Name: Allison Kinsley, CMM, CMP
Company: Kinsley Meetings
Location: Littleton, Colorado
Years of experience: +25
Education: Masters in French
Allison Kinsley is a true events professional. Always on the go, an exuberant Allison snuck outside of a meeting (and then into a stairwell) for our chat. The passion she holds for her industry immediately radiated through the phone.
A veteran who is humble enough to know that there’s always something new to learn, Allison took a moment to provide guidance and inspiration to planners of all experience levels.
What should be the first steps toward a career in event planning?
This field is very based in relationships. In order to hire somebody, you need to trust that they are going to deliver the type of service you need. There are a couple of ways of demonstrating to a potential employer that you are that person.
If you are a student or initial jobseeker, an internship is a good opportunity to get to know an organization and understand how they put on meetings and events.
If you are not in a place to do an internship, you can go in on a project basis. Since meetings are large projects, organizers don’t always have the staff on hand to service every need. Offering yourself up for a defined period of time is a good way of getting in the door.
Are there outside-of-the-box ways to pursue an event-planning career?
There are definitely other ways of getting yourself in front of potential employers. One is getting involved with organizations like MPI or PCMA which will give you the chance to work side-by-side with someone who may be very influential in the industry.
Another way to get into the industry is by taking a job in a peripheral organization like a hotel, an A/V company or a destination management company where you can meet people in the industry from a different angle.
I know a lot of convention services managers at hotels that I would want to hire because I know they do extraordinary work; they’ve demonstrated to me that they are on the same page as me as far as service standards.
Do you need to have a certain personality to succeed in event planning?
This is a service industry. You have to be willing to put other people first, to understand the basics of customer service. Whether that’s taking care of the attendees at the meeting or interacting with your customer who is the person or entity planning the meeting, you have to understand how to be one step ahead of them and anticipate their needs.
What’s the reality of event planning?
It seems really glamorous, but it can require long hours. It can be really, really exciting and incredibly gratifying, but it’s not without a whole lot of work.
How can veterans of the industry retain their passion?
There are a lot of classes you can take to keep you thinking and interacting with people. I’ve been in the industry for over 25 years. I’ll go to a program and if I can take one little nugget away from it that makes me say “I should think about something this way” or ”I should maybe do something differently,” that program becomes invaluable to me.
Some of the things that really excite me these days are going to leadership classes or business classes that aren’t necessarily industry related. If you can benchmark how other businesses do something and apply it to what you are doing, that’s when you can demonstrate real growth.
What’s next for event planning?You can very quickly get left behind if you are not watching business trends and understanding how they impact the meetings you plan.
Social media, for example, is rocketing ahead as far as itsimpact on meetings in its ability to connect people before, during or after the meeting. It allows us to create a string of conversations that might not exist if you are just walking into a venue, meeting somebody for the first time and never seeing them again. It develops our ability to continue conversations outside of the confines of the meeting itself which, from a communication standpoint, is essential.
I read a study that said when you take face-to-face meetings away from people it diminishes the trust they have in each other. I think that is a fundamental lesson for business.
If you trust the people you are working with, business is going to thrive. Meetings and the trust they instill are how the business world survives.