Each year, the PCMA Education Foundation rewards some of the most promising minds in the meetings industry with scholarship funds that fuel their futures. As a student at the George Washington School of Business, Mitch Biersner was one of those emerging leaders in 2007. Today, he has his CMP designation, and he plans three major annual events for the 151,000 members of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. PCMA caught up with him to find out where he’s been, what he’s done and how that scholarship paved the way toward a very successful career.
PCMA: How did attending Convening Leaders in 2006 impact the early stages of your career? Were there any particular educational components that helped solidify your interest in a particular area of the meetings industry?
Mitch: By attending Convening Leaders in 2006, I was able to focus the direction of my career path. I participated in the Student Union, during which we had roundtable discussions regarding different aspects of the industry - hotel sales, convention services, meeting planning, corporate planning, association planning, etc. Hearing from the various professionals was helpful in developing a real-world connection to what that segment of the industry does.
PCMA: Did you make any connections at that first meeting that continue to be close colleagues/industry friends today?
Mitch: I still have connections from that first Convening Leaders. I still have the business card I received from Denise Suttle, CMP from the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau (with all sorts of notes scribbled on the back - I remember thinking - how cool, balloons!). In fact, I connected with her when I was interviewing for my current position to learn more about Albuquerque, the state of the industry here, etc. before making the decision to move to Albuquerque. Many of the connections I have made - and continue to make - at Convening Leaders have become invaluable as we remain connected through social media. In fact, Convening Leaders may be the only time I get to see everybody!
PCMA: Would you have been able to attend the meeting without the scholarship?
Mitch: Absolutely not. Students do not have the discretionary income to register and travel to industry meetings that aren't in their backyard. But you need to be industrious, make connections, connect those dots. Get involved and you'll stand-out from the stack of other scholarship applications to attend great conferences like Convening Leaders.
PCMA: Before accepting your current role at the ASRT, what other organizations have you worked for in the industry?
Mitch: After attending Convening Leaders 2006, I started an internship (that turned into a full-time job) with the national events office of AARP. My boss there was extremely supportive of my professional development. We worked on events that ranged in size from a 45-person Board of Directors meeting to the three-day, 26,000+ attendee Life@50+ event.
Then, I had the opportunity to move back home to Iowa to work for Main Street Waterloo as their marketing & event coordinator for a year. We organized a full-calendar of community events - everything from a two-day barbeque contest and blues event to a weekly farmers market to a weekly outdoor concert series. I also dabbled in county-wide economic development, but I realized I missed negotiating hotel contracts, developing catering menus and ordering wireless internet and carpeting for exhibit booths. So, I began my career search and found the perfect opportunity in the Land of Enchantment!
PCMA: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming meeting professionals?
Mitch: The key is, with whatever you decide to do, is to get involved and maintain connections. While I was a student, I took full advantage of my student status and was a member of any number of industry organizations: PCMA, MPI, ISES, IFEA, etc. Join any and all organizations you can.
Want to help fuel the next “Where Are They Now” Story?
As Convening Leaders 2014 approaches, you can help a student like Mitch be part of the industry’s biggest event all year. Donate to the PCMA Education Foundation today to jumpstart the next success story.