This year, PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties program honors its 10th class of exceptional young leaders in the business events industry. Class member Eimear Hone, senior association account manager at ICC Belfast, shares the best advice she’s been given and offers her own advice to others interested in pursuing a career in the industry.
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from someone in the industry?
Say YES! (And then figure it out as you go.) The best opportunities often come from putting yourself forward for initiatives that you might not feel you fully understand. But in my experience, if you are willing to learn, you will find someone to help. There are so many experts within the business events industry who are so generous in giving their time to help others.
Putting myself forward for challenges outside of my comfort zone has given me the opportunity to grow my network, learn new skills, enhance my knowledge across different functions of the industry, and ultimately, develop my leadership skills. I have adopted these approaches a lot in my career, which has provided me with opportunities to be involved in huge projects within the industry that I might have missed.
What do you like most about your job?
It’s immensely rewarding to know that my work has a positive impact here in Belfast and across Northern Ireland. The national and international events that I work to secure yield significant economic benefits as well as social and cultural ones. Working on association business means nurturing long-term opportunities, adopting creative thinking to unique challenges, and collaborating with a wide network of stakeholders. There are so many opportunities to learn in this industry and I love that every convention or exhibition we host at ICC Belfast is a chance for our team to refine our approach but also to hear different perspectives from those working in totally different industries.
I have the privilege of being an ambassador for undergraduate students working toward event-related qualifications throughout the United Kingdom. I love to show that they also can make a difference in people’s lives and their local communities by bringing people together from across the globe in a meaningful way.
What skills have been key to your success during these uncertain times?
A lot of my success can be credited to my innovative approach to problem solving. When flights were grounded during the pandemic and one of my top prospects couldn’t visit the venue as planned, I put into action a plan to utilize our in-house facilities to deliver a live sales pitch from our hybrid studio and conduct a real-time virtual site visit. The client loved how we adapted to meet their needs and as a result we secured a 2025 conference worth more than $1.7 million (U.S.) in economic impact.
From an account management perspective, I also designed and implemented a proactive account engagement strategy with designated contact touch points to ensure clients have everything at their disposal to propose Belfast as their first site choice.
From initial bid through to site visits I engage with our internal and external partners across the city to ensure site visits are a standout and memorable experience. This engagement strategy is a replicable template and I have been coaching team members on how to apply it in the context of their client relationships to achieve our shared organizational goals.
What creative initiative, innovation, or meeting format that came out of the pandemic do you believe should remain? And why?
I believe being innovative through delivering virtual/hybrid solutions is vital to remain competitive in a post-pandemic world. Face-to-face events will always be at the heart of what we do, but adding on hybrid can create new revenue streams and allow organizers to penetrate previously untapped audiences. In addition to this, I also believe flexibility is key in a post-pandemic world in order to retain clients and strengthen relationships, especially from a contractual perspective.
What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing careers in the events industry?
I am regularly invited to deliver presentations at further education centers to inspire and motivate more young people to join the industry I love. The events industry is one of the most diverse and resilient industries. With career options in sales, operations and delivery, hospitality, technical production, and many more areas, there is a fulfilling career opportunity to align with any passion. This industry allows individuals to be diverse and learn new skills across multifunctional departments, which I think is fantastic. I would also recommend students take every opportunity that is presented to them or available. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd and showcase your desire to get involved — the experience I gained during my industry placement year at university has developed my knowledge and skills greatly.