This year, PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties program honors its 10th class of exceptional young leaders in the business events industry. Class member Kate Fries, meetings manager and business development manager at Bostrom, explains how adaptability has helped her and other event professionals during the industry’s continued time of uncertainty.
What have you learned about yourself — and the industry — during the past few years of uncertainty?
I’ve learned that I am adaptable and flexible. It’s important to have these skills as an event manager as there constantly will be ebbs and flows that affect our events and attendees, requiring us to sometimes stretch outside of our comfort zone to adapt to them. I specifically think about the adaptability event professionals embodied as virtual events became widespread, and how quickly we were able to navigate the change from in-person events to virtual. With these skills comes resiliency. I’ve witnessed the resilient nature of the business events industry and know that we will always find a way to bounce back from the adversity and challenges that come our way.
What do you like most about your job?
I love working with my clients to execute their vision for each event. My favorite thing about my job is seeing the vision come to life, and watching the attendees enjoy every minute of the event.
What skills have been key to your success during these uncertain times?
Creativity and flexibility have been important skills. I think the uncertainty over the past few years has forced us to think about things differently and exercise both creativity and flexibility when overcoming the challenges we’ve faced in producing events. The creativity comes from rethinking the traditional event and making it conducive to the post-pandemic environment, and the flexibility involves possibly adding components to your event that may not have been there in the past in order to accommodate attendees in the changing environment.
As in-person meetings have resumed, what — if anything — do you think has changed about gathering face to face compared to pre-pandemic events?
I think planners are having to meet attendees where they are most comfortable more so than before the pandemic. As an event planner who works across many industries, I’ve seen that each industry within the business events world has its own set of challenges as they recover from the pandemic. These unique challenges have required thinking differently, and meeting attendees where they are in the recovery curve. However, once these challenges are faced, I’ve seen a wave of enthusiasm for being back in person and being able to reconnect with peers after several years of uncertainty.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself continuing to grow alongside the industry. Between now and then, I see my relationships across the industry continuing to strengthen, allowing for productive partnerships and excellent attendee experiences. I hope to continue to bring visions to life in the events I produce, and I hope to be implementing new ideas and innovations such as new technology or new experiences within those events.
What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing careers in the events industry?
Learn the industry as a whole, and find your place within that. I studied hospitality management in school, and that knowledge is critical to my day-to-day practice of planning events. Through my studies I spent time in hotels and restaurants, which gives me insight when I work with these partners on any of my client events. The wholistic view of the industry encapsulates the many different roles that are possible within the business events ecosystem, and I believe there is something for everyone and every skillset within it.