Heather Seasholtz’s Unconventional Path to Personal, Professional Fulfillment

Author: David McMillin       

Heather Seasholtz

Heather Seasholtz

The events industry talks a lot about legacies — the lasting imprint that meetings and conferences leave behind in host destinations. In addition to highlighting those impacts that continue to make a difference for communities around the world, PCMA is proud to celebrate the individuals whose leadership will continue to resonate for future generations. More than 100 meeting professionals and suppliers have joined the PCMA Foundation’s Legacy Society, a group with CMPs, CAEs, MBAs, and other distinguished acronyms attached to their names who have planned contributions to the industry’s future in their wills or estate plans.

Those Legacy Society members are currently making an impact, too. From helping clients rethink their approaches to sponsorship at Talley Management Group (TMG) to serving on the Board of the Penn State Hotel & Restaurant Society, Heather Seasholtz, CMP, director of meetings and events at TMG, is a true difference-maker for the meetings industry. Today, she shares her thoughts on conquering burnout, navigating change, and appreciating her career mentors.

What advice would you give the 25-year-old version of you?

  1. Be patient.
  2. Own your mistakes, and learn from them.
  3. It’s not personal!
  4. You may be responsible for all of it, but it doesn’t mean that you know all of it. Use your resources, ask questions, and learn!

What has been the biggest surprise twist in your career? Any unexpected turns that you wouldn’t have predicted when you started in the industry?

There are no surprises, but I was willing to take a few steps back in order to keep moving forward.

I became very burnt out in a position and knew I needed to either leave the position or [I would experience] health issues with the stress of the job. Because I am the only person who can look out for myself, I left my job with no back-up plan, no next step, no job, and a very small piggybank. For the first time since I was out of school, I wasn’t working and had no income. I put myself out there. I looked, used my resources, and was offered a position that was a few levels lower than the position I left. And that’s exactly what I wanted.

I wanted to get back to the passion of planning, the enjoyment of logistics, the interaction with colleagues and clients, [the ability to] find satisfaction in a job well done — all which was missing in my previous role. It was exactly what I needed at that time, and within three years, I was back at the [previous] professional level with a better mindset, more experience, more passion, more management knowledge, and more involvement in the industry. So again, it was not a surprise that my career took this turn, but it was not a conventional path to decide to take a few steps back in order to reset and move forward again.

Who has had the biggest impact on you in the events industry and why?

There are two people.

  • Gregg Talley: It may be a bit self-serving since he’s my current boss, but I’ve known of Gregg for several years. I remember watching him on stage at PCMA and thinking that he was so comfortable on that stage and was just an incredible presenter. The way he thinks on his feet, speaks, and strategizes is inspiring, and I just soak up his insight like a sponge. With him, I’m empowered to make decisions, give ideas and solutions, provide insight, and represent him and TMG.
  • Linda Still: Linda encouraged me to get involved in PCMA. She took a burnt-out meeting manager and empowered me to step up and step on a few colleagues’ toes along the way to execute an annual meeting. She also taught me etiquette, and that is something that is dwindling in the age of technology.

When you look back on your involvement with PCMA, what stands out as your favorite memory or favorite event?

The international trips with PCMA are high on my list. I went to Dubai in 2015 with PCMA for the Dubai Meetings Forum. I made friends and connections there that I have not lost. We all experienced a magical trip, connected as equals, and participated in a panel where we spoke to an audience of meetings industry professionals in Dubai.

Last year, I went to Bangkok for the last GloPro. It was inspiring to hear about the culture of Bangkok, learn what our Thai counterparts experience when they come to Convening Leaders, and gain insights on how we plan and how they do business, [as well as different] cultural differences and perception.

Heather Seasholtz

Heather Seasholtz meets an elephant during PCMA’s 2017 Global Professionals Conference in Bangkok, Thailand.

The events industry is evolving quickly. What’s the biggest — and most valuable — change you’ve experienced in your career? And what most excites you about the next generation of meetings and events?

Change is the only constant in this world. Hybrid events were seen as a threat to live meetings when they first launched, but they have proven to be another revenue source to pull in those who would not have attended. Meeting attendance hasn’t decreased. I’m excited to see how this continues to evolve as the technology changes.

Sponsorship is also fun to watch. Sponsors want year-round engagement now. Creating a sponsorship that is 365 days versus a four-day meeting can be challenging. I’m seeing more sponsorship item-bundling. One of my clients had someone interested in spending big dollars. However, we didn’t have an existing large sponsorship package, so we created an “Engagement Sponsorship.” We added all the pieces that would provide them engagement with the attendee: mobile app, Wi-Fi with the sponsor’s name as the password, cocktail reception, etc. Now, it’s the first sponsorship to sell every year.

Enhance your contract expertise with insights from Seasholtz at Convening Leaders. She will be part of “Negotiating Beyond the Typical Venue Contract” on January 7 at 3:30 p.m.