MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 20 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.
LGBT Meeting Professionals Association
For furthering diversity and inclusivity by advancing opportunities for LGBT meeting professionals
Creating the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association has established a voice in the industry that didn’t exist prior to that. There were old-boy connections and Meeting Professionals International had gatherings, but there was no formal place for us. No representation.
We can now connect people with a like mind, including allies, to let them network. For example, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau just became a member and before us, there was no way in the current industry to make it clear that they support diversity and show they are proud to stand with us. Other destinations like Birmingham, Ala., and Niagara Falls, N.Y., are just crying out to be recognized and do business with the LGBT community.
Grow the membership (we currently have 700 members) and develop our voice. We want to develop content and workshops next. We are working on education and social components. Richard Gray of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is calling us LGBT+ because we represent so many different professionals including people of color. We want the next generation to understand and address issues, not just “bathroom laws” for the transgender community, but all diversity issues.
Advice for Managing Change
There are always a lot of naysayers. I get a lot of stonewalling but I believe in myself and the goal with conviction. Bring confidence to the table—that’s your winning card.
My first job was at John Wanamaker’s. As a young guy in the ad department, I respected that John Wanamaker created Wanamaker games, relays, and white sales. He broke all the rules and never looked back. I take a lot of my early conviction from him.
I would say being a gay man means you do look at things differently. There is a filter that means you embrace your community when you see and feel it. It helped me create the first destination campaign for the LGBT community for Philadelphia (Get Your History Straight and Your Night Life Gay), and it broke all ad records at the time for public relations. A lot of people ask me “why now?” I saw the need for an organization to represent the LGBT voice in the meetings industry.
Got a Spare Hour?
I go sailing. I get on a boat and go out on the water. If it is only an hour, I might go to the gym and work out.
Advice for Young People
The “stick-to-it-ness” of it all is critical. Begin with the end in mind. I have an engineering degree and I know if you don’t know what the goal is you won’t get there. The meetings industry is one that can make a huge impact for change so stick with it.
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