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. Kelsey Secules, CMP, CSEP, DES, senior manager of strategic event management at MCI USA in Arlington, Virginia, shares what she sees as key to the industry’s recovery.
What do you like most about your job?
I am pleased to serve as senior manager of events for MCI USA’s client, the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), which includes ownership of the IRF’s Annual Education Invitational. The Invitational is the preeminent incentive industry fundraising event that pays for the foundation’s research into organizational motivation, where buyers and sellers of incentive travel and programs come to learn about trends and experience destinations. In short, I plan events for event professionals. It is high-stakes but truly rewarding work. Between IRF and my client ILEA (International Live Events Association), I have the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the incentives and hospitality industries. I’m given opportunity after opportunity to continue to find ways to push the envelope and deliver new and exciting experiences for these seasons pros.
What do you see as key to the industry’s recovery after this time of disruption?
Customization! Now more than ever, our audience is growing more and more divided in terms of attention spans, COVID-19 comfort levels, and more. Just like planners have had to learn to create hybrid experiences for both virtual and in-person audiences, we’ll continue to be pushed to create custom experiences for our different event audiences. Personalized experiences can be super impactful for your attendees, and are increasingly becoming the expectation, not the exception.
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from someone in the industry?
There’s no such thing as a stupid question … but maybe get to know your audience before asking. Do your homework and do your best to understand who your stakeholders are and what their primary concerns are. That and: get everything in writing … #CYA.
What has this time of disruption taught you about the industry — and yourself?
Somebody has to go first! For my client IRF’s return to face-to-face events, we had to argue the value of bringing nearly 500 incentive industry professionals together in one room. So we set out to create an event
where those 500 folks could gather together to get our industry back on track with a fun and immersive experience all while being guided first and foremost by our attendees’ health and safety. At the time there were very few models to follow for an event of this size, especially as vaccination numbers began to rise. My team and I boldly “went first” and I’m thrilled to share that the event received great acclaim — specifically surrounding our health and safety protocols, which I am proud to have co-authored.