2021 IAEE Chapter Merit Award Winner
By Mary Tucker, IAEE Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Steve Walker, Executive Director of City Wide Sales for MGM Resorts International, has served on the IAEE Southwest Chapter’s Board of Directors for more than two years and has made a huge impact. He jumped in the fray during the chapter’s most challenging months in 2020/2021 and helped engage its members with strength and compassion during the most stressful times for our industry. He is always at every event and participates with contagious energy and spirit, and has even been known to bring out his guitar and play a few tunes from time to time! When the chapter needs a Board member to assist, he is the first to ask, “How can I help?”
The chapter’s annual golf tournament did not take place in 2020, however Steve as Golf Chair was instrumental in re-negotiating and hosting an in-person golf event in 2021 which attracted both golfers and non-golfers. The chapter raised much more than expected for its charity and even surpassed the 2019 golf tournament revenue! Little did Steve know that he was not only Golf Chair, he also took on most of the committee work overall due to members who left the industry or took on new careers and did not have time to assist as they originally intended.
Steve’s participation in the chapter is not only inspirational, but he truly ensured the chapter’s financial success and has significantly given back to the community. He spearheaded one of the chapter’s most successful outings in years even though it experienced lower attendance than normal. He was able to gather sponsors and keep the whole team on task to put together a great event. The chapter was able to make money for the charity and the chapter during this difficult time. He is a constant force on the Chapter Board and a key part of the success of the Southwest Chapter. Steve’s outstanding 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 Steve’s acceptance speech here).
IAEE President & CEO David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA (left) presents the Chapter Merit Award to Steve Walker (right) during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2021 in Philadelphia, PA.
Here, Steve shares with IAEE what he finds most rewarding about working in the industry, his approach to contributing to his local chapter and the leadership qualities he has found to be most effective in his endeavors.
IAEE: What drew you to the exhibitions and events industry, and what do you find most rewarding about your career in this field?
Steve: I had the opportunity to move to Las Vegas in the early 2000s not really knowing the economic impact of the exhibitions industry, both domestically and internationally. I had been working in the hospitality industry for many years but was really “green” when I started at the Sands Expo in 2001 in relation to trade shows and exhibitions. I remember going to my first Expo! Expo! and not really knowing anyone, but as the years went by, the relationships started to develop and now it is like a reunion every December. It really makes the job fun!
IAEE: Your chapter colleagues cited your boundless energy and enthusiasm even when facing what could feel like unsurmountable challenges. What are some of the strategies you apply to “get your head around” challenges and keep a positive outlook?
Steve: Knowing that we are all facing these challenges together in our industry made it easier as we knew we could lean on each other and support each other. We have a lot of great leaders on our board, and we all pulled together and accomplished a lot of great things last year. There was a lot of collaboration between the board members and volunteers to figure out the best way to keep our members engaged while we worked through the pandemic. We have a board that is very diverse in several different skill sets and that helped us plan many successful networking events.
IAEE: Chapter members also praised your leadership skills. What, in your opinion, constitutes an effective leader, and how do you apply these traits to your own activities and commitments?
Steve: Effective leaders do a good job of hearing the voices of their peers and co-workers, and make sure everyone feels included in the task at hand. Acknowledgement of a job well done goes a long way with people as does coaching in learning situations. While all organizations have leadership personnel in place, it’s the team members that get things done, so appreciation goes a long way.
IAEE: As the industry shakes off the effects of the pandemic, what would you like to see the chapter accomplish in the near future?
Steve: We need to find a way to get more participation from the organizers and associations that are located in chapter territory. We have a few that are really active, but there are many that we do not hear from. We need to find a way to get them involved. If we do that then, I would imagine, that we will get additional supplier participation as well. We need to do events that are compelling and interesting to our audience.
IAEE: You are obviously a big proponent of getting involved with your local chapter and digging deep into the trenches. What advice would you give someone interested in taking a leadership role within their local chapter?
Steve: There a few questions that one needs to ask themselves such as, Do I have the time to commit to the cause? Do I have Ideas that I can bring to the table to propel the chapter forward? Am I willing to get outside of my comfort zone to speak up and bring “outside of the box” ideas to the table? Are you willing to take the time to execute those ideas? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then we would love to have you!
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!