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. Lauren Stroud, manager of strategic events, meetings & incentives, at MCI USA in Plano, Texas, tells us what she sees as key to the industry’s recovery.
What do you like most about your job?
Working in various cities is such an eye opener to what things are like outside of my own familiar environments. Of course, I enjoy a change in scenery, as most event-goers do. But my job allows me to know what is having an impact in the locations where I work. Navigating factors such as high-traffic cities, politics, changes in ownership, culture celebrations, or unforeseen tragedies, etc., all play a part in the big and small parts of strategic planning. I don’t think I would be as attentive to these things if I wasn’t in this role, which certainly wouldn’t have allowed me the opportunity to engage in conversations with some amazing people. I love that about my job, not just like it.
What do you see as key to the industry’s recovery after this time of disruption?
Right now, our industry is recovering based on the fact that we’re a hot commodity. People are yearning to be away from their desks, computers, phones, and televisions. They want to be outside — out and about! I think the “hype” is overshadowing the areas for which people normally may have complaints. I believe as an industry we have to realize that the return-to-in-person “high” will eventually level off, meaning people will be more apt to find faults.
The key to maintain being in demand is to stay in tune with what our “why’s” are. We should be experts in knowing the challenges our audiences/partners/clients face and understanding what they value. Based on that comprehension, we can continue to enhance areas that are near and dear to all involved. We should strive to navigate in a way that eliminates any hassles and allows all parties to participate seamlessly, harmlessly, and efficiently.
What has this time of disruption taught you about the industry — and yourself?
Prior to 2020, I admittedly didn’t think our industry was a top priority. I was under the impression that years into the future there could be a chance that the world evolves to a place that doesn’t necessarily need to have meetings or events. I’ve now learned that our industry in fact has a very strong presence in the world, we are just very delicate. Delicate because what we do isn’t about being right or wrong or about making the most money. Our industry is here because we operate with this massive goal to give everyone a magnificent experience and/or return home with takeaways they find valuable. Our industry is personal. And now our industry has an obligation to run safely, and safely with a new meaning. Connecting and interacting in person plays a huge part in individual lives, and even further my personal life. I was taught that I really need to slow down and appreciate all of my experiences. Before the unexpected pause, it was so easy to say “I’ll see you next time,” “I’ll go next year,” or “It’ll happen again.” Now I certainly think twice about declining. I think I’ve reached a new level of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would love to continue to promote the importance of our industry to young adults and students and the opportunity it provides to be a substantial career path. I believe the popular phrase going around is “normalize” our occupations. In five years, I see myself with a network of professionals in our industry and vendors. I foresee being able to reach out to folks with whom I am able to collaborate on ideas and have a rapport that is valued amongst us all. In five years, I would love to be challenging myself by expanding my portfolio to different sectors of events and clients as well as bringing in potential new business to my organization. All these things while maybe taking on a new house and a dog.