Digital Event Strategist Spotlight: JoAnne Spitale, Senior Conferences Manager, Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC)


It’s no secret that the events industry has been dramatically transformed in the past 5 years. Digital events took on a new importance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and event technology is continually evolving, changing the way event organizers bring people together virtually. For JoAnne Spitale, Senior Conferences Manager for DMEC, an active Digital Event Strategist certification not only gave her the knowledge she needed to keep up with these changes, it also showed employers the depth of her expertise. She spoke with us about her path to earning her certification and why she continues to recertify.

Tell us a little bit about what you do and what made you pursue DES in the first place.

My name is JoAnne Spitale and I began my meeting planning career 20 years ago as a graduate student in sports management. One of my graduate classes tasked us with a project planning a charity 5k and I was lead on the project. My sports management degree led me to my first “real” job working for a sport-related non-profit. The organization hosted an 8,000+ conference every year and I was immediately hooked on the meeting planning industry. I’ve worked for several non-profits throughout the years and have been employed in the conference department of the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) for 13 years.

I participated in one of the first classes to complete the DES certification in 2018 after being accepted to receive a scholarship to complete the course. I knew as soon as I saw the application that the certification was something I wanted to pursue. At the time, I knew that digital events were an up-and-coming sector of the meeting planning industry and it was important to stay up to date on emerging trends, but, of course, no one knew how important virtual events would become until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

What made you decide to recertify as a DES? How has continuing to hold this designation been useful in your career? 

Digital and virtual events are definitely here to stay and I think the DES certification is a no brainer for anyone in the meeting planning industry. It was important to me to recertify and stay up to date on the day-to-day changes, challenges, and strategies in the digital event world. Holding the DES certification was extremely helpful when our March 2020 conference was cancelled two weeks prior to the event start date due to COVID, which caused a very quick pivot to virtual events for the next 2 years. The DES program has also provided me a link to a network of other DES certified planners, which is invaluable in the industry.

How has your role as an events strategist evolved since you took the course, and has the knowledge you’ve gained from earning additional clock hours supported that transformation? 

The only answer to this question is absolutely! No one knew back in 2018 how the digital event world would change due to the pandemic and I’m sure even the DES course has changed dramatically since I completed the course in 2018. The entire meeting planning industry was forced to pivot quickly to fully virtual meetings and my knowledge thanks to the DES course was helpful to my organization in doing so. Our conferences prior to the pandemic did not have any virtual components and we were required to quickly plan and implement virtual options to meet the needs of our attendees. Moving forward, all of our conferences will now include a virtual aspect.

Is there anything else you’d like to share on why being a DES certificate holder is valuable to you or how it has raised your professional standing?

The meeting planning industry is one that relies heavily on professionals that are educated with the most up to date emerging education and trends. Meeting planners are required daily to pivot and change directions for a variety of reasons and the DES certification and the education provided by PCMA to maintain the certification are crucial for anyone looking to raise their professional standing in the meeting planning industry. Having my DES certification allowed me to not only maintain my meeting planning career throughout the pandemic, but continues to be a key component in showcasing my industry knowledge, background and experience. I highly recommend the DES certification to anyone looking to excel in the meeting planning industry.

The Digital Event Strategist Spotlight series features Digital Event Strategists and how they are making an impact in their work through digital and hybrid events.

For inquiries about the Digital Event Strategist certification, please complete the form.

Learn more about the DES recertification process here.