My Experience as the PCMA Capital Chapter’s 2019 Summer Intern / Allison Brennan

This past summer I had the honor of representing the PCMA Capital Chapter as their Emerging Professionals Intern for the program’s second year. Before applying for the program, I had heard only amazing things about the internship that the Capital Chapter offered following their inaugural implementation last summer. Going into the second semester of my senior year, I had the Capital Chapter Internship program highlighted as an internship to apply to for in order to further obtain my degree credits for my Tourism major. Requirements for obtaining a Radford University degree in Recreation, Parks & Tourism, a student must complete a 12 credit 560 hour internship program. When Femke Morelisse , Emerging Professionals Committee Member, started emailing student members regarding the application process, I jumped at the opportunity to apply. The Capital Chapter internship program is truly like no other internship offered, as it gives the student a view into every facet that the industry offers. I am exceptionally grateful that the Capital Chapter afforded me this opportunity; which has tremendously grown my industry knowledge and experience over the course of one summer. Throughout my time as the Capital Chapter Emerging Professionals Intern, I have built upon my educational background and worked directly with five sponsoring organizations, who have graciously welcomed me to their teams over the course of the internship program.

The first stop of the internship took place with SPARGO INC. SPARGO is a third party event management firm that outsources a variety of event opportunities ranging from Housing, Logistics, Registration, and Exhibit Sales and Management to clients all over the United States. During my time at SPARGO, I shadowed each group not only in the office, but onsite for the American Society of Clinical Oncology, a 42,500 person annual meeting at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. The magnitude of the meeting was something that was new to me. Initially, it was overwhelming; however, as the week went on I was able to see the meeting from every angle that SPARGO managed. I adopted the same calm and confident energy that each member possessed from day one. While onsite, I assisted the housing team with their daily hotel roundup calls, registration with attendee badges, exhibits on the exhibitor floor, and logistics with room sets and sessions. Each team empowered me to contribute as a true member of their team rather than just an intern, which I greatly appreciated. I cannot thank the team at SPARGO enough for allowing me to be a small part of this exceptional meeting and for setting the tone for the remainder of the summer. Assisting SPARGO onsite with ASCO was an immensely valuable educational opportunity that I will continue to be grateful for as I embark on my career within the industry.

My second rotation of the internship program was with the Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C. During my time with the Omni, I had the opportunity to work in each department that continues to keep the Shoreham a household name within the industry. I spent my first week gaining a perspective of how each department runs and my second week I was with the sales team. I had a wonderful time getting to know the hotel staff; the front desk and rooms divisions, catering and sales, and the housekeeping departments. I appreciated how generous and kind everyone always was regardless of my many hotel related questions. The employees that I worked alongside had great pride in the Shoreham and their job, which is something that I loved seeing and certainly adds to the overall success of their environment. Ensuring every guest’s stay is perfect is not a task that is taken lightly, by anyone on the Shoreham staff. The encounters I had with members of the team asserted the fact that they are some of the hardest workers that I have met throughout my time in the industry. Each department graciously took me under their wing showing me the ropes of either the proper ways to refresh a hotel room, how to properly answer guest calls, checking in new guests for their stay, operating a site visit, conducting a special event, and even partnering with clients for galas. Although I am not yet a seasoned sales professional, I was given the opportunity to work with the Director of Sales, Michael Murgas, and the Director of Rooms, Amanda Burroughs, on two sales products that will assist the team with their techniques within the coming months. As someone who values being on a team, it was great to see the camaraderie and to feel a part of a group working towards a greater goal during my time at the Omni Shoreham. I will always be thankful for the knowledge and lessons that their staff imparted on me during my time with them.

