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Julie Pazina Passionately Advocates for the Industry

IAEE Community Engagement and Belonging Committee Member Spotlight on Julie Pazina
IAEE Community Engagement and Belonging Committee Member Julie Pazina fervently champions exhibitions and events, whether by speaking to students about building a fruitful and enjoyable career in the industry or advocating on behalf of the industry as a State Senator.

By Mary Tucker | Sr. Communications & Content Manager | IAEE

Julie Pazina, CEM-AP found her home in Las Vegas and never looked back when she joined Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services. As Vice President of Business Development, she oversees sales in the Las Vegas market as well as regional and national sales efforts and new business opportunities. Based in Las Vegas, Edlen is a family-owned and operated company that has grown into the nation’s largest independent temporary utility contractor for trade shows, conventions and special events.

Julie served on the Board of the Las Vegas Hospitality Association for six years, including her tenure as President in 2013. She is also a member of the Junior League of Las Vegas and active community volunteer. A longtime IAEE member, Julie received IAEE’s Young Professional of the Year Award in 2011 and the Cathy Breden Woman of Achievement Award in 2019. She also currently serves on the International Association of Venue Managers Convention Center and Industry Affairs Committees. She was a member of the Nevada Conservation League Board and was appointed by the Governor to the Commission on Tourism and the Commission’s COVID-19 Recovery Committee.

Julie was raised in Atlanta and moved to Las Vegas in 2002, while working for the cruise industry as an Assistant Cruise Director and a Port and Cruise Consultant. Before living and working at sea, she worked in the advertising industry after graduating from Vanderbilt University with a double major in Political Science and Communication Studies.

Julie won her 2022 race for Nevada State Senate and represented her community in the legislature in the 2023 session, passing eight bills into law, chairing the Natural Resources Committee and the state’s first Tourism Caucus. She and her husband, Joel, live in Henderson, Nevada with their golden retrievers Henry and Maggie.

Julie recently chatted with IAEE about her dedication to promoting a sense of belonging to all members of the industry as well as her commitment to attracting new talent to exhibitions and events.

What inspired you to serve on IAEE’s Community Engagement and Belonging Committee?

I’ve been fortunate to be an IAEE member since 2006, which, I can’t believe that’s almost 20 years! From the very beginning, there was a comfort level and a sense of community that came with joining IAEE. I started serving on the Young Professionals Committee shortly after I joined. Not only was it where I met one of my best friends in the entire world to this day, but I built relationships. It also made learning more and engaging more with the industry so much easier, as a result of my membership.

My hope is that I can give back and bring more people into the industry, whether it’s young professionals or perhaps people starting a second career in the exhibitions and events industry. My goal is to ensure that they have that same sense of community and belonging that IAEE gave me and that they grow to love the industry as much as I do. So that’s why I was excited to be able to serve on this committee.

Which communities do you feel passionate about and what are some of the issues that are currently of highest importance to those communities?

I really enjoy being a part of Women in Leadership, whether I attend the Women’s Leadership Forum each year or the Women’s Insights Hour that are held via Zoom each month. Having that opportunity to speak with other women in the industry and engage on a certain topic in a safe space has been really helpful and wonderful.

I’m a supplier for the industry as well, so that is a community that I appreciate that IAEE finds valuable because, so often, you see organizer members treated differently than suppliers. IAEE definitely treats their members well, whether they’re an organizer or a supplier, and that’s something that is very important to me.

CEM, being part of that community, has been really defining for me and I was part of the first class of CEM APs (Advanced Professionals) because I love education and I love continued learning. So those are some of the communities that have helped me feel more engaged and given me more of a sense of belonging within, not just the organization, but the industry.

Advocacy is an initiative that’s hugely important to me and IAEE’s involvement with the Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance (ECA) has been something that I’ve really liked to engage with. I would like to see us focus more on advocacy, to an extent, because it became a lot more significant to a lot of our membership during the pandemic when there was the realization that so many elected officials really have no idea what we do and the economic impact we bring. When we put a trade show together, it’s really bringing small business together to the forefront. It benefits the local community as well as creates so many jobs. IAEE became, as with all industry associations, even more heavily involved with advocacy as a result of the pandemic.

But I see the industry beginning to take a step back, maybe, and that worries me. Because while I certainly don’t foresee more terrible crisis coming that would cause our industry to take a step back (and I pray not), I think it’s really important that all of our elected officials – whether on a local, state or federal level – really understand what it is we do. Whether it’s dealing with the visa issues we’re having now on a federal level or educating a state on why we need to expand a convention center or rules on the trade show floor or taxes that may come up unexpectedly, etc., it’s so important that people stay educated, involved and engaged.

I am part of a panel for IAEE’s Southwest Chapter that addressed advocacy ahead of this year’s ECA Legislative Action Day (held on 30 May) but my hope is that, as an industry, we don’t take too much of a step back now that we are seeing our recovery from the pandemic. Advocacy remains incredibly important to me and granted, I’m biased because I’m a state senator as well, so I realize advocacy is going to be more important to me than perhaps other industry professionals.

For example, I chair the Nevada Senate tourism caucus and in April, with the National Association of Broadcasters’ show being in Las Vegas, we had the opportunity to bring in our majority leader, speaker of the assembly and different members of our legislature to walk NAB Show and hear from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the National Association of Broadcasters, and the resorts association via Stephanie Glanzer, CMP with MGM Resorts, on not only the economic impact of events, but to hear from our union representatives as well on how many jobs this brings to the state.

