Corporate Meetings & Incentives: Why did you decide to volunteer as region chair and what do you like about it?  

Shelia Cleary:I have volunteered my whole life. From causes that have driven me personally, to the fulfillment of bringing people together professionally, it is a way of giving back to make us all stronger. I love planners and hospitality partners: FICP is a great organization that is built around relationships and the betterment of its members. It shows. I think it is important for all of us to be involved. Associations are fragile, and it is the membership that will enable an organization to thrive or falter. By volunteering as region chair, I have the opportunity to do whatever I can to make this happen. Although it is a cliché, I feel strongly that you receive so much more than what you give.


What has been the biggest benefit of FICP membership for you?

First, relationships. Second, education.  This association provides the best support to address the needs specific to our industry.

What do you wish you had more time for in your job?    

Figuring out where I could fit in exercise!

What is your best travel tip?   

Make sure you have those "necessities" for overnight delays in strange locations, generally the airport. Another tip: Plastic (yes, the kind you get from the dry cleaners) is the best way for hang-up items to travel wrinkle free in your suitcase.

What do you see as planners’ main challenges in the year ahead and how will you meet those challenges?

Cost containment is huge. With airlines merging, fewer flights/seats available, and increased demand, expenses are increasing at a faster pace than what our companies can afford. Similarly with hotels, it is a seller's market in many destinations, and costs are going up at a faster rate than company budgets will allow. Our challenge is to continue to provide excellent service and memorable experiences, exceeding expectations without giving up the level of quality our companies demand. I feel it is important as planners to communicate with potential suppliers the meaning of value and partnerships. Relationships are critical, as are listening skills, providing solutions to problems, not just looking at the bottom line (I have been around long enough to have lived through the cyclical nature of supply and demand on both sides of the business), and developing trust.  

Can you share one of your top “lessons learned” from your meeting planning career?   

Prepare for the unexpected (plans b, c, and more), be flexible, and smile.

If you got an unexpected day off, what are the top three things you would do with your extra time?   

Do something fun with my family, date night with my husband, glass of wine with friends. I cannot get enough of each!