What is VenueConnect?
VenueConnect is an annual conference put on by the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM). It hosts professionals from a variety of public assembly venues including arenas, convention centers, stadiums, universities, and more. Its goal is to inspire industry leaders, provide targeted education, and bring attendees together to create lifelong relationships.
Tell us about the scholarship you received.
I was honored to be chosen as a recipient of the Joseph A. Floreano Scholarship for Industry Women in Convention Centers. The scholarship allowed me to attend the conference, where I joined other amazing young professionals also selected for scholarships. IAVM's commitment to helping grow industry leaders is very inspiring.
What was your favorite part of the event?
Being surrounded by 2,000+ like-minded attendees, all of whom were excited to dive into different aspects of event venues. It was truly inspiring to meet folks not only from around the country, but from other countries, as well. We shared best practices, tips, and horror stories from our time in events.
Oh, I can't forget to mention how stunning Music City Center is. It was truly one of the most beautiful, inspiring facilities I've ever visited.
What's the best lesson you learned?
You can never rest on your laurels. There are hundreds of event facilities around the world searching for the next big thing, whether that be in catering, audio/visual tech, or customer service. You should always strive to better not only your business, but yourself.
Who was the most inspiring speaker?
I attended a panel titled, "Women in Leadership", which included three amazing women in the industry: Jeanie Buss, CEO & Governor of the LA Lakers; Donna Julia, Sr. VP of Arena & Events Operations, and General Manager of the North Carolina Hornets; Kim Stone, Executive VP of the Miami Heat, and GM of American Airlines Arena. They discussed the status of women in positions of leadership, their advice to others pursuing positions in these large venues, and anecdotes from their professional lives.
What did you like most about Nashville?
Nashville is nicknamed the Music City for a reason! Everywhere we went in both the convention center and downtown had live bands performing their favorite country tunes; some bars even had a different band on each floor! I'm the first to admit that country isn't my favorite genre of music; however, it was impossible to not get swept up when a classic Garth Brooks jam would start.
Who were you most excited to see?
Eight of my former coworkers from Georgia attended the conference, so it served as a mini-reunion. Outside of sessions, I spent all of my time with them. It really ingrained how small this industry is, and how every relationship you form matters. Through them, I met new connections and gained confidence to introduce myself to strangers.
What was a fun surprise you encountered?
The keynote speaker was Charles Esten, an actor a lot of people know right now for his role as Deacon on the CMT show "Nashville." I know Charles as Chip from his days performing on Whose Line is it Anyways?" I ran into him on the trade show floor and got to tell him that I grew up laughing from his improv skills on TV. He was incredibly gracious and never stopped smiling, despite having spent the past hour greeting other fans. He grabbed my phone and snapped a quick selfie (he's a professional selfie taker at this point in his career) which is the photo at the start of this post. It was a fun encounter.