By Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Tara Allen, CEM, is Senior Business Development Director at Freeman. An IAEE member since 2012, Tara has served on various committees, including the Chapter Leaders Council, Education Committee and Young Professionals Committee. Her tireless work for the Young Professionals Committee includes organizing memorable YP receptions at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition since 2015, and serving as its chairperson in 2018. Several of today’s IAEE young professionals credit Tara’s initiative as their motivation to becoming more involved in the association.
Tara is also very active in IAEE’s Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter, serving as Treasurer and current Vice Chair on the chapter’s board of directors. She has contributed to the chapter’s development in the midst of a rising career, earning her CEM certification, fully engaging in IAEE’s learning opportunities such as the Women’s Leadership Forum and Krakoff Leadership Institute, and launching her personal adventure as a new mom!
Tara’s immeasurable energy, initiative and hard work garnered her IAEE’s Young Professional of the Year Award in 2018. Here, Tara shares with IAEE her thoughts on establishing herself in the industry as a YP, how she juggles her very active roles professionally and personally, and her vision of the industry’s future (along with her place in it!).
IAEE: What drew you to the exhibitions and events industry, and at what point did you realize you’d like to establish a career in this field?
Tara: I love bringing people together, making connections and creating an environment to have new experiences, and that is exactly what the exhibitions and events industry does. For my entire life, I have been the party planner. From proms to birthdays, I loved coordinating them for all my loved ones. I was going to Rosen College of Hospitality Management, but feeling a bit lost on what direction to take my career as I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree in its General Hospitality program. When I read that Rosen was launching a brand new Event Management degree program, I remember thinking, “Can I really make a career out of what I love to do?” Everything clicked into place that day. From gaining a firm education foundation at Rosen, I was able to network and launch my career into this great industry.
IAEE: You have been very active in IAEE on both the national and chapter levels. What are some of the different advantages to each (national vs. local) and how do you think it benefitted you as a young professional?
Tara: The connections that I have made both locally and nationally have helped shape my career, and has brought another layer to my career satisfaction. Locally, I feel that I have a supportive community to lean on. I know that I can call any one of my local chapter members and bounce ideas off of them, gather insight from them, or just catch a happy hour with them and talk about our lives. On a nationwide level, IAEE has afforded me the opportunity to create lasting connections across the U.S. I feel like I can walk into any major city and know a warm, welcoming face.
IAEE: You’ve also taken the time to earn your CEM designation. What prompted you to take this step and how has it enhanced your journey?
Tara: Honestly, I think it is hard to be taken seriously as a young professional. YPs sometimes get a bad reputation. I remember thinking that the CEM designation would be a fantastic way to show that I am committed, intelligent and driven. What I didn’t know I would get out of it was the insight and education I gained from taking the classes. I loved every one of the courses. I took them all in person, which I highly recommend, because it afforded and enabled me to not only gain the course knowledge but also make important connections. It is very easy to get caught up in one’s day-to-day and get siloed in your thoughts and viewpoint, but the CEM courses were very eye opening as I was able to hear others’ point of view in the industry, which made me a better partner to my clients!
IAEE: As a young professional, what do you think organizations need to keep in mind to attract younger talent to the industry?
Tara: In my opinion, culture and work/life flexibility are key to attracting younger talent. Trust and respect are also two key components to keeping younger talent. Lastly, listening to their career goals, helping them achieve those goals, and understanding their values – whether it’s by investing in higher education or allowing them to have an extra week of vacation – is important. In my opinion, the more trust and flexibility you give younger talent, the more they will put into their career and perform for their employer.
IAEE: Not only have you accomplished a lot in a very short time, but you did it while becoming a new mom! So, the obvious question becomes, how do you balance it all?
Tara: Wow, I just teared up reading that. First of all, thank you for recognizing and acknowledging that. Too often I feel that if you are successful, people do not consider the other half of your life. Someone once told me, “You want to be wildly successful and you want to be a wonderful mother. Those are not mutually exclusive.” (Thank you, Paul Cunniffe.) It was the most freeing thought, that I can and will have it all. But I cannot do it alone. I have an extremely flexible employer. I am able to work from home. My husband is wildly supportive. I have a cleaning service. I get my groceries delivered. And my 18-month-old goes to school from 7:00 a.m. until 5:15 p.m. every single day. We are constantly flying people in to help cover the gaps when both my husband and I are traveling for our respective jobs. It is tough. Really tough.
I accept help anywhere and everywhere I can get it and I had to realize very quickly what matters most to me as a mother and what a good mother looks like to me. So I have some unwavering beliefs and values that I will not compromise, and everything else I just do the best I can. Also, I know self-care has been a huge buzz word lately and I truly believe that the more you fill your cup, the more you can pour into others. Take the time and make the time to do something for yourself, every single day. Oh, and give yourself some grace.
IAEE: What new and exciting things do you see happening in the industry right now and where do you see yourself (or would like to see yourself) in the near future?
Tara: Our industry is going through a phenomenal change. With the amount of digital that is in our world, our events are finally catching up to meet it. In addition, over the last several years we all have done a great job of collecting data. We are now understanding what that data means and implementing change that is having a huge impact on the experience of live events. It is a very exciting time for our industry! As for me, I am so excited to grow in my new Freeman career! There are so many opportunities here and I look forward to experiencing all of them. My lofty, not-near goal is the C-suite – it’s calling my name! And… maybe the IAEE Chairperson one day?
Here’s what Tara had to say when accepting the Young Professional of the Year Award this past December at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2018 in New Orleans, La.