Alan Kleinfeld, CMP, CMM, LEO, MTA, currently works as the director of Charleston, S.C.-based Arrive Management Group, which helps organizations and event planners with their security plans, communications, and real estate. The initials after his named show that Kleinfeld has shifted his career focus multiple times. Here, he talks about his how his mix of professional pursuits has brought him to where his is today, and offers young professionals some advice.
I earned a degree at the University of New Mexico in professional writing — a combo of journalism, technical writing, and public relations. During my senior year, a trade publication paid to run one of my articles and, voila, I was a professional writer.
Soon after graduation, I landed the job of office manager at my alma mater, where I got my first taste of meeting planning, in the form of networking events for the students and the professors.
From there, I relocated to Boston and started at a religious association, doing both writing and meeting planning. I later moved to D.C. and earned my CMP and my CMM. In the late 2000s, I returned to college to get a master’s degree in tourism [administration] at George Washington University. It was a big change — the last time I had been in college, the dot-matrix printer was new technology! I focused my degree on a mix of sports, events, and cultural tourism management.
My First Industry Job
My first true industry job, where I had meeting planner in my title and started traveling, was at the religious association in Boston. My duties included planning several small trainings, two larger conferences (around 300-500 attendees), and representing my department in the planning of the annual conference of about 3,000-plus attendees.
My Previous Three Jobs
I have had staff roles at a couple of different nonprofits in D.C. Meetings included board retreats, affiliate meetings (about 350 attendees), and a large annual event of about 5,000 attendees. Some events included golf fundraisers, awards galas, and themed special events. During this time, I learned about associations like PCMA, where I volunteered to work on chapter newsletters.
What I Do Now
Now, I combine my years as a meeting planner with law enforcement. While living in D.C., right after 9/11, I signed up as a reserve officer with the local police department and I’ve been a part of that community ever since. I’ve been lucky enough to help plan events as part of my duties as a public safety officer. Although I still identify as a meeting planner and still help plan events, most of my time is spent working with other planners (and suppliers) to help make events safer, more secure, and better prepared for emergencies. I also still commit time as a public safety officer. I’m a meeting planner with a badge.
My Favorite Thing About My Job
This truly is a great industry. I left for a brief period to work full-time as a law enforcement officer. I was happy to return as a meeting planner. I really enjoy speaking on event safety. More than that, however, I like working with industry colleagues on their plans to facilitate and improve the safety at our meetings. Oh, and site visits are still one of my favorite aspects, too.
Most Influenced in My Career By
I’ve been lucky in my career to have great mentors, influencers, and teammates. I know I’m going to forget someone, so please forgive me if I missed you. A partial list would include Liz Dane, a supplier with Visit St. Pete/Clearwater. She has me laughing all the time, but is always willing to take my call, listen, and give feedback. Mark Battat was a hotelier in San Francisco (he’s in a different field now), but he became a friend at one of my first-ever, out-of-town site visits and remains a trusted contact today. Tyra Warner (Hilliard) asked me to speak to her class at GWU many moons ago and we’ve been speaking buddies ever since. Even my ideas owe a debt of gratitude to Tyra. Linda Minor is a planner and former coworker. We’ve lived through hell and back and still find ways to laugh about it. There’s a former planner, Jack Chiasson, who I met on 9/11 at an industry event.
These folks and others not only provided advice and ideas, but they listened to my challenges and struggles without judgment and made me feel good about my choices and decisions.
My Next Big Career Goal
My goal in my career now and for the foreseeable future is to keep promoting meeting safety and security. When you’re passionate about something, you want to involve as many people as possible. I like to think I bring a unique perspective to meetings from the law-enforcement angle.
My Advice for Young Meeting Professionals
Never stop learning. Always open the door when opportunity knocks, even if you decide not to go through. And build relationships. The industry thrives on people getting to know each other. I’ve known colleagues in publishing, manufacturing, and the like who entered the meetings industry, and were surprised to see how friendly people were to each other. As one colleague said, “I’d never been to an industry conference where people were so happy to see you and hugged each other!”