Today's guest post is by meetings, travel, and hospitality consultant Pam Wynne, HMCC, CMM, CMP.
Women have a hard enough time in the meetings industry—given the lingering gap in what women earn versus their male counterparts, and fewer strong women in leadership positions than there should be—without competing with each other. We need to work together to build each other up, share success stories, motivate and challenge one another, and lend a helping hand.
As I reflect on my career, I thank those before me who served as my guides, mentors, managers, and even adversaries. I learned many, many lessons and am grateful for the women who broke down barriers and showed me what I needed to do in order to be successful.
Here are six of my favorite bits of advice and things I learned along the way from women in the industry I look up to:
1. Always be early. Look eager, interested, and vested in every conversation, appointment, and interview.
2. Do your homework. Never show up unprepared, whether it’s to network, meet a client, go on an interview, or simply meet a colleague. Understand why you are there. What is the purpose of the meeting? What is the other person’s background? How can you connect with them personally and professionally? What is your shared interest? Ask yourself how you are going to show up—mentally prepare, practice if you need to, and take plenty of notes.
3. Dress professionally and appropriately. Make sure your clothing is clean and well-fitting so that you have a manicured appearance. Do not be afraid to over-dress—it will be appreciated and respected. Walk with confidence, shake hands with confidence, and maintain good eye contact. Your mannerisms and appearance are your first and most important impression.
4. Be genuine. Laugh. Be yourself. Be interested and smile. Let others feel comfortable around you. Someone will be able to tell immediately if you are fake or disinterested.
5. Be a connector. I have made it my life’s purpose to connect people and find shared interests. Always try to help your fellow women. When you promote each other and connect people, others will see you as a resource and respond to you with trust and appreciation, which leads to recommendations and promotion.
6. Know what you want to be known for. Asking myself what the top three things I want to be known for was one of the best exercises I did for myself when I was just starting out in my career. I encourage you to write yours down—and develop a strategy to make it happen.
Of course, this advice holds true for any industry, not just meeting planning. But it is important to teach these general good business practices to our less experienced colleagues. Soft skills are even more important now that we live and work in an increasingly digital world where human interaction is increasingly rare.
Words of Wisdom
I asked a few experienced women in the hospitality industry what they would like to pass along to the next generation of meeting professionals. I appreciate their candor, and I think everyone could benefit from their sage advice.
• Karen DeKanter, Director Business Development, BCD Meetings & Events—Trust yourself and speak up. I can't tell you how many times I played small to my detriment. No more! Tell them to shine!
• Maureen Hennessey, Advertising Director, NJ Meetings & Events Magazine—My advice to those entering the field is twofold: the value of networking and follow up. When attending networking events, seek out those you don’t know, introduce yourself, and ask questions—a lot of them. People like to talk about things they know and they know themselves the best, so putting them at ease by asking them questions about their favorite band, sports, hobby, vacation etc., will get the conversation moving. Then you can direct it more towards a business conversation if it doesn’t evolve naturally on its own. Even if you never get to mention who you are (other than your full name and company) you’ll have valuable information for your follow up, which I suggest be done within 24 hours of meeting them. At minimum an email should be sent, however much better is a handwritten note, with a few simple lines: “Nice to meet you last night…I enjoyed our chat about xyz.”
Remembering what you discussed shows that you listened and really cared what they said, that you weren’t on a quest to fill your pocket with business cards. Never think getting “only” a few cards was a failure at an event if you had meaningful conversations with those few.
You don’t need to sell yourself, your product, or your service in the follow up. A simple line about how you’d be happy to help them should they ever need anything suffices; actually, it’s better not to “sell” at this time. By creating a warm, friendly relationship you’re building the foundation for hopefully a long-term business one, which will come, but takes time. Oh, and never forget to smile, often—it goes a very long way.
• Kare Anderson, Author, Speaker, and CEO of SayItBetter—As you get more specific about your core mission, top talent, and response to someone, you gain clarity, credibility, and memorability. We can boost our value and visibility by getting specific sooner. The specific detail or example can prove your general conclusion—yet not the reverse.
What are your best pieces of advice for the up-and-coming women in hospitality today? Do you have a great piece of wisdom that was given to you? What would you like to see our younger and less experienced women today learn?
Please share your responses with me at [email protected]. I will publish the list and make sure you get a copy. Follow me on Twitter @ImPamWynne.
Pam Wynne, HMCC, CMM, CMP, is a meetings, travel, and hospitality consultant with experience in business development, operations, account management, process design and improvement, and procurement. She is skilled in virtual and hybrid meetings design and implementation, marketing, social media, and communications. She is the immediate past president of Meeting Professionals International—New Jersey Chapter.