Convention Sales Manager, Fayetteville Area CVB
Describe your job.
My job is selling the city of Fayetteville and Cumberland County in North Carolina and its attractions to meeting planners far and near. Meetings and events held here have a positive financial effect on our local economy that, on average, saves our local taxpayers $130 in taxes per household each year, so it’s very rewarding in many ways. I work with all types of meetings and events, but my specialty is the SMERF (social, military, education, religious, and fraternal) market, and I enjoy working with all those groups.
What made you choose the meetings and events industry?
I honestly can’t say that I chose the meetings and events industry—the industry kind of chose me. Years ago, a colleague came up with a plan to hold a music conference exclusively for DJs, which is work I was doing at the time. He asked me to help with the logistics of putting the conference together. Two decades later, here I am working for a CVB.
How did you get started, and what got you from there to today?
When I helped put together the DJ conference, I was on active duty in the U.S. Air Force and working as a DJ at a local radio station. I discovered I enjoyed the conference planning process, and for the next the 15 years, I worked with this conference twice a year learning the good, the bad, and the ugly of planning and executing events. When my military career ended, I pursued a degree in hospitality management from East Carolina University with a double concentration in lodging and meetings and events. So, here I am, fresh out of college and at the Fayetteville Area CVB.
How do you keep up with industry trends, changes, and cutting-edge developments?
It is extremely important to keep up with new trends in an industry like this that is constantly evolving. I do so by reading a lot of industry publications and staying current with my continuing education classes that focus on current protocols. I also communicate regularly with my peers from CVBs in other markets that I met at tradeshows; we are constantly in contact, sharing thoughts and bouncing ideas off each other.
What essential skills should every industry professional possess?
The basic skill every industry professional should have is critical thinking. The pandemic showed how important it is in this industry to be able to think and execute ideas on the fly. In-person meetings turned into virtual meetings, virtual meetings turned into hybrid meetings, and now hybrid meetings are turning back into in-person meetings.
What is the philosophy or approach to work that gets you through stressful times?
Coming from a career in the Air Force, I think about how stressful it is all the time for all my friends who are still serving and deployed somewhere far away from their families and loved ones. For me now, when my day is over, I get to shut the door to my office and go home. When I look at it that way, I do not allow myself to have a stressful day!
What is the best professional advice you ever received, and what advice do you have for others in the industry?
The best professional advice I have ever received is to earn the trust of those around me, whether it’s a coworker, a client, a vendor, or a boss. Once you have earned their trust, your opportunities will increase tenfold.
The advice I would give others is to believe in yourself and be confident that no matter what obstacle is put in front of you, you can achieve the goal you set out to accomplish.
Describe your biggest professional success.
My most important professional success thus far is returning to school 23 years after graduating high school and earning my degree in three years—with honors. When I was in the military, I really had no idea I would return to school, but at the same time, I also preached to my children the importance of a college education. I felt it would be better for them to see me earn my degree rather than just telling them they needed to. A college degree is important to me because at the end of the day, the knowledge you gain from education is something that can never be taken away. A house, car, or even a job can be taken from you, but that education and degree will be with you forever.
Share an anecdote about a meeting or event that did not go as planned and how you handled it.
My third conference was held at a hotel adjacent to an airport, and I had scheduled a poolside speaking engagement as part of the conference, not thinking about the proximity to the airport. Needless to say, due to the sound of planes taking off and landing, no one could understand what the speaker had to say, so I had to quickly book additional meeting space inside the host hotel and reschedule the speaking engagement for later in the conference.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is helping with military reunions. Watching old battle buddies reunite and getting to hear the stories of the soldiers who came before me is truly rewarding.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I still love to DJ; I work part-time at a local radio station in Fayetteville and sometimes DJ at area nightclubs. I also am an avid bass fisherman, and I hope to one day compete in tournaments. And, of course, I enjoy spending time with my children.