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#WeAreISES 2015-2016: The View from ISES International President Jodi Collen, CSEP

#WeAreISES 2015-2016: The View from ISES International President Jodi Collen, CSEP

Jodi Collen, CSEP, new ISES international president, on her goals for the association in 2015-2016

Jodi Collen

This year, I have the honor of serving as the International President of the International Special Events Society (ISES). The nearly 5,000 members in our association are not only event producers--they're storytellers and life-changers. And, in the coming year, as I travel around the world visiting with our members, I want use this blog to relay some of our stories. Because, they're pretty amazing. Hope to hear your story! (Photo by Lauren B Photography)


Four years ago, when I got the call from the chair of the nominating committee that I had been chosen to step onto the officer track for ISES, I was so excited I jumped up and down in the entryway to my office and started yelling at the top of my lungs the second I hung up the phone. People around me smiled, knowing something great must have just happened, and I remember thinking, "Four years!  We're going to get so much done!"  

Then, a year ago, when I got the email from headquarters that said, "Congratulations, you've been elected to the position of President-Elect." I smiled wide again, but thought, "Whoa .... where did the time go? We still have so much to do!"  

Family time!

Collen family

That's my parents.  They're amazing.  And, what?  I had campaign signs.  Best.  Day.  Ever!

Now, it's here. In August, I took the official oath surrounded by the most amazing group of leaders, my coworkers, my family and nearly every one of my best friends. 

I pledge to abide by the bylaws and principles of the professional conduct and ethics upon which the International Special Events Society was founded, and to uphold the integrity of the office to which I have been elected.

I hereby make a firm commitment to promote the highest level of ethics in the special events industry and to serve the members of ISES to the best of my ability.

Oh yes, I will.

Oh yes, I will.

Jodi and Dear World

Thank you, Dear World, for this amazing opportunity.  Proud to call you colleagues and friends.

But, wow, do we have a lot to do.  

Leading up to ISES Live 2015, I had a to-do list ten miles long. In fact, I had an entire list solely dedicated to the many moving pieces that needed to be accomplished before getting to New Orleans.  And, written in big, bold letters across the top of that list were three words: Don't Be Nervous

Truth?  I was nervous. Full of anxiety, actually.  But, not really because I'm afraid to speak in front of a group or because I have fear about the job. I love this organization and I can talk about it all day. But, this is a personal journey for me, and because of that I feel a heavy responsibility to do right by our industry and the very important work that we all do every day.  

I feel a responsibility to give back to an organization that has shaped me and my career in more ways than I can ever list. 

And, I absolutely feel a responsibility to each and every one of you--our members.

So, now, we've all gone home. Returned back to our "real" jobs and the many, many responsibilities that come along with our lives.  And, sometimes it's easy to push the volunteer work to the side and say, "I'll get to that when I have more time." (Which explains why this first blog post is coming over a month after taking office.  I need a clone!)

But, let me assure you, our board hasn't missed a beat. Since returning, we've begun follow up on all of the many, many important conversations and work initiatives that we identified in New Orleans. We've begun the process of tackling the 20-plus items on this year's plan of work. And, we've identified that we have some very significant questions that we need to tackle in the coming year. 

It's not going to be easy. But, we're ready to start the conversation.


Facing the questions

ConfidenceI've shared this a few times since ISES Live.  But, it's just the truth.  And, is worth repeating.

Like many other associations, perhaps the most pressing question facing our association is around finding ways to articulate the value of being a member. What does it mean to be a member?  Why do our members come back to our association year after year? And, how can being a part of an association like ISES change a  career, a business or a life?

Well, those are big, important questions.

And, the answers aren't as simple as they might seem. It's incredibly complicated. And, through lots of conversations, I've come to realize it's a little bit like hitting a moving target. Finding what provides value in an organization is different from person to person and changes for almost everyone over time. 

Like many of you, I came to ISES at a point in my life when I was looking for something. In my case, 15 years ago, I came to ISES shamelessly looking for a job and some direction. Luckily enough, I found it in the amazing group of people that make up the ISES Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter.  They took me in, gave me advice and helped me find some direction. That was the first time where I saw the power of ISES.  And, I was in.  100 percent.

Fast forward five years and I had found a job and was working my way through the early stages of my career, but I needed connections. I was looking for people that would make me better at my job.  My partners. And, wow, did I hit the jackpot. Through my involvement in ISES Minneapolis-St Paul, I met nearly every major event partner that I would come to rely on in the next 10 years of my career. The people who answer their cell phone when I call them in a panic on a Sunday. The people who ultimately became my friends and came to care as much about my event's success as I did. 

Today? My personal involvement has evolved again. At this point, I have a well-established group of event partners. I have business connections located in nearly every major city in the United States and in countries located all over the world. And, most of all, I finally understand what I think is the true power of an organization like ISES. It's about standing together. It's about using one voice and one message to move our industry forward. It's about teaching everyone to understand the value of working with a trained, experienced, professional ISES member to tell their most important stories and to create their most important experiences. 

So, how do we assign the value to all of that and the many, many other amazing things that happen because of ISES? How do we even begin to mold an organization that meets people at each of those spots in their career and that becomes an indispensable part of doing business? We're working on that. And, we'll be talking about that a lot this year. 

But, what has struck me more than anything over the years, is that there are hundreds and hundreds of stories within our membership about how and when ISES made the difference. About the stuff that we're already doing right over and over again. The time your relationship with another ISES member connected you to a huge piece of business. The time that your membership provided you with a platform to move your business forward that you might not have otherwise been given. That time that ISES connected you to a job, a client or a new product. They're out there!

With that in mind, as I travel around and meet with our membership this year, I'm looking for some of those stories. I want to tell you about the times that ISES made a difference and how it's moving our industry forward.  I want to introduce you to difference makers in our association and the work that they're doing on behalf of all of us. And, I want to find out about the events that you're doing that are moving the needle and driving change in our industry. I want to talk about YOU!

What's your story?

What's your storySo, help me out.  Know someone in your chapter who I need to talk to? Have an amazing ISES story you want me to know about? Seriously--don't be shy. Let's chat. 

Okay, before I wrap up, a couple of housekeeping items:

A--If you're interested in having me visit your chapter at any point in the coming year, let's chat soon! I'd love to get your event on my calendar so that I can plan accordingly. I'd love to visit with as many of you as possible! 

B--Have a question, concern or idea? Please feel free to email me, call me, post here, send me a text, tweet at me, send a carrier pigeon. It doesn't matter--just contact me. Please don't sit on your ideas or your thoughts. 

And, finally, thank you.  Sincerely. I am so proud of everything you do and excited for what we are all about to do together.  It is an absolute honor to be given the opportunity to serve you in this role.  I can't wait for the year ahead! 


See you soon!


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