Have You Considered Teaching?

Serving the meetings industry is a great honor. We get to work with many fascinating people. We travel, we’re well-read, we’re as up-to-date as we can be with technology and every day is different. Beyond our day-to-day responsibilities, I’ve always welcomed those opportunities where we take our service to the next level.

From Mentoring to Teaching

Every time I attend a MPISCC meeting I see new faces and members. Many are just beginning their career path. I remember being in their place some time ago. I send accolades to our long-time colleagues who take the time to mentor these new members. Beyond this mentoring I’ve found something that has become near and dear to my heart – teaching.

Serving as an adjunct professor at California Lutheran University has become a career highlight for me. For the past five years, I’ve led the Events Management program for the School of Communications at Cal Lutheran. Each semester, I have nearly 60 undergraduate students who spend 16-weeks with me on Monday and Wednesday evenings. I can’t begin to share what a wonderful experience it’s been. And, I must confess I learn so much from them.

Beyond this mentoring I’ve found something that has become near and dear to my heart – teaching.

Each semester members of MPISCC and various association partners have joined me as guest faculty. These leaders have shared their passion for the meetings and hospitality industry. They’ve heightened the learning experiences for our CLU undergraduate students. Our guest faculty has included David Anderson CMP, Art Barmash, Claudia Brett CMP, Stuart Burdette, Laurel Coote CMP, Steve Copeland, Lorita DeVries, Joe Diamond, Tony DiRaimondo, Bill Doak, Darlene Evans CMP CMM, Susan Groveman, Rita Hopkins, Debra Karrenbrock, Mariles Krok CMP, Sandra Lady CMP, Alvalyn Lundgren, Mark Martinez, Carlos Murillo, Haley Powers CMP, Marc Reede, Carroll Reuben CMM CMP, Pat Wall, to name a few. Our guest faculty have covered topics such as Audio-Visual, Budgeting, Contracts, Conventions & Trade Shows, Entertainment, Food & Beverage, Hotel Management, Non-Profit Events, Site Selections, and Volunteers.

Teaching at the university level is exciting, a lot of work, and provides the opportunity to continually hone our craft. Event certificate and degree programs are offered at universities, community colleges and at private campuses.

What an event planning course looks like

These are several of my action items for a successful class offering:

  1. As I begin planning for my courses, I communicate clearly with my department chair at the university. We come to an agreement on the course curriculum; my plans for the educational offering, goals and outcomes.
  2. Once I have a clear understanding of what the university expects from me, I create my course syllabus. This document will clearly list exactly what the course will provide; topics, class work, homework, team projects and eventual outcomes. My syllabus is usually four to six pages in length and lists with transparency each and every step of my course.
  3. We bring industry experts to the class. Rather than me speaking week after week to the students, I integrate industry thought-leaders that bring a richness and variety into the classroom setting. Students introduce these guest faculty members, actively participate in the class discussion and a student presents a thank you gift at the end of each presentation.
  4. Each week of the class, as part of the student educational curriculum, they write a hand-written thank you note to each speaker. The purpose of this exercise is to solidify the importance of saying “thank you” and to actually write a hand written note rather than send over email.
  5. The physical classroom is changed weekly with our room setup. One week may be schoolroom style, the next week conference, boardroom or even theater style. Homework is a mix of chapter readings from our book, weekly reflection papers on the recent guest speaker, guest faculty thank you notes and volunteer service throughout the semester at various university and community events. With their volunteer service, they submit signed forms from the organization where they’ve volunteered on events doing a variety of activities.
  6. Students wear nametags and place name tent cards in front of them for easy recognition by our guest speakers each week.
  7. Each student presents a 20-minute speech on an event that they’ve attended or helped with over the past six months. This exercise builds their comfort with public speaking. They develop a PowerPoint presentation and speak without the use of notes. They discuss the who/what/when/where/why of the gathering. We hear about the venue, what social media brought them to the event, what they would enhance and other observations. The student is graded on their presentation style and level of detail that they presented.
  8. Mid-terms are assigned where each student writes a 6-page summary on the first half of the semester. I ask them to reflect on their course highlights; guest faculty, chapter readings, volunteers service and student presentations and share their learnings and perspectives. This is an opportunity for each student to clearly articulate what they learned and identify areas for future growth.
  9. Student finals are a collaborative effort. Teams of five to six students are created at the beginning of the semester. Their “finals” include the creation of an event; a gathering that they will produce and present to a panel of faculty judges and their fellow classmates. They have one hour to deliver a detailed and comprehensive presentation in front of the class that covers their budget, venue and logistics plan, food and beverage offerings, social media campaign, staffing and volunteer grid, logo, signage, promotions, security, insurance and committee planning timeline. It’s an enormous exercise that takes nearly 16-weeks to complete. In the end they’ve learned about teamwork and how much planning and effort goes into the making of a meeting or special event.
  10. Lastly, as their professor I strive to be available to my students as an advisor, coach and mentor during the semester and long after the class concludes.

Teaching is an outstanding way to share our knowledge and give back to our industry. Each of us who teaches at the college level receives so much in return from our students.