Kowana Ragland, CMP, Senior Director
Can you provide some of your background as a meeting professional?
I have been a meeting professional for almost 30 years. I am currently a senior director at Meeting Expectations, where I have a multi-faceted role that includes leading client engagements, providing oversight for team operations, and providing strategic direction for our meeting planning business unit. I also serve as the account executive for several association clients where I build and maintain long-term client relationships. I began my career in the meeting planning industry at the International Society of Automation (ISA). The majority of my decade there were in the conference and exhibit department planning city-wide conferences.
Why did you choose to become a meeting professional?
Actually, the events industry found me! I was working for an association in the HR department, and after that, successfully moved into a role in the conference and exhibit department. A few years later, I decided to make the move from Raleigh, N.C. to Atlanta and found Meeting Expectations online, and started work there two weeks after I moved.
What was the most challenging/fun event you have been involved in to date?
It is an 150 attendee in-person event I just executed a few weeks ago, the first I have managed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The main challenge was ensuring all the appropriate safety protocols were in place, which was difficult, but we succeeded in not having issue. Another challenge was determining the food and beverage menu and how it will be served, but we worked with the hotel to offer buffets with server attendants and stations/seating physically distanced.
What are the greatest rewards of being a meeting professional?
My greatest reward is watching attendees’ expressions when they experience something new. After all, if I can create amazing attendee engagements, that is a win-win for everybody.
How has COVID-19 affected you personally?
I don’t go visit my mom as often, but we video chat almost every day. I was already working from home full-time, but I limit the amount of time I’m out. I definitely miss hanging out with friends and find I am spending more time alone.
Have you or are you in the process of planning any virtual/hybrid events? If so, which platform are you using?
I was planning a virtual event in October using vFairs, but we have used a variety of platforms, matching them to the needs of the clients. This is one of more than 50 virtual events Meeting Expectations has planned and/or executed since the start of the pandemic.
Are you in the process of planning any in-person events in the remaining months of 2020?
I completed an in-person event in August and we are currently conducting site selection for the same client for an event in April 2021.
What do you see as the future of the travel and tourism industry?
I’m hopeful in-person events will come back in some capacity next year, especially as more and more events are planned successfully. Our industry certainly adjusts quickly and adapts regularly. While I am hopeful, my heart also goes out to those who have lost their jobs and careers.