PLENARY: "From Patience to Perserverance"
Hunter R. Slaton
CAREER PATH: Behroz Daroga, CMP
President of Meetings Events Communications (MEC) USA
Few meeting professionals have enjoyed careers as rich or as varied as that of the globe-trotting Behroz Daroga, CMP. From her native India, Daroga was first hired by the airline Al Italia, then went on to make her mark in incentive tours and medical meetings in her adopted home of Italy and subsequently in the United States. A longtime active member of PCMA, Daroga recently provided a scholarship - in memory of her late father, who helped her prepare for the CMP exam - to allow a New York Area Chapter member to attend Convening Leaders this past January in San Diego.
How did you get started in the meetings industry
When I came here to the United States in 1979, I was representing a meeting management company from Italy in the United States. I had been working in Italy, representing the government of India tourist office that was opened in Rome. Having worked with a large amount of travel agencies and incentive houses, when they heard that I was working for this well-known, reputable incentive company, Visit USA, they came to me and asked me why didn't I open up my own company? That was how I started what at that time was known as American Value Tours. We made it into MEC USA about 15 years ago.
Before even I started MEC, my specialty was Italy. Pharmaceutical companies [in that country], when they started promoting to their local agents' U.S. medical conventions, approached me way back in 1984, due to my knowledge and background of Italy - I speak the language fluently. My first meeting was with Janssen-Cilag, which is [a subsidiary of] Johnson & Johnson. We started in the month of March and we ended in the month of June. Every week, back to back, we had 50 doctors coming in to San Diego.
What advice would you give to someone who is new to the meetings industry?
I always believed in a mantra which I adopted ever since I started working in the meetings industry, and I call it the ‚"P2P mantra, which is ‚"from patience to perseverance." Without these two qualifications, you are not going to succeed.
What do you like most about your job?
The challenge I'm facing every day, even after so many years. Let me give you an example. After Sept. 11, everything stopped, for more than two-and-a-half years. We decided that either we close or move forward by going to see where our clients were going instead of coming to the United States.
So my assistant and myself, we left for Europe and we saw exactly what was happening - that they were concentrating because of uncertain times in Europe itself, and nowhere else. And so we took the challenge and we decided to buy rooms for European meetings where we felt that our clients were going.
And it proved to be successful, and very soon we found out that we - Americans - were selling European conventions to the Europeans from their back door. This was not my idea or my assistant's idea; it was teamwork. We all decided we had to do something, and we created a brand for ourselves which today, let me tell you that more than 60 percent of our turnover is on European conventions.
Recently you provided a scholarship to Convening Leaders in San Diego. Why?
If it hadn't been for my late father, I would never have gotten my CMP, because I was about to give up. My dad and mom at that time were living in Milwaukee, and one fine day I hear from the downstairs that my parents were there [in New York City, where Daroga lives], and I said, ‚"Dad, what are you doing here?" Mom said, ‚"He's come to start studying with you. You have to get your CMP, do you understand?" He sat down with me the whole week to study. And I think I owe him this, and I decided that I would give the scholarship in his name. My dad died about four years ago, and this would be the fifth anniversary [of his death], so that's why my family thought that this would be advisable to do so.
What do you see as the future of the meeting industry?
We really need to think hard and fast and try continuously to think out of the box and reinvent ourselves. Because we just cannot continue to sit on our past glories. My field now is medical meetings. Budgets are tight, the sponsorships are not coming. So the time has come really to put our heads together and think how best we can serve our clients, and at the same time, do something better and new.
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