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6 Questions with Karen Norris

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By: Karen Norris, CMP | Oct 11, 2022

Name and designations: Karen Norris, CMP
Position: Director, Strategy, Programs and Services
Employer: The Canadian Dermatology Association 
Joined MPI in: 2009

Contact information
Linked IN: Karen Norris


What has been the biggest challenge in your career?

The COVID-19 pandemic is the easy answer, but that was a short-term (relatively speaking) challenge. I would say overall & long term, it has been the slow adoption of hiring staff based on emotional quotients versus intelligence quotients. I have worked with some very bright individuals from an IQ perspective but who lack basic emotional intelligence. Our industry is 90% relationship based. Anyone can be taught how to build a budget or how to reply to an RFP bid. Lacking the ability to communicate with a team, manage stress and/or empathize with others will consistently be a barrier to a truly successful event and building a long-term partnership.

What is the biggest challenge facing our industry today and what should we do about it?

The responsibility event professionals have on lowering the carbon footprint with their events and building more sustainable events for the future.

To combat this, the first step event professionals should to do is educate themselves about the impact mass gatherings have on the environment (spoiler alert: we’re one of the worst offenders). Both MPI Global and the Events Industry Council have courses and resources to help event professionals in this process:

MPI Global Sustainable Event Strategist Course

Events Industry Council Centre for Sustainability and Social Impact

It’s also useful to rely on those who are more educated than we are in this subject area. For example, at my last medical association, I partnered with one of our members who was recently appointed as the Director of Planetary Health for his hospital. We had Zoom meetings where I proposed ideas on how to reduce our conference’s environmental impact and how to educate our physicians on site about how they can help. His academic and practical experience was so useful in letting me know if I was heading in the right direction and how best to deliver our messaging so that it would resonate with our target audience (which were his colleagues).

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

If you asked me this before COVID, I would have said ‘nothing’, as my passion and extracurricular hours were found within the meetings and events industry. I recently gave an interview to Smart Meetings Magazine about the reckoning I had when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and what I discovered about diversifying your interests outside your job and the huge impact it can have on your life and (ironically) on your career’s growth. I would encourage our members to read the interview HERE to avoid making the same mistakes I did.  

What’s the best advice someone gave you?

“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply.”

What advice would you give to someone considering being a volunteer?

Volunteer in an area that you are not 100% confident in. If you work in social media professionally, you’ll be a rock star on our chapter’s marketing/communications committee, but, will you really be learning anything new that can help you in your personal and professional growth? I started volunteering with MPI Ottawa on the Member Care committee because I had just started working for an association that is membership-based. I knew I could gain a better understanding of member-value programs, “perceived” value versus “actual” value etc. I took numerous ideas back to my employer that I learned within the MPI Ottawa committee to implement at our own association which resulted in more membership engagement and revenue growth.

Time is a finite and precious resource. Your time spent on anything including volunteering should always be moving you towards a larger goal personally or professionally.

Darlene Headshot Article edited by Darlene Kelly-Stewart, Stonehouse Sales & Marketing Services



Karen Norris, CMP
Director, Strategy, Programs and Services at The Canadian Dermatology Association


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