Meeting Professional to Watch: Patti Colley

Patti Colley, Chief Strategy Officer

Oklahoma Restaurant Association

Oklahoma City, Ok.



Can you provide some of your background as a meeting professional?

In 1985, I joined the staff of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, which also manages the Oklahoma Hotel & Lodging Association and Oklahoma Travel Industry Association. In my role as chief strategy officer, I am responsible to communicate the association’s mission while elevating its brand and aligning our activities with objectives. I direct industry relations and strategic partnership marketing initiatives, as well as other marketing collaborations and activities surrounding association meetings and events.

Why did you choose to become a meeting professional?

While working as a hotel sales manager and then assistant director of sales, I had the opportunity to work in partnership with many meeting planners. As many of the skill sets I possessed mirrored theirs, the planner role provided what I felt was an even greater challenge. Lucky for me, an opportunity arose from the hospitality trade association, and I was meant to build a long-term profession in trade association management.

What was the most challenging/fun event you have been involved in to date?

One of our larger foundation events was founded 22 years ago. It is a 500-person gala, and although the most labor intensive in its first year, it was the most exciting because it came with no template, and there were many creative minds working on the event from conception to completion. There are too many elements to detail, but the evening is a true honor to direct.

What are the greatest rewards of being a meeting professional?

2020 is actually my 25th year with my current associations, but I entered the meetings industry in 1987. My greatest rewards have been industry friendships I will maintain for a lifetime; the ability to collaborate with such a talented and fantastic team; and to work in such a social and community-oriented industry.

How has COVID-19 affected you personally?

There have been some very tough days, as I would guess is the case for all of the other meeting professionals out there. My responsibilities are extremely varied, and because the restaurant and lodging industries have been devastated, we have had to work harder than ever to support our members, and do it with less staff and less resources.

Have you or are you in the process of planning any virtual/hybrid events? If so, which platform are you using?

We have participated in six virtual conferences and exhibit opportunities, with some successes and others not so much. Our 4,000-attendee expo was scheduled for later this year, and we decided due to a number of factors to move forward with a live event in a very strategic and thoughtful manner.

Are you in the process of planning any in-person events in the remaining months of 2020?

Our other events for the year have been postponed until 2021 when we hope to return to a more normal state.

What do you see as the future of the travel and tourism industry?

I believe the future is hopeful and there are many exciting things to come, but it will be well into 2022 before we see a significant improvement.

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