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. Kendra MacLure, CMP, lead field and event marketing manager at Bolt in Washington, D.C., talks about how she sees the industry changing after the past two years.
What do you like most about your job?
An event primarily lives inside my head for roughly 18 months, so it’s incredibly rewarding to watch it come to fruition. In addition, I love the teamwork and collaboration that are required to pull off a successful event. The end result feels as much like a celebration of hard work as it does a conference or trade show.
What do you see as key to the industry’s recovery after this time of disruption?
People are looking to be engaged after such a long period of isolation, and we — as event designers — must rise to the occasion. And especially in an era of accessibility, centering the experience on our audience and allowing them to interact with all five senses will be integral in creating a memorable event.
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from someone in the industry?
There are no mistakes, only last-minute adjustments. In essence, when things go wrong (and they will occasionally go wrong), your response to the problem is much more important than how or why the problem came to be. It’s said that “calm is contagious,” but this is equally true for fear and panic. As the project lead, you will influence what will spread.
What has this time of disruption taught you about the industry — and yourself?
The pandemic taught the industry, and me, to be versatile. People were forced to think differently because the notion of “this is how we’ve always done it” was obsolete — for example, the emerging prevalence of remote positions. We are now reevaluating processes and procedures, choosing innovation and creativity over tenure.
I, too, had the opportunity to shift my perspective. The pandemic allowed me time and space to recognize the importance of mental health and relationships. I am undoubtedly guilty of running myself ragged and have taken steps since the pandemic to prioritize myself and the people I care about most.
How do you see the industry changing as a result of the pandemic?
I certainly hope to see a blended version of pre-pandemic life and post-pandemic life in the industry. While I am excited to feel safe and produce in-person events again, COVID did elicit positive change.
For one, virtual meetings broke down barriers such as cost and travel restrictions. At my company, we saw a dramatic increase in attendees from low-income countries who could not have otherwise attended, highlighting an increased need for grants and aid programs. In addition, hybrid meetings put pressure on event planners to produce interactive events. Why should I spend the money on a hotel, airfare, etc., when I can get the same experience from my couch? It’s not good enough to host a cookie-cutter event year after year. Last, the past two years have put mental health at the forefront. People now recognize that life is short and they must prioritize accordingly.
What new skills has the pandemic led you to pursue?
The pandemic showed me that I need to expand my skills to best prepare for the future. It seemed the entire hospitality industry was in a precarious position for a time, and I found myself wondering if I was versatile enough to pivot. This realization led me to pursue an MBA, and I hope to enroll in the Fall of 2022.
In addition, the pandemic allowed time for me to volunteer as a coach with the organization Girls on the Run. I’ve had the immense pleasure of having several female mentors in my life, and I hope to pay that forward.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
My passion has always been for those events that challenge attendees to think differently. I plan to pursue this passion in the next five years by designing event experiences related to global brand strategy. I hope to engage and influence audiences to make a difference.
However, I must first develop my strategic management and critical thinking skills by earning an MBA to achieve this. Higher education will help me develop the leadership skills necessary to succeed in an executive role and increase my creditability as a professional.