Blog > Member Spotlight

Stephanie Gunn

By Stephanie Gunn | Nov 6, 2020

My introduction to event planning was serving on several different boards of directors. I either chaired or was part of the planning committee. Meeting planning happened organically as a business coordinator for the National Pork Board. Along with our Meeting Services department, I planned various details for department and organization meetings. When the previous director of Meeting Services retired, I applied for the job and, based on past experience, I was promoted to the position!

Our largest meeting is the National Pork Industry Forum (NPIF) with approximately 500 attendees. It may not be large in comparison to many other associations, but has many moving pieces and requires a great amount of planning and detail. The first NPIF held after starting this position was a huge accomplishment for me.

I am working toward my CMP certification. I feel obtaining the CMP is an important goal, and hope to have this completed within the next year or two.

I spent the first few months of the quarantine canceling 2020 meetings. Canceling contracts took a toll on me, and I struggled with the unknown during those first few months. I found daily meditation and self-care made a huge difference. I am grateful that the National Pork Board recognizes the importance of keeping our Meeting Services department working.

I am a huge believer that in-person meetings are the best way to network, relay information, educate and entertain. I am currently working to book live meetings for 2021 with the understanding that some people will be more comfortable not meeting in person. With that, we are focusing on the best way to offer hybrid meetings. 

Meeting room temperature is always my biggest challenge. If I had a dollar for every increase or decrease in temperature I have asked for, I would be a rich woman. It seems trivial, but it is not. Just ask the people.

Until I became a meeting and event planner, I had no idea just how many things I could juggle. My multi-tasking skills have improved immensely. Never think your skills are good enough—you will find they can always be better!

I love working with the people within my organization and the various hotels/venues to plan a successful meeting. As stressful as this job can be, there is not a day that I don’t have a good laugh over something.

I worked as the executive assistant to Barry Griswell, former CEO of Principal Financial Group, while he was the corporate chair of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) “Walk to Cure Diabetes.” He had complete trust that I would ensure we had successful fundraising events. I was very nervous as this was my first foray into event planning. Planning this event for a Fortune 500 company and ensuring we were successful in supporting the JDRF of Central Iowa was a huge undertaking. Barry never doubted me and knew we would be successful. Barry passed away suddenly this year, but I will never forget him and his faith in me.

MPI came out on top as the organization to join when I was looking for a way to learn as much as I could about event and meeting planning. I have participated in both MPI national and chapter events, which has allowed me the privilege of meeting so many wonderful people who understand the successes and challenges of a meeting and event planner. We all “get” each other!

We need to get back to meeting in person! I am anxious to have live meetings but realize we need to ensure it happens carefully and with a focus on the health of our attendees. Planners and venues will continue to work hard to offer creative and safe food and beverage options as well as meeting room setups that will mitigate the spread of viruses. We are all in this together.

More than any other industry, I feel our industry needs to focus on human trafficking. We are in the airports and in the hotels. We need to continue investing time and energy.

The biggest joys in my life are the people who call me “mom” or “wife.” My son Andrew is in flight school to become a commercial airline pilot and my daughter-in-law Karli is a pharmacist for Eli Lilly. My daughter Adriana is a senior in college attending Northwest Missouri State University, majoring in Spanish and international business. Our youngest, Alexa, is a junior at Ankeny Centennial High School and very involved in show choir, cross country and soccer. My husband Scott and I are passionate about traveling around the U.S. and Mexico. Next year we hope to travel to Europe for several weeks to celebrate our 30th anniversary.



Stephanie Gunn

Stephanie Gunn is director, Meeting Services, for the National Pork Board and a member of the MPI Heartland Chapter. She has been an MPI member since 2017.