The following rotation I flew out to Los Angeles, CA to work with Professional Convention Management Association’s meetings team and to assist with the onsite execution of EduCon 2019. While at EduCon, I worked under the Director of Meetings, Alison Milgram, CMP, and the headquarters team. I assisted wherever the staff needed an extra hand, which helped me gain a stronger understanding of the overall meetings process. From an educational standpoint, it was extremely beneficial for me to see the delegation of work split between the members of the meetings team the meetings for an educational conference specific to the events industry. I enjoyed aiding in vendor setup and was empowered to help attendees with any requests that they may have had. A portion of my time onsite was spent working with the registration team. Assisting with registration gave me the chance to converse with a variety of attendees from around the globe. Additionally, I had the chance to attend a few evening receptions with current Capital Chapter President Vicki Johnson, CMP. I enjoyed getting to know more about Vicki and her role within the Capital Chapter, as well as, her advice for navigating my way through receptions and industry events. One of my favorite parts about being at EduCon was the attendee interaction and being able to connect with so many down to earth people. The attendees who I spoke with throughout my time at EduCon offered me a variety of advice and their possible assistance if I ever needed anything as I begin my journey within the industry. Everyone’s interactions were just another confirmation of how lucky I feel to be going into this field and to be a part of an association with such caring people who desire to see each other do well.

The fourth rotation I was with Interel back in Washington, D.C. Interel is the company that manages the Capital Chapter’s events and funding. Before my rotation with Interel, I had not known that there were companies who are responsible for managing associations like the Capital Chapter. I was also unaware that there were companies who manage chapters of larger associations like PCMA. Prior to joining the Capital Chapter, I had figured that this process was all done by member committees. However, I now realize the amount of work that goes into a single day of running the chapter and I am very appreciative of this newfound viewpoint. I was with Interel the week before the Capital Chapter’s summer program and it was an all hands-on deck performance to ensure the program would be a success. I worked with Bea Tijerina, the Director of the Capital Chapter, and Lindsay Martin, Program Manager of the Capital Chapter, to organize email lists, chapter articles, membership emails, badge assembly and registration for the Spark! I also had the pleasure of sitting in on executive chapter calls with the past President Jim Kelley, PRG, current President Vicki Johnson, CMP, and President Elect, John Rubsamen. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Spark! but I am so grateful that I was able to help the program come fruitfully together and to be included on a portion of the event execution.

The fifth and final rotation of the program was with the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. During my time with AACC, I worked in their Washington, D.C. office for two weeks to prepare and assist with the planning of the 21,000 person annual meeting at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. I worked with Jamie Simpson, CMP, Director of Meetings, and her team throughout my three weeks at AACC. I started two weeks before the 71st AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo and was able to contribute right away helping with BEO and service order confirmations. Over the following week I assisted Jamie with signage and Jackie Nassy, Meetings Coordinator, with vendor orders. I was excited to work on these projects in the office because I knew that I would be able to see the direct results when I arrived onsite to the annual meeting. I felt very confident and comfortable with my ability to positively impact a large meeting thanks to my first internship rotation with SPARGO. The 71st AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo incidentally outsourced SPARGO to assist them with their Logistics, Housing, and Exhibit Sales and Management, so it was great to round out the final rotation with familiar faces that I had met initially. Being able to see the partnership between SPARGO and AACC from an association standpoint was also a key takeaway that was new to me before I started my final rotation. Previously, I had only experienced an association and third-party relationship from the side of the third party. I am grateful that I was able to piece together a complete partnership between an association and third party during my time with both AACC and SPARGO. While onsite, I had the responsibility of aiding Jackie with AM and PM roundtable educational sessions. Over the course of my time at AACC I always felt empowered by Jamie and her team to directly assist wherever I could. The trust Jamie and her team had in me to successfully complete the tasks at hand was something that I will continue to be thankful for and valued during my overall time with AACC.

This entire internship experience would not have been possible without the sponsorship of the Capital Chapter, the Emerging Professionals Committee and the five sponsoring organizations. I could not be more grateful for the opportunities offered to me throughout this summer and the encouragement that members across these organizations provided. Additionally, this internship would not have been made possible without Christine Faiman, CMP, my Internship Supervisor within the Capital Chapter’s Emerging Professionals Committee. Christine’s constant guidance and support, along with her effort to pioneer this program and to assist young professionals starting their career, is something that I hope to be able to pay forward in the near future. I have learned a plethora of information and knowledge from the Emerging Professionals Internship that I look forward to implementing as I continue my career within the events industry.