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Derek Lotfi Reflects on the Importance of Community within the Industry

IAEE Community Engagement and Belonging Committee Member Spotlight on Derek Lotfi
IAEE Community Engagement and Belonging Committee Member Derek Lotfi shares his views on how creating a welcoming and engaging environment for all members of the industry goes a long way in attracting new talent.

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

Derek Lotfi is a seasoned professional in the exhibitions and events industry. He currently serves as the National Sales Director for The Expo Group, a position he has held since 2017. Before joining The Expo Group, Derek accumulated over a dozen years of experience in sales and marketing within various event companies, including National Conference Services, Inc. and GES.

Derek is known for his consultative approach to sales, which consistently brings positive outcomes for stakeholders. He holds a Communications degree from Towson University and resides in Annapolis, Maryland with his wife, three kids and dog. In addition to serving as an active member of IAEE and PCMA, Derek runs a soccer league in Annapolis for two- to five-year-old children that just finished its eighth season.

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

I wanted to help be part of the commitment from IAEE to bring together diverse member groups from across our industry. Hopefully, adding some of my knowledge from experiences I’ve had over the years will help our mission.

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

Being a part of the supplier community for some time now, I like to represent when and where I can, including to our next generation. Which, to me, is the #1 issue our industry is struggling with – engaging and educating the next generation.

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

An industry that embodies a sense of community and belonging is one where individuals feel connected, supported, and valued. There is a strong emphasis on collaboration rather than competition. Companies within the industry continue to be flexible and adaptable to change, embracing innovation and new ideas while also preserving the core values that define the community.

Overall, one where individuals feel not only like they belong but also like they are part of something larger than themselves, contributing to a shared vision and making a positive impact together.

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

Our industry is in the business of bringing people together from all walks of life for all different reasons. I’d like to see more encouragement of open dialogue and learning opportunities to increase awareness and understanding of DEI within the event community, inclusive of encouraging the development and advancement of individuals from underrepresented backgrounds through mentorship, networking opportunities, and training programs.

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

One best practice that I’ve seen is more diverse programming including workshops, panels, and networking opportunities on a range of topics that reflect the interests and needs of a variety of attendees.

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

As mentioned, our industry is taking the right steps to make sure we are engaging and making sure folks feel welcomed. Some shows and events might do this better than others, but the great part is we have so many events and examples to look at we can always keep evolving and elevating everyone’s experiences.

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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