Updated: Mar 3
By Raquel Santo
Each year, destination experts from around the country travel to the Annual Conference for the Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI). ADMEI is a membership association for Destination Management Companies, a distinguished networking, education, and recognition opportunity for experts within the Destination Management space. The 2023 Conference occurred at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, where our team members from multiple locations came together to represent ETHOS Event Collective.
Growth and anticipation around this event soared this year, with approximately 96 additional people attending ADMEI, and the energy in the room was immaculate. Finally, for the first time since the pandemic, this event wasn't about "the new normal"; instead, the focus was on how we, as destination experts, can progress the industry and become advocates for ourselves and our clients.
EVOLVE was the theme of this year's event. ETHOS emphasizes the importance of evolving as an industry to curate experiences based on our knowledge of the destinations and utilizing local recourses. Until now, many DMCs ‘sell destinations’ they're not local to, disconnecting them from the heart of what a DMC is. Each aspect of the event planning process presents the opportunity to connect locally and become a pipeline of income for those in the community that make the events happen. One message we would like to send away with the recap of this convention is the power of being local.
At this year's ADMEI, when mentioning ETHOS, there was also mention of showcasing the value of being curators of the destinations where we plan events. This intentionality of remaining present in the communities we serve sets ETHOS apart within the event management space. We hope to give others a look into how and why we hold the communities and the people of those communities at the center of every event we plan.
We are proud to share our team members, Varina Andrews, DMCP, and Julie Salvatore, who spoke at the event to share solutions within the industry. Their presentation touched upon leadership and mentorship skills for growing our future leaders. They present the opportunity to learn about rising through the ranks and carving out a path that sets you up for a leadership position—in addition to refining your mindset, skills, and style with this industry-relevant topic, focusing on non-traditional mentorship opportunities that promote professional development. This engaging breakout helped young professionals develop their approach to leadership. In addition, a member of our Chicago team, Nick Conley, was awarded the 2023 Carol Norfleet Destination Management Rising Star!
The requirements to receive this award include being in the industry for under five years, proof of contribution to your DMC and the Destination Management Industry, a look at his career goals, and other awards or achievements. Conley did not expect to receive this award and was amazed to see how his Principal, Michelle Castady, had paid close attention to his work over the past year to advocate for him to receive this recognition. "The people at ETHOS supported me and gave me a chance to shine," Conley said. This day in Conley's life became a full circle moment, and he attributes the triumph of this award to valuing his relationships with vendors in his community.
"To be recognized within the industry..." Conley says, "there's something to just doing the groundwork and observing as much as you can from previous roles to apply them to your current position. There are EDMs, BDs, and ops, but at the end of the day, we all are in sales; I can do nothing in my job without other people."
As a black male in a predominantly white-dominated industry, achieving this award sends a hopeful and encouraging message to aspiring event professionals of different nationalities. Conley is a prime example of displaying authenticity and confidence to show up in the room and be himself, a skill many have difficulty practicing. By prioritizing his relationships, his success has become a testament to the value of being yourself, doing the work, and appreciating everybody.
"You can shine and be seen in an industry where we aren't currently present"
Following this event, there are many conversations around Conley and what this pivotal moment in his career will mean for his future. We asked Conley what this means to him to receive this honor, and he shared that what's most important to him is recognition of ETHOS, but more than anything, continuing to make the space for other people to shine and grow. Regardless of what many may believe coming into this industry, he emphasizes the hard work required to succeed in this space and that we all want to work together to help each other thrive.
Apropos to the Rising Star award Conley received is an analogy he made in his speech. "The reality about stars is that they are always there … sometimes you can't see them because of smog, sometimes they blend into the background and go unnoticed. But it's only when you stop and take a look at your surroundings that you'll have an opportunity to see them. It takes intentionality, patience, and laser focus to get a good glance at the potential of how much a star can truly shine in the right environment."
To learn more about ADMEI, visit their website.