By Mary Tucker, IAEE Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Cassie Thompson has garnered significant accomplishments at SmithBucklin as Manager, Event Services as well as through her IAEE volunteerism and dedication to the industry. In only two years she was promoted twice and began pursuit of her CEM designation, all while serving on the IAEE Midwestern Chapter Board of Directors. Her ideas for leveraging social media, new networking events and member acquisition programs has contributed to the growth of the chapter. As chair of the chapter’s Young Professionals Committee, she developed new programs/ideas to attract and retain YPs to IAEE. A great example is the creation of a justification tool kit to help young professionals obtain approval to attend IAEE events. As part of her regular duties with SmithBucklin, she oversees five shows in a variety of industries. Her leadership and innovation has allowed her shows to grow and achieve outstanding results for her clients. She has demonstrated a thirst for knowledge, new ideas and sharing of those ideas that will help her become a future IAEE leader for years to come, which earned her the 2015 Young Professional of the Year Award. Here, Cassie shares her perspective as a young professional and how she plans to impact the industry in the future.
As a young professional, what interests you most about the exhibitions and events industry?
It sounds corny, but one of my favorite things about the exhibitions and events industry is the fact that we help create lifetime memories for our conference participants. I find it fascinating that there is literally an association for everything. A few years ago, I was frustrated at work and I remember saying to my supervisor “Why do we even do this? It seems so pointless; all this work just for it to be over so quickly.” His response was that we may not be curing cancer, but by collaborating at the medical conference we’re planning, our attendees could find a cure. That’s always stuck with me.
You are very involved in the IAEE Midwestern Chapter and were highly commended for your initiative in forming the chapter’s YP Committee. Why do you feel it is important for YPs to be involved in their local chapter?
Being involved in your local chapter helps you understand the industry more holistically and therefore, makes your work more fulfilling. Attending chapter meetings keeps you up-to-date on industry trends and issues. It also helps you build a great network of people you can learn from and share best practices with. Just recently, I was tasked with helping to update the event crisis management plan template within my department at SmithBucklin. Through the connections I made by being involved as a Young Professional with IAEE, I was able to reach out to people outside of SmithBucklin to learn about how they manage their crisis communication plans and gather insights I wouldn’t have otherwise learned.
Of course, there’s a social aspect to it as well. Many of the YPs I’ve met through IAEE, I now consider my friends. Just recently, two of our chapter’s YPs found themselves at the same hotel in Phoenix for different events. They walked right past each other at first, not aware they were in the same place. After they exchanged some texts about each other’s “doppelganger” being at the hotel, they realized that they were in fact at the same hotel and ended up meeting for a drink. If it wasn’t for being involved with IAEE, they would have never known each other.
What is your best networking resource and how do you use it?
I’m a naturally introverted person, so attending industry events with people I already know and making new introductions through them is what I’ve found most successful. Once I’ve made the initial introduction, I’m a big fan of connecting on LinkedIn to keep in touch and in some cases, even Facebook. I have a large network of vendor partners, clients, and past and present colleagues, many of whom I keep up with via social media. It’s great to be able to see that someone changed jobs or that one of their kids just had a birthday, as it gives you something to talk about the next time you see them.
What advice would you offer someone entering the industry?
My biggest piece of advice to people just entering the industry is to step outside of your comfort zone. If you don’t know anyone, education and networking events can be very intimidating at first, but they are worth it. Accept the fact that it’s going to be awkward, and just put yourself out there to meet people. Trust me, it gets better. And find a mentor or two. I met many of the people I know today through people who mentored me when I was just starting out. The people who invited me to IAEE Midwestern Chapter events and let me tag along as they introduced me to people they knew – I can’t thank them enough. By the time I was able to attend my first IAEE Expo! Expo!, I felt like I already had a small network, which made navigating the conference much easier.
What motivates you to give your best to the industry? Do you have any specific goals you would like to achieve in the near future?
As I was beginning my career, I always said that whatever I ended up doing, I wanted to make a difference in the field I was in. One of the goals on my list was to write articles about what I was doing, and now I’m answering these questions, so I suppose that’s a start! My long-term career goal is to get experience in as many different aspects of the business as I can, and culminate my career as the event director for a really large event. Short-term, I’m working to obtain my CEM designation through IAEE, which I’ll be completing this year.
The one thing that ultimately motivates me to give my best to the industry is putting on outstanding events for my clients. This can come in many forms – exceeding sales and registration budgets, successfully implementing new ideas, and delivering an experience for participants that keeps them coming back year over year.
The 2016 Call for Nominations for the IAEE Awards is now open! Visit www.iaee.com/awards for more information about the various award categories and their corresponding criteria as well as submit your nominations for deserving colleagues whose outstanding efforts merit recognition.