By Karen Kuzsel

Lessons the hospitality, meetings & events industries learned from the “great COVID interruption” is that business models may have gotten deconstructed and staffing thinned, but continuing industry professionals dug in and have reshaped businesses to meet the future. Next generations of eager beginners are joining the ranks to reshape the future. It is imperative that valuable experience earned by longtime professionals is recognized and shared with “newbies”, that young staffers build new networking relationships, and that the experienced professionals who have left corporate positions to begin their own small business will evolve and thrive.

The Meeting Professional International Small Business Owners (MPI SBO) community is here to help. The community sponsors one-hour informal chats on Zoom that address issues relevant to small business owners, whether in business for 20 years or just beginning. Just because someone has been a meeting planner, florist, or live events professional doesn’t mean they automatically can translate that experience into owning and running a business. The MPI SBO Connects sessions provide the opportunity to ask questions, learn how others resolve issues, hear about new software applications and best practices, and initiates new business relationships.

One of the many advantages of joining this group is access to the group’s personal membership directory. Someone with answers may be a fingertip away.

For the September 27 session, Hits, Misses, and Needs, the call brought together meeting planners, an industry attorney, a sales training business owner, an entertainer, and someone who used her years of experience providing registration for meetings into her own business.

The Hits

  1. “I learned new skills during COVID, such as how to produce virtual and hybrid meetings,” said one planner. “Now I am learning AI, but it doesn’t always provide the correct answers to your question, so you must be careful.”
  2. “I had become used to working with industry professionals with whom I could rely. They left and I had to create a new network.”
  3. “I realize we (who have been invested in the industry pre-pandemic) have become more valuable between our clients and the relationships we’re building. Clients don’t necessarily understand why rates have doubled and I can be there to explain and smooth the sale.”
  4. “COVID taught us how important in-person meetings are for creating relationships and inspiring creative ideas.”

The Misses                                                                                                                                                                                

  1. “I have learned to walk away from distractions when I need to focus on a client’s needs. If another client contacts me with a question or for help, I have to weigh if that can wait until I am finished with the one task. Cuts down on the pressure of being pulled in two directions.”
  2. The sales training pro shared an app called “less Annoying”. The CRM helps to keep contacts and schedules in place.
  3. “We must train the new generation.” They don’t know what they don’t know, so “it’s up to us to guide them.”
  4. “I miss the people I used to rely on to get the tasks done.” It takes time to build new connections of people who will follow through reliably.
  5. “I learned a lot about what is needed to get a job done without the prior relationships I’d come to rely on, and now I know where to build up those connections.”
  6. “I picked up a lot of business when corporations thinned their staffs. Now those corporations are staffing up again.”

The Needs

  1. “Wondering what will be needed for next year. What will I have to learn?”
  2. “I’ve developed an attitude about knowing information. Tell me what I need to know completely so I can react properly.”
  3. “Training and expertise are essential.”
  4. “New AI audio is being developed. Will need to be aware and learn how to use it.”
  5. “How do you address ageism? Experience matters, but not everyone with decision-making power is aware that it can be better to hire the expert than take the time for the new person to learn the skills.”

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 International Live Events Association and Meeting Professionals International and is now serving on the 2022-2023 MPI Global Advisory Board for Small Business Owners. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events in her blog, Hotel Happenings & Program Promotions. 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.;;; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady. She is also active with Experience Kissimmee CVB and Wedding Venue