Career Path

AVIXA’s Heidi A. Voorhees on Thinking Differently

"Don’t be afraid to speak up and be your own motivator."

Heidi A. Voorhees, CAE

EDUCATION Bachelor of arts, majoring in commercial recreation/business, Central Michigan University; master of business administration, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management

MY FIRST INDUSTRY JOB Straight out of college — convention assistant, SmithBucklin.

MY PREVIOUS THREE JOBS Vice president of strategic initiatives, Institute of Food Technologists; senior vice president of housing, Experient; and two short stints at tech startups (BOB.tv and Eved).

WHAT I DO NOW Run all U.S. operations for AVIXA (the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association), including marketing and communications, U.S. expo, member services, and learning, education, and certification. I also am responsible for implementation of our strategic plan and ensuring culture is collaborative and innovative.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT MY JOB My experience is in association management and events/trade shows. I have been lucky enough to find a position that allows me to live these two professional passions on a daily basis. Knowing that I have influence on aiding an entire industry to grow, which means jobs and opportunities for a lot of people, is a true honor. And a bit closer to home, ensuring AVIXA’s work environment is one that supports our team members in a way that not only allows them to grow professionally but enables their contribution to the audiovisual industry is a privilege that I do not take lightly. And it doesn’t hurt that the audiovisual industry is really cool!

MOST INFLUENCED IN MY CAREER BY My first boss at Smith Bucklin, John Fetters, was probably the greatest influence on me. He was smart, well respected, and well liked. He was very good at what he did and pushed me every day to be the best (and now I see myself doing it to my team). I know that I was trained by one of the greatest event professionals around, and am thankful for that. He helped me think tactically and strategically — from envisioning the final outcome(s), to questioning everything needed to get there and how to work with a team to make it happen. And, that you can be a good and kind person and still get ahead.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY BIGGEST PROFESSIONAL MISTAKE Although I have had a good deal of failures and mistakes, my biggest failure was staying in a position longer than I should have. I was at a job where the culture was no longer a fit for me. If there is one piece of advice I can offer, make sure you like what you do and find a culture that fits your values. If you are unhappy, do what you can to fix it. If it can’t be fixed, it is time to move on. Life is too short to stay somewhere where you are not happy.

MY NEXT BIG CAREER GOAL Association CEO, but all in due time. I have a lot I can accomplish at AVIXA, and until I am no longer challenged, this is the place for me.

MY ADVICE FOR YOUNG MEETING PROFESSIONALS

  • Don’t try to climb the ladder too soon, and learn as much as you can from every opportunity.
  • Find people who think differently from you and learn from them. They will make you smarter and more innovative.
  • If you fail, admit it and take responsibility.
  • It’s okay if you think differently. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be your own motivator.
  • Be kind and do your best to empathize with others.

The events industry is amazing and rewarding. Be proud to be part of the event community and enjoy. It isn’t easy but it is worth it!

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.

  • Carolyn Dorf

    Love these kind of articles. When I meet people from the industry, I always want to know their career path and what jobs they have. I also love the emphasis of the importance of company culture. Many people overlook that.