Ascent: ‘We Wanted to Stand Up and Be Counted’


Learn how Dave Jefferys, one of PCMA’s Ascent Luminaries, transformed ‘an underground network of LGBT meeting professionals’ into a thriving organization. The Luminaries series, made possible by VisitDallas, is part of the PCMA Convene Ascent initiative, which seeks to promote inclusion and diversity across the business events industry.

By David McMillin

Dave Jefferys is no stranger to building brands. As the president of Philadelphia-based marketing firm Altus Agency, he’s worked with Chase, Amtrak, Bayer, and a wide range of other companies to make their messages resonate with target audiences. In 2016, Jefferys decided to do more than build the creative framework for other organizations and companies. He launched an organization to bring together what he described as the underserved LGBT meetings and events community.

“There was an underground network of LGBT meeting professionals and allies who were coming together at various industry events,” Jefferys told me when I interviewed him for PCMA’s Ascent Luminaries video series. “But none of it had been formalized to give it a foundation for growth or to increase the visibility of the impact that the LGBT community has on meetings and events.”

Enter the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association (LGBTMPA). “We wanted to stand up and be counted,” Jefferys said. “We wanted to get a voice at the table and have something to say.”

Jefferys estimates that between six percent and eight percent of the events industry is part of the LGBT community, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and LGBTMPA is capturing that target group. As of summer 2018, the organization’s membership included more than 750 professionals, and Jefferys expected to cross the 1,000-member threshold by the end of the year. The audience has attracted more than 20 partners and sponsors that participate in the association’s networking receptions and educational workshops. In 2018, LGBTMPA hosted seven events, and that number is likely to grow in 2019.

Adding Up the Impact

A recent report from the Events Industry Council measured the economic impact —nearly $1.5 trillion — of the global events industry, and Jefferys is digging into the numbers to try to grasp how much the LGBT community contributes to that total. The organization is working with researchers at Iowa State University on a project that examines the direct, indirect, and induced economic impact from the LGBT meeting community.

“We want to tell the story of the jobs creation and the financial contribution that can be attributed to LGBT meeting professionals,” Jefferys said. “And we want to understand what kind of positions LGBT professionals hold so we can continue to help them move into decision-making roles.”

Jefferys’ work to power the professional development of LGBT meeting professionals is the reason why he is part of the inaugural class of PCMA Ascent Luminaries — the leaders who are championing diversity in business events. Watch the accompanying video for more on how he is aiming to advance the meetings industry. Visit the LGBTMPA site to learn more about the LGBTMPA and participant in one of the organization’s upcoming events.


The Ascent Luminaries video series is sponsored by VisitDallas. For more on Ascent, go to PCMA.org/ascent.

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