We received great feedback from our recent blog post “How to Stay Relevant,” so we sat down with an industry veteran and young leader in the business events space to discuss the power of REINVENTION.
Jill Anonson, Event Solutions Manager at ITA Group, has 20+ years of riveting industry experience and her own story of professional disruption. And Greg Byrnes, International Event Sales Director at Northstar Travel Group, is a SITE Global Young Leaders Committee Co-Chair and rising star in the industry.
Here’s what they had to say…
Q: What changes have you seen occur over time in the way that business is conducted in our industry?
Jill Anonson: What has not changed? We are seeing larger shifts in how stakeholders are viewing the value of events. It is going beyond the where and what, to the why. What are they trying to accomplish? Who do they want to educate, engage or motivate? How are they going to do that and have it tie to their brand? There is also a great focus on data and a return on the investment. They need to see the dollars they put into the event are going to provide them an even bigger return in leads, advocacy and of course sales and marketshare.
Greg Byrnes: Technology. Everyone is on social media now and it is really important for businesses (B2B and consumer) to make those meaningful connections with their customers. Users can simply click a hashtag and immediately be in front of a potential client. It’s a bit scary at first, but I think our world is getting used to this rather quickly!
Q: How do you prevent yourself from feeling “outdated”?
JA: It is important for people to be willing to adapt and be open to learning so they are more versatile and indispensable. Knowing what’s coming down the path and staying in tune with what’s happening keeps you ahead of the game. Often it is difficult to step out of the day-to-day work and client deadlines and allow yourself time to do research. But it is important to know trends and understand customers needs or what they are going to need in the future. This knowledge and ability to change will increase your value to your customers and your company.
GB: I think it’s two-fold: being involved in industry organizations in addition to actively digesting as much information as you can. Involvement in associations or even non-profits outside of your day jobs is a great way to gain new perspectives and insights. Some advice I follow is reading articles and blogs outside of the industry to get fresh new perspectives—I do this by following influencer Instagram and Twitter accounts to help stay on top of the latest trends around the world. I also like to find 20 minutes in the morning, mostly on my commute, to read as many articles, posts, and newsletters I can! Specifically speaking, and forgive the self-promotion, but Northstar’s resources of Business Travel News, Travel Weekly, and Meeting News are a must! I also find valuable content across Skift & Hotel News Now and on the consumer side I love JetSetter, New York Times, and Travel + Leisure.
Q: What’s your best advice to set yourself up for success when it comes to reinventing yourself?
JA: Just because you’ve done something one way for a long time, doesn’t mean you can’t do more. Don’t cut yourself short – you can probably do more than you think you can. Find people that like change and are always looking for ways to improve and be better, and then spend time with them. Allow them to mentor and motivate you and be willing to take and utilize their honest feedback. It is worth the risk and you may surprise yourself!
GB: I make a conscious effort to attend education programs when offered and I always try to journal when I am 30,000 feet above the ground in an aluminum tube (airplane for those non-travelers). It could be the recycled air, bad coffee, or cramped space, but oddly enough my creativity tends to spark when I fly.
Q: Why do you feel industry professionals should actively reinvent themselves?
JA: The world is requiring us to anticipate and adjust. Reinvention should occur at any point in someone’s career. There is no ‘right time’ or a correlation with age. Those who will be successful will keep their eyes and mind open…and be ready to make the change even before they HAVE to make it. Some people see a hole or a need and create something by taking the reins and forging their own path. I have a quote on my desk that says, “If you’re not getting pushback, you’re not pioneering.” Think of where we can take the event industry if many of us were moved by this each day!
Q: Do you have an example you’ve seen recently where ‘reinvention’ has taken place?
JA: I can speak from my own experience. A few years ago, I made a career change within my company. It was still within the events industry, but the focus was in R&D and marketing. In the beginning it was hard. In my former position I managed supplier relationships so I needed to let go of that responsibility. I loved working with our supplier partners and I missed it a great deal. The responsibilities of the new role also took me out of my comfort zone. But when I embraced the need to think differently, look beyond the events industry and take risks, it was very motivating and rewarding. I work with individuals that have other perspectives and challenge me every day. I admit there are days when I think, “I love what I am doing” and there are days when I think, “Do I even know what I am doing?” but it has been a great change in my career path for which I am very grateful.
GB: I just came back from a conference in Singapore where I entered a breakout session entitled “The Art of Engaging Communities.” All the chairs were stacked on either side of the room. Attendees were hesitant to enter the room however the moderators compelled us to enter by saying “don’t be afraid, come join us to start a revolution!” Once the session started we were all forced to grab a chair from the stack, and make a circle with 4 to 5 people that we had never met. It was a brilliant way to start the session surrounding the concept of building communities. I think this was a great example of reinvention and how we as individuals should reinvent ourselves within our communities both at work and at home!
Q: Any advice for other young professionals on how to create a positive influence in the industry?
JA: It’s important to continually grow and learn. Try to go broader than your own little world. Look outward at other industries and find themes or patterns that could be applied to the industry you’re in. Use your voice and share that insight or start applying it in your role. It is good to do this for your own benefit, but what is even more important is how it will benefit your customers, your company and better our industry.
GB: I think an advantage of young professionals in our industry is that we don’t have many preconceived philosophies on cultures, destinations, or experiences. Many successful young professionals I have worked with always have that ‘YES’ attitude, which goes a long way. Listen and learn from past experiences’ successes and failures—and that you can never be too over prepared, so take the time and do your homework!
Reinvention is a constant and the results can be transformational. Event professionals can harness unique opportunities to evolve and learn from peers and embrace the spirit of continued reinvention.
Thank you so much to our friends Jill and Greg for their time and insights!