Creating ISES: Our Tale as Old as Time
By Joe Goldblatt, FRSA, ISES Founding President (1987-1988)
In the Disney Broadway musical “Beauty and the Beast,” Mrs. Potts, the wise teapot, sings “A Tale as Old as Time” to introduce the concept of the beauty and the beast. This same metaphor may also be used to describe the origins and subsequent development of the International Special Events Society (ISES) during the past quarter of a century. In only 25 years, something beautiful was recognized and has been created through ISES to benefit thousands of industry professionals and to subsequently delight millions of guests throughout the world.
Prior to the development of the modern special events industry, this group was generally comprised of a loose collection of musicians, designers, planners and transportation logistics specialists known as destination management companies. It was a classic business example of a small pie being carved into very thin slices.
Twenty-six years ago, The Special Event convention and trade show held its second meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., and several hundred of these event specialists attended. One evening during a long bus ride to the Boca Raton Polo Club for an event, one of the members of this group turned to me and asked, “Joe, why is there not one organization representing all of us?” The man asking this question was, of course, the irrepressible Bob Graves, who was the owner of Mainline Party Rental and the Van Tent Co. in Philadelphia at the time.
I silently pondered his question and then asked him, “What would it take to develop such an organization?” Bob suggested we speak to Carol McKibben, the editor of Special Events magazine. Carol supported this idea and agreed, at my suggestion, to conduct a survey of some of her readers to find out if there was such a need.
Next, Carol provided a small meeting room at the third annual Special Event convention in Dallas on the final day of this event. I sent an invitation to individuals who had a high public profile to invite them to join us for this exploratory meeting. To my amazement, more than 50 people attended. I welcomed the group and introduced the concept of an International Special Events Society that would, as Bob suggested, represent all of us by bringing us closer together for mutual benefit. The goals of the organization would be to encourage professionalism through education and adherence to a code of ethics.
Then came the hard part. Although we had enjoyed a strong economy marked by the rapid growth of the special events industry in America, the economy was beginning to slow. I knew it would require significant funds to launch and sustain the new organization. So, I took out my checkbook and wrote a check for $200 and invited the others to join me. Once again, I was amazed and heartened when almost everyone in that room wrote a check or made a pledge to support the new organization.
I then proposed that we reconvene in 90 days to elect our inaugural board and officers. The group appointed me as chair of the task force to form the new organization. During the next 90 days, meetings were held by small groups in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and throughout the United States to draft the organization's bylaws and code of ethics, nominate the first board and officers, establish the annual dues and budget, and attend to other important tasks.
Talented and generous volunteer leaders — such as Michael and Julie Loshin, Bob Bargen, Joe Van Eron, Marc Rose, David and Mary Ellen Shuppert, Janet Lee, Bob Graves, Craig Mitchell, Alan Elias, Alice Conway, Rita Bloom Smith and many others — traveled throughout the United States at their own expense to conduct these important meetings. These pioneering men and women were the first in the special events industry to make a conscious decision to stop carving up what had been a small pie and instead work together to create a bigger one to benefit all.
Ninety days later we met in Atlanta and elected the board and officers, approved the budget and dues structure, appointed the first executive director, and adopted the industry's first-ever code of ethics. At this same meeting, we proposed the development of a professional certification entitled Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) and a conference for professional development (which was held six months later and has been consistently conducted now for 25 years). We were off and running.
During the next few years, the organization slowly grew in numbers, scope and quality. This was primarily due to the hard, unselfish work of the volunteer leadership at both the national and chapter levels, and the expert and hardworking professional staff members that have included Corinne Zane Dudine, Tom Hinton, Barbara Shore, Sharon Gorup, Kevin Hacke, Kristin Prine, Meghan Miller, Tom McCurrie and Lauren Rini. These people, working effectively together for all of us, are primarily responsible for the successful organization that ISES has become today.
A quarter of a century ago, the ISES visionaries recognized that something beautiful could be brought forth from within an industry that was at one time fragmented, amateurish and even distrustful of one another. In just 25 years, ISES has become internationally recognized as the leading organization and certification program for special event professionals. The early dreams of the founders have been realized. Indeed, it is our tale — now as old as time.
Joe Goldblatt, FRSA, leads the International Centre for the Study of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Goldblatt was the founding president of ISES and is the recipient of the first ISES Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the author, co-author and editor of 25 books within the field of special events management.
Name: Joe Goldblatt, FRSA
Title: Professor and Executive Director
Institution: Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, Scotland
International Centre for the Study of Planned Events
School of Arts, Social Sciences and Management
Tourism, Hospitality and Events (THE Group)
Address: Queen Margaret University Drive
Edinburgh, Scotland EH21 6UU
The History of ISES
By J. Robert Graves
This excerpt, used with permission, comes from the Introduction of Joe Goldblatt's book “ISES Gold.”
The seed that later became ISES was planted at the first “The Special Event” produced by Miramar Publishing, held at the Hotel del Coronado in 1985. This was the first time members of the various disciplines came together as peers and focused on the “Event” itself rather than their individual parts in it.
