Lisa Zent – Maritz Global Events

Lisa Zent

Senior Event Strategist, ESN, Maritz Global Events

Lexington, Ky.

Describe your job.

I live up to the words in my bio on the company website. As a contractor for Maritz Global Events, I oversee key clients and build relationships on dependability. My clients know they can rely on me as a trusted consultant because I pride myself on working with the highest ethical standards. My role as liaison between clients and hoteliers taps into my strength as a negotiator. But I can’t transact the best contract without genuinely understanding each client’s objectives and knowing the field well enough to find the location that will exceed expectations. That’s why I’m involved in every step, from determining client needs to negotiating the contract to site inspection—and why clients can trust me to be their partner.

How did you get started, and what got you from there to today?

I wanted to be a doctor, but I don’t like blood. I found out you could get a degree in hospitality, so I gave it a chance. I was offered an internship on Hilton Head Island, S.C., by Hyatt Hotels, and I loved it. I transferred to Michigan State University to get a hotel, restaurant, and institutional management degree that was a business degree (because, of course, I was not going to do this my entire life), and here I am.

I was offered a job with Hyatt in their management trainee program in New Orleans. That was the warmest job location I was offered; coming from Michigan State, I was done with the snow and cold and moved to New Orleans weeks after graduating. I learned a ton from my Hyatt days, met my husband (24 years and going strong), and was transferred to D.C., where I applied to Conferon, a meeting planning and event management company.

I worked there for almost three years before having my first child and wanting to move closer to home. So, my husband and I moved to Lexington, Ky., where I joined the independent arm of Conferon [now Maritz Global Events]. Of course, I told them, “I am not a salesperson.” But 22 years later, I know it was the best decision I ever made.

How do you keep up with industry trends, changes, and cutting-edge developments?

I am so lucky to be aligned with Maritz Global Events to be constantly aware of all the latest trends. We have a great network to pull from and ask questions. I truly think that having gone through the management trainee program taught me so much about the industry. I think you have to be a people person to be in this industry and be successful and to have real-life experiences to be able to “tell the story” of real-life experiences.

What essential skills should every industry professional possess?

My bio on the Maritz website says it all: dependability. It may not be flashy, but it’s the key to succeeding in an industry with many resources, details, and options. Four important keys to success are:

– Client relationships: Nothing is more important than delivering on client needs.

– Market knowledge: Networking with locations, site visits, and market research help me develop a vast knowledge of the field.

– Logistical acumen: I remain attuned to the details of each event so clients can relax.

– Negotiation: A career in the industry has given me the confidence and capacity to find the best terms for my clients

What is your philosophy or approach to work?

My dad was my first and probably my most demanding boss. But he never asked his employees to do anything he would not do himself. If that meant cleaning out the grease trap or jumping in the dumpster to look for a lost item, he was there. He taught me that meeting people at their level and helping them with whatever you are asking them to do goes a long way.

Describe your biggest professional success.

I have won many awards over the years, been a top producer, top new account sales, etc., many times, but probably my most coveted award is the ESN Elite award. Only eight people on the ESN team have this title, and I am honored to be one of them.

Share an anecdote about a meeting or event that did not go as planned and how you handled it.

I have experienced many funny and odd situations. However, one that stands out from decades ago was my first onsite for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. The event included a lab on dental procedures in which actual horse specimens were to be used. But the specimens were frozen! We tried to thaw them with heat lamps, but it just did not work. We had to extend the lab by a day, move the specimens to the headquarters hotel, and set things up again for another day. We sure did learn a lot from that meeting, and we still laugh about it, as the association has remained my client.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is all of the relationships I have built. My clients are like my family, my industry friends are like my family, and my colleagues are family and people with whom I travel and enjoy life. I honestly could not have asked for a better way to spend the last 22 years.

What do you like to do in your free time?

For 20 years, I have answered this question by saying whatever my three kids do are my hobbies: soccer, gymnastics, volleyball, track, you name it, I was there. I have one child left at home, and the other two are off to college. I am pondering what I will do in my free time. The absolute joy comes from exploring new places and old favorites with my family; there’s nothing like creating a new adventure for those I love.

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