A short while back there was a viral-bound joke that if vaccination site managers wanted to have their operations, appointments and follow through go smoothly, they should turn to meeting and event planners. The joke continued that not only would the task be done skillfully and to everyone’s satisfaction, but all those seniors who had endured standing in long lines, (sometimes throughout the night), unsure if they’d even score a shot, would have been served snacks, a drink and maybe even a chair. I was likely among the meetings & event Insiders who didn’t see the surface humor in the proposition. I had discussed that same “duh moment” ad nauseum with industry friends and my husband and wondered why no one in charge hadn’t already figured that out. Who better to strategize all the minutia of appointments, parking, cue lines, qualified staff, and follow up visits to fulfillment, than a planner?
I’ve thought to write about the hospitality, meeting & events industries for months. Several factors finally propelled me to action.
First: a dear friend and Meetings Professional International(MPI) colleague, Terry Matthews-Lombardo, who is not only a veteran meeting planner for whom I have worked for some of her personal and professional events as my alter ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, but she is also a prolific writer. She asked that I contribute some of my experiences as a psychic and dancer for corporate and social events as teaching moments for her soon-to-be-published book, Meetings Mayhem.
Second, many of my industry friends have been permanently displaced from their positions as hotel sales, entertainers, florists, destination managers, caterers, audio -video or lighting specialists, producers, décor designers…. The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. Some have been unemployed for months, wondering how to salvage long careers in an industry, place, or position they’ve loved. Some, like my extraordinarily talented singer, comedienne and fitness/dance coach, Jaimie Roberts, have turned to dormant creative skills to initiate new businesses. If those of us in her former Power Dance & Fitness studio classes had realized what she could do with cakes and other desserts, we might not have ever lost weight or gained strength. If you don’t believe me, check out her new website: https://thevoiceofcake.wixsite.com/cake.
A carnival of frivolous fun wrapped up inside the pink confection imagined by Jaimie Roberts.
What could be better than layers of chocolate?
Third: Apparently there is new focus in print and social media on how to take the skills crafted in the hospitality, meetings and events industries and apply them to other industries. In fact, both my MPI and International Live Events Association (ILEA) groups have been hosting seminars on people who have successfully done just that.
And then this morning, the conversation came full circle when I read a story by Associated Press writer William J. Kole in the Orlando Sentinel. (Yes, my husband and I not only receive a daily newspaper, but we actually read it thoroughly. It’s a habit I developed long before becoming an award-winning journalist/editor/publisher. The story, titled “Virus effort seeks logisticians,” is subtitled: “Event organizers among those uniquely qualified to help get shots in arms.” The story discusses Dave McGillivray, who has been Race Director of the Boston Marathon for more than 30 years and who has now been tasked with running mass vaccination operations at Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park. Another mention was South Carolina Chick-fil-A fast food manager Jerry Walkowiak, who managed to untangle the obstacles at a Mount Pleasant testing site with his learned skills and got the wait time down from an hour to 15 minutes. Kole quoted Anna Nagurney, a professor information management at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and an expert on logistics, who noted that concert promoters and wedding planners are accustomed to multitasking and meeting tight deadlines.
The ones with whom I am acquainted are dazzling in how many function components they can juggle while maintaining a surreal calm.
I know the Pandemic feels endless and has depleted finances, energy, and joie de vie, but I also see hope, new beginnings, and revealed talents emerging from the dark. I know there are many stories out there to tell and I invite you to share them. In another edition of Event Insider, I’ll reveal some of the anecdotes I shared with Terry Matthews-Lombardo.
Until then, stay connected!
Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries. She is an active member of ILEA and MPI and is now serving on the 2021-2022 MPI Global Advisory Board for Independent and Small Business Owners. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. Karen@KarenKuzsel.com; www.KarenKuzsel.com; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.