Spotlight on Gwendolyn McNutt, CSEP

What made you want to work in the special events industry?
I started out in PR when I first graduated from college. After working with the media for a while, I really I enjoyed planning the press events, much more than I like working with the media to attend them. I also began in nonprofit, so I had to be a jack of all trades and that helped me to weed out the things I didn’t like doing. I think that’s sort of when my idea of what I wanted to do with my career began to evolve.

How did you first get involved with ISES?
I knew I wanted to get involved in an industry association to enhance my industry knowledge, as well as my educational opportunities. At the time, I was also looking into certification opportunities, so I wanted to learn about the organization and options for becoming certified. My involvement in ISES has definitely had a positive impact on me personally and professionally.

What has been your favorite ISES event(s) and why?
On a local level, I enjoy the events that showcase what the members can do. A few years back, the chapter hosted “member’s showcase” events and those are always my favorite events. On an International level, I attended ISES Eventworld in Tampa and went on the conference excursion event to Disney in Orlando. As part of the excursion, we were fortunate enough to attend a back of the house tour…and it was amazing! It was my first trip to Disney…and it really is the happiest place on earth.

What’s your favorite event experience and what made it turn out so well?
My favorite event experience was a recent one. Working on The Special Event Opening Night Party was awesome. It was a great opportunity to work with so many talented people in our local market that I had not had the experience to work with before. It also brought in vendors that supported us from around the country. The committee and sponsors of the event were so willing to support the event with their commitments of time and talents. Bridgeport Empire from décor to entertainment will definitely remain my favorite event experience for a long time to come.

What do you find most challenging about the events industry? And what lesson(s) have you learned?
I think one of the things I find most challenging is that this industry is constantly evolving and you have to be willing to go with the flow. You need to make sure that your ideas are fresh, fun and innovative. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in response to this challenge is that you have to be willing to adapt to change; learn new ideas; and ask for help when you need it.
What do you do to keep up with the current trends in the industry?
I love to attend as many industry conferences as I can to get the creative juices flowing. I also like to keep abreast of current trends by reading the event industry trade publications.

What do you enjoy to do in your spare time? (and when you are not going to ISES events, of course)
I am a television and movie junkie. I like to veg-out and watch TV; and I am totally addicted to crime TV shows like Dateline and 48-Hours.

Who has been your biggest inspiration or influence in your career?
My biggest inspiration would have to be my mother. She always encouraged me to do what made me happy. And if that meant making a detour from my early career choices, then that was ok. She encouraged me to go to college and then sacrificed more than I knew at the time to make sure I could have the things I needed to be successful while I was there. She will forever be the one who was always in my corner.

Where is the best place you have traveled to?
The Cayman Islands was fabulous and very relaxing. I really enjoyed the beauty and calmness of the island vs. the party atmosphere of some of the other Caribbean islands. Everyone was so laid back and friendly on the island.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?
People might be surprised to know that I love to bake and I am a collector of baking dishes and accessories. I think I own every pan and baking gadget that exists.
What advice would you tell someone who has just joined ISES?
My advice to the novice ISES member is to not only attend and network at chapter meetings but to also get involved. However, the best way to make your ISES membership work for you is to join an ISES committee. This allows you to expand your network, learn new skills and provide volunteer service to ISES and the special events industry.

What is the most valuable thing you have taken from being involved in ISES?
My involvement in ISES has allowed me to expand my network to an international level. It has also given me tons of industry knowledge and a group of individuals you can call on locally or anywhere you their help; and you know they will be willing to help you out and never let down. There is a great kinship among ISES members and I’m proud to be a part of it.

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