Through conversations with other attendees and the seminars on various subjects, we were enlightened as to where our individual parts fit into the finished “Event,” gained new respect for each other and were able to eliminate many of our problems that had troubled us for years.
The seed germinated in Palm Beach at “The Special Event II” when two attendees met and found they were of like mind in recognizing the potential for a new professional society to foster enlightened performance through education with great emphasis on ethical conduct.
During the following year, it became apparent that the seed of the idea found fertile ground throughout the country as the word was spread. By “The Special Event III” in Dallas, there were enough in attendance to form a steering committee and to reach into their pockets for the seed money. A few months later, some forty believers came together in Atlanta to give form and shape to the idea.
If we are successful, it is because the need for the Society is real, we have an enormous pool of talented people and have built into the structure a means of continuing leadership.
The Importance of Dallas to ISES
By Steve Kemble, America's Sassiest Lifestyle Guru, ISES Past President (2003-2004)
When I was contacted to give my views on the importance of Dallas to ISES, I was thrilled! Dallas will host the 2012 Eventworld Conference and 25th Anniversary Celebration, and it was the birthplace of ISES. A group of industry leaders met at The Special Event conference in 1987, during which the first ISES steering committee was formed and the seed money was generated to start our association. Look where we have come in 25 years!
I am so very proud of not only our local Dallas chapter (a proud recipient of the coveted ISES Chapter of the Year Award) but also the international association. I know I speak for our entire chapter when I say how special we all feel that ISES is coming back to Dallas to celebrate the 25th anniversary. We promise you an amazing experience!
For many years in our association's history, Dallas had members of the international association but did not have a chapter. I decided to jump in and start the chapter in 1996, and the chapter was officially incorporated in April 1998. Dallas, long known for very strong MPI, NACE and HSMAI chapters, never had an ISES chapter. It took two years to get it off the ground, but I felt it was so very important that, as the birthplace of ISES, Dallas have a chapter. Equally important was the fact that I believed so strongly in the value of our chapters, and I witnessed how they had helped other communities and individuals benefit from having a chapter. One of my proudest moments in this industry was starting the Dallas ISES chapter.
Personally, I feel our Dallas ISES chapter is the reason our city has done so well in hosting major events, such as the Super Bowl. When organizers leave the city, they continuously rave about the job the city did and always acknowledge the amazing vendor support in the city. The vast majority of the vendors they refer to are ISES Dallas members! It makes me very proud that the leaders of our city government and Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau recognize and acknowledge our local chapter. They have told me many times that the reason they feel so comfortable going after and bidding on major conventions and sporting events is because we have such a strong ISES chapter and events community here.
Through the years, Dallas ISES members continue to be very involved on an international level with our association. They feel as I do: If you want the ultimate benefits of joining this association, you have to give back by being involved. I promise you that our chapter will make this association proud as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of ISES in Dallas in August 2012. I look forward to welcoming each of you to Dallas!
Name: Steve Kemble
Company: Steve Kemble Event Design
From CPD to Eventworld: The Evolution of a Conference
By Heather Henderson, CSEP, CMP, ISES Past President (2010-2011)
When I was approached to write this article, I started to think back on all the memorable experiences I've had at our annual ISES gathering. It has truly been a highlight of my summer and my own professional development for nearly 10 years. My first Conference for Professional Development (CPD) was in Sydney, Australia. The hospitality I received as a relatively new member and first-timer was amazing. I was embraced, encouraged and inspired. That same atmosphere has not changed during the evolution from CPD to Eventworld.
A few years later, a task force was appointed by the International Board of Governors to evaluate CPD's position in the industry and priority focus. The transition that ultimately took place was a renewed emphasis on education and movement away from a local chapter-managed conference. We rebranded to “Eventworld: An Institute for Professional Development” to further cement the brand reputation. With our focus squarely on education, we looked for host locations where we could leverage the existing environment to be a part of the experience design.
During this evolution, we renewed our dedication to the caliber of education we deliver. Formats have varied, learning disciplines have been more strategically defined and, now under the leadership of the Education Council, our long-term vision is becoming a reality.
We've also listened to the membership in recent years asking to bring back the “wow” and inspire with event design ideas. With the educational component firmly in place, the networking events have taken on a whole new life. These events are designed to not only foster networking but also generate creative ideas for your own business.
Our industry is not the same as it was 25 years ago when ISES was established. The core of Eventworld's purpose, however, has not wavered. It's about education, professional development and networking. Eventworld will continue to transform as we embark on the next 25 years of our ISES journey, and I am eager to be a part of that experience.
I look forward to celebrating with all of you at Eventworld in Dallas on August 2-4 as we mark a true milestone for our association. Eventworld Dallas 2012 is going to be another example of innovation, collaboration and exceptional education. Don't miss it!
Name: Heather Henderson, CSEP, CMP
Title: Manager, Global Operations — Cisco Live!
Company: Cisco Systems Inc.
Address: 170 W. Tasman Drive
San Jose, CA 95134 USA
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