This is the second post in our “Project Your Voice” series. In this Q&A, we sat down with Cassie Mancera, from the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS). Five years into her career, Cassie is thoughtful about the role conferences can play in preserving the environment, and looks for ways to foster the next generation.
Q: What inspired you to enter the events industry?
A: I worked my way through DePaul University and as a bartender at Soldier Field, where the Chicago Bears play. This was my introduction to the world of hospitality. I thought about majoring in international studies after a formative experience traveling to Germany, but living in Chicagoland area and bartending opened my eyes to how fun and cool the hospitality industry could be.
I knew I wanted to focus on events in my career, but I took my time figuring out what that would look like for me. I tried a lot of different things to learn what I did and didn’t like. I interned for a small events company, got involved in school opportunities to visit restaurants and hotels, and even tried my hand at wedding planning––which I quickly realized was not for me.
After all of that real-world research, I realized my interest lies in meetings and trade shows, and looked for internships in that area. I started as an intern at AAOMS and never left.
Q: What do you love about hospitality, and what is the most challenging part?
A: I love the people. Everyone is always so helpful and kind, no matter what city I am traveling to. I can always find someone to steer me in the right direction with venues and ideas for meetings and resources in the area. The hospitality industry is just so fun. Everyone is very involved and loves what they do; it is contagious.
Right now, our biggest challenge is adjusting to the aftermath of COVID-19. The cost of creating a successful meeting has skyrocketed. We are reestablishing relationships with vendors and are all getting used to travel and in-person interactions again.
It was nice to slow down during quarantine and create more virtual opportunities. It seemed like there was so much more time to get everything done both professionally and in my personal life. We are working through different issues now––but we all survived the pandemic, so I know we can get through anything.
Q: What is some advice you have for others starting out in the events industry?
A: Just go for it. I believe that there is a place for everybody in the meetings industry and in the hospitality industry in general.
I wish I had known early in my education and career that there is so much more to hospitality than hotels and restaurants. There are so many different people you can work with and things you can do. I work as a meeting planner, but I do so much more than that. Sometimes I feel like I work in finance, sometimes I am doing logistics, sometimes I am teaching––there is never a dull moment. There are so many transitional skills you can use in the hospitality industry, so there is bound to be something that interests everyone. If you are bored or feel stuck, explore other options and find a way to incorporate what you love and what you are good at into your events.
Take time to learn about lots of different types of events, associations and meetings. Complete internships in diverse areas/roles or spend time volunteering. When you understand more about shows and events, you can make better choices about what you want your career to look like.
Q: Where should people look for professional resources and mentorships?
A: I personally found internships through my university program. I have to credit my professors for being wonderful resources and encouraging me throughout my education. Reach out to administrators, campus clubs, and professors to find out what is available to you.
Similarly, professional organizations can help guide your career. I am a member of PCMA, and I was matched with a senior meetings manager for a mentorship program. The official mentorship time was short, but we still keep in touch, and that relationship was so helpful in helping me grow my personal network.
Every time I go to a new event, I make connections with new people and rediscover friends that I haven’t seen in a while. It’s such a small world, and people want to help. Reach out to your own network and you will absolutely find opportunities.
Another, less conventional resource that I use is my event partners. Vendors like Projection are a wealth of knowledge, because they aren’t only working on my event; they work on events for all types of organizations. I can always count on both our vendors and city partners to have fresh ideas and a deep understanding of how to get things done.
Q: What is your hope for the future of the events industry?
A: It is time for all of us to be more conscious of our ecological footprint. In the meetings industry, we have a long way to go. We can start by making small changes that add up to something bigger.
One thing I am working on currently is trying to replace conventional signage––which gets thrown away at the end of an event––with digital signs. Other small changes might include reducing plastic flatware, taking advantage of existing recycling programs within the venues we go to, and educating attendees about how they can reduce their environmental impact at our meetings.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that digital interactions are possible, and that could potentially help us drastically reduce carbon emissions generated by travel. However, I think there are two sides to this. We do implement a virtual component of our meetings, which allows people to get their continuing education credits without the cost or health burden of travel. We saw in the quarantine, though, that it isn’t that easy to offer high-quality virtual experiences. This is something I think, as an industry, we can, and need to, do better.
I believe that the next generation is vital to both the health of the events industry and solving the environmental and digital issues we are facing. If we can connect with young people through internships, volunteer programs and mentorship, we can help fuel the ideas that will change the world.
If you or anyone from your organization would like to be a contributor to the “Project Your Voice” series, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More from “Project Your Voice”
[Part One] Talking About Inclusion, Diversity and Finding Your Niche with Josh Henry, SPIE
[Part Three] Talking About Making a Collective Impact with Paula Eichenbrenner, AMCP Foundation
[Part Four] Talking About Growth Through Facing Down Fears with Yolanda Simmons Battle, AHIMA
[Part Five] Talking About Putting Mental Health First with Dana Johnston, IDSA
[Part Six] Talking About the Power of Meetings with Karen Cuviello, Projection