By Anita D. Nuñez
It all began with a simple concept and a lot of pasión (passion). The concept was to create a comfortable place where Latino meeting professionals in the Washington, D.C., area could network with one another while exchanging ideas and enhancing their knowledge within the industry. The pasión came from the desire to connect with others from similar cultures to create a strong and clear voice for Latinos in the meetings industry. Hence, the Network of Latino Meeting Professionals was born.
The statistics are impressive: One out of seven people in the United States is Latino or Hispanic-record growth for any U.S. minority group. Accordingly, the number of national Hispanic organizations is also growing. Currently, there are more than 50 national Hispanic organizations in the Washington, D.C., area and more than 7,000 nationwide.
The Network of Latino Meeting Professionals took root after a focus group was formed in November to address the needs of the growing number of Latinos in the meetings industry.
“We want to start a network for all Latino meeting professionals that will provide a nurturing environment and foster the exchange of ideas,” said Jeannette Gonzalez, CEO of Agora Occasions and one of The NETWORK charter board members.
Focusing on Shared Values
It’s inevitable that some will question the need for such a group? The answer is simple: One of the core values of the Latino culture is the need to relate and interconnect with one another. Relationships take priority in everyday life. Our family ties are strong and friendships are essential. So why not create an opportunity for Latinos to foster and strengthen relationships with their meetings industry peers? Why not create a network of professionals who can share the same education, values, interests and concerns while learning and enhancing their careers?
For suppliers, there is a critical need for a group like this. Many suppliers are assigned to specifically work with the Hispanic market. To do this effectively, we need a forum to network with Hispanic meeting planners on a regular basis-a way to develop more inclusive relationships to show the Hispanic community that our organizations value their business. Strong relationships are also the foundation of being a successful supplier, and The NETWORK enhances that opportunity. To be able to have education, discussion and networking on a monthly basis with local planners is the perfect way to meet new acquaintances and create value for our organizations.
The NETWORK meetings are scheduled for the third Friday of each month and are designed as a series of educational sessions to walk planners through the steps of creating successful meetings. The first session, “How to Perform a Critical Analysis of Your Meeting,” took place in January and aimed to provide a comfortable and unique setting for first-time attendees. Three seasoned meetings industry professionals attended as panelists and provided perspectives on how to measure meeting value.
Anna Lopez, executive director of UNITY: Journalists of Color; Barbara Zamora, program director of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies; and Anne Roth, CMP, key account director of InterContinental Hotels Group, shared their views with approximately 25 meeting professionals-17 were Latino meeting planners. The interactive discussion covered issues such as the importance of obtaining an organization’s critical production numbers from hotels and utilizing CVBs in order to locate Latino vendors in a city.
However, The NETWORK job doesn’t end there. It plans to provide developmental programs to its members such as a mentor/protégé program pairing new Latino meeting professionals with industry mentors to provide guidance in professional growth and career development. Another program is a CMP study group to give members the tools and resources to complete the CMP exam.
Full Speed Ahead
The enthusiasm behind this organization is driven by the founding board of directors, which consists of a dynamic group of women with abundant experience working in the multicultural marketplace. These professionals have kept an eye on the industry’s growing diversity, fostering strong relationships with minority leaders and planners. So when the opportunity surfaced to establish a Latino meeting professionals network, these women volunteered their time to building it as a place for interpersonal support, guidance, mutual exchange, sharing of wisdom and coaching.
The future looks bright for The NETWORK – the buzz is spreading and interest is rapidly growing. The NETWORK will be busy this year infusing innovation into its design and strategy. It is time for Latinos in the meetings industry to unite and help each other grow and excel beyond expectations…ya es tiempo-it is time!
To learn more about The NETWORK of Latino Meeting Professionals, visit their Web site at www.nlmponline.org.
ANITA D. NUÑEZ is associate director of sales at The Beacon Hotel and Corporate Quarters, a board member of the Network of Latino Meeting Professionals and a member of the MPI Potomac Chapter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.