t need much background information: Some had lent a hand in planning a conference for the organizations they’d previously worked for, or attended a convention themselves. And one interviewee told us that her mother had been a meeting planner for an insurance company. Growing up, she said, she’d traveled to a number of conventions with her, and seen firsthand how exciting and challenging her job was.

Meeting professionals shared some of those challenges in our latest survey. But there was more of an emphasis on what they like about their work. Not surprisingly, they cited the opportunity to meet people and travel — which go hand in hand — most frequently.

That pretty much tops my list of job perks as well. And on a few fam trips, I’ve been fortunate to have the chance to bring along a member of my family to experience a new destination, in the process giving them a taste of what the meetings and hospitality industry is all about.

When Disney Resorts recently sent me a fam trip invitation to Aulani, its new resort in Hawaii, I mentioned it in passing to my dad. “You’re lucky,” he said. “ I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii. “Disney’s invitation generously included a guest, so I asked him if he wanted to join me. He jumped at the chance. I cashed in some frequent-flyer miles, and in late February, my dad, who’s a spry 80, spent 11 hours flying with me across the country and over the Pacific.

My father had traveled a fair amount during his career in the engineering field, but if I’ve come to somewhat take for granted the difference between traveling on business and being hosted on a fam tour, this trip with my dad set me straight. He was bowled over by the elegant meals on the beach, the beauty of the resort itself, the genuine warmth and hospitality of our hosts, and the friendliness of our fellow participants. “I can see why you love your job, kid,” he said to me on our first day at Aulani. “These people are all so interesting, and this place — wow.”

Of course, I will no longer get much sympathy from my dad about my hectic travel schedule. He’s convinced that my time spent on the road is just one Aulani trip after another.

Planners as Writers and Designers

When Senior Editor Barbara Palmer attended a medical meeting planning session at Convening Leaders this past January, she took note of the fact that many planners said that writing grants was taking up a lot more of their time  — and that they could use some help with that process.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.