I’m trying here in Nevada to make sure we stay top of mind, but I hope that it remains important to IAEE and to other industry associations as well, and that they continue to bring programming and keep people involved and engaged as to how they can make sure that elected officials in their state, whether on a local state or federal level, are staying engaged.

This way, when issues come up, not only do our nation’s decision makers understand their importance but they have people that they can go to and they can talk to, that they can rely on, and they can ask questions of when legislation comes forward. Because they may have great intent, but there could be awful unintended consequences if they don’t have someone they can ask those questions of.

What does your vision of an industry that embodies a sense of community and belonging look like?

It’s that no matter where someone is based – and there are so many of us now around the country that work remotely and might not be based in an office, so no matter where in the country someone happens to be working or is located – that they have a community they can reach out to, whether as part of a specific community, like the CEM community or women’s group, or in general. It’s also ensuring that they meet people in their regional communities, for example, through participating in their local chapter.

It’s also knowing that industry members feel that they have the resources at their fingertips that are an email or a call or a text away to get the answers they need. Whether that be through reaching out on MemberLink to get an answer that they’re looking for or face-to-face over Zoom or Teams.

I think one of my favorite things about the CEM Learning Program was just hearing all of the really unique situations some of our members found themselves in and how they resolved them. I learned so much from the class members, in addition to the instructor. I think when people are going through what may be a unique situation for them, having that resource to reach out to people in their community with IAEE is incredibly helpful because chances are that situation, as unique as it is to you, has happened before to someone else.

The various IAEE communities offer that voice of experience. For young professionals or those who are in a second career and newer to the industry, it is good to know that others have gone through similar challenges and they can find solutions through IAEE’s communities. I also think “community” can look different to everyone because some people prefer to reach out virtually and others prefer face-to-face contact. So whether people find what they need through MemberLink or attending chapter events or connecting with a classmate in the CEM Learning Program, there is something for everyone.

Given the recent progress of DEI in our industry over the past couple of years, what would you like to see more of?

I feel that, as much as we do as an industry, there’s always more that can be done. Especially since I serve on a student subcommittee for this committee. As we try to get students more interested and involved in this industry, I think it helps them to see someone like them. I witnessed this when I ran for office. Nevada has the first female majority legislature in the country. For young girls, I think it was really meaningful to be able to look and say, ‘This person looks like me and I can do this!’

This principle holds true that when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. I believe it’s important for students who are exploring potential careers to see people who are like them, so they know that they too can do this. When our members speak to young students and they are able to demonstrate the diversity of people in this industry, it allows them to realize how awesome the events industry is!

We have such a unique, fun and cool job because it is different every day. I don’t think many people know that about our industry. Part of the reason I got involved in this committee is because I feel it’s incredibly important to bring new people in. We really need to focus on students, who are the future of the industry, as well as engage people of all races, genders and nationalities.

I would add to that, with everything going on overseas, religions as well. Speaking as a Jewish woman, right now is a tough time, and even when we watch what’s going on in our country in terms of division among people. Creating an inclusive place of community and belonging means bringing everyone in and letting them know that we’re all part of this industry; recognizing that we all have important knowledge to share and ensuring all voices are welcomed is crucial.

What is one best practice that you’ve seen that creates a sense of belonging and inclusiveness at an event?

I think it’s time to re-evaluate how we offer networking opportunities and how we can get more people engaged. I tend to be more of an extrovert, but not everyone is, so how do we get more introverts engaged, involved and excited? For example, educational roundtables allow attendees to split into smaller groups where people have more of an opportunity to share and speak. I think that we all have some form of impostor syndrome, where we’re afraid to speak out, yet everyone has such wonderful ideas, and I’d hate to lose some of those because people are afraid to share.

I remember working with IAEE Vice President of Engagement and Digital Strategy Lisa Buchanan, probably over a decade ago, on engagement activities for Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition. We put together a version of speed dating, where people could meet one-on-one and go person-to-person, that gave participants an opportunity to meet a lot of different people, especially for those why may have been too shy to introduce themselves otherwise.

Sometimes when I look at best practices, I try to keep people in mind who may be a little bit more introverted, perhaps a little newer to the industry or more scared to step up and network. I like finding ways of breaking down groups to smaller components to encourage them to speak up.

Do you have any final thoughts on the importance of belonging and inclusion as it relates to our industry?

I hope that those just joining our industry find the sense of community, belonging and home that I’ve been fortunate enough to find and that they make the same kind of lifelong friends that so many of us have found in this industry. Not only is our work incredibly fun and every day is different, but the people who are involved are some of the best out there. I hope everyone is fortunate to have the experience that I did.

About IAEE’s Community Engagement and Belonging Committee

The volunteers of this committee strive to help establish strong connections among IAEE’s diverse member groups by providing programming and enabling our communities to foster innovation, adopting technological excellence, and exchanging insights and experiences – all in pursuit of enriching IAEE’s mission. IAEE Communities are created to nurture open, constructive communication and foster collaboration among the communities they represent.

Learn more about IAEE’s Community Engagement and Belonging Committee here.

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