“The more involved you are, the more you get out of it,” explains Sara Blayne, CMP. That philosophy helps explain why she is so active in the meeting and events industry. As General Manager of the Lynnwood Convention Center, in Lynnwood, Washington, Blayne works for SMG, the highly successful facilities management company. She oversees a busy venue that hosts more than 470 events a year. In addition, she serves on the Board of Directors of the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau, and she is this year’s president-elect of Meeting Planners International (MPI) Washington State Chapter.
Blayne was destined for a career in the hospitality industry from an early age. “Growing up in Kingston, Washington, I loved watching the cruise ships sailing on Puget Sound, and that inspired me.” A college internship in the events department of a hotel exposed her to the field of convention services, and she enjoyed it from the start. It is clear that this is more than just a job for her.
At the end of the day, you have to enjoy what you are doing.
GETTING INVOLVED IN THE INDUSTRY
“I need to volunteer because I want to get everything I can out of the experience,” she says. Blayne says that she has always been focused on continuing her education. She continues to gain knowledge through her participation in all aspects of the industry. She values her involvement in MPI for a variety of reasons. “I like the networking and meeting new people. I value the relationships that I build through the organization, and I love to learn from the speakers at the events.”
Blayne sees her service on the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau as a win-win. “I began by asking myself how I could help support the local economy and support its growth,” she remarks. She feels that the experience helps her grow as a person while she is serving her community. At the same time, her participation in the Bureau drives success for the Convention Center.
CREATING A SUCCESSFUL EVENT
Through her years of experience in the events industry, both as an event planner and a supplier, Blayne has a good idea about what makes a successful event. She describes the event planner’s job in terms of a wheel. The planner is the hub with all the aspects that need attention radiating out like spokes. “Being flexible is a key. Things change, so you have to have a plan B and be ready to move on it,” she says.
She has found that it is necessary to step back occasionally and see things from a bigger perspective, to pay attention to the details but keep her eye on how the details fit into the larger picture. Organization is also a key. Planners have to juggle many responsibilities so being organized is essential for success. Finally, she says “have fun and don’t let it stress you out.”
FINDING THE TIME
She loves working at the Convention Center because of the variety of work. Every day is different and every event has special requirements. “I love the interactions and meeting people,” she says. How does she find the time to be actively involved in so many areas? Blayne acknowledges, “You have to be very organized. You have to be able to go with the flow and prioritize when necessary.” She adds, “At the end of the day, you have to enjoy what you are doing.”
Sara Blayne, General Manager