The life of a meeting planner can be a good one. The job allows for creativity, provides the opportunity to make new connections and helps build leadership skills by developing projects from start to finish. But there’s a flip side, one not discussed nearly enough in the open, says Courtney Stanley, strategic partnership manager at EventMobi. A planner for five years, Stanley has enough experience in the industry to be recognized as a rising star, but she's new enough to bring a fresh set of eyes to some of the challenges that come with the job but don’t necessarily have to be in the future.
To that end, Stanley is trying to bring some conversations into the open that could bring positive changes. Her “Industry After Dark” sessions have proven popular at IMEX events in Berlin and Las Vegas, as well as at other industry conferences. Stanley spoke to Collaborate's Matt Swenson about her drive to improve the culture and working environment for meeting planners.
Let’s face facts: The majority of planners are women, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at industry executives. Stanley has found there’s a consensus that the glass ceiling still exists, noting one Latin American attendee at IMEX America who said she thought the industry would be friendlier to females in this country than South America, but that hasn’t proven to be the case. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg serves as a positive role model for young female planners, says Stanley, an admirer of the technology executive. Any hope of leveling the playing field rests in raising awareness about gender inequality, adds Stanley. “People who are willing and open to listen are more likely to make changes,” she says.
The Generation Gap
Stanley isn’t the first to note that more than a few baby boomers are wary of Millennials, who can be perceived as self-absorbed and not as dedicated to a company as older employees. A Millennial herself, Stanley has found that stereotypes sting younger professionals, who take exception to the generalizations. “A lot would say they are team players,” she says. “That’s a difficult pill for them to swallow.” The frosty relationship creates challenges for Millennials to find mentors, adds Stanley. She says the best way to bridge the gap is simply to get to know one another better, and industry veterans may be surprised their younger counterparts can teach them lessons, too. “Without clear communication, there’s no platform for us to work together successfully,” she says.
“When you asked what is something you might talk about over drinks with friends, this is the first topic,” says Stanley, an admitted workaholic. Finding a work-life balance is a challenge in any profession, but especially for planners who work late nights before and during events to make sure everything goes smoothly. The long hours are not necessarily common knowledge among newbies, says Stanley, and it leads to a fair share of career jumping. “We have people working constantly around the clock, because that’s the animal events is,” says Stanley. “Work-life balance is suffering in this industry, and I don’t feel like burnout is being addressed.” The trick is setting boundaries without others feeling like you don’t pull your weight, says Stanley, acknowledging that’s tough to do.
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