Paul Ruby, CMP, is Associate Director of Catering/Convention Services at Sheraton Dallas Hotel and current president of the Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA). ESPA is dedicated to elevating the event and convention services profession and to preparing members, through education and networking, for their pivotal role in innovative and successful event execution. For more information, visit www.espaonline.org.
Event service professionals wear many hats. We juggle multiple events, find solutions, solve crises, brainstorm ideas and orchestrate multiple services on behalf of our clients every day — and that’s all before breakfast. But it’s often the little things service professionals do that keep planners returning to our hotels, venues and destinations.
Recognizing our impact on executing successful events and being true partners to meeting planners, we created a week to celebrate all that our colleagues across the U.S. and Canada do to keep the hospitality industry thriving! We are members of the Event Services Professionals Association (ESPA), representing services in convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs), convention centers, hotels, resorts and conference centers.
In 2010, ESPA launched National Celebrate Services Day. By 2013, we expanded to National Celebrate Services Week (NCSW), celebrated each year during the first week of August. We build camaraderie with each other and with our service partners, educate people about ESPA and give back to our local communities. Some members plan single events, others celebrate all week long. But no matter how long or short the event, we always pull it off with panache — after all, we are experts at executing the best events.
The celebrations of ESPA members are limited only by their imagination. And what imaginations they have! There is a focus on community support, but members also plan networking receptions, lunches or outings to partake in their own local tourism.
Last year, the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau partnered with Build-A-Bear Workshop to make teddy bears that were then donated to the Kentucky Firefighters Association, which held its conference nearby. Firefighters continue to carry the bears on emergency calls and give them to children affected by devastating fires. The bears will be a bright spot in an otherwise horrific event in a child’s life.
This year, my hotel, the Sheraton Dallas, and the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau collected donations for people moving into new homes. Donations went to the Bridge Homeless Recovery Center, which helps residents get back on their feet with housing, employment and other services.
The conference services and catering team at the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary last year served a proper British-but-Alberta-inspired afternoon tea for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
Pulling off a successful event takes more than one person or department. It requires an interdisciplinary team that includes, at a minimum, the client, sales people, event service professionals and service providers. This is a full-circle process and no participant can be successful without the others. Success comes from executing a flawless event.
“As a meeting planner, I can’t stress enough the importance of service,” said Vanessa Kane, CMP, CMM, and manager of meetings and events/exhibits for Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States in Kansas City, Missouri. “I depend greatly on convention and visitor bureau services, especially for my big annual convention. Equally important are my hotel services for other meetings/events. They become an extension of my staff.”
For Sara Simkin, vice president of destination services for NYC & Company, participating in NCSW serves two purposes. It strengthens the bond between the city’s destination marketing organization and its services partners, and offers an opportunity to collect donations, including school supplies and toiletries, for local charities.
NYC & Company has hosted NCSW events including an appreciation reception aboard a sailboat overlooking Manhattan, a winery tour that included teambuilding, and a reception at Rockefeller Center.
“A lot of the event accolades tend to go to the sales department with event services often overlooked,” Simkin said. ”Our goal is to promote all five boroughs of New York City, make the city easy to navigate and ultimately increase visitor attendance at meetings, conventions and trade shows. It’s up to our service partners to help make a delegation’s experience special. So we use NCSW as a combination of a thank you and appreciation, but it’s also a chance for us to network with our partners and better serve them.”
Suzanne Seder, CMP, director of convention services at the Tampa Convention Center, says NCSW is an opportunity to say thank you to people who serve guests 365 days a year.
“We get so busy with our day-to-day work with events, and NCSW encourages us to celebrate and acknowledge our convention services managers,” Seder said.
Her colleague Una Garvey, community relations director at the Tampa Convention Center, agrees. “Our CSMs are dedicated to the organization and the events we have here. No event is too big or too small for them. They all go above and beyond to provide people with an unforgettable experience.”
For the past six years, the convention center and Visit Tampa Bay have partnered to solicit CSM nominations from hotels and service organizations across the city and then honor one winner from each location for outstanding service.
“We reach out to the entire community; we’re really big on community involvement,” Garvey said. “Tampa’s a big city but a small town, and we love that and really don’t want to lose that.”
For ESPA members, NCSW is both a chance to celebrate our profession and a means to give back to the communities we depend on to excel at our professions. It’s all about building community. C&IT