From preparing food at soup kitchens, to education programs, and every volunteer opportunity in between, community outreach can take on many forms. As a member of the exhibitions and events industry, I spend a lot of my time serving others— some commercial and some volunteer. Serving show organizers, clients, facilities, and of course attendees. It’s a huge part of the business, and something I’m grateful to be a part of. As event professionals we have a unique opportunity to reach thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people through events we produce. We spend a majority of our time moving into a new city, developing and producing an event for a week or so, working with a specific group of people and then leave. However, events have a much broader reach than that. When events are held in cities across the US, the economy of that city is enhanced. Hotel vacancies are filled, local businesses and restaurants prosper from a new wave of visitors, and attractions in the city are well explored. Although traveling events already have an impact on a community, wouldn’t it be incredible if we could leave an even bigger impression on the society by participating in outreach programs across the country?
Opportunities In The Industry
IAEE, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, works with many charities across the US and internationally. The DC Chapter of IAEE works with a Capitol Area food bank and ships food to local shelters across the region. We have also recently worked with Friends of Guest House, which is an organization that “Helps Women successfully reenter the community after incarceration.” Last year alone, the IAEE DC Chapter collected more than $4,000 for Friends of Guest House, and Fern matched $2,000 of that donation, resulting in a total of $6,000 donated. We were also able to give presentations to some of the residents about what to expect as they reenter the job market, and how to go from an attitude of surviving to and attitude of thriving. Not only were we able to contribute a donation but also use our skills in communication to teach others.
With more than 15 chapters across the US and many International Chapters, there are countless opportunities for involvement.
I’ve been working with a handful of charities as a part of the industry, for many years. I regularly contribute monetary donations to the Carpenter’s Shelter, just south of the DC area. “Carpenter’s Shelter supports the homeless in achieving sustainable independence through shelter, guidance, education and advocacy.” Alongside a financial contribution, I’ll go in once a month and prepare dinner for the residents. I talk with people, interacting on a more personal level, and give as much attention to serving them as possible. This opportunity gives me a chance to interact with people face to face, much like I do for my job, and I’m reminded of why I love what I do.
Participating in an organized volunteer program, or during a special event is not the only way you can contribute to community outreach in your area. The simplest form of outreach is communication. Our President and CEO, Aaron Bludworth, does this regularly. He interacts with those who he would not normally cross paths with. The homeless, the lost, and wandering. In countless cities across the US, Aaron has interacted with men and women, listening to their stories, and learning about their struggles. A conversation and a moment of understanding goes a long way and is a great reminder of our fortune. He also encourages the Fern team to get out and serve and recently announced a program to provide paid time off for volunteer work available to all full-time Fern employees.
My greatest piece of advice to other people in the events industry would be, “Take part in outreach opportunities. Just do it. There are many organizations that help, and you never know who you will positively impact.” We are trained to serve others, so why not continue to look for opportunities to do so in our daily lives.
Enhancing Your Career
Event and exhibition Professionals benefit from organizations like IAEE in countless ways. CEM (Certified in Exhibition Management) professional development, networking, continued education, growth in an industry that is constantly evolving, and cross fertilization from learning from one another are just the start.
My own involvement with organizations like PCMA, IAEE, AMPS, and MPI have given me countless opportunities and led me to meet some incredible people, see some astonishing productions and travel to a myriad of places. I’ve also been able to build relationships that ultimately manifest themselves into future opportunities. These people are not only partners in business, but my friends and collaborators. My involvement with industry organizations has given me visibility and boosted my career by gaining an understanding of others in this industry.
Not only am I involved in IAEE as a member but I served as Chair of the DC Chapter this past year. As Chair, I was able to implement some new things, during my tenure, that I hope will be standing long after I’m gone. I was fortunate enough to implement some new plans, that have made an impact on the future of the DC Chapter and will hopefully continue to do so. At the end of the day, I was able to leave my small mark on the Chapter and learned many things from my experience. While holding a leadership position, I was able to adopt an attitude of service, and it has stuck with me.
During my time as Chair, I was fortunate enough to travel to Southeast Asia. I spent some time in Bangkok with a group of CEM instructors, teaching a certification program to students from Thailand, Myanmar, and Indonesia. This was not only an opportunity to spread the knowledge of the CEM education program, but to meet people from across the world, and grow as an individual in my career. Thankfully I work for an outstanding industry, and a tremendously supportive company, that allows me the latitude to do this sort of work.
I work for Fern, and for the Events Industry, because I love the work. I have found my niche and have been completely absorbed by the infectious world of events. My biggest regret in my career is that I did not discover this path 20 years sooner. I could have been having this much fun, for that much longer.
For any person in the exhibition and events industry, or for any person in general, find an organization that can teach you, support you and help you gain exposure into your work through opportunities you would not normally receive. I know I’m glad I did.