Jaclyn Rosenberg, manager of conferences and events at the Humane Society of the United States, was recently named one of the Professional Convention Management Association's “20 in Their Twenties” event professionals, but she almost didn’t end up in this industry at all.
A marketing graduate of the business school at the University of Maryland, Rosenberg says she was interested in the events industry, but “one of the struggles is that it’s not easy to get your foot in the door. When I graduated, there was very little entry-level access because I had no experience.” Although Rosenberg completed three unpaid marketing internships in college, she didn’t see a career path in the meeting and events industry.
Fortunately, after joining the Humane Society in a marketing role, she found an opportunity to make the move. She says, “In 2017, the events team was shorthanded and needed someone to run registration at the annual Animal Care Expo. I volunteered and took over that function as well as doing more content-based tasks such as helping with session selection and continuing education.” When her current position opened up, then, it seemed a natural progression for her.
Since then, she has overseen the building and adoption of an event app, which has enabled her to advance principles that are important to her age group. This includes decreasing the society's environmental footprint by getting rid of the 80-plus-page paper program and increasing interaction with and between attendees. Her ultimate goal is to make the society’s main events—the annual Animal Care Expo and Taking Action for Animals, which engages activists and includes lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill every two years—completely paperless. But at the moment, the society still publishes a pocket guide to the schedule and a map.
Another goal Rosenberg is working to accomplish is updating and consolidating the society’s technology. “Young people want ease of access to everything; they want to register for an event and book travel and hotels easily in one place. Attendee expectations are changing, and people do compare experiences from different events.” She is sympathetic when people are afraid of change, to a point. “Because we are a nonprofit, people don’t like to take financial risks. But I think sometimes you need to bite the bullet and invest because in the long run it will save money.”
Rosenberg’s marketing background has helped her contribute to two innovations that have proved very popular. The first was two years ago when the society started organizing tours of local shelters for event attendees, allowing both a practical exchange of ideas and also boosting outreach efforts to local supporters who are then more likely to hear about and attend the conference. The Animal Care Expo changes venue each year, in the past few years visiting cities like Las Vegas and New Orleans, and in 2020 the event will be held in San Antonio, where Rosenberg is excited to engage many local groups that are within driving distance of the expo.
The second popular innovation began this year with the introduction of a new breakfast roundtable event, where discussion leaders for 100 different topics were recruited to steer conversations at each table. Rosenberg says the event was a learning experience for the organizers. “We were not sure if one topic, working with Native American reservations on animal welfare issues, would have any interest. But the table was packed and the participants now have a Facebook group to continue the conversation.” Further, the breakfast discussions enabled attendees to learn about niche issues and were a low-risk way for the organizers to gauge interest in future sessions.
Rosenberg says she was lucky to fall into this profession and has no plans to leave. “For me, one of the big draws of the job is not being stuck behind a desk all the time, and I think that is very appealing to other young people. Before I started working in events I didn’t see the craziness. But if you like it, you’ll find a way into it.”