PLENARY ‘What We Do Is for the Members’ Q Getting It Wrong
CAREER PATH Nancy Elder,CAE
Senior Vice President of Professional Development and Meetings, Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI)
AST YEAR, NANCY ELDER JOINED DMAI after more than 30 years serving as a meeting professional for scientific and
technical associations — most recently as director of meetings, education, and industry relations for the American Society for Microbiology, where she worked for 14 years. Her long career has also included six years on PCMA’s Board of Directors, a stint as chairman of PCMA, and volunteer roles with other industry organizations.
How did you get started in the meetings industry? After my undergraduate school, which was William & Mary in Williamsburg, [majoring] in political science and interna- tional affairs, I returned to Washington and was still hoping to get a job on [Capitol] Hill. While searching, a position was advertised at the Sheraton Carlton [now the St. Regis Washington, D.C.] in hotel operations. Not knowing much about the industry, an incredible person, Rose Narva, who was the general manager, mentored me about the hospitality industry. I had the privilege of working with her through several positions at the hotel, and learned more about the career options in the business.
DOING YOUR PART: “As a meeting professional, you are an important driver of the success of your organization.”
director of meetings position at the American Society for Training & Development seemed the next best step.
I was there a little over six years. Though a smaller organization than ACS, I was able to gain a little more experience in exhibits management and some of the education components of meetings. Desiring to return to a medical or scientific organi- zation, and to include market- ing and education among my direct responsibilities, Microbi- ology offered me the opportu- nity to do so, and I started there in 1996.
What made you want to move from scientific and medical associations to a meetings and hospitality industry organization? I have a real passion for this industry. As for DMAI specifi- cally, I believe in the strength of the CVB and meeting profes- sional relationships, and that in my role to manage content for [DMAI’s] many meetings as well as the implementation, I can
also strengthen education and knowledge exchange between the two.
I discovered a position in the job ads in the newspaper for a professional meeting planner at the American Chemical Society [ACS]. I applied and I got the position, and so in 1979 I started there and increased my responsibili- ties for a little over 11 years. I was the number two in a large department, and the person who was in charge of the meetings was going to be there for several more years at least. My next step, then, was to find my own shop. While I liked the scientific associations, a
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What advice would you give to some- one who was just starting out in the meetings profession? I urge people to volunteer and get involved with an industry organization. If you are not comfort- able in public speaking, learn. Many volunteer positions include opportunities to speak or write, if you want to improve your skills there. There are many volunteer positions from which to choose and from where you can grow your skills, let alone network. And I strongly urge new professionals to learn how to facilitate, and how to get your points across in a diplomatic