By Christopher Durso, Executive Editor | Dec 01, 2012
Stuart Ruff is Director of Meetings and Events at The Risk Management Society.
Director of Meetings and Events – The Risk Management Society
How did you first come to join the meetings industry?
I got my first job in meeting planning at the Airline Pilots Association. While I was there, it was right after the crisis of 9/11, as well as the fallout of the entire aviation industry. It was a lot of work. That is why I really kind of discovered the world of meeting planning, I guess. I was doing things like helping to organize pilot strikes, protests, and getting information out about different agreements and what was happening in the industry.
Your meeting-planning career has been almost exclusively with associations - most recently before RIMS with the International Trademark Association.
I had one year where I worked for a third party. That was really an awesome experience. I worked on behalf of the U.S. State Department and National Institutes of Health. I was planning global medical meetings around the world. I went to Tunisia, China, India, and all kinds of places. I went to Bulgaria and places I probably would not have had the opportunity to visit had it not been for that job.
What do you like about your job?
I love that everything is always changing. I love that everything brings a new challenge. I put pressure on myself to improve what I am doing. I have this expression that I use: “You are only as good as your last event or last meeting.” You want to come off of the high of a really great meeting experience. I am always thinking, what went wrong? What could I have done better? How can I make the next one even better?
What advice would you give to a younger professional who is just entering the industry right now?
I would say suit up and show up for this industry. Network and meet people. Learn from your peers. Be visible. I think people do not realize the advantages of being involved with a meeting-professional society - such as PCMA. It did wonders for my career.
When I was first getting started in this career, I did not see the value in those kinds of things. It was not marketed to me. By the time I got involved with something like PCMA, I was like, whoa! Everything started taking off for me after that.
What are some of the changes you’ve seen in the meetings industry in the time that you’ve been a part of it?
One would be technology. If you had told me 14 years ago that we were going to have iPads and things like that and I would not be making a 500-page binder to take with me to a citywide, I would have thought you were crazy. [Laughs.] It’s definitely helping to simplify our jobs in terms of enabling us to work smarter rather than harder.
What’s your biggest challenge?
The challenge is keeping the RIMS meeting brand viable and strong and positioned for growth.
Where do you see the industry heading?
I think we are going to see more face-to-face meetings. I do not care what people say. You cannot professionally connect as well on the web as you can in person. There is a power to face-to-face meetings, really. I feel like, particularly with new advocacy efforts and being able to quantify the economic impact the industry has, we will see an increased appreciation for face-to-face meetings.