Event professionals, master these skills and achieve your goals
Shane Feldman, a keynote speaker at IMEX America (October 11-13, 2023 in Las Vegas), discusses taking care of yourself, community engagement and true purpose.
What are the skills that you think event professionals need today to move forward with confidence, simplicity and clear thinking?
If 2021 was the year of flexibility, 2022 is the year of self-care. We’ve all been stretched thin, bending ourselves into pretzels to make everything work, often wearing several hats in a day. Some of my favourite event planners are teetering on the edge of burnout right now, and it’s hard to watch.
I was just keynoting for a rock star meeting planner the other day. I showed up extra early for soundcheck, and when I asked how they were doing, they quipped that they hadn’t eaten yet. It was 6 p.m. I went and got them a sandwich, and they nearly cried. Now, I’m no psychologist, but when a sandwich brings you to tears, there’s normally something deeper going on. Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s necessary if you want to sustain any level of high performance. We must take care of ourselves to get through this next chapter where we’re often operating at 200 percent capacity.
As event professionals, it’s more critical than ever that we remind ourselves we don’t need to light ourselves on fire to keep our clients warm.
How can clarity of values, vision and purpose help build ongoing community engagement?
If you aren’t clear about values, vision and purpose, it’s near impossible to build any true sense of community. Community engagement is about people coming together around a shared cause. I was just speaking with Eva Klinger, Director of Sales and Guest Events at Messe Frankfurt, who shared that because of employee shortages due to COVID-19, over 100 of Messe Frankfurt’s staff from all levels, including C-Suite, vice presidents and directors, volunteered to help out the catering company for a festival in the legendary Festhalle. Eva herself was waitressing!
That’s true community, a team coming together to support one another in moments of difficulty and moments of celebration. That only happens when we get clear on our values, vision and purpose and work on intentionally creating a sense of community across all levels of our team.
How can people uncover their true purpose?
I had the privilege recently of partnering with Simon Sinek on a masterclass that covered this very topic. When we talk about a sense of purpose, we’re really talking about our core values. Leadership is the result of operationalising your values. There’s an entire process I facilitate for teams, but I’ll summarise the entire training into three key questions to ask yourself:
- Think about some of the greatest experiences you’ve ever had. What made them memorable for you?
- Think about your past week. What mattered to you most?
- Think about three people you deeply admire. They could be your closest friends, co-workers or mentors. What do you appreciate most about them?
Now, once you’ve sat with those three questions for a moment and answered them honestly, you can begin to identify the commonalties between all three of your answers. These qualities and characteristics are a good starting point for you to identify your core values. If you’re interested in the world of values-driven data, I would also highly recommend you look up Valuegraphics and connect with my dear friend, David Allison.
What has surprised you about working with some of the world’s biggest brands?
My very favourite clients cover the full spectrum of industries, from Microsoft and Red Bull to Disney and Mercedes. While every company I’ve worked with is certainly unique, what has become unavoidably clear is that COMMUNITY BUILDING really is the key differentiator that sets the world’s greatest brands apart from the rest.
When you build a sense of true community, thoughtfully and intentionally, it leads to stronger retention of key talent and inspires an army of loyal clients, customers and guests. But more than that, what I’ve noticed is that those same employees and customers end up acting like an army of unpaid marketing interns, consistently advocating for the company. That’s where the magic really happens.
There’s an excellent book by American journalist Derek Thompson called “Hit Makers” that decodes this age of things going viral and how passionate communities can turn events, products and service providers into cultural phenomena. What those big brands understand is that investing in community building offers a guaranteed return.
How can we attract rising talent to the events industry in the wake of the Great Resignation?
I had the opportunity to work with Hannah Lee, a conference producer with IMEX and part of the MPI UK & Ireland Chapter. Hannah and I collaborated on the IMEX Future Leaders Forum and this, of course, was a key topic.
Hannah shared that what many future leaders have mentioned at the shows is that we need to get so much better at offering internships and shadowing opportunities. I’ve also seen a lot of discouraging entry-level postings echoing a “no experience, no job” sentiment, but then how can we hope to attract, train and retain rising talent? It just takes one person to take a chance on a student or young professional to help them get their foot in the door, then they can start forging their own path from there. For the leaders and brands who invest in young talent and help them feel a sense of community, we often see those employees grow with the company for many years to come.
I know a lot of industry newcomers have also felt unmotivated and worried about their career prospects after the impact of COVID, which is why it’s perhaps more important than ever for experienced professionals to highlight how resilient the industry really is. There’s a sentiment I’ve heard recently that “if you made it through COVID in this industry, you can make it through just about anything.” That’s a powerful offering in an otherwise unpredictable career landscape. This next generation also craves a feeling of impact and generally wants to contribute to positive societal change. Events and hospitality roles also offer a unique opportunity for impact. We get to touch the lives of people in a way that few other industries ever do, and that is certainly a unique differentiator we can leverage.
See Shane in action this BuzzHub recap session: Leadership passport: Building community to move beyond competition and scale impact