By Carrie Mantey |Photo ©Azena Photography
Reggie Driscoll started his career by washing dishes, then worked his way up to managing restaurants, hotels and bars. His background is firmly entrenched in the hospitality industry. Now a senior meeting professional at the State Bar of Wisconsin, an association dedicated to Wisconsin attorneys, Driscoll emphasizes that communication is key to success. And the connection between people that communication fosters became even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic when face-to-face events were temporarily suspended.
Driscoll says, “Last year was a struggle. At the State Bar, we worked hard to maintain our relationships with other planners and our facilities. This was not always easy to do while cancelling and postponing events. It was a challenge with so many people being laid off, furloughed or just losing their jobs. Many times, when you contact a supplier or even other planners, you end up talking to someone new. But we all need to rely on our experience and resourcefulness to build this industry back to where it was. It is a strong industry with incredible people, so we will get there. We just need some time. Never before has the importance of relationships in this industry been more prevalent.”
In addition to his duties at the State Bar, where he just celebrated his 14-year anniversary, Driscoll is also transitioning from his role as the vice president of membership to the vice president of education for the Wisconsin chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). Communication with MPI members during the pandemic has been just as vital as staying in touch with suppliers at the State Bar.
“MPI needed to reach out to our members to make them feel that they were more to us than just a number. We reached out to every member by email, telephone or any other means available. It was important to listen to the members and see what they were going through,” Driscoll says. “Just letting our members know that they are not alone and that there are many resources available was wonderful for the people we contacted.”
Many of those resources — for learning new standards, protocols and dialogs for dealing with the coronavirus — can be found on the MPI Wisconsin website, at mpi.org/tools/coronavirus. They include information on new certification programs, a safety and security microsite for risk assessment and emergency planning, a library of more than 200 on-demand educational sessions and webinars, and a downloadable coronavirus toolkit containing social media assets, a PowerPoint slide and badges to display.
“The networking, website resources and relationships that are built through MPI will be priceless for our industry in the future. Business-wise, many planners will start by sending requests for proposals out to MPI members that they know rather than just sending them to a facility where there is no relationship. This helps build our association and, ultimately, our industry.”
As Driscoll pivots from his responsibilities as vice president of membership to education for MPI- Wisconsin, he can draw on his experience at the State Bar. “For both associations, COVID-19 has reaffirmed for me the importance of listening to our members and delivering current, relevant education. For the State Bar, continuing education is the focus of most of our events. I create complete events — including meals, receptions and networking — around the education.”
When asked about the future of meetings and events in Wisconsin, Driscoll predicts, “On the horizon for our industry is an opportunity to recover, learn and grow. I know for many of my colleagues throughout the state, this has been a time to reflect, confirm what we are doing and seek out ways to keep ourselves relevant through any other difficulties that may come in the future. This year has shown us a hundred ways we can be knocked down, but we’ve also learned a hundred and one ways to pick ourselves back up.”