Rachel Keyes, Site Selection Manager
Can you provide some of your background as a meeting professional?
I majored in Restaurant, Hotel and Meetings Management at The University of Alabama with a concentration in Meetings and Event Planning and minor in General Business. After college, I started my career at Meeting Expectations as senior site selection coordinator and was promoted last year to site selection manager.
Why did you choose to become a meeting professional?
I have always loved planning events, even as a little kid. Going into college, I was a marketing major but took a hospitality class. After that, I knew I had found what I loved and was passionate about, so I immediately changed my major. I love that each day is unique and there is always so much to learn, and working with a lot of different individuals and always meeting new people.
What was the most challenging/fun event you have been involved into date?
I was helping plan three different themed parties all on the same night for a big client. There was a lot to be done and it was stressful at times because they were all completely unique. I researched decor and themed pictures to match the proposals. I was in charge of getting the costumes and props for the entertainers as well as elaborate photo booth sets. I got everything organized and perfectly matched to each specific theme while staying within the budget.
What are the greatest rewards of being a meeting professional?
One of the greatest rewards is how many people you can impact at each event. I love learning about new trends, properties, and clients. I enjoy not every day is not a 9 to 5 desk job, but a mix of different aspects. I appreciate the family feel of our industry and personal relationships I have gained.
How has COVID-19 affected you personally?
I had a lot of trips cancelled, but my husband and I got a puppy right before everything shut down, so it is been nice being home with her. I’m becoming an aunt in the coming months, so I am excited for our growing family.
Have you or are you in the process of planning any virtual/hybrid events? If so, which platform are you using? If not, what are your thoughts on virtual/hybrid events?
While Meeting Expectations has planned more than 50 virtual events this year, I have not directly worked on one yet, but am starting to have conversations with my clients for next year about both. There is so much value in face-to-face events, but COVID-19 has pushed us to embrace technology and how to successfully use it to execute engaging events. I think virtual/hybrid events will continue to be a big part of the future in our industry.
Are you in the process of planning any in-person events in the remaining months of 2020?
Unfortunately, all of my programs for the remainder of 2020 have been cancelled or are going fully virtual. As a company, we recently completed our first in-person event and we have done a variety of site visits for 2021 events.
What do you see as the future of the travel and tourism industry?
I think when it is safe, people will be excited to go back to face-to-face events, but technology is going to play a much larger role than previously. Recently, wellness has become a huge trend in this industry, and we will continue to see that combined with other areas of health and sanitation moving forward.