2021 IAEE Chapter Merit Award Winner
By Mary Tucker, IAEE Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Gwen Venable, CEM, is Executive Vice President of Communications for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. She is also the current past chairperson of the IAEE Southeastern Chapter, which praised her for successfully chairing the Southeastern (SE) Classic, the chapter’s signature event. The SE Classic is generally a two-day educational conference, which provides continuing education credit to attendees for the CEM. In 2020, the pandemic shut down most companies and the city of Atlanta. As a result, the 2020 SE Classic was held virtually. In 2021, though still hampered by the pandemic, Gwen successfully organized a profitable one-day, in-person SE Classic. Under Gwen’s leadership, the SE Classic provided valuable educational opportunities for the membership.
Gwen also co-founded the Tech Exchange, a technology showcase where exhibitors display their technology products for the events and exhibitions industry. This event created an additional revenue stream for the Chapter. For six years, Gwen has chaired the Tech Exchange, which Chapter members have found very beneficial for their trade show needs.
Gwen did not stop at chairing two of the Chapter’s most successful events, she has also stepped up to fill vacated leadership roles in the Chapter including chairing the Luncheon Education & Programs Committee and the Meetup & Special Events Committee. During her term as chairperson, she strengthened the Chapter’s governance by formalizing a nominating process, reviewing/revising/finalizing the Chapter bylaws, developing job descriptions and policies, and organizing a board member orientation process. The Chapter credits Gwen with being instrumental in its success and her leadership earned her the IAEE Chapter Merit Award last year, for which she was recognized this past December during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA (watch Gwen’s acceptance speech here).
IAEE President & CEO David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA (left) presents the Chapter Merit Award to Gwen Venable, CEM (right) during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2021 in Philadelphia, PA.
Here, Gwen shares with IAEE her collaborative approach to leadership, what she recommends most about being involved with chapter activities, and what fuels her passion for the exhibitions and events industry.
IAEE: What drew you to exhibitions and events, and what do you find most fulfilling about your career in this industry?
Gwen: One thing that drew me to exhibitions and events was the diverse nature of the industry. There is a trade show for everything… even IAEE, which is a trade show for trade shows! I have worked in many different industries throughout my career, including agriculture, apparel manufacturing, food equipment manufacturing, etc. It does not matter what your interest is, you can find an event or exhibition that will serve your needs.
Communications and marketing are the two fulling aspects of my career in the exhibitions and events industry. Both are key to informing attendees and exhibitors as to the reasons to be at an event and how they can benefit from the experience they will gain through networking, learning opportunities and exploring new technology or services.
Also, the interaction that I have with so many people is another fulfilling aspect of my career in the industry. In the exhibitions and events industry, you meet people from all over the world who have some of the same shared interests and goals as yourself!
IAEE: What compels you to work so closely with your colleagues on the chapter level and what would you tell someone considering getting more involved with their local chapter?
Gwen: Working together as a team is imperative to a Chapter’s success, and I am a whole-hearted believer in teamwork. Without each of us volunteering our time and efforts and working together, the Chapter would not thrive. We really try to help each other as much as possible.
We strongly encourage participation in the local Chapters. The Chapters provide a community in which you can learn from each other, gain valuable connections and friendships, and participate in many different learning and volunteer environments. You can become involved by attending Chapter luncheons, meet-ups and other events. You can also volunteer for a committee and/or sign up for a mentor match, which links emerging leaders within the exhibitions and events industry with seasoned professionals so that you will learn from one another and benefit from a broader professional outlook.
IAEE: What inspired you to develop Tech Exchange and how has the program evolved? Where do you see it going in the future?
Gwen: We have a similar, yet different, program for the trade show that our Association hosts. When we were brainstorming new ideas for educational programs for the SE Chapter a few years ago, I threw out the suggestion of hosting a Tech Exchange. The Tech Exchange is intended to bring innovative suppliers and thought leaders together with show planners so they present and discuss their newest technology.
We initially started off with five suppliers/thought leaders and grew it to eight suppliers/thought leaders presenting in 2019. Then the dreaded “C” happened in 2020. We went virtual with the program in 2020 and then back to in-person in 2021.
We realize that not everyone is aware of the new technology and services that are becoming available to the exhibitions and events industry on a constant basis. We continue to look at new suppliers and thought leaders to “freshen” the program every year, and there is always something participants have not seen before. We anticipate that the program will continue and perhaps expand it to have a virtual program at the beginning of the year and an in-person program toward the end of the year.
IAEE: Chapter members applauded your initiative in improving the chapter’s governance and onboarding processes. What do you feel makes for a strong chapter and what benefits do you think are important for IAEE members to experience at the local level?
Gwen: A sincere THANK YOU to the SE Chapter members for their kind comments!
Having a guideline of what is expected by board members and volunteers is crucial. Everyone should know what is expected of them and how they can contribute and make a difference in their Chapter, and this is an important aspect of a strong Chapter.
Member engagement and communication are also critical. Reaching out to people that you have not seen or heard from in a while is important in order to remain connected. At the same time, seeking new members can bring a fresh perspective to Chapter events and meetings.
The benefits that are important for IAEE members to experience at the local level include broadening their industry knowledge, growing their network, and staying aware of industry trends and regional news.
IAEE: You have also been commended by fellow chapter members for your leadership skills, especially during a very difficult time for the industry. What is your approach to taking on new challenges and what have you enjoyed most about it?
Gwen: Again, thank you to my fellow Chapter members!
As we all know, 2020 and 2021 brought on a completely different set of issues for the exhibitions and events industry. However, I believe in tackling any situation head on while also engaging all the people and resources available to me to help tackle the challenge.
With any challenge, I enjoy working through it to find a resolution. Sometimes, things do not go as anticipated. However, it does not mean that the path to resolving the issue is incorrect. Instead, it might mean a change in perspective to achieve the resolution. Either way, I believe finding the best solution that benefits everyone should be the top consideration.
The Call for Nominations for this year’s IAEE Awards is now open! Check out all of the award categories here and be sure to submit your nominations by 31 August!