Your Story Blog Series: Christy Lamagna
Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, and CTSM is an accomplished professional speaker, event industry coach and mentor, instructor, and the CEO and Master Strategist of Strategic Meetings & Events. However, like many others, her start in events came indirectly. For Christy, it was her love of words that lead her towards the profession, and once she got a taste, she never looked back.
“I started as a journalist. Words and reading are in my blood, so it was a natural fit,” Christy explains, “I was the public relations coordinator for a hospital, and I had to create events to have something to write about. I realized I enjoyed planning events even more than writing about them, so I went back to school, got my Master’s in Communication and shifted my focus to a career in events. Writing continues to be a passion and remains a significant part of my livelihood as I write, teach and speak on a variety of topics both within and outside the event industry.”
When Christy embarked on her career in the industry, the landscape was much different, she explains, “When I started planning events, it wasn’t a widely recognized profession, and I had no mentor. I created an event and tradeshow department for a publishing incubator and had to teach myself everything. The internet didn’t exist, so I relied on my natural instinct to create systems and organize and figured it out. There was a lot of crying involved.”
Having to learn by trial and error helped teach Christy some valuable lessons. She shares, “I lived the adage: ‘You don’t know what you don’t know.’ I’ll never forget when I saw a POE for the first time. I had created a rudimentary version, but when I saw a ‘real’ template, I thought I’d gone to heaven! Being self taught allowed me to make a ton of mistakes. I now remember to ask questions, beware of not knowing what I don’t know, and incorporate the feelings of frustration into how I teach as I remember what it was like to feel as if I would never be fluent in the language and customs of our profession.”
To this day, one of the biggest challenges Christy faces is conveying the value of strategic events. She explains, “I am still faced with the most challenging aspect of my career; people don’t understand what we do, the value we offer, and the critical role strategic events play in an organization. We are plagued with unqualified people calling themselves event professionals, have no single group to align us and are disenfranchised. We need to evolve into strategic planners, which means making some critical changes in the way we speak, think, and act. From there, perceptions will shift and our standing in the industry and the professional world will change. I am leading a Strategic Movement and dedicate at least 20 hours a week to speaking, writing and teaching how to make the shift.”
Christy has dedicated a significant portion of her professional life helping to shape the next generation of industry professionals. This, she says, it one of her greatest successes in her career so far.
“I taught Strategic Events at a college in NJ for ten years. Most of the students had no idea how to get started or what it took to be in the hospitality industry. So many of them are now working in the field and love it. Knowing I helped people find their way is gratifying beyond what words can express. I continue to mentor people in all stages of their career as giving back is the most meaningful use of my time.”
Looking back on her many years of experience, the one thing Christy would tell herself at the beginning of her career would be, “People will treat you the way you allow them to. I should have stood up for myself more, voiced concerns, made suggestions and believed in myself. I allowed people to take advantage of me and resented them for it. I didn’t realize I had the power to change the dynamic and that it was my responsibility to correct the situation, not theirs.”
Twenty-seven years later, she is grateful to the events industry for the rewarding career she has had, things she has learned, places she has seen and most importantly, for the wonderfully talented people she has met every step of the way.
For access to Christy’s library of articles, webinars, podcasts and more, click here.