Special Events

The Search for Professionalism

IN JULY, I ATTENDED the ISES Los Angeles chapter's annual awards ceremony, called the LA-La's. As one of the founders of the International Special Events Society, as well as the first president of the L.A. chapter, I was gratified to see how far the organization has come since its humble beginnings.

During the ceremony, ISES' outgoing international president, Carol McKibben, CSEP, announced that not only was attendance at this event larger than at any of the chapter's past meetings or awards ceremonies, but also that ISES has 850 new members this year. The evolution of ISES has been spectacular.

I noticed that, without exception, every acceptance speech that evening mentioned the importance of teamwork. This concept is nothing new, but has taken a long time to sink into the special event industry. Because we are in a highly creative industry, this is understandable. The combination of ego with a healthy number of Type A personalities has a tendency to obscure team efforts. But judging from what I saw at the LA-La's, this problem seems to be on its way out.

It was once pointed out to me that you can tell an industry has become truly professional when it supports organizations and functions that promote team effort, networking and growth. ISES and The Special Event conference, sponsored by Special Events Magazine, have done just that.

Additionally, it could be said that an industry has come of age when it begins to set up systems to help those within it. To this end, the special event industry now has the SEARCH Foundation, the Special Event Industry Aid and Response for Care and Hope. Its mission statement reads: "The SEARCH Foundation is a nonprofit organization designed to provide support to special event members and their families afflicted with life-threatening illness or a catastrophic occurrence. SEARCH will assist with obtaining health services and support with full respect to individual confidentiality. SEARCH will act as 'the heart' for our industry by offering this support service where needed."

It seems to me that the best definition of a "grown-up" industry is one that helps individuals in need. In the future, SEARCH hopes to provide funds to help individuals who qualify for the program defray medical expenses. At this time, however, we are able to help only with in-kind services. With the help of organizations such as the National Catering Association, SEARCH offers meals to people who may not be able to prepare their own. And, working with transportation companies that have donated their services, we are able to provide rides to treatment centers, grocery stores, etc.

We are working on SEARCH's capital campaign, which will give it an operating budget of hard dollars. I realize that it will be awhile before the SEARCH Foundation can actually accomplish all it sets out to do, as happens with any new venture. However, the wheels are in motion.

I am very proud to be taking the chairmanship of the SEARCH Found-ation at The Special Event 2000, Jan. 12-15 in San Diego. I have some lofty goals that I have put before me and all the other event professionals I know. But the LA-La's ceremony is proof that, when we set goals in life, we can reach them if we work as a team.

I invite anyone who would like to become involved with SEARCH to contact me for more information. As I found out at the LA-La's ceremony, nothing is more satisfying than seeing good work come to life and, in the case of SEARCH, help a life.

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