Patrick Higgins on How the Navy Shaped His Career in Events

The meetings and events industry, above all else, is a service industry—be it planners catering to clients’ needs, CVBs assisting planners or suppliers working with both sides. But on Veterans Day, the many members of the industry with military experience look back upon a greater level of service they provided to this country prior to this different line of work. Among those is Patrick Higgins, vice president of Marketplaces at Collinson Media & Events, who sat down with us to discuss how his experience in the U.S. Navy sent him on his way to a successful career, both as a planner and previously on the CVB side in Salt Lake City and Palm Springs, California. For those who don’t know, can you describe your service in the Navy?   I joined the Navy to see the world and get my education paid for. After months of boot camp and training, I decided I was homesick and tried to get as close to home (Utah) as possible, so I pursued a set of orders in Fallon, Nevada. No one was more surprised than I to find out the U.S. Navy had an operation in northern Nevada. I was assigned to the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, home of the TOPGUN Navy Fighter Weapons School. How did that experience shape your career in events?   During my time in the Navy, I learned how important it is to pay attention to detail. I learned structure, organization, respect and leadership. I also forged friendships and relationships that shaped my life, and learned how terrific it feels to serve something greater than yourself. Have any of those lessons played out differently on the planning versus the CVB side of your career?   They complement each other. In the military, I learned people genuinely want to do a good job, regardless of what it is. It’s no different on the CVB or planner side of the business. The major difference is when you’re in the military, quitting your job and going to find something else isn’t an option. You have to find a way to make it work. In your experience, within the events industry, do former service members form a camaraderie that might not otherwise be the case?   Without question. I call my Navy friends in the industry shipmates. I regularly bet on the Army-Navy football game with Army veterans in the tourism industry (and win almost every time), and we swap stories during industry conferences. What are some ways events can make a special connection with veterans?   When veterans and their families are asked to stand up and be recognized at an event or during the halftime of a game, it’s very cool. One idea is for CSR projects to focus on a local military family. I love CSR projects, but I love them more when they are personalized.