To Kate Patay, CPCE and Chief Strategy Officer of Patay Consulting, the events industry isn’t just a rewarding profession; it’s a multifaceted field of work that uses creativity to bring people together. Her success lies in her ability to make connections and find the right strategies, or as she puts it, “putting together all of the puzzle pieces to create magic.” You might say that seeing every nuance and side of a project is her superpower.
“I’m almost compulsive in my desire to design solutions for the most complex of requests,” says Patay. “We are one of the most creative industries on the planet and if there is a way to make it happen, I will find it—my own curiosity and pushing boundaries and perceived limits motivates me.”
The events industry isn’t the only thing that’s multifaceted; Patay herself wears many hats, taking on different roles in the industry. Besides leading her consulting business and engagement for a top global DMC, she’s served on several boards of industry organizations, including her current role as chairperson of the SEARCH Foundation. She’s an influencer, brand ambassador, speaker, and coach, and she holds a host of honors and awards, among them the coveted Pacesetter Award from the Events Industry Council, the Smart Meetings Hall Of Fame, and numerous other organizational awards. In 2021 she was recognized as the NACE Icon and one of the Top 25 Women Who Run Events, as well as a Top 20 Global Professional to Follow by Cvent; 2020 brought her praise as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Global Events, Top Keynote Speaker, and a Top 14 Changemaker.
She’s paving her path in the industry and it shows; Patay is the recipient of this year’s Richard Carbotti Volunteerism Award, and she will be honored in Orlando, FL during Catersource + The Special Event Awards Ceremony on Thursday evening, March 30.
A bit of everything
Patay’s start in the event industry began in catering and conventions, but as a people-person, it’s no surprise she was drawn toward events and meetings. She gained experience as a supplier and producer, where she developed skills in sales and marketing, branding, rebranding, and profitably growing businesses.
Her “people-centric qualities,” as she puts it, have led Patay to a full-time role as VP of Engagement for Terramar, A DMC Network Company. Outside of this role, Patay works with event companies to elevate their service standards and/or brand within the industry. She also uses her notoriety to represent brands she believes in.
“When you truly stand behind a company or a product it’s natural to want to share that resource, which I happily do when I find one! I think that’s what people appreciate—that I walk my talk and I won’t promote something just for a paycheck. If I’m putting my name on it, it’s because I believe in it.”
As if that weren’t enough to keep her busy, Patay is a sought-after speaker, using her insights to help enlighten industry professionals. “When I speak it’s always topics that I’m passionate about and are relevant to the current climate and improving ourselves as leaders and individuals,” she says. “I didn’t have a lot of resources readily available to me early in my career, so I’ve made it my mission to knowledge-share at every possible opportunity.”
Her secret ingredient: teamwork
Tying together all her roles is a deep passion for elevating the industry. For Patay, leadership isn’t about doing it all but about connecting the right people to make a stellar team.
“While I’m well versed in many facets of events, I know that I can’t do it all and I believe in always hiring the right person for the job. I can’t arrange a gorgeous bouquet of flowers or get that perfect angle on a photo, but I can find you 50 people who can in a timely manner and on budget.”
This team-minded value is at the center of her work. She believes that at the core of the events industry is “a lot of humble service and learning that to be successful, you can’t lead with your ego. I’ve planned and produced some of the most talked about events, but I’ve always shined the spotlight on the team…because none of us are successful alone. It’s not about me.”
Patay’s love of creativity drives her approach to coaching and assisting others in producing top-tier events. “It’s about the moment the client’s face lights up as their boss tells them ‘great job’ for such a spectacular event. It’s connecting the attendees in the moment and wowing them,” she says. “Engaging guests while creating community and inspiring the event team to find a way to make the answer always ‘yes’ means I’m doing my job.”
Doing the right thing
Patay’s impactful leadership is a direct result of her belief in doing the right thing. “I’m a girl from Buffalo who works her butt off and tries to always do the right thing. I think that’s the common denominator in all my achievements—doing the right thing even if it isn’t the easiest option.”
