Jan Levine, CTC, President
JSL Meeting & Event Group, Inc.
Can you provide some of your background as a meeting professional?
I have more than 30 years of experience in the meeting, travel and event production industries. I began my career as a travel agent in North Carolina, which took me to Atlanta, Ga. Much of my work was focused on corporate, group, association and incentive travel. . I launched JSL Meeting & Event Group to bridge my love of meeting planning, travel and designing special events. In the past 10 years, I expanded to offer DMC services in specific markets, partnering with local CVBs and other entities.
Why did you choose to become a meeting professional?
Whether I am customizing an elaborate theme for a client’s meeting/event or coordinating a dozen international vendors for an annual corporate meeting, I take great personal and professional pride in my hands-on work, leaving no detail unturned.
What was the most challenging/fun event you have been involved in to date?
We were challenged by a client to put on two over-the-top experiences for about 200 people. One group was at a racetrack experience complete with ridealongs. The other was at an outdoor concert that included Cirque du Soleil acts, local food and chefs grilling lobsters to order and tossing them on tables. The events were spectacular, but the behind-the-scenes was the most challenging and grueling I have ever faced. There was rain for two solid days, and both events were outside with no real backup, so the “Plan B” was a challenge alone. These were just a few on a long list of other challenges.
What are the greatest rewards of being a meeting professional?
Without a doubt, the honor of being an integral partner to clients, suppliers, as well as peers in this industry. To be a solution for our clients and challenge ourselves and our partners to deliver unique, over-the-top experiences while staying relevant to the purpose, while going the extra mile.
How has COVID-19 affected you personally?
It has been a welcome opportunity to pause, reflect, and reset, both personally and professionally. As a business owner, I absolutely love picking up the phone and actually being able to get through to someone and have a conversation. Challenging for sure–but I am very grateful to the clients that have rebooked; for the hotel partners who have worked with us on rebooking and re-negotiating existing contracts; as well as the communication with peers, partners, and potential clients.
Have you planned or are you in the process of planning any virtual/hybrid events? If not, what are your thoughts on virtual/hybrid events?
We are not actively soliciting or trying to promote virtual events; however, we are incorporating some components into future meetings, based on our clients’ needs. When speaking with all clients, peers, and partners, it is clear that there is still an absolute need to meet in person. Educating, learning, continuing education, new product launches and general information are great opportunities for virtual/hybrid events in the short term, and possibly the long term, but this option absolutely cannot replace the need for face-to-face networking and interacting with people.
Are you planning in person events for remaining 2020?
We have a couple of small meetings, retreats, and holiday gatherings scheduled. All larger meetings and programs have been moved and rebooked for 2021. One is a combination of an in-person meeting of about 30 people with some virtual one-on-one meetings.
What do you see as the future of the travel and tourism industry?
Travel and tourism are coming back, and they will be different than ever before. From the perspective of the corporate travel, incentive and meetings industry, we are seeing drivable destinations considered more than ever for groups through the rest of the year. My personal experience with meetings clients is that smaller properties are being considered more than ever, as well as resorts with more of a campus layout than a hotel. As an experienced professional in this industry, I will embrace the changes and adapt accordingly.