Jennifer Watson, Senior Director, Global Accounts
San Diego, Ca.
Can you provide some of your background as a meeting professional?
I started in food and beverage service at 16 and after college, then left food and beverage for marketing events in the music industry. Later, I went back to school for culinary arts to take food and beverage to a more professional level. From there, I went on to catering, banquets, managing restaurants, and working back of house. I took that experience to catering sales, and then I got my first big break as a convention service manager at the world famous Hotel Del Coronado, which truly started me on this current path. From there, I moved to sales at a Westin, a Hilton, a destination management company and finally, HelmsBriscoe.
What was the most challenging/fun event you have been involved in to date?
HelmsBriscoe, for sure, as I literally sell around the globe, so there is something new to learn every moment of the day, and knowing you do not know even a fraction of it is humbling, challenging, and exciting. There are endless layers to a conference to consider. Sure, the obvious thing HelmsBriscoe does is work with a hotel to contract on behalf of our clients. But the ancillary concerns is infinite ranging including whether is there a thriving downtown nearby or cheaper hotel options in the area. It goes on and on—to be the best consultant to my client, I consider all of these things.
What are the greatest rewards of being a meeting professional?
Helping my clients get more value; mitigating their risk as much as possible; and truly being of service to my clients. When their event is spectacular and their stakeholders think they are a superstar, that is my reward.
How has COVID-19 affected you personally?
Everything in my life is changed—a friend’s parents dying alone; friends in hospital or struggling with lingering complications; co-workers in a coma; my child moving to virtual school; colleagues by the hundreds losing their jobs. Not to mention, cancelling every single meeting through Q1 2021; avoiding angry non-mask wearing people on the street; anxiety about staying safe; and my husband and I both losing our income—literally everything.
Have you or are you in the process of planning any virtual/hybrid events? If so, which platform are you using?
HelmsBriscoe is offering our clients a platform for virtual events through our partner metroConnections. I have had a few takers, but it is a Band-Aid. Useful in this time, but just a Band-Aid, nonetheless.
What do you see as the future of the travel and tourism industry?
I truly and steadfastly believe in the value of human connection, it is literally in our DNA—so meetings will come back, someday. But I do not think it will come back nearly as soon as people hope. I am a pragmatist, and we need a vaccine. Buckle up; we are in this for a while. But once we get back, be it five years or whenever, we will thrive.