Latisha Dutch, CEO/Association Manager
Can you provide some of your background as a meeting professional?
I have been working in the meetings industry for 20 years in varying industries to include sports and entertainment, healthcare, safety, human resources, and nonprofit. The past decade landed me exclusively working with associations. In that, I have evolved from an independent meeting planner to the owner of an association management company. It was an easy transition as association meeting planners must be on the pulse of every other aspect of how the association works.
Why did you choose to become a meeting professional?
Initially, meeting planning started as a part-time job for me as supplemental income. However, it did not take me long to fall in love with it. I enjoy the variety of tasks it offers, the engagement with different types of people and the feeling of accomplishment at the conclusion of each meeting.
What was the most challenging/fun event you have been involved in to date?
Each event comes with its own identity, challenges, and attitude—fun or otherwise—that is the beauty of meeting planning. No meeting is ever the same, even the annual conferences, as from one year to the next; they tend to differ in certain capacities. And, no matter how much you plan, there will always be the elements you could not or did not expect. It is in those moments, when those challenges are presented, it keeps it interesting.
What are the greatest rewards of being a meeting professional?
There is no greater reward than reading attendee evaluations and receiving volumes of positive feedback – knowing that you created an experience that pleased others. In that, it is a reward to also receive the not-so-positive feedback as it opens windows of opportunity to consider for future improvement.
How has COVID-19 affected you personally?
COVID-19 has forced me and my clients to pivot from in-person to virtual events. My clients never utilized virtual platforms or meetings before the pandemic, but now they use it exponentially. In turn, it has created longer days and hours for me as we are meeting more than ever before.
Have you or are you in the process of planning any virtual/hybrid events? If so, which platform are you using?
I am in the process of planning a virtual event utilizing a combination of the Zoom Webinar and Zoom Meetings platforms to execute the various conference aspects. I have also utilized Hopin as a conference platform.
Are you in the process of planning any in-person events in the remaining months of 2020?
All 2020 in-person events for my clients have been cancelled, but we are planning to move forward in-person in 2021.
What do you see as the future of the travel and tourism industry?
Obviously, I would love to see the industry rebound, but we know it will never be like it was pre-pandemic. The industry has permanently changed, and I do not believe all the changes have come to fruition. I can only hope that we continue to evolve and be progressive to find our way to survive the bad hand we have been dealt.