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Bob Dallmeyer Education Fund: Melissa Peticolas, 2017 Grant Recipient

2017 recipient Melissa Peticolas, CEM details why she believes the Bob Dallmeyer Education Fund opened her eyes to a new perspective for meeting planners and the professional experiences she was able to gain after obtaining her CEM.

By Melissa Peticolas, 2017 Bob Dallmeyer Education Grant Recipient

Have you ever participated in a conversation with clients or peers and felt like you were hearing about industry terms or methods for the first time? I’ve worked in the Events Industry for over 16 years and the majority of my career has been with a Decorator. I tend to stay in my lane of knowledge. But sometimes I’m asked my opinion on something that’s very different from my area of expertise. Some say that you should be honest and just tell the person you don’t know the answer or it’s not in your scope. But when you’re trying to impress a client, that can be difficult.

With the ever-changing world of social media, virtual reality, privacy laws, and industry standards, it can be hard to keep up with the latest trends and best practices. That’s why I chose to pursue the Certified in Exhibition Management® (CEM) designation. Having the opportunity to utilize the Bob Dallmeyer Education Fund for my CEM designation has been a game-changer for me. The CEM Learning Program has taught me even more about the industry in areas such as registration, housing, event marketing, crisis management, and budgeting. And as a result, I can now better understand conversations I didn’t in the past. I feel educated enough to share an opinion outside of my wheelhouse and I’m not afraid to think outside of the box. In turn, I now find that I have more empathy for a planner’s situation. For example, I would tend to get very frustrated if the graphics were approved late. Now I realize that there may have been another critical component of the event that needed their attention. Whereas approving graphics a few days late wouldn’t make or break the event, a last-minute spike in registrations can cause major changes to the BEO’s and event space blocked for breakouts. Those items understandably would need to take precedence.

Current world events even resonate differently. The COVID-19 pandemic has opened my eyes to what Meeting and Event Planners are going through. I remember seeing a post on Linkedin: “Check on your meeting planner today; they are not ok.” Before completing the CEM courses, I would have never understood why that would be necessary. However, with my new-found knowledge, I understand the myriad of thoughts that are running through their minds on a daily basis. “Is the pandemic considered an Act of God?” “What is the out clause in a hotel room block contract?” “Will there be attrition?” “What type of cancellation insurance does a show have in place?” “What are the steps to switch an event to virtual?” “How will my sponsorship dollars be affected?” It makes my head spin! So yes, I’ve started to checking on Planners I know.

I’ve also applied what I’ve learned to my volunteer work in the community. I currently sit on the Board of Trustees for Green Whales, Inc. Our organization provides free swimming lessons and water safety courses to the children of Atlantic City. Through fundraising efforts, sponsorships, and resurrecting the historic Around the Island™ Marathon Swim, we have raised enough money to teach over 400 children how to swim. The Marathon Swim is a huge undertaking logistically as well as financially. Its success not only helps the children, but its return has filled a void in the community no one realized was missing.

So what will be the next part of my professional career or everyday life to benefit from having my CEM designation? I’m not sure yet. But earning this designation increases my value as an experienced employee and marketability as an industry expert. I’m more confident to bid on larger, more involved trade shows and not afraid to participate in industry events and topics that I felt were out of my reach before. I cannot thank the Bob Dallmeyer Education Grant and IAEE enough for this opportunity. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my career.

The 2020 Bob Dallmeyer Education Fund has extended the submission deadline to 1 July! Click here for more information on the Bob Dallmeyer Education Fund and to submit your application.

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