By: Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Paul’s career in trade show and conference management, spanning over 20 years, began at World Floor Covering Association to his current role as Senior Manager, Content and Community at Informa Markets. His experience in operations, content planning, marketing and sales honed at Hanley Wood Exhibitions, dmg events USA and Comexposium have contributed to some of the largest and fastest growing trade and consumer shows in the U.S., small conference launches in niche industries, and regional and international summits for executives and business leaders.
Paul is active in trade and civic associations, contributes his skills as a board member to small non-profit organizations, and champions volunteer dog rescue groups. Here, he shares with IAEE his vision for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) within the exhibitions and events industry.
IAEE: What inspired you to serve on the IAEE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee?
Paul: It took serious internal reflection before deciding to serve on the IAEE DE&I Committee. Because I am a gay white man, would I be taking a seat at a table from someone else that needs to be heard? How will my capabilities bring positive results to this serious, deep-rooted issue? Will the work produced by the DE&I Committee be carried through to completion by the IAEE board?
After many long conversations with industry friends and colleagues, I felt serving on this committee will help open the door to opportunities in this industry for underrepresented people and certainly broaden my own understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion in my personal life, at work, and society as a whole.
IAEE: What has been your experience/observations with how the industry addresses DE&I?
Paul: The trade show industry is now recognizing there is a lack of diversity throughout, and definitely at the very top having only recently seen women entering the C-suite. I’m pleased by the efforts at the company I work, and other companies I’m acquainted with, to attract diverse talent, equip them with training and knowledge to develop their skills, and then start growing the talent into leadership positions. These transformational changes take a lot of time but with careful monitoring and oversight it will be an achievement we can all be proud of.
IAEE: What overall advances would you like to see in the industry regarding DE&I?
Paul: Starting with this association, I’d like to see more black and brown people on the Executive Board. To go even further, I’d like to see a black or brown woman at the top – as Board Chair.
IAEE: How do you think that companies can help advance DE&I?
Paul: Advancing DE&I has to come from the entire industry – from large, multi-national organizers to the smallest mom-and-pop suppliers. The next employee hired, the service supplier selected, every touchpoint in the ecosystem needs to be examined to be sure opportunities are distributed where they will deliver the greatest positive impact. The employer/employee relationship gives companies an extraordinary capability to train people in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and then apply the concepts into practice.
Trade show organizers have the opportunity to exemplify DE&I initiatives to every other industry. Every exhibitor, attendee and contractor at our events represent their own business or employer, and if they see or hear a spectrum of people contributing to the production of a trade show, it plants a seed for their own DE&I initiatives.
IAEE: What suggestions do you have for individuals who would like to learn more about and/or help increase awareness and advances in DE&I within the industry?
Paul: There is an incredible amount of free, quality DE&I instruction in LinkedIn – start watching training videos. For a few bucks, buy some books on the topic like Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Take About Race, which is a great jumping off point and resource to continue self-education. To advance DE&I awareness, start practicing what you are learning – examine your hiring processes, ask colleagues and associates if your actions match your pledges, and support organizations promoting DE&I with your time or monetary donation.
IAEE’s goal is to engage as many members as possible who are willing share their experience to our community on the importance of DE&I. If you have a story to tell, please email Karen Gonzales, CMP, and we will spotlight your experience.