Mission: talent support

Saturday, 12.05.2018

They are facilitators of talented people and on the lookout for specialists; four experts describe their motivations to be a mentor and their challenges. They encourage people to take opportunities.


Development. You don’t have to have 20 years of professional experience to be a mentor. All you need are certain talents and an appreciation of others with talent. Two people who fit that particular bill are Sarah Skavron, a Knowledge and Events Executive at the IMEX Group, and Isabelle Zwingenberger, the Director of the Internationale Event- & Congress Akademie (IECA). Both put their heart and soul into paving the way for talented people. “The MICE industry is not just a very important sector of the economy; it is also incredibly diverse and challenging,” emphasises Zwingenberger.

“I love to work with experts in the field and to identify what requirements people in the industry will have to meet in future – and then to develop relevant educational content and ideas,” says the Director of the IECA. “The further training and education we offer has to be in tune with the times.” The latest seminar concept is on the issue of event psychology. The first seminar was held in January, led by Steffen Ronft. Demand is such that he will be imparting his knowledge on two other dates in 2018 as well.

Facilitating learning by “creating effective further education programmes that add value” is integral to Sarah Skavron’s professional mission. She organises the Future Leader Forum (FLF) and aims to encourage the participants to take the right path, identify opportunities and find people who will help them. Six years ago, Skavron was herself a student participant in the FLF during Meetings Week Sweden. A lot has happened since then: “I learned a lot thanks to the FLF and made contacts that led to work experience and my job at IMEX. It was also profoundly inspiring.”

She is thankful to her role models Dale Hudson of IMEX, Joyce Dogniez, at that time of MPI, and Angelina van den Broecke, Sales and Marketing Director at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. “These three women really inspired me. Now I constantly strive to provide others with the kind of insights I myself gained and to help the leaders of tomorrow to find their way,” explains Skavron. “I want to encourage them to take opportunities, realise their potential and believe they can achieve even more than they think.”

A personal loss in the family when Sarah was 17 caused her to reflect on “what is really important – and what I want to achieve”. One aspect of that is to see the world and experience different cultures, which she did with the Franco-German Youth Office (FGYO), for example. “Not only did I think programmes like that were wonderful; I hoped to work on them myself. Then later I discovered the meeting industry and realised it was just right for me,” explains Skavron. “That’s why it is still key for me to be able to bring together people from different backgrounds and break down barriers (in people’s minds).”

Carole McKellar, CMM, HelmsBriscoe’s Managing Director for Northern Europe, has similar aims. She places great value on being inclusive and breaking down barriers and reservations: “I hear from many planners that they find it a challenge to recruit the right people from the pool of talented individuals available,” says McKellar.

“The solution is to access the untapped pool of talent amongst young people needing to gain experience and those with special needs, who can provide valuable support to meeting planners with the right training and development programme.” Many planners view providing support to social initiatives as a challenge due to the increasing demands to achieve business objectives. “The MPI Foundation and HelmsBriscoe, through the “HB Cares #autismproject”, have been supporting work placements for young adults with autism, resulting in increased awareness of and confidence in the value of this approach amongst employers,” reports the meetings expert.

Peter Antoni, Managing Director of C&T, Conference & Touring Berlin, and another who is a meeting professional with heart and soul, sees recruitment as the biggest challenge: “We are growing nicely and constantly. We offer good training internally, and many of our senior managers began as interns, apprentices or junior staff. Nevertheless, we are just as dependent on repeatedly finding experienced staff, not least because of the high proportion of women and the time they take off when they have children.”

The job market these days is becoming increasingly difficult. “We have certain requirements in terms of cultural skills, multilingualism, flexibility and individuality,” explains Antoni. “People join when there are existing teams in place and the machinery is running at full tilt – which is not always easy. We don’t often look for all-round event managers; we tend to look for specialists.” Facilitators like Isabelle Zwingenberger, Sarah Skavron and Carole McKellar can undoubtedly be of help there.

Katrin Schmitt