She cites a quote by Oprah Winfrey as being a guiding light throughout her career: “Let excellence be your brand.... When you are excellent, you become unforgettable. Doing the right thing, even when nobody knows you’re doing the right thing, will always bring the right thing to you.”
For Patay, doing the right thing includes giving back to the industry that has nourished her career. “In the alphabet soup of our industry, I’ve volunteered time, donated services, funded initiatives, and worked with boards and organizations to help guide progress in the various disciplines within our industry. A very smart woman told me early in my career that if something meant a lot to me that I would find a way to make time for it…
she was right.”
With so much on her plate, Patay lets passion determine how she divvies up her time: “I’ve learned that if I’m not passionate about something to say ‘no’ to it because they won’t be getting 100% from me.”
Leading the SEARCH Foundation
Patay’s current role of chairperson for the SEARCH Foundation is one to which she gives 100% of herself, a role she says she is most honored to serve. When first introduced to the organization at The Special Event in 2010, she learned about how they assist industry individuals in crisis and has been a supporter ever since. “I’ll admit, when I first walked into that room and saw event icons at every turn I was wowed. Then I learned what SEARCH did and I was moved.”
Patay stepped into the role of chairperson in November 2019, just before the world descended into the pandemic, demonstrating her ability to lead an industry through the toughest times. She says that she gained insight, perspective, and deep connections from this experience, and as if to confirm her effective leadership, was recently elected to her second term in the role.
“When we come to that table it’s as servants of our industry and I’m so proud to have a seat at that table. I’m grateful for everyone that has come before me, and I hope to leave a legacy that inspires others to help individuals when they need it most.”
Editor’s note: Join the SEARCH Foundation at Catersource + The Special Event in Orlando on Wednesday March 29 at 8:00 p.m. for their Annual Signature Event and mingle with top industry professionals all while supporting friends and colleagues in crisis.
Only the beginning
The future looks busier than ever for Patay, who’s beginning some new projects.
“I’m working with a new team and starting bigger conversations about our industry, how we define success, work/life balance, and trying to get us off that list as the fifth most stressful job in the world.”
With so many roles and projects, you may wonder where all Patay’s energy comes from—and you’ll find it comes back to that passion for the industry.
“I’m not wearing ‘busy’ as a badge of honor, but working to be purposeful and intentional in all of my projects ... and yes, there is so much more to come,” she says. “I feel like I’m just getting started!”
It’s Time to Celebrate
Join us in celebrating this year’s Leadership Award recipients at our annual Awards Ceremony on Thursday, March 30 at 5:30 p.m. on the Keynote Stage. A nominee reception will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Orange County Convention Center Lobby. Considered by many to be the Oscars night of the events and catering industry, during the Awards Ceremony the ACE, Gala, and CATIE awards are bestowed upon the best of the best in our industry. Cheer on the nominees and applaud award recipients as they take the stage to accept our industry’s highest honors! With a kickoff keynote by Michael Cerbelli and lifetime achievement and volunteerism awards added to this event, this will be an unforgettable evening. Congratulations to this year’s winners and we look forward to celebrating with everyone this March! More information can be found here.
Hear from Kate Patay at Catersource + The Special Event!
You might recognize Patay from last year’s CS+TSE—she led the conversation with Keynote Speaker Roy Choi. This year, you can catch her at the Leadership Lunch on Thursday, March 30 at 11:45 a.m. at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
The Courage to Change
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” Enhance your Orlando experience by traveling with industry leaders to one of the country’s most beautiful performance venues, the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts in Downtown Orlando. Prepare your palate for an innovative menu that will change the way you think about upscale cuisine and listen to the stories of dramatic career change from two of the industry’s most iconic leaders, Lenny Talarico, CSEP and Kate Patay, CPCE.
More information can be found here.