Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 14 2016

What I Learned As An Intern At Convening Leaders

Valerie Villa

Chapter member Valerie Villa graduated from Iowa State University in December 2015 with a Bachelors of Science in Event Management, and a Liberal Arts minor in Advertising. 

Prior to graduating, she started a short-term internship with PCMA, focusing her work on this past January’s Convening Leaders Conference in Vancouver, Canada. Valerie shares her PCMA intern experience in the article below. 

By: Valerie Villa 

Maya Angelou once said “I did then what I knew how to do; now that I know better I do better.” This quote is the essence of my event internship with PCMA. For those who have interned or are yet to, remember that the purpose of an internship is to learn. For those who are professionals already, I hope you can chuckle and reminisce about your past internships.

We all start somewhere in the learning process. I got started in 2015 where I volunteered at my first Convening Leaders; later that year I gave a speech at PCMA Education Conference. In one year's time I went from being a volunteer to a Education Foundation speaker, to an events intern for PCMA. These opportunity couldn't have happened without the gracious support of PCMA staff and community; thank you for giving me the best year of my life. Each role was invaluable but being an intern for PCMA’s annual event was the most incredible learning experience because I gained a new perspective and admiration for the industry.


From the moment I was brought onto the team I was welcomed as one of their own. I was asked for my opinion and was included in conference and staff meetings. After weeks of studying the venue maps, the event resume, and the staff manual I felt ready to assist the events team upon my arrival in Vancouver, Canada. It was exciting to see how everyone worked together and brought Convening Leaders to life. Honestly, it was so impressive. You know that phrase “Go big or go home!,” well I say “Go big or go to Convening Leaders and learn how!” 

Every inch of space that was used for Convening Leaders was mapped out of with attendees, sponsors, and suppliers in mind. In fact, something I admired about the staff was their ambition to go above and beyond for their members. I was shown how to listen and observe how attendees react to new designs or new activities. The event team also taught me about professional survival: teamwork, and overall health. 

Preparing signs at the conference.


Coming straight out of college I had the mindset to focus on only the tasks in front of me. During my time in Vancouver, I learned to focus on the bigger picture as well. It was important that we knew what everyone's roles were throughout the conference so that we could support each other when needed. It was also a great icebreaker for getting to know everyone.

As we know professionals in our industry are often on their feet; therefore, wear comfortable shoes so you can happily be mobile. On average I clocked in 14 miles a day. With that in mind, I was challenged to increase my nutritional intake instead of eating like college student. Sounds basic but steps add up faster than you have time to notice. This led me to start carrying packets of trail-mix.

One of the workshop/learning areas.


Something that was also emphasized during my experience was the lesson of ‘things happen’. I can laugh at this now but not on my first day when I got locked in a stairwell with no cell service and only a radio. Now I’m only sharing this to prove that mistakes happen, and it’s important to not dwell on issues that can’t be fix. Dwelling is unproductive; find a solution. My solution was to find any door that would open, when that failed I was left to radio my mentor about my situation. Little did I know at the time I could request her to go on a private channel, I shared me being stuck with every single employee and contractor throughout the entire conference. Days later my mentor and I had a good chuckle about the movie-montage ‘intern moment’. So don’t fret about everything that goes wrong, learn from it and keep moving forward.

I’m grateful for my experience based learning. Interning for a fun, creative, and ambitious team inspired a new set of standards for myself and for the future career I envision. The field is extremely tough work and after seeing how hard each person worked and cared, I expect no less from myself. It was a honor to have worked with some of the best professionals in our field. Now I truly know why Professional Convention Management Association is the leading organization for meeting and event professionals. Thank you for guiding me on my career path.

Valerie is currently working on the Democratic Convention in Iowa until she finds a full-time position in the events industry.

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