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Jan Hennessey

By Jan Hennessey, CMP, CMM | Oct 14, 2020

Serving on the MPI International Board of Directors and MPI Foundation Global Board of Trustees are among the highlights of my career. They were great opportunities to work with some of the industry’s brightest and help shape the programs of the association.

Event professionals are perfectly suited to lead in this time of disruption. We’re used to adapting to change quickly, so I am excited to be working on large all-digital events for the first time and learning how to create unique experiences. Having said that, I love in-person events and I continue to be focused on helping my company get back to face-to-face/hybrid events as soon and as safely as possible.  

Almost overnight, my team, the marketing department and I had to retrain and learn how to produce digital events and make them engaging. With the help of industry and vendor webinars (and trial and error), we are getting pretty good at it!  Besides bringing in speakers and tightening content, we have brought in a DJ, sent out local treats from the original destination, played trivia games and had an instructor-led fitness break to recover from Zoom fatigue. I love learning new things, so I look at this whole experience as an opportunity to quickly adapt and move into this new normal. This would have happened eventually, but this crisis created a rapid change. My expectation is that this new way of meeting and working will benefit everyone, from our hospitality industry partners to our participants.

The cancellation of events has been the most challenging part of this crisis, as we continuously discuss hotel penalties and try to project if/when we can rebook in the future. It is a bad situation for both sides, so we have to be fair and negotiate in good faith. I have been through a period of time like this before, and I know that the cooperative, empathetic partners will be the long-term winners.

I belong to several associations and gain insights from members in all of them—especially in times like these. It takes a certain kind of person to excel in the event world and we all share a love for this crazy industry!

A hotel sales manager suggested I check out MPI. Early on, David Kliman asked me to join a new committee in the Northern California Chapter called “Breakfast Club.” We threw together our first ever BC and had 40 people show up! That was the beginning of a long career of volunteer leadership that provided professional development I could not have gotten on the job.  MPI became my professional family and an important resource for the growth of my career. It has also given me the opportunity to give back and welcome new professionals into the fold.

Everyone needs to give a little in order to bring live events back. This is an industry filled with creative people, so if we work together, we can find ways to deliver great face-to-face and hybrid meetings produced safely and economically.   This is happening already, and we will all learn from those out on the front line.

My vocation started as an avocation. I have had a love of entertaining and planning experiences since I was a child, and I still love to cook, entertain and design environments. But my heart belongs to my family, which now, I am delighted to say, includes grandchildren.



Jan Hennessey, CMP, CMM

Jan Hennessey, CMP, CMM, is director, events for AssetMark Inc. and a member of the MPI Chicago Area Chapter. She joined MPI in 1988.