Drawing on careers that have spanned more than three decades, three of this year’s Convention Industry Council Hall of Leaders inductees offer advice to those just entering the meetings and hospitality industry. The inductees will be honored on October 13 atMandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, two days before the start of IMEX America.
Peggy Daidakis, executive director, Baltimore Convention Center
“It’s odd that there are still so few of us women in management in convention centers. Part of the message I want to weave in my acceptance speech is that I didn’t realize the magnitude of my appointment at the BCC (as executive director) in 1986. We still have a long way to go in encouraging competent women to pursue building operations and management.
I hung around a lot of successful men, who had experience from the good old handshake days. I got involved to learn how they acted and to be exposed to various aspects of the business. I would encourage women not to retreat from those types of environments, but to learn from successful people.
In the facilities business, I see women more comfortable in traditional convention services and sales roles. But if you’re a good manager, you can bring in a good team. Add your own style and personality. Don’t try to match the men.
My deputy director and my director of sales and marketing are both women. I ask them, ”where do you want to be?” And I gently prod them in certain directions, give them tips on what they might do. I had to be the self-starter and interjected myself into that world. You can’t shy away.”
Liz Erikson, executive director, meetings & incentives, North America, Fairmont-Raffles-Swissôtel
“I think people have to have patience, whether they are entering the hospitality industry or the engineering field. It takes a while to develop credibility and respect. It’s something you have to earn, something you have to prove. When I entered the industry, there were very few women working in hospitality. In my hospitality program, there were 200 men and five women! I’d say that in all of San Francisco’s hotels in the late ‘70s, there were 5 to 6 women, only two directors of sales, and they tended to be in tour and travel.
But I’ve had great mentors in men and men had the ability to network well. Women often turned their backs on women, and didn’t network as well. In order to break the glass ceiling, in order to become a vice president level and up, one has to mentor other women and to have honest dialogues. Women need to be gentler and kinder to one another and not be afraid to mentor other women.”
senior vice president, worldwide sales, Intercontinental Hotels Group
“It’s a great industry, one that is very different every day. You should get involved with your customers and know your clients and their value proposition; and if you’re on the planner side, you should understand how your hotel partners or other suppliers make their money. The more strategic you can be, the more successful you will become.
You need to understand that the decision-maker has changed due to the intermediation of meetings. You should not relinquish all rights to the end customer!
I continue to mentor at IHG, often to women. For me, it was an internal need. When I saw my mentees be more successful, or I started working for them, that was very personal: It made me feel good. It was my mentoring that helped me get out of bed some days.
No one is going to present your brand as well as you. Your job as a hotelier is a little harder today because the customer contact and base is much broader. But the more transparent you can be, the better off you will be. Honesty is still very important.”
For more information about these and other Hall of Leaders inductees, the Pacesetter Award winners, and the gala at which they will be honored, visit www.conventionindustry.org/hallofleaders.