Welcome to my new monthly column! Each month I will spotlight a new planner. If you’re interested in being profiled, please contact me at Lisa.Kraus@PlanYourMeetings.com. This month, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to Kimberly Roberts, CMP, CSEP.
Thank you, Kimberly, for taking time out of your busy schedule! How long have you been a meeting planner?
Almost 17 years. Wow, I cannot believe I have been doing this for that long!
How long have you been with UniPro Foodservice, Inc.; and what is your current title and responsibilities?
I have been with UniPro Foodservice, Inc. for one and half years. I am the Manager of Meetings & Conventions. UniPro is a co-op of food distributors, and I help plan over 25 meetings per year, from incentive shows to food trade shows, which always include appointment-style vendor fairs. We plan all over the world, so I travel extensively. I’ve been to Budapest, Munich, Los Cabos, Hawaii, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Chicago, Washington D.C., and all over Florida and Arizona, just to name a few places.
Sounds like fun. Do you enjoy traveling?
Traveling for business is very different than traveling for leisure, in that there really isn’t much time for any leisure activity at all. I seldom even leave the meeting site. I pretty much hit the ground running, and it doesn’t stop. Plus, these are my clients, so the last thing I want them to see is me at the pool, just “hanging out.”
What can you share about any past experiences?
Before UniPro, I was with the third-largest law firm in Atlanta. I was the Conferences Manager, and supported over 650 attorneys and staff. Our offices were in the downtown Bank of America building, and we occupied 14 floors. I organized and planned all sorts of meetings, such as luncheons, depositions, staff meetings, receptions and even tailgating parties.
What do you like best about your job and why did you choose meeting planning as a profession?
I definitely like seeing the end result. It is so rewarding. I like knowing that the event flowed smoothly and that none of the guests or vendors were ever aware of any of the behind-the-scenes work that went into it.
Can you tell me about various organizations in which you’re active, your role in each, and why you feel they’re important?
Well, I am a member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), and the International Special Events Society (ISES). I think organizations such as these help keep me abreast of what’s going on in the industry, and they are great networking tools. You never know whom you’re going to meet, and what business may develop from that. I was recently a panel speaker for “What do buyers really want?” at the last two ISES world conferences, which were held in Canada in 2007 and Florida in 2008. I am also involved with the Junior League of DeKalb County and the Atlanta Chapter Urban League. I enjoy community service and I feel it is my way of “giving back.”
What advice can you offer to new or aspiring planners?
Join an association and get involved immediately. Ask questions, always demonstrate your skill set, shadow an experienced planner or be an intern, anything that will help you improve and learn. And know that you have to pay your dues. Experience is key, and that comes with time.
You are currently teaching several online meeting planning courses. Can you elaborate on this?
Believe it or not, I started teaching because I wanted a new challenge. With my job, I sometimes tend to get in auto-mode, and I wanted some new experiences. Also, it is a great way to prepare for my future, so that when I am married and have a family, I can teach online and still be a stay-at-home mom, if I want. I have an MBA in marketing, and I was an adjunct teacher at Georgia Perimeter College from 2002 – 2008, and offered continuing education courses. That really helped me segue into online teaching. Also, by teaching online classes, I have flexibility with my time and do not have to compromise any hours needed with my current job. I love sharing my extensive experience with students, and providing them with a real-world view of event planning. Currently, I teach a business course for the University of Phoenix, event planning and management for DeVry University, and a host of hospitality classes for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
How can planners and industry professionals contact you for more information?
Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa Kraus is the Director of Marketing & Audience Development and a contributing writer for Plan Your Meetings. She enjoys traveling, music, reading, and is an avid cat lover. She is currently working on writing her first book, a business guide for customer service and employee management.