Honorable Mention Chapter Award
Honorable Mention Chapter Award

MPI RISE Awards: Greg Elam, Meeting Industry Leadership

Jul 19, 2021, 13:06 PM by Blair Potter
Meeting Industry Leadership honors those rare individuals who by visionary hard work and creative insight have positively changed the global meeting and event industry.
Meet Greg Elam (MPI Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter), who received the 2021 MPI RISE Award for Meeting Industry Leadership. This award honors those rare individuals who by visionary hard work and creative insight have positively changed the global meeting and event industry. It recognizes sustained commitment and substantial contributions to the meeting and event community.

What inspired you during your career? 

There are a number of things that inspire one going to work and doing a superior job. To be a leader, you really must be a team builder. If you keep people well informed, interested and wanting to improve the mission, you will get enhanced results. The other side of it is that a meeting professional knows their audience better than anyone else in the organization. You have a sense of what they like, what they don’t like, how they respond and how to help inspire them. These characteristics help you to improve whatever you are involved in and mega positive results happen. Writing letters of appreciation to suppliers is valuable to them. Even sending a note to someone who you know did something special that no one else realizes. I call these events “silent victories.”

This award honors “sustained commitment and substantial contributions to the meeting and event community.” What does it mean for you to receive it?

I did not nominate myself, but it came from others that valued my support of their organization and the benefits that kept happening. I believe that Meeting Professionals International offers a unique career-building relationship because it supports sharing of valuable information and gives support to each other. You tend to look back on a career rather than always looking forward and it can be very satisfying. I helped change the name from Meeting Planners International to Meeting Professionals International because the membership was way beyond simply “putting together a meeting” like a secretary could, but instead the building of an experience valuable to the attendees and to the sponsoring company. I then helped create the CMP certification program because, again, it was a way to not only support skills and information to members, but it was proof of skill availability within MPI. I even helped move headquarters to Dallas from a small town in Ohio. All of this had to do with developing an image and providing more useful and valuable resources for members. Many others joined in these crusades of mine and we were all the benefactors and the beneficiaries. Each of these things enhanced career paths for us all.

What inspired you to become a meeting planner? 

We aren’t alone in life. We are surrounded by others and I found many “planner’s skills” influenced the pleasantness of my days and nights and feeling of worthwhileness. Meeting professionals daily have the really unique opportunity to touch lives favorably and to watch those results improve others’ careers. It is such a positive thing to see that you have done something important for someone else. It actually grows with your life’s experience and it becomes natural to touch other people’s lives and what is positive for them. Your own skills are so valuable that a meeting planner should find additional ways to help others beyond their own career path. There are charities that would be greatly impacted by your understanding and background. I joined the local chapter of the American Cancer Society and soon was state of Texas volunteer chair of public information and built the largest unit of any state in the United States. I created an advertising theme that went national for a full year because of my background and commitment. Another example is of becoming a member of the board of trustees foundation of the largest private hospital in Dallas. I was the only person that could not donate a building in their name, but the senior staff of the hospital valued my perspective and background to a very significant degree and considered me an asset to them.

What are you most proud of? 

Results. Both within my employment and within “Giving Yourself Away.” A meeting professional does have unique, invaluable skills and background that bring together items that can be turned into pleasing and positive results, even in my own life. I am a barbershop quartet chorus singer, became chapter president, district president and international board member and even raised a far larger sum of money than ever achieved before for their charity on the 50th anniversary of the singing society. I solved an issue for the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau whose image must be focused on bringing meetings and visitors into town and having few opportunities for local organizations and leaders to understand a value to them. I created an annual event that recognized an outstanding citizen of the city and we saluted that person in royal style. That person’s fame brought a large attendance to the banquet and we always created a souvenir for everyone to receive that was related to that person. Quickly the annual event became a big deal and brought focus of pride not only to the city, but to the CVB as well. The CVB became heroes for saluting heroes. It solved an image problem locally. The drum roll was given to the State Fair of Texas, the largest in the country; Southwest Airlines, created in Dallas; The Cotton Bowl Classic, reaching from 1936; The Dallas Cowboys football team; Stanley Marcus, who built Neiman-Marcus, etc. I was also dean for many years of a week-long skills training seminar for the life insurance industry’s public relations, sales promotion, advertising, convention and incentive trips.

What are the benefits of chapter engagement? 

Chapters are the most valuable career-building opportunity for a meeting or event professional. Good people gather and share their experience, their resources and their advice. Suppliers share advice and support. Planners share advice and needs with suppliers. Over and over, through the years, the MPI-DFW Chapter has helped each other and everyone has been enhanced by the experience. Program speakers are helpful, especially when they are within the chapter, but getting to know other people and trusting them and helping them and having them help you is the bottom-line advantage.

How has MPI helped you in your career as a meeting professional?

MPI, as an organization, provides three levels of career support. There is the chapter, and it is where the support begins. There is the annual WEC, where speakers and exhibitors add extra value for the attendees. And there is the core organism, which offers the CMP program, the many, many other educational opportunities and the flow of major industry information that is of importance to the member. These three levels of skill support are priceless for career building.  Through the years I have been a cheerleader.

When you were young, what did you want to do when you grew up? 

From my own high school and college experience I knew I wanted to affect people in a beneficial way for themselves. Instead of being a salesperson, I wanted to touch people in a way that they did better personally. It became apparent that I was sort of a motivator that caused results by channeling the energy of a large number of people. An interesting part of that was that I enjoyed the ride along with everybody else and was never seeking special personal identity. But in truth, greater opportunities always flowed my way, anyway.

What are you most passionate about outside of your career and the meeting industry?

I love touching lives in pleasant and favorable ways. I do pro bono work for charities and find it very stimulating and delightful to behold. The meeting planning background makes all of that happen, indeed. What professional planners take for granted in their skills is what is so needed in other places, and we ought to share ourselves. In truth, there is something else worthy of sharing. You need to practice “Acts of Kindness.” You will feel better when you do and your life, and someone else’s life—and sometimes even a community’s life—will feel better also. Consider the other day: After getting a haircut downtown, I entered the parking garage elevator at the basement level from a connecting hallway. The elevator stopped on the first floor and a flock of people came in as I held the door open. Then I realized there was a mother standing at the machine where you pre-pay your parking ticket. She had a baby in arm, and a very young kid holding onto her skirt as she was bustling through her carry-on bag. She was clearly upset and nervous. I asked if she needed help. She explained she had money somewhere but couldn’t find it. I knew I had a $10 bill in my pocket and I offered it to her and she said she could not take it. I then explained that I was not giving it to her, but was sharing it with her and that she someday needed to pass on a $10 bill to someone else to help their situation. She smiled and was comfortable in taking it. As she was working the machine, and the elevator was full, I stepped back and we closed the door. At each floor that the elevator stopped and a person would get out. Each time they would each turn back to me and smile. Each time, each floor.  Thus, the mother, each person in the elevator car and I were pleased and touched by a small act of thoughtfulness and would tell others about it. I also am a singer in a barbershop harmony style church choir and have even sung in a back-up chorus on stage for the famous Italian blind tenor Andrea Bocelli.

What’s the best advice someone gave you?

A quote: “Be yourself. You aren’t anybody else and you can’t be anybody else. Act the way you think you want to be and you will be better for it.”

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in meetings and events?

Were you to choose to become a meeting planner, the skills and human reflectiveness you will acquire will personally serve you well. In truth, those skills will give you great value that you can use all your life in whatever career your pathway takes you. You will have a “Planner’s Heart.” You will be an organizer. You will be sensitive to groups of people and their needs. You will understand budgeting and adjusting to resolve issues. You will understand educational patterns and you will be able to adjust to new situations quickly. You will be valuable to any career opportunity.

Each week, we’re highlighting individuals and chapters that received 2021 RISE Awards. Learn more about Kate Copeland (RISE Award for Member of the Year), the MPI Italia Chapter (RISE Award for Membership Achievement) and the MPI Caribe Mexicano Chapter (RISE Award for Innovative Educational Programming). Visit the blog on July 26 to learn more about Zaman Ishaad (RISE Award for Young Professional Achievement), the MPI Greater New York Chapter (RISE Award for Marketplace Excellence) and the MPI Italia Chapter (RISE Award for Industry Advocate).
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