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IMEX America 2017: 5 Questions with Mikki Walls

IMEXA5QuestionsWalls

Mikki Walls might well benefit from her own advice this week.

Walls, the meeting and convention sales manager at the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, will be in Las Vegas this week for IMEX America, the seventh version of the largest meeting and event industry trade show in the United States.

When asked what advice she would give someone considering a career in meetings and events, she offered quite practical words of wisdom.

“Wear sensible shoes while working,” she said. “You must earn your spot with extremely hard work and a lot of hours. All worth it, but trust me on the shoes.”

Her advice certainly speaks to experience. It will be a busy week at IMEX America, which last year attracted 3,250 exhibiting companies representing 139 countries. More than 3,000 hosted buyers attended the show with more than 60,000 individual appointments and booth presentations.

This year’s show will clearly have a different feel coming one week after the tragic Las Vegas shooting in which 58 people were killed and more than 500 injured.

Connecting with friends and colleagues will be a bit