After a series of speakers gave talks about IAVM, the program in Phoenix and how those new to the Association and industry could best benefit from their time at VenueConnect, it was time for Erin Jepson, director of events and patron services at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas and a wily veteran attending her second conference, to get up and speak.
Best described as an energetic and impassioned testimonial (who needs the coffee to stay awake!), Jepson waxed eloquent, enlightening and entertaining in sharing her first-hand observations of all things VenueConnect.
As a fresh group of new members and new attendees prepare to attend this year’s VenueConnect in New Orleans, we decided it was time to bring back Jepson for another pep rally.
Where did you first attend VenueConnect?
My first VenueConnect was in Houston, Texas, in 2010. I was born there so I was a little giddy to get to return for a few days. Well, I was giddy until my hair protested against the humidity, but that’s for another discussion.
What was your first impression of the event?
Honestly, overwhelming. I was not only new to VenueConnect that year but new to the organization. My shyness got the best of me and I really improved my wallflower skills the first day I was there.
What did you find most beneficial during the conference?
To get anything from this conference, you must meet people. I cannot stress this enough, go say “HI” to everyone you see and invite yourself to lunch with your new friends. Stay connected during the conference via Twitter, Facebook or email and follow up post-conference with a “great to meet you” note. This is so hard for me. Even after three years of these conferences under my belt, I’m still shy and I have to force myself to meet people. However, those people I’ve met at VenueConnect have been the best contacts I could have made during my time. If you sign up for VenueConnect for the first time this summer, come find me! Two shy people are surely better than one shy person.
“You’ll find you connect with the people you meet on a weird ‘I know what you go through on a daily basis’ kind of way.”
Did you stay in contact with anyone you met at VenueConnect?
Of course! There are a handful of people that I not only stay in contact with for work related discussions, but they have become friends away from the industry. You’ll find you connect with the people you meet on a weird “I know what you go through on a daily basis” kind of way. We are all in it for the love of the industry and boy this is a crazy industry!
How did attending VenueConnect help you become a better venue manager?
Besides the obvious reason of bringing home tips and practices from conference to put into practice at your own venue, I came away with a new network of people to contact when I needed help with a project or tough situation. I also walked away with a new confidence. I’m not even sure how to put that into words other than surrounding yourself with the amazing team of venue managers and allied members that make up IAVM is a power you can’t duplicate trying to learn things from a book. You have to experience to know what I’m talking about.
What sessions should a new Young Professional attend?
First and foremost, go to the new members/new attendees meeting. It is here where you’ll not only meet a few seasoned veterans, but you might even find a group of newbies to roam around with over the next few days. This is more important than I can stress in words. What… you didn’t hear me? Please go to this session. I also recommend roaming the trade show floor even if you have nothing to do with the booths in your current job. You will soon, trust me, just because you don’t use the info you gather right away doesn’t mean you won’t need it in three months. The allied members running those booths are just as important to you as the venue managers you’ll meet at the conference. Other than those two, sessions are up to you. Go to what interests you. Go to what is worthwhile. I encourage you to think outside of the box. Attend a meeting about sustainability even if that isn’t of key importance to your venue. You never know when you’re going to need that information. I don’t recommend taking a nap break during one of the sessions. VenueConnect is only once a year; don’t miss out on a single thing.
Will you be attending this year’s conference?
I wouldn’t miss this year’s conference for the world. Not only am I pretty thrilled with the program, I have a crush on New Orleans. It’s pretty much my favorite place in the South. I’m sure my hair will protest once again, as it did in Houston, but my belly will be full of beignets and my head full of new inspiration. Let the good times roll!