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Two Minutes with Judy Payne, CMP

Freeman’s new vice president of events comments on changing attendee preferences, PCMA’s Promenade, and being brave.

With four years of meeting planning experience under her belt, Judy Payne, CMP, joined GameStop in early 2006. Over a 16-year tenure at the video-game retailer, through economic ups and downs and a fast-changing technology market, Payne worked her way from manager, meetings and travel to director, associate engagement and events.

Payne, known for her innovations at the annual GameStop Expo (check out this list of 18 ideas from the event), has put a new twist in her career, joining Freeman as vice president of events.

We caught up with Payne three weeks into her new role to get her thoughts on our changing industry

MeetingsNet: 2022 marks your 20th year in the meetings and events industry, including 16 with GameStop. What changes have you seen in audience/attendee behavior or expectations over those years?
Judy Payne: Attendees no longer move from educational session to educational session and then end the night with a reception. While these things are the foundation of a great event, the best connections happen between these moments! Attendees now crave experiential moments throughout the event to spark new ideas, connect with new partners, and create excitement.

MeetingsNet: What’s the most memorable conference you’ve ever attended from the perspective of conference design, and what made it stand out?
Payne: Most of our industry associations have successfully evolved their shows into more engaging experiences. Most recently, I attended the Professional Convention Management Association’s Convening Leaders conference. PCMA created the Promenade, which boasted an interactive journey of experiential activations, event tech, and connecting with industry peers. This one-stop area was buzzing with attendees connecting, ideating, and dining at different stations around the room. It was the place to be.

MeetingsNet: Five years from now, what won’t meeting managers be doing that they’re doing today?
Payne: What won’t we do? The same ‘ole, same ‘ole. We’re returning from the pandemic and the industry is bouncing back fast. Now is the time to reinvent your meetings and events, for many reasons: Do we need to update our existing agendas? Do we need to repurpose our budgets? Do we need to create a more experiential approach? What is and isn’t working? While these transformational discussions can be difficult to tackle, they will be essential to our success. Now is always the time to evolve and elevate

MeetingsNet: What would people be surprised to learn about you? 
Payne: I was adopted at birth. The topic was never taboo in our house, and it’s something I’ve always known. I grew up with a great family and have had a wonderful life. A few years ago, I did an ancestry test so I could learn about my heritage. I didn’t know the full capabilities of the test, and to my surprise, it identified my birth mother. I was nervous but brave and decided to reach out to connect. The experience was a bit overwhelming but here we are three years later, and I have an amazing relationship with my birth mother and new family members. Holidays are busier than ever now! It’s important to be brave enough to open yourself up to new experiences. If you don’t, you’ll never know what you’re missing!

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