IAEE Awards Spotlight on Sue McCart: 2017 Merit Award Winner
By Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Sue McCart, President of HFI Event Services, has demonstrated great dedication to the industry over her 35-year career. An active member of IAEE since 1983, her participation at the chapter and national levels is extensive. She has served honorably on the Southeastern Chapter Board of Directors as Secretary, Treasurer, Educational Conference Chairperson (two years in a row), Vice Chairperson, Chairperson and Immediate Past Chairperson. Her participation at the national level includes serving as the Chapter Leaders Council Chairperson, member of the Senior Education Task Force and a CEIR Board member.
As Chairperson, Sue continued the chapter’s legacy of industry relations by encouraging the chapter to participate with other industry organization’s events. The chapter collaborated with the PCMA Southeastern Chapter and Georgia Chapter of MPI to co-locate their respective annual holiday luncheons, resulting in over 300 attendees and sparking a continued partnership. As if serving as chairperson weren’t enough, Sue also co-chaired the 25th anniversary of the chapter’s educational conference, the SE Classic that same year. It was the biggest Classic with over 100+ attendees for what was heralded as the best event to date.
Sue has also served as an ambassador for the chapter by attending Exhibitions Day to educate Capitol Hill about the importance of the exhibitions and events industry. Her excitement, enthusiasm and passion for the industry by serving honorably in various volunteer roles, as well as acting as a mentor and colleague to many, earned her the IAEE Merit Award in 2017.
Here, Sue talks with IAEE readers about the value of mentorship, the benefits to stepping up your involvement in your local chapter and why she will be front and center at Exhibitions Day this coming June.
IAEE: You have been commended for supporting young professionals through your attendance at YP meet ups and continued mentorship. What words of wisdom do you offer to the future leaders of this industry?
Sue: If you love our industry, then you want it to continue flourishing for decades to come. I have always enjoyed learning from young professionals and engaging in conversations that force you to think about situations from a different perspective. At the same time, there is a lot to be said about sage wisdom that develops over time and experience. I encourage young professionals to approach their careers with an open mind and carefully listen to all ideas. I was very fortunate to have two very strong business mentors during my career, and I can contribute a good share of my thought process, and success, to lessons learned from them.
IAEE: You have been complimented on your hospitality and charm because you are often the first person to offer to take a speaker out prior to an event. What are some of the best insights you have gained from your conversations with these industry experts?
Sue: Probably one of the best insights I have learned over time is “no one knows it all,” therefore we all have something we can learn about. I’m naturally curious, and not afraid to ask questions. I realize what a benefit this is in our business. The old saying “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” fits our industry to a tee. While the fundamentals of producing an exhibition are the same, it is the nuances and truly understanding the market being served that sets an event apart from the ordinary. That is what I have learned from experts. Whatever their specialty, they have learned all they can about a particular subject matter, and I hope to grasp some of their wisdom through one-on-one conversations. I am also happiest when I am learning something new. It keeps me on my toes.
IAEE: Your chapter colleagues noted you regularly step into a leadership role by participating on panels. They lauded your insightful, thoughtful and sometimes “outside of the box” input that shows you are not afraid to try new things. How do you keep a fresh perspective?
Sue: I guess I naturally have an entrepreneur’s spirit and am certainly a “Type A” personality. I’m not afraid to take calculated risks, which is something I learned from both of my mentors. I love to read so I regularly peruse industry publications, the web and talk with industry colleagues searching for ideas that can be adopted and customized for our needs.
IAEE: You are very active in your local chapter as well as on the national level. What are the benefits to each and what would you tell someone looking to increase their leadership roles on either level?
Sue: It is so important for me to “give back” to the industry that has “given” me so much for so many years. Expert level education, business relationships and personal friendships have added a rich dimension to my life that you only obtain from getting involved, not sitting back. My advice is “just raise your hand.” Offer to help a committee, you don’t have to be the leader. You will find it very rewarding!
IAEE: You have been an active supporter of Exhibitions Day. Why do you feel it is important to advocate for the industry?
Sue: The exhibitions industry touches so many lives in cities across this country and around the world. So many of us depend on it for our livelihood and our families. So, it is very important that we keep important issues that impact us – positively and negatively – in front of our elected leaders so they can understand and best represent us. I will be joining Exhibitions Day in Washington, D.C. this June and encourage others to join us for a very eye-opening experience, and one that does make a difference.
IAEE: What has been your favorite part about your career in exhibitions and events, and what advice would you give someone considering entering this profession?
Sue: Just remember that your first job in this industry will not define your final career. For example, I started as a hotel front desk clerk, then moved to sales, then marketing, then trade show organizing to ultimately owning my own trade show/event company. Each experience along that path added to the depth of understanding this industry. As to the favorite part of my career… it has to be owning my own company where I have bought, grown and sold a trade show, and had the privilege to help national trade associations meet and exceed their event goals for the last 21 years.