On the 20th of this month, bigwigs of the convention industry will gather in Boston at the Convention Industry Council's biennial Hall of Leaders gala to honor six inductees, all of whom have significantly contributed to the meetings industry. Among them will be Virginia M. Lofft, who retired a few years ago as vice president/publishing director of The Meetings Group (which includes this magazine and four others). As she accepts a well-deserved honor that night, I will be there remembering the day, 25 years ago, that she interviewed me for a job as editorial assistant at Successful Meetings, where she was the editor-in-chief.
Then, as now, the air seemed to crackle around Virginia. She's not the kind of woman you'll ever find eating bonbons by the television set, or around whom you'll forget to dot your i's and cross your t's, especially if you want to work for her as an editor. Though she cast a doubtful eye at my shoes, which were probably a bit scuffed, Virginia offered me the job the next day. Just out of college, and with my head full of Hunter Thompson (idol of would-be journalists at the time), I had yet to learn that the condition of one's shoes is very important in the business world. It was the beginning of a long grooming process, one for which I am grateful to Virginia Lofft.
Besides learning about shoes, I learned about sentences. To cure my tendency to write especially long ones, Virginia had me write hotel descriptions for a back page of the magazine with columns about as wide as a couple of toothpicks. I was writing haiku-like descriptions in no time. Then there was the lesson about the head and the deck. Taking pity on my struggle to write an article for which I had copious notes but no direction, Virginia suggested: “Hey, Ace, why don't you figure out the head and the deck before you start writing the story?” Presto! I smacked out 2,500 words.
Years later I filled in for Virginia on a trip she had been scheduled to take to Japan — a six-city tour in 11 days, culminating in my giving a speech to a group of Japanese tourist officials who viewed Virginia Lofft as the Christopher Columbus of international meetings — and who would no doubt be disappointed to find me instead of her speaking to them from the podium.
Virginia had only two pieces of advice before I left: Learn the protocol for exchanging business cards, and include lots of statistics in my presentation.
The speech and the trip were a success, though there wasn't a chance I could fill Virginia's shoes. I'm still polishing.
For more of Regina's editor's notes, click here.