By Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Chris Pendley, Director of Data & Digital Services for Messe Frankfurt North America entered the exhibitions and events industry a little more than a decade ago and has been steadily making a name for himself. After seeing the success in having a dedicated young professional board position, the IAEE Southeastern Chapter Board decided to add a seat with Chris in mind. Chris humbly accepted the position and has been a vital member of the board ever since. He is immensely proud to serve on the board of directors and is a true champion of the chapter.
While Chris has chaired the YP committee, the YPs launched many new initiatives including an annual education panel organized by and comprised only of YPs, which was the first of its kind in this format and, is now being used nationwide. Over the past five years, the committee has increased the outreach to YPs with a growth of 50+ locals coming together quarterly. Chris successfully organized the first-ever, live broadcast (via Facebook Live), of a luncheon with a YP lead panel discussion. This event was, by far, one of the most highly acclaimed luncheons in recent chapter history!
Not only is Chris making a difference with those he works with daily, but he is also doing so in the chapter and among the industry. His outstanding contributions earned him the IAEE Chapter Merit Award last year, for which he was recognized this past December during virtual Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition (watch the awards presentation and Chris’ acceptance speech here).
Here, Chris shares with IAEE his thoughts on taking on active leadership roles, what he has learned in his first decade in the industry, and what he would like to see in the near future within the industry
What motivated you to take on serving in a chapter leadership position, and what has been your favorite part about it?
Chris: Fortunately, Messe Frankfurt was already a heavily active group within IAEE when I joined the company. I was encouraged and motivated from peers to get involved in the industry. Once I started attending the meet-ups and seeing how much value there was within the organization, I dove in and became very engaged over the next few years. This led to me being approached by the Southeastern Chapter to see if I would be interested in joining the Board of Directors. At this point in my career, I had gained so much knowledge and insight from IAEE that it was an easy decision for me to say yes.
My favorite thing about serving in this position has, hands down, been working with our Young Professional group. I think it’s such a great thing to see new generations coming into the industry excited and bringing fresh ideas to it.
You now have a decade of experience in the industry under your belt. What do you wish you had known when you first started?
Chris: If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be to take time to enjoy the moments a little more. I think this could probably apply to any industry but especially within ours. Things go by super fast! You work all year to build an event, it finally happens, it’s the craziest few days of your life and then it all gets torn down and you’re onto the next. I think it’s very easy to get caught up with everything and never take the time to appreciate what is actually going on around you. I believe that we work in one of the most challenging industries in the world, but it can also be one of the most rewarding if you can take time to appreciate those big and small moments sometimes.
As a leading voice for young professionals in the industry, what is the foremost concern/consideration that YPs are addressing currently?
Chris: Right now, there is a lot of uncertainties about what things will look like when we get back to “normal” or what the “new normal” might be and how that will affect individual roles within an organization. There is also a lot of concern in overall mental health as well, and how to manage expectations with the climate of everything that is going on. Currently we are working on a putting a seminar together within the Southeastern Chapter to address these points and we’ve already been seeing a lot of interest in the topics we are presenting.
You have a knack for organizing education presentations and panels that draw great interest. What is your approach to creating a relevant and engaging educational forum?
Chris: I believe the most important thing is to know your audience and to take into mind the relevancy and timing of what subject you want to present to them. Once you figure out what would be most topical to the group, then build your speakers, format and content around that.
What would you like to see more of in the industry as you enter your next decade in exhibitions and events?
Chris: I would like to see us become more adept with borrowing technology from other industries. I am very excited about some of the things we are going to see over the next few years within experiential marketing. There is nothing that does that better than live events, but there are certain areas of tech that we are a little slower to adopt than other industries, especially compared to a consumer driven sector. The situation with COVID has forced a lot of us to find solutions to challenges that we had never faced before and the industry overcame this by looking outside of its typical toolbox. This was not an easy task but there have been some really great success stories come out of this and I’d like to see more of that type of innovation continue.