Like so many others in meeting planning, Dean Jones, RCMA’s new director of conferences and events, didn’t aim to become a meeting planner. It just happened—and for that he’s grateful. “I grew up in a cornfield in southern Illinois,” he says with an easy laugh. “I wanted to study electronics, and so I went to Southern Illinois University and earned an associate degree.”

From there he moved to Nashville to continue his education and completed a degree in education and history from Free Will Baptist College. Upon graduation, however, his career took off in a different direction when he was hired to work in the youth ministry department of the National Association of Free Will Baptists Inc. in Nashville, Tenn. Eventually he became the director of the NAFWB’s youth department and conference, and he later was appointed convention manager for the organization.

While working for the organization, he went on to get his Master’s degree in event management from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

“Parenthetically, I can say that the electronics part of my education has come in very handy over the years,” Jones says, recalling all of the power cords, phone jacks, computer cables, and AV wires he’s had to figure out over the years as a meeting organizer.

In 2006, Collinson Media & Events hired Jones to launch Rejuvenate Marketplace, and he worked for five years for the Atlanta-based company before joining RCMA staff as its first director of conferences and events. “I’ve had a long history with RCMA prior to joining its leadership team. I became a member in 1989, attended for many years, taught tutorials, and enjoyed the networking and camaraderie it provided me.”

Jones, who has lived in Nashville for more than 25 years, will continue to live there with his wife and three teenage daughters, with frequent travel to RCMA’s office in Indianapolis.

WHY MEETING PLANNING?

Jones may not have grown up planning to be a meeting planner, but it certainly has become a deeply satisfying career for him. What does he like best about it? “I’ve said this before and it’s still true for me—like most people in faith-based meeting planning, the opportunity to plan life-changing events is very rewarding.”

What he likes least about meeting planning, he pauses for more than a few seconds to answer. “I would say it’s the fear that comes with passing off my event to a hotel or convention center that doesn’t get it—they’re not on my team, but instead I’m just another piece of business to them. My partners are always people who do get it, who work with me as a team. That’s why I will always pick people over places when it comes to choosing a meeting destination. That’s how important partnership is.”

[Check out Dean Jones’ new blog: deanology.com]