In early April, Meeting Professionals International announced the 2021 recipients of its RISE Awards, given to planning pros who exemplify leadership, innovation, and impact in their work. In the category of Young Professional Achievement, MPI recognized a planner just three years out of university who has already organized several events around the world and is now wading hip-deep into the virtual side of meetings, all while trying to get his own event-consulting firm off the ground.
Zaman Ishaad, CED, CMP, DES, is a member of the Toronto chapter of MPI and a graduate of Ryerson University in that city. In 2016 and 2017, he was a student member of MPI who balanced his schoolwork with helping coordinate on-campus events and also working for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to understand the supplier side of the meetings business.
In 2018, the Council on International Educational Exchange hired Ishaad full time and immediately threw him into creating 400-person events as far away as South Africa and New Zealand that connected universities to housing and service providers in each region. “That was pretty much the coolest job I could have gotten,” he says.
Like countless other planners, Ishaad was laid off in 2020. But he was able to land a position at NexTech AR, a tech platform that incorporates augmented-reality applications into virtual meetings. “Having three-dimensional images of products and holograms of speakers available is a really cool thing” for planners who want to enhance both the educational and exhibition elements of their virtual or hybrid shows.
While he continues in his sponsorship-strategy role at NexTech AR, Ishaad is also looking ahead to opening his own event-consulting firm with two fellow 20-something MPI members. “We want to be able to elevate the programs we work on by empowering planners who say, ‘I have a great idea for my event but being able to bring it to life is going to be a real challenge.’ We want to help them push through the designing and financing processes and get to the execution stage.”
As an experienced meeting planner who is still young enough to understand exactly how the newest generation of corporate- and association-event attendees want to experience professional education and interaction, Ishaad is keen to speak at meetings-industry conferences to share his perspective. His key message: “Planners should push themselves to connect with colleagues from their own industries and other industries so they can be exposed to lots of ideas, which will improve their ability to deliver new experiences to their audiences.”
Further, “I think it is really important to be able to step back from how you are presently planning your events and make sure you are not doing too much of the same thing year after year,” he adds. “Meetings are expensive, and the things they need to accomplish for the host organization are really important. So, you have to adapt to the things that change each year among your target audience”—their needs, habits, preferences, and desires.