Paola Bowman – Arlington CVB

Paola Bowman

Director of Client Services & Events, Arlington CVB

Arlington, Texas

Describe your job.

I like to say the essence of my job is bridging people and ideas to make great things happen. As director of services for the Arlington CVB, I help planners execute their meetings in our city by being a resource, advocate, and local expert. I also act as a liaison for them to our local community, our hospitality stakeholders, and our suppliers. Internally for the CVB, I plan and execute our client-facing events. In a nutshell, I’m an event designer and destination guru helping planners embrace strategic event management to deliver memorable experiences.

What made you choose the meetings and events industry?

I fell in love with hospitality on the hotel side. I’m a connector by nature, and I enjoy watching the effect and lasting impressions of the meetings and events world on attendees, as well as on our local economies. It’s human nature to crave connection with each other, and the meetings and events industry allows for long-lasting relationships. Listening to speakers has a wonderful impact, and even though it’s not something we can physically touch, the impact is very palpable when we meet. We benefit from the energy in the room, but most of all, we benefit from each other when we connect with open minds. It’s that connection and the relationship building that I love about this industry.

How did you get started and what got you from there to today?

I started my path in hospitality as a phone operator and quickly moved to a hotel concierge role. I loved meeting new people with every group that checked in and building relationships. My path has been full of great mentors and colleagues over the years. I’m very fond of my time with Visit Fort Worth where two of my mentors—president and CEO Bob Jameson and assistant vice president of meeting sales Melanie Hoover—taught me the best traits in a leader; I’m fortunate to still have their support. That, paired with the grit I learned from my parents, has brought me to where I am today.

How do you keep up with industry trends, changes, and cutting-edge developments?

I stay connected to industry organizations, such as the Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) where I serve as president, Meeting Professionals International, and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events. Through these organizations, I learn from networking with my peers, as well as from their invaluable educational opportunities. Additionally, I read industry publications.

What essential skills should every industry professional possess?

Every event industry professional should possess excellent skills in communication and problem-solving, be adaptable, and have strong organizational skills. It’s also important to be networking-savvy.

What is the philosophy or approach to work that gets you through stressful times?

One thing I often remind myself of is we are not doing brain surgery. We are helping planners conduct business and helping attendees learn and create memories. The work always pays off, and the reward of a successful meeting or event is always worth all the work that went into it.

What is the best professional advice you ever received, and what advice do you have for others in the industry?

One of my dear friends and mentors is Colleen Rickenbacher, co-founder of the Global Protocol, Etiquette & Civility Academy. A natural leader and nurturer, Colleen coached me on job interviews, dealing with client situations, networking, and more. Our relationship is a testament to the lasting impressions we make in this industry. In fact, she taught me the value of that, as part of her training includes how to make first impressions lasting impressions. She has given me so many golden nuggets of advice, but I think one of the best ones applies to both personal and professional life: Always choose kindness and treat others the way you want to be treated.

I also would tell others to be kind to themselves because self-care is not selfish. I once heard a keynote speaker say something that stuck with me: “There is a reason on a plane that we are told to put on our oxygen masks first before helping others. You can’t give from an empty cup.”

Describe your biggest professional success.

Among the things I’m most proud of are achieving my CMP and CMM designations. Assets like these have helped me reach my director role. I’m proud and honored to lead the ESPA as president, and I’m proud of being part of the organization’s team that launched our own event service professional certification program.

Share an anecdote about a meeting or event that did not go as planned and how you handled it.

It’s hard to think of some situations as funny at the time, but here are a couple I recall. Once I was executing a client FAM, and we were hosting a reception at an exclusive venue. The opening musician had to cancel last minute. I worked with our director of marketing and some music contacts to get a replacement quickly. The alternate musician ended up being fantastic, and the clients loved the show. It was a panic moment at the time, but it turned out great.

This second one is more personal, but I was still the planner—for my own wedding! That day, it didn’t just rain, it poured. My reception was at a hotel venue, and I had to cross a courtyard to get there. I went to my coordinator and said, “Surely, there is another way to get to the hall.” She found a golf cart and drove me through a parking lot to get to the back side of the hall with minimal effects from the rain.

For both stories, the moral is: Stay calm, be resourceful, and it never hurts to ask.

What is the best part of your job?

Hands down, the people! My career has afforded me the opportunity to build relationships with my local community, from hotel and restaurant stakeholders to chamber members and beyond. Delivering support for successful events in our destination is no small feat. However, I genuinely care about our customers, and I think they sense that. When clients become friends and know that you truly care, it is a more rewarding experience and feels less like “just a job.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

My family is my world. My husband and two sons are my refuge of fun, peace, and joy. I love spending time with them, whether it’s just a quiet evening at home watching a movie, out cheering them on in sports, or exploring a local attraction or event.

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