Events Council Blog

One-on-One with the 2017 Hall of Leaders: Janet Sperstad

Sep 08, 2017

On October 10, the Events Industry Council will induct three new members into the Hall of Leaders. Continuing the tradition of celebrating the best and brightest in the events industry, the Hall of Leaders awards gala will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada, during IMEX America.

Over the course of the next three weeks, the Events Industry Council will go one-on-one with the three honorees, tapping their insight on what it means to be a leader and their advice for a new generation of leadership in the events industry. 

This week, we go one-on-one with Janet Sperstad, CMP, Program Director, Meeting and Event Management, Madison College. Janet has dedicated her career to defining the competencies and career pathways that articulate meeting planning as a discipline requiring skills in the social sciences, executive leadership, and the cognitive sciences. She created the United States’ first Associate Degree in Meeting and Event Management at Madison College in Madison, Wisconsin, where she currently serves as Program Director, and was instrumental in the development of a graduate program in meeting management through the Copenhagen Business School. 

Perhaps her single most important contribution to the industry has been her work with the U.S. Department of Labor where she was a member of the US Department of Labor, Hospitality, Tourism and Event Industry Competency Model Task Force. This work lead the DOL to establish the events industry as its own sector and established occupational standards identifying key competencies for those working the profession.

Events Industry Council: What makes for a strong leader and please describe the impact it has had on your career?

Sperstad: A leader communicates a clear vision, brings clarity around that vision, and harnesses others’ energy towards that vision. My role in our profession has consistently been to drive towards one thing: how do we best define this profession? What competencies are essential to mastering our craft? How do we define excellence in this craft? And what do we need to communicate so that businesses and our industry understand and value those competencies?

These competencies have been fundamental to my career, whether planning an expo for 10,000 hair professionals, planning a national conference of government officials six months after September 11, developing a lesson plan that creates the next generation of meeting professionals, or applying neuroscience principles to event design. 

Events Industry Council: What advice would you give to others who are pursuing a leadership path in their career?

Sperstad: Our industry is overwhelmingly female, but that percentage is still not reflected in the leadership of our industry organizations. As a woman leading in the classroom and in the boardroom, I’ve learned that language matters. Language is a powerful tool we can use to position ourselves and our ideas.  I encourage my students to speak up in meetings – be one of the first three to speak. I tell them to use their words to influence others – to articulate clearly and concisely so that others can understand and react to their ideas. I help my students find their voice so that they can make a difference as they collaborate with others.

Events Industry Council: Describe what Events Industry Council has meant to your career and what it is like to be named an inductee into the Hall of Leaders.

Sperstad: This truly has been a watershed moment for me. When I received notice about being inducted in the Hall of Leaders, it made me stop in my tracks—which says a lot. The last 30+ years have been a constant push to advance our profession. I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to many different organizations. Receiving the call about the Events Industry Council Hall of Leaders made me stop and recognize that although there’s still plenty of work to do, we’ve also made a lot of progress. Meeting and event management is beginning to separate itself from hospitality as a separate profession. My own program is housed in the School of Business, not the Hospitality Program. There are now graduate degrees in meeting and event management, global and government standards around our competencies, dozens of degree programs. These are huge leaps forward.

When an organization like the Events Industry Council takes the time to thank you for all that you have done and what you have meant to our profession, it truly lifts you up. I am a person who is constantly moving forward; this honor has made me stop and look back for a moment on my accomplishments and how they contributed to our progress.