By Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Jennifer Hoff, CEM, President of Taffy Event Strategies, has been in the exhibitions and events industry for more than 25 years and a member of IAEE since 1995. She started her career with National Trade Productions, Inc. (NTP) in 1992, where she advanced to become an executive team member as well as the leader of the company’s largest, most profitable division with oversight for association event planning and conference management. After NTP, she worked with VP International to launch and manage various conferences and exhibitions.
In 2014, Jennifer took her more than two decades of knowledge and expertise as an opportunity to blend proven strategies with fresh ideas and technologies. She launched Taffy Event Strategies with a vision to shape events into experiences that inspire audiences, create business connections and deliver results – and deliver results is exactly what she did! Less than 24 months after opening the doors at Taffy Event Strategies, Jennifer acquired event operations and management for several major events. In under five years, her company has grown from a one-woman operation to a full-service organization employing 15 team members.
As an IAEE member, Jennifer has served within the association admirably on both the chapter and national levels on a wide array of committees. She has been awarded various accolades, including IAEE’s Distinguished Service and Merit awards along with honors from Tradeshow Week and The Expo Group. Jennifer is regarded warmly by colleagues as a leader, mentor and industry advocate. Her contributions in representing women in the industry earned her the IAEE Woman of Achievement Award in 2018.
Here, Jennifer shares with IAEE her thoughts on building her career as a woman in the industry, spreading her wings as an entrepreneur, and what she sees in the future of exhibitions and events.
IAEE: The Woman of Achievement Award recognizes a woman who, among other accomplishments, has led the way for women in exhibitions and events. What stands out to you about developing your career in this industry from the female perspective?
Jennifer: I started out in the early 90s and worked my way up within the company where I was working. I think as a woman at those times, you really needed to prove yourself and your abilities. I was very active from the beginning in the industry, and developed a great network of women peers and colleagues as a support system. Many of these women have remained in the industry and have become leaders. Having this network of peers to “grow up” with, share best practices and experiences has been invaluable.
IAEE: What challenges do you still see women in the industry facing and what is your approach to taking on these challenges?
Jennifer: Having a seat at the table, advocating for themselves and rising to C-level positions continue to be challenges for women in our industry and beyond. Throughout my career I have made it a priority to be engaged in the industry, build strong relationships, and to not be afraid to take risks and promote my successes.
IAEE: Your nomination included several testimonials from colleagues who applaud your generosity in mentoring them. What is the most valuable piece of advice you give someone starting their career in this industry?
Jennifer: Go out of your way to keep relationships going with clients, vendors, competitors and colleagues. Get involved in relevant industry associations to continue learning and build your network. Mentor and help others when you can.
IAEE: How did you know the time was right for you to venture on your own with Taffy Event Strategies, and what has been the most surprising part about it?
Jennifer: I was ready to be my own boss. I realized I had the skill set and the network for it. The most surprising part was how quickly it came together. I had a vision and executed against it and was doing great right out the gate.
IAEE: You have built an incredible network. What do you think are the best avenues for connecting with colleagues and building professional relationships in our industry?
Jennifer: Getting involved in your local/regional events association is key. Attending as many local industry learning events, happy hours and lunches is a great way to meet people. Volunteer for committees – you will naturally build stronger relationships when you are working together. Also, attend your association’s events and make an effort to meet with exhibitors, attendees and speakers.
IAEE: What trend/innovation are you seeing in the industry right now that you believe will significantly impact the future of exhibitions and events?
Jennifer: I think the role of marketing for events has changed dramatically and will continue to do so. It’s not just enough to get people on the floor and through the door as it was 20 years ago. It’s personalization, unique experiences, artificial intelligence, digitalization, gamification, privacy, influencers, data analytics, amplification and automation. The channels have expanded and the technology continually evolves, which will continue to impact the overall industry.
Here’s what Jennifer had to say when accepting the Woman of Achievement Award at 2018 Expo! Expo!.
The deadline to submit nominations for the 2019 IAEE Woman of Achievement Award is 28 February! You can also check out the other IAEE award categories and nominate deserving IAEE members for these awards by 30 August!