This year, PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties program honors its 10th class of exceptional young leaders in the business events industry. Class member Tomell Harbison, meeting and event coordinator at Talley Management Group, shares what aspect of his job inspires him.
What do you like most about your job?
My favorite part about the job is learning about so many different associations and what they do. For example, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) caters to African American pilots and workers in the aerospace field by developing and helping connect them with new job opportunities. But the most important aspect to them is the sense of family, which I love. Working with different groups, you can really sense their passion for what they do, which is inspiring.
What skills have been key to your success during these uncertain times?
Being patient is very important right now because everyone in the world is trying to adjust to a new normal. When working with vendors and/or other stakeholders it is key to allow time for others to work out their processes. Keeping a positive mindset also is key as it allows others around you to not feel as stressed, which makes work a bit easier for everyone.
As in-person meetings have resumed, what — if anything — do you think has changed about gathering face to face compared to pre-pandemic events?
The main thing that has changed is how to distribute content to attendees. Studies show that young professionals do not want to sit in a traditional seminar session. To grab their attention you must make those sessions interactive. For example, conducting roundtables where they can engage the speaker in a more effective way. Also, the networking events have to be out of the box; you could host something at a speakeasy or go as big as bringing in Cirque du Soleil performers.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years I see myself with my CMP. In addition, I hope to be a senior meeting manager, continuing to produce successful shows.
What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing careers in the events industry?
I would tell students to explore different roles within the industry. Try working for a CVB, hotel, and on meetings and events — you might like an unexpected role. Also, I’d suggest they start interning somewhere a soon as possible. That experience will make them more marketable.
Members of PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties class of 2023, supported by PCMA Foundation and Experience Columbus, were recognized at PCMA Convening Leaders 2023, Jan. 8-11 in Columbus, Ohio.