2021 IAEE Chapter Merit Award Winner
By Mary Tucker, IAEE Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Russell Callahan, Director of National Operations for Quest Events, was hailed by the Southwest Chapter as a strong leader with excellent organizational skills who stays educated on the latest to keep the chapter moving in the right direction and creates an environment that inspires great ideas. He has not only served as Chapter Chair but has acted as a mentor as well as initiated partnerships with other chapters on events, is involved in the Membership Engagement Committee, and attends all the chapter leader meetings.
Chapter members praised Russell’s calm and reasoned demeanor, which he applies to lead the chapter in trying times and keep it true to its mission and values. Having served on the Board’s Executive Committee since 2018, he has led the team during challenging times and bridged unforeseen gaps as the chapter re-couped and re-energized along with the rest of the industry. His service and dedication earned him the IAEE Chapter Merit Award last year, for which he was recognized this past December during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA (watch Rusell’s acceptance speech here).
IAEE President & CEO David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA (left) presents the Chapter Merit Award to Russell Callahan (right) during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2021 in Philadelphia, PA.
Here, Russell shares with IAEE why he loves the industry, the trick to (and benefits of) finding time to volunteer with your local chapter, and why mentoring is such a rewarding opportunity.
IAEE: What drew you to exhibitions and events, and what do you find most fulfilling about your career in this industry?
Russell: Honestly, I made it here by accident. I often equate ending up in events to eating at Denny’s late at night. It probably was not your intention, but you ended up there. Like most of us early in life, I did not realize it was an industry and a career was a possibility. I have always been near the industry, having my Sound and Light company as a side hustle in the 90s before it was called a side hustle. It was not until the 2000s that I ran the business center in the Las Vegas Convention Center, working for Encore Productions.
There is a pretty long list of why it is a fulfilling career. I could list being a mentor, the clients, or the travel. What I love about it is the process. A big empty room becomes something unique and then returns to a big open space. It does not matter how many times I go through that process. It makes me smile.
IAEE: What compels you to work closely with your colleagues on the chapter level, and what would you tell someone considering getting more involved with their local chapter?
Russell: it might sound campy, but I genuinely believe Together Everyone Achieves More. The dynamic relationships you can create, the people you get to meet that you might not typically. It is an excellent collection of diverse people with similar experiences and goals. I encourage people to put their toes in the water, so to speak. It will help them grow personally and professionally.
IAEE: You have been commended by your chapter members for stepping up to the plate when extenuating circumstances interfered with others’ abilities to fulfill their commitments. How do you approach the challenge of balancing your commitments while maintaining your role in the chapter?
Russell: Balance has become more difficult as we build into business levels we have not seen for a couple of years. Rebalancing priorities and coming to grips with the fact that it is essential to make sure you dedicate the time. Let’s be honest; it is not that much time. You are doing it if you can take an hour out a week from something else. I try to use airplane time when I can, but sometimes it is time to put down the book or turn off the tv. Not everyone agrees with me, but I believe you have time for the things you make a priority.
IAEE: You have also been applauded for your mentorship contributions. Why do you feel mentorship is essential, and what role has it played in your career?
Russell: It is a part of my career that I did not understand. I was mentoring a long time before I realized that was happening. I had many vital mentors early in my life. It was a transition stage when I realized I could help people as I was. You don’t have to be “old” to be a mentor. Don’t wait to try to lift others as you progress through your career. Take every opportunity to teach, even if it seems trivial to you. It is not always apparent to others. Something as simple as wearing a different pair of shoes each show day to help your feet not hurt. It might seem obvious to you, but a new person in the industry probably does not understand and will be grateful.
IAEE: What do you look forward to for the chapter’s future, and what goals would you like to see it accomplish?
Russell: Chapter participation has grown steadily over the past couple of years. I would like to see the committee system continue to grow so the work can be spread out. A great example is that we had 19 volunteers in our golf tournament this month. This allows everyone to spend time but not lose so much free time that volunteering becomes overbearing. The more people who participate, the easier it is for everyone.
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!