After another year of disruption, members of PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties class of 2022 are proof positive that adaptability is a requisite skill for business events industry professionals. Elizabeth Miranda, events manager at Cayuse in Portland, Oregon, shares what she has learned about the industry and herself over the past two years.
What do you like most about your job?
My favorite thing about my job is seeing firsthand how attendees benefit from the events we produce. Most of my career has been spent planning events for educators — seeing the knowledge, inspiration, and community that they find at our events makes all the work worth it because I know they are then taking what they learned at our events and impacting youth across the globe. Every event should have that kind of impact on its attendees and we are the ones responsible for making it happen.
What do you see as key to the industry’s recovery after this time of disruption?
I believe the keys are keeping our focus on the purpose of events and not being married to tradition. The purpose of events is to gather with a community around a common cause. Whether you are gathering those in the same profession for an educational experience or bringing together complete strangers for an entertainment event, the root of all events is the same — creating a sense of community surrounding a commonality. If you keep that as your focus, it will allow you to better adapt and not stay wed to the way things have always been done. Just because we gathered in a certain way in the past doesn’t mean we have to do that going forward. We have seen that we can gather virtually and still accomplish our goal of creating community. Even as we head back to in-person events, we don’t have to meet in the same way — we can’t meet in the same way if we want to recover. We have to adapt to the times and focus on the goal of the event.
What has this time of disruption taught you about the industry — and yourself?
It has been made very clear how necessary our industry is. The past two years have taught me that, no matter the format, meetings and events are necessary — for community, for industry progress, and for economic reasons. Meetings and events persevered during a time when they should have collapsed and ceased to exist. Our industry and the people in it are resilient and our industry will always be around as long as it evolves.
How do you see the industry changing as a result of the pandemic?
I think that the industry will become much more intentional. Budgets are limited, restrictions are in place, and it is harder for people to travel and gather. Because of this, meetings and events need to provide even more value for those who attend them. Intentionality creates value. I think our industry is going to be a lot more thoughtful in planning and ask questions like: Can our events be shorter to make them financially more accessible? Have we made a safe space so that people can truly enjoy themselves? Do we need to have open receptions and large keynotes or do people find more value in smaller breakouts? How can we engage those not attending in person?
What new skills has the pandemic led you to pursue?
The skill of being a multi-topic expert is something that we were all forced to pursue. We have had to be the technical support, the streaming and Wi-Fi expert, and a web UX guru all while completing our normal event management roles. With in-person events, it was more likely that you would have contractors onsite to be those topic experts. In the virtual world, I became an expert and had to expand my skills beyond what I was used to.