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IAEE Spotlight on 2022 IAEE Chapter Merit Award Winner Tara Allen, CEM

There’s a reason why the Chapter Merit Award is Tara Allen’s second IAEE accolade in less than 5 years. Read on to see how this mover and shaker helps the DFW Chapter shine, and insights into how she finds motivation and inspiration.

By Mary Tucker, Sr. Communications & Content Manager

Tara Allen, CEM has been active in the exhibitions and events industry for more than a decade. On the national level, she has served on IAEE’s Chapter Leaders Council as well as the Education, Membership Engagement and Young Professional committees. In 2018, she was honored with the IAEE Young Professional of the Year Award.

As a member of IAEE’s Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter, Tara has held a variety of leadership roles including Events Chair, Treasurer, Vice Chair and Chapter Chair. Her work with her chapter’s leadership has led to several new initiatives designed to increase member engagement, exchange knowledge and promote industry networking that include:

Donuts and Dish: an informal virtual networking program that offers established and emerging professionals the opportunity to start their day by engaging with fellow industry professionals and providing peer support.

Cinco Del Taco: chapter members grabbed a cool beverage – and a taco or two – to join the IAEE DFW gang for a virtual Cinco de Mayo celebration. They mixed things up with a fun game of “Name that Tune” hosted by the one and only DJ Ray Baum! This meet-up provided chapter members with some fun in the comfort of their own homes despite the challenges presented by the pandemic at the time.

Jingle Mingle: this holiday-themed networking event provided much needed support for the North Texas Food Bank. As Event Chair, Tara worked with chapter leadership to solicit contributions from local businesses such as the Gaylord Texan and MGM which were used in a raffle with tickets available in advance or onsite. The program went virtual in 2020 and returned in-person in 2021, raising $15k since its inception in 2017, and spreading good will of the IAEE brand and local members.

Content, Cabernet and Congress: launched in September 2019, this afternoon of roundtable discussions was moderated by industry experts to explore the biggest issues in the events and exhibitions industry –along with potential solutions. Following the discussion, members enjoyed casual networking and delicious cabernet and other beverages during the in-person event.

In addition to member engagement activities, Tara’s chapter leadership role led to the design and implementation of new systems and processes that include maintaining a highly active chapter calendar, organizing member focus groups and facilitating social media engagement. She also stays on the forefront of helping develop new chapter programs with the end goal of recruiting and retaining chapter members and leadership.

Tara is also committed to serving as a resource for young professionals. In collaboration with MT Hickman, CMP from the Dallas College Richland Campus, Tara has helped place students in volunteer opportunities at IAEE DFW Chapter events and been part of their school projects. At IMEX in 2021, she was interviewed by groups of hospitality students from around the world!

Tara’s passion for the industry and dedication to the IAEE DFW Chapter earned her the IAEE Chapter Merit Award last year, for which she was recognized this past December during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Louisville, KY (watch Tara’s acceptance speech here).

2022 IAEE Awards Chairperson Daniel McKinnon, CEM (left) and IAEE President & CEO David DuBois, CMP-F, CAE, FASAE, CTA (right) present the Chapter Merit Award to Tara Allen, CEM (middle) during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2022 in Louisville, KY.

Here, Tara shares with IAEE how the connections she has made through her local chapter have shaped her impressive career so far, why young professionals in the industry should feel confident in speaking up, and what the very busy DFW Chapter has in store in the coming months.

Obviously, the IAEE DFW Chapter knows how to mix work with fun! Where do you find inspiration for your chapter’s activities and what have you discovered makes the most impact for chapter members wanting to connect with their peers?

I try to think back to when I didn’t know anyone in my chapter, and what kind of events would make me comfortable to attend. We are very lucky to have an outgoing chapter and everyone welcomes everyone with open arms, so put us together and we all connect naturally. Happy hours don’t hurt either!

When we interviewed you in 2018 as a recipient of the Young Professional of the Year Award, you noted you have your eyes set on the C-suite and mentioned serving as IAEE Chairperson one day (yes please!). How has your perspective grown since then and what is your advice today for motivated young professionals?

OH, my goodness, I remember saying that!! Honestly those dreams have not changed for me. I would encourage motivated young professionals to speak up and get involved. As I move into the post YP era of my career, I am shocked by how often I hear about uncovering the mystery behind Gen Z and even Millennials. Everyone is SO interested in what you have to say and what you think, so share it! Also, find mentors/colleagues who believe in you and your dreams, who will say your name when opportunities come up, and will sing your praises in rooms that you aren’t in. Oh, and be kind.

Speaking of motivation, how do you stay fresh on industry trends and what are some of your favorite avenues for developing your skills and knowledge?

Well, you know I love to snoop around MemberLink! I also troll Instagram for new ideas. I look up different hashtags (#brandactivations, etc.) and see what the rest of the world is doing. Additionally, Freeman does amazing work and does a great job of sharing all the cool things we are doing internally. It’s always very motivating and eye opening for me!

You’ve made it clear you have a vision for your career and the drive to get there. What has been the most unexpected part of your journey in this industry so far?

That dang pandemic really threw a wrench in all of our plans, right? But in this “unexpected” portion of my journey I have found new skills, new friends, new connections and a renewed sense of what is most important to me and I am forever grateful for that.

Your nomination included great praise and appreciation from chapter members for all that you do. What has been the greatest reward in being a member of the IAEE DFW Chapter and what can we expect from the chapter in the coming months?

That is just the sweetest thing, I am beyond flattered especially because I stand amongst giants. I feel like I constantly talk about the connections I have made from IAEE and through the DFW Chapter, but it’s truly the most rewarding part. We just have the best people and I love being a part of it. DFW is going to have an AMAZING April, we have our Industry Idea Swap with the one and only Robyn Davis on April 18th and we have Donuts and Dish next Friday, April 14th! We are looking at a fun summer HH and some other great education in the Fall! Be on the lookout for details coming soon!

The Call for Nominations for this year’s IAEE Awards is now open! Check out all of the award categories here and be sure to submit your nominations by 31 August!

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