This year, PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties program honors its 10th class of exceptional young leaders in the business events industry. Class member Sarah Chen, convention marketing manager at Visit Anaheim, shares her thoughts on the impact in-person interactions have in the industry.
As in-person meetings have resumed, what — if anything — do you think has changed about gathering face to face compared to pre-pandemic events?
Intentional relationship building has grown stronger. We have all experienced virtual events in the past few years, but we can all agree that nothing compares to face-to-face connections. Even as a people-oriented industry, we are seeing now more than ever that in-person interactions undeniably lead to deeper personal relationships, meaningful conversations, and impactful business outcomes.
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from someone in the industry?
“If you’re not giving pushback, you’re not pioneering.” This is something that has always stuck with me because it challenges me to innovate in both little and great ways. When I feel hesitant to ask a question or propose an idea that sounds crazy, it encourages me to do it anyway. I believe that if we keep our heads down and follow what’s always been done, we are sacrificing opportunities to break new ground. Change can be hard work, but it is always worth it.
What do you like most about your job?
This one’s easy — the people! At Visit Anaheim, I work with a laser-sharp group of professionals who advocate for my professional growth and show me what it means to lead with a people-first approach. Beyond my internal team, I love being able to work with local hotels, restaurants, and attractions in our business community to share their stories as it relates to the vibrant attendee experiences in Anaheim.
What skills have been key to your success during these uncertain times?
It is critical to have a forward-thinking mindset. While unexpectedness is in the nature of our business, we must do our best to prepare for the present and focus on the future.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I see myself as a senior destination marketing leader, leading the charge in branding, messaging, and illustrating stories that speak true to authentic attendee experiences. I am committed to creating marketing campaigns that aren’t just data-driven, but heart-driven. It is through authentic storytelling that I can truly connect with my audience and promote the value of face-to-face experiences — because great things truly happen when people come together.