Stuart Ruff-Lyon on His Evolution as an Event Professional

Author: David McMillin       

Stuart Ruff-Lyon

Roberta Kravitz (from left), Claire Smith, and Stuart Ruff-Lyon attend the Aug. 17 Deborah Sexton Education Scholarship Fund Reception at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The events industry talks a lot about legacies — the imprint that meetings and conferences can leave behind in host destinations. In addition to highlighting the lasting impact of events, PCMA is proud to celebrate the individuals whose leadership will continue to resonate for future generations. More than 100 meeting professionals and suppliers have joined the PCMA Education Foundation’s Legacy Society, a group of professionals with CMPs, CAEs, MBAs, and other distinguished credentials attached to their names who have planned contributions to the industry’s future in their wills or estate plans.

Stuart Ruff-Lyon

Stuart Ruff-Lyon

Those Legacy Society members are making an impact now. From being named The Expo Group’s Show Manager of the Year to leading the charge for digital innovation for the Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc. (RIMS) audience, Stuart Ruff-Lyon CMP, DES, vice president of events and education at RIMS, is a making a difference for the meetings industry. He shares his thoughts on who he wanted to be when he grew up, the biggest changes he’s noticed as he’s matured in the meetings industry, and his excitement for what’s on the road ahead.

What advice would you give the 25-year-old version of you?

To pay more attention to business trends that might impact my meeting. At that age, I was focused on logistics and the near-term and did not have yet the skills or the foresight to look at markets, trends, geopolitical risks, etc., that could impact my meeting products.

What has been the biggest surprise twist in your career? Are there any unexpected turns that you wouldn’t have predicted when you started in the industry?

The biggest twist I can think of has been my enlightenment [about] diversity and inclusion. As a gay man, I always thought I understood it, but I have been humbled to learn so much more about it and have enjoyed applying lessons learned to my work today.

Who has had the biggest impact on you in the events industry?

Marty Balogh and John Folks. Both have inspired me in different ways, at different times in my career. I can remember seeing John Folks on stage as the [PCMA] chairman and thinking, “I want to be that guy. I want to be on that stage someday.” And, when I first met John, I was overwhelmed by his kindness. With Marty, I have had the opportunity to serve on many boards with him, and each time, I learn something new and wise. I always think, “I want to be that guy when I grow up.”

When you look back on your involvement with PCMA, what stands out as your favorite memory or favorite event?

My favorite events will forever be the GloPro events [which have been replaced by Knowledge Exchange programming and other region-specific events]. I learned so much at these events, and the honor to be among the best and brightest global event professionals in our industry was inspiring. I will always particularly be fond of the GloPro Thailand event, where I was able to learn so much that I was able to execute my first China program with grace and confidence.

The events industry is evolving quickly. What’s the biggest — and most valuable — change you’ve experienced in your career? And what most excites you about the next generation of meetings and events?

The greatest change I have experienced has been the evolution of the profession. Gone are the days where our profession is limited to procurement and logistics; today we have a real chance to play key roles in business and at the C-level.

I have also enjoyed the efficiencies that technology has afforded us. Remember the days when you had a 500-page binder on site to execute a meeting? Or the days of processing paper registrations? Technology advancements in our industry have allowed our profession to evolve into more strategic roles. For the next generation of meetings, I am keen on how artificial intelligence and technology will continue to advance event products.

PCMA Voices: Stuart Ruff-Lyon

Ruff-Lyon talks about making all RIMS experiences more welcoming for risk professionals from all backgrounds.