In less than 24 hours, I will be at IMEX America! I have waited a year to attend this magical event. As an entrepreneur, as opposed to an employee, it isn’t always financially beneficial to attend conferences. Airfare, hotel room, food, registration, etc. can add up, without a direct return on the investment. I feel incredibly blessed this year to be attending as a Hosted Buyer! Thanks to my partners at W.O.W. USA, for the opportunity to attend with the team. From what I can tell, this event represents the epitome of how I imagined my life to be. Having opportunities to learn from industry leaders, network with other professionals, and ending the days with social celebratory events. I love meeting people, learning, and connecting. Your network is your net-worth; the bigger the net, the larger the value.
So, tomorrow I will walk into the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, open and ready to absorb expert education from Meeting Professionals International, “Smart Monday” session. My fingers will be weak from typing rapidly to my Ipad, capturing the nuggets of information that will be shared. The anticipation of growing is beyond exciting! Can’t wait to arrive and share my IMEX America adventure.
Stay tuned for IMEX Day 1...
This week, I experienced a level of nervousness I hadn’t felt since walking down the aisle over 5 years ago...As the members and guests of Meeting Professionals International Northern California Chapter, Professional Education Program, the first event of the new fiscal year, took their seats at lunch, the announcements began. We heard fiscal budgets, projected goals, achievements, and more, from the chapter president. The Meeting Professional of the 4th Quarter was announced. Applause and flashes all around. Then, an unexpected announcement. The Meeting Professional of the Year from 2013-2014 was going to be announced. This award was typically given at the Annual Awards Gala (which took place in June).
As the nominees were being named (13 to be exact), it occurred to me that I had filled out an application for this award, as my name was being said as a nominee. My table mates looked surprised as they read my name tag, realizing that was my name that was announced. My stomach got tight, my hands became clammy, and I looked to my lap to avoid a cheesy excited smile, in anticipation of the announcement of the honoree. As I thought of the names that had previously been announced, I thought, what a dynamic group of individuals! This was going to be tough. And then I heard something like, " It is my pleasure to introduced the Meeting Professional of the Year for MPINCC 2013-2014, Christa Mekki of Magnetic Magnificent Events!". As I jumped out of my seat, I saw to my right, my highly respected mentor doing the same! I received "Congrats", applause, and high-fives as I navigated through lunch rounds, to make my way to the stage. My face couldn't have gotten any tighter as I genuinely grinned from ear to ear. I walked up the stage stairs to the president and stated to her and the crowd, "You guys rock! Thank you!". Her humble reply, "No, you rock!" as she handed me a gorgeous crystal 8" solid star trophy. We politically posed for the camera. I was sure it would be the cheesiest, most genuine, and least modelesques photo ever. As I started to walk back to my seat, my mentor stepped out and we shared an embrace that brought tears of joy to the surface. She whispered that she was proud of me; I whispered I was thankful for her.
See, she doesn't really realize what an impact her association and simple attention has mean to me in the growth of my business. I first met her via email as I was recruiting professionals for an MPINCC Students Affairs Committee event. She had a quote (or a tagline) in her email that I vaguely remember; something about education. As a formal student (mid Hospitality degree studies) and a student of personal development, I was intrigued by her end line. I was excited to meet her in person.
When she walked in the room of the Student Affairs event, she wore a structured suit, perfect hair, and flawless makeup. She had a Louis Vuitton signature wrap that she stated was "Spotlight Purple" (corresponding to the name of her event consulting/DMC business). As the event wrapped up, she, my professor, and I, stepped down the stairs at the beautiful Bently Reserve in San Francisco. I glanced down and noticed red bottoms glistening with her every step. I couldn't help but ask, "Are those Christian Louboutins?" to which she replied, "Why yes, darling, they are." That moment lit the match that destroyed the ships of doubt. I knew, in that moment, I had found the industry I was meant to be in. I'm not completely vain; it wasn't just the shoes. But I was taught, when you find someone that has what you want, do what they did to get there. I had never met anyone with Christian Louboutins; let alone anyone that could be mentored from.
From that moment on, it was as if she knew my goal was to be the next generation of her; to make her proud as I referred to myself as her protege. I observed later that she has an unmatched ability to make everyone around her feel better about themselves. She remembers and shares facts and successes about others, to others, connecting people through her electricity. She has connected me and pulled me into an elite circle, simply by association. I have only needed to ask her advice a few times, as I greatly respect her time, but what I have learned, has excelled my business. There is a different confidence in embarking on an unknown path, when you have access to someone who has already walked the path.
After receiving the MPOY award, and taking my seat again, I shakily snapped a picture of the award. First for my mother and husband, and then to share on my social media outlets (when something makes it to a FB feed, it must be real news :) I couldn't believe that this young professional, one year post college grad, two years in official business, was given an honor like this, voted on by her more seasoned peers. I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude; thankful for the opportunity to experience and to prosper at doing something I love. I can usually be heard, when in the midst of planning an event, that it is my joy and I truly mean that. I encourage everyone reading to find something that you can say the same about...where does you joy reside?
"The true measure of leadership is influence- nothing more, nothing less"- John C. Maxwell
If a person does not have the ability to influence and inspire others to action, they will never be able to lead. Influence is defined as: the capacity or power of person to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behaviors, opinions of others. It is the ability to move a person to act or to think, in a way that would not have transpired without the influence of another. However, influence alone is not enough. Others must also be inspired by the influencer, or their actions will stay the same. Inspiration is defined as: to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence. These attributes, influence and inspiration, work together for the benefit of a leader. If a leader has influence but lacks inspiration, then how far can he/she move other people to action? Inspiration must accompany influence. Leadership is not positional. For example, a manager may be able to influence an employee to do something based on position, but that alone will not keep the employee inspired to continue. They may incorporate new action or thought temporarily based on the influence of the upper management position, but leadership is more than a title. It requires consistency in action, behavior, and attitude.
People expect leaders to be upbeat, positive, and motivating. Followers want to be inspired by the leader. Leaders must create and communicate a vision that and inspires others to take action toward the common organizational goal or the individuals goal. A leader must have the highest energy and enthusiasm level to infect others and motivate them toward action.
Leaders have to show their constituents that they are passionate and committed to pursuing the dream (Kouzes & Posner). People will follow that which breathes into them a purpose and gives them meaning in life. People want to be inspired. Most people want more out of life, want to reach goals and live their dreams, but they lack vision and have more doubt, than faith. A leader creates that bigger vision for their constituents; offering them hope and belief. When people have doubt, negativity, uncertainty, and feel discouraged about the future, a leaders role is to influence a change and inspire new thinking. Leaders must not only speak the right words to inspire, they need to lead with new actions and vision. Leaders must fuel others with positive emotions, influence change, and inspire peak performance.
The same is true for events. Events create positive emotions, can influence change, and can inspire people to reach optimal levels. Companies create events to motivate employees, speakers host seminars to educate and inspire, and cities manage festivals to create communities. There is power in numbers. Give an event the power it deserves; treat it like a leader.
As graduation is approaching, for many young professionals, it is time to start preparing for life after graduation.
Here are 5 tips from my experience in the industry, as well as in entrepreneurship, to prepare you for the life, career, and success you are hoping for after graduation.
1. Network now! Find what aspect of an industry you are draw the most to and join the organizations that support that. There are organizations for hotel management, event planning, travel, tourism, and many other industries. Most organizations have a local Northern California chapter, which host ongoing educational events and networking opportunities. This is a great way to be learn about the industry, stay up to date, and to potentially meet your future employer.
2. Dress for Success! When attending industry events, going on interview, or attending classes on campus, be sure to dress professionally. This is not to say that you have to wear a suit to class but how you show up, is how you appear to your professor. Professors know people in the industry and can be liaisons to opportunities. When they are asked what students they could recommend, you want to be the first person they think of, by the impression you make.
3. Learn outside of the classroom! Engulf yourself in your future industry. Find out about, and sign up for publications regarding your chosen profession (or a few professions if you haven't decided yet). What us typically taught through textbook is a broad overview of an industry, but ongoing,current publications give you an inside glimpse into more specifics. This can help provide you direction toward your future career.
4. Utilize social media! Using LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, you can connect with professionals in the industry. Create your profile to show yourself as you would want your employer to see you. On Twitter, find mentors already doing what you want to do. Follow them, retweet them, favorite tweets they post, etc. You can do the same with places you would like to work, like top hotels or companies. As you show involvement and activity in the things these people and companies post, they will begin to notice you. Don’t miss the opportunity to get noticed!
5. Volunteer and impress! Take any opportunity to volunteer in the industry. Large companies are always seeking volunteers. These are the type of resume builders that employers will look at. The more involved you can be, the more experience you gain, the more you can talk about it when you interview for a job. As you are volunteering, show up and show out! Impress whoever you are working with; they will remember you.
As a event & meeting professional, I am often asked to lend an ear to event ideas. I listen, nod in agreement, and subsequently ask myself if I can identity what I believe are the 5 most important elements in the creation of a great event. If I cannot easily identify them through the idea process, I make it a point to ask the potential client, or enthusiastic idea creator, to answer the questions.
For anyone preparing to plan a meeting, launch a business, or simply host a party, I have listed the 5 key questions to answer before the fun begins!
1. What is the purpose of the event?
Whether you wish to celebrate a momentous occasion, launch your business, or host a speaking engagement, you want to start with understanding the purpose. The purpose helps to determine the theme and the marketing strategy surrounding the event.
2. What is the theme?
The theme determines the energy of the event. Is it serious, educational, social, or interactive?
3. Who is the target audience?
Knowing the target audience is important for planning and marketing purposes. An event with a target audience of high school students is much different than a target audience of professional women or men.
4. What is the budget?
Before ticket sales and sponsorship options, how much money needs to be invested or is available to be invested into the event. Understand that no matter what is said, there is always a budget. Even clients that say "no budget", have a spending limit. Be honest with yourself (and your planner) about your comfortable spending limit is.
5. What is the intented outcome?
What is the goal leaving out of the event? What should the guests receive from attending your event? At social functions, the intended outcome is typically great memories and personal connectivity. Speaking engagements are typically intended to sell merchandise, such as books, audios, future event registrations, etc. Educational events are intended to add value to attendees. By identifying the intended outcome, the 'take away' from the event, it is easier to determine the value, the dedication level, and the future growth opportunities.
Before I accept a new client or start planning for an existing one, I determine the answer to these 5 questions. It helps me to keep the client focused on the goals at hand and to know the time that will be necessary to invest into event plan in order to achieve the goals. Overall, if there is an event idea burning inside of you and you can truthfully answer the 5 questions, hire a professional planner. This is just the beginning...
While in a client meeting, brainstorming ideas for a major fundraiser event, I had a realization- All things are possible. As we discussed what the client wanted- a fun, classy atmosphere that encouraged networking and check writing- a negative kept re-occuring; the HOW. They wanted big names, celebrities, big entertainment but had a small budget (it is a fundraiser). I politely interrupted the committee I am leading and shared with them my realization- Anything Is Possible! Whatever can be imagined, there is some way to at least ask the question. Early in business, I learned "The question you don't ask, can't get answered". Once I got them thinking, they began to throw out ideas of contacts, networks, social media outlets, businesses, and more that we can collaborate with to make the fundraiser a legendary kickoff event. Later that night, I came across an article of a celebrity chef from the Food Network that overcame depression and achieved success. My clients are advocates for changing the stigmas of mental health issues; the chef overcame a mental health issue and travels sharing her story. She can easily be reached and invited to the fundraiser...coincidence? I think not. Example of possibility? I think so.
No matter what a situation looks like, there is always possibility. Today marks the six year anniversary of a great friend opening the doors to his first sandwich shop. He sold 9 sandwiches the first day. He lost his first location, was forced to sell 2 locations to afford to re-open the original location in SF, he had nights he went to bed hungry, slept in someone's van, and had very little money keeping the business afloat, but every night before he fell asleep, he told himself 'Tomorrow, things will be different'. He believed in the possibility of success, the possibility of being able to have 11 sandwich shop locations, having his own soda brand, the possibility of being featured on the Travel Chanel, of winning numerous awards & achievements, and most importantly, he believed- anything is possible. I am excited and feel blessed for the opportunity (just got the call last night) to plan his engagement party! See, I too believe that anything is possible. I didn't know how it would happen, how business would expand, or if I would even be good enough...but I knew anything is possible. Life is full of endless possibilities...
We can be our own worst enemy. We have all had our share of "haters", those we believe are jealous of our successes and "hate" on us because of it. Some people claim to be motivated by "haters"; feeling a sense of drive to achieve more success so the hater has more to hate on. Some people allow the negativity of the "hater" to affect them so much that they no longer are motivated toward any kind of success...they would rather be a fly on the wall than be noticed by anyone. These two reactions to "haters" are on completely different spectrum's, but what do we do when it's our own mind that's the hater? How do we handle our own "hater"? If you are thinking to yourself that you have no idea what I am talking about; that's exactly what I am talking about. You know, the voice in our heads that tell us all kinds of reasons why or why not. It's the same voice that allows us to make excuses. The funny thing is, sometimes the voice even encourages us to make excuses why we can't do the very thing we need to do.
I believe everyone wants to be a well balanced, fully charged, person. They want their reputation to be clean, their character to be attractive, they want to be thought of as a good friend, a caring person, loyal, trustworthy, honest, reliable, and dependable (if you don't believe most people want to be viewed this way, call a friend, neighbor, or relative and tell them they aren't these things, and then count how many examples they give you that prove they are this person and note the hostility in their voice). But sometimes our inner voice, our inner "hater", encourages us and gives reason why not to be that well balanced person. For example, we all know our elders will come to an age of passing at some point. When it happens, people usually say they wish they had visited more and spent more time. That said, how many of us (especially my fellow Generation Y'ers) buy our inner "haters" excuse that we can't visit- because we are too busy, have too much going on, have "business" to handle, etc.? Why is that? We know we can't get the time back and will be saddened by the passing, yet we allow ourselves to make the excuse that we don't have time? As if whatever we are dealing with is more important than spending precious moments with our legacy. Or what about when we have a friend in need. All they need is just a few moments of friendship to get them through a tough moment or situation, yet our inner "hater" replies for us with the excuse that again, we simply don't have time, yet we want to be looked at as caring and dependable (challenge anyone on this and watch their entire being change).
But what if it's you? What about when you become the elder or the friend in need? What if everyone around you allowed their little hater inside, their own worst enemy, to reply for them, giving the reasons and excuses why they can't, when they know they should? Think about it. How does it feel? I would bet 99.9% of people would say that is doesn't feel good. Then my question is: Why? Why do we treat people we care about, that way? Why are we not able to control our inner hater more, so that we can be the total person we strive to be? Time is precious. We can never get back the opportunity to do something we wish we had or to be the person we wished we could be. Pay attention to your inner "hater". Make sure you agree with the excuses it gives you before you make a decision to follow. It's never to late to start being the person you want to be, instead of buying the reasons you can't be. Today is the first day of the rest of your life...
When preparing to construct a building, the architects design the foundation but the builders create it. They build a solid foundation and constantly check for any flaws before they begin construction on the remainder of the building. If the foundation is weak or flawed, the building will eventually crumble.
In Las Vegas, a new building was being constructed. They laid the foundation, checked it, and proceeded to build. Other construction workers got on site and began inspecting the process, along with the foundation. They found cracks deep down in the foundation with water leaking through. This wouldn't have been a big deal to fix, had they caught the problem early. At this point, the structural beams were already placed, the building was taking shape. Needless to say, the potential building, that was given a billion dollar budget, was torn down and re-construction has not yet resumed.
That was a building. The flaws in the foundation were easy to detect and a potential disaster was avoidable. But what about our foundation? How often do we check it for cracks? Do we even know who the architect was that designed our foundation? Some of you may be saying that it's you; you designed the foundation upon which you stand. But think about it...how long ago was your foundation created? Some of us may have great parents, who instilled great principles and philosophies into our foundation, while some of us may not have been that lucky. We may be holding onto negatives in our subconscious that will eventually cause our foundation to crack.
Take a moment to think back to your earliest childhood memory. What do you see, what do you hear, how do things look? Now, think about your life today, what do you do currently that is a reflection of something you just remembered from your childhood? It may be positive or negative, but whatever it is, are you happy with it? Will the behavior serve you in the future you want? This is a very small activity to help you get in tune with your subconscious and to begin understanding where certain philosophies and behaviors come from.
If you felt great about that activity, congratulations! You probably have a solid foundation. However, if you felt bad or even a little uncomfortable, its okay. Unlike the building in Las Vegas, you can repair your foundation. You don't have to live with cracks. You can construct a solid foundation for yourself- one that sustains movement, pressure, cracks, and weaknesses.
I'm sure you are wondering how to do this now that I have you excited to the possibility. First, become in tune with your subconscious. Pay attention to behaviors and where they come from. Second, be careful of the information you allow to get into your head. Read and listen to positive things; you will see a shift in your outlook over time. Third, be aware of your associations. Some people will serve your old philosophies and keep you captive to them. Others will support the change you are looking to make. It's tough; not everyone can sit at the table of your life, but it's okay. You don't have to loose someone you care about, you just have to limit the time because you care about yourself more.
Good luck and continue to inspect (and re-inspect) your foundation.
This is it! I have found my passion in the best industry! I am supposed to be here! When I decided to become an event planner, I thought it was just a decision I was making consciously. However, as I tapped into my subconscious, I realized I have been preparing for this my entire life. As I traced the memories back to my childhood, I remembered that my mother used to host amazing parties, focusing on every detail effortlessly. I would help her purchase decorations and put everything in its proper place. In middle school,I joined student government simply to add more social events for students. In high school,I hosted a festival and coordinated a fashion show. In college,I co-hosted poetry sessions, lectures, festivals, and parties. Understanding how the universe works, it is of no surprise that I am doing exactly what I was destin to do. It's only the beginning...
When you become very clear about what you want, life will start to move in the direction toward that which you want...but in order to achieve 100% results, you must give 100% intention toward the goal. There are endless options of mechanisms to use to achieve the intended results, but without solid intention and action, nothing will be achieved. I talked for years about creating an event planning business, giving myself reasons why "Now" was not the right time- lack of experience, no proof of events, time, etc. Then I simply decided it was time. None of that "stuff" mattered. I created a name, did the paperwork to make it official, and started branding myself as an event planner. A few weeks later, I was asked (with two days notice) to create centerpieces for a large dinner, assist on a major conference, and lead a movie premier. It has continued from that point, growing organically. I am excited as I am taking the next steps to really launch my already profitable business...with 100% intention. Stay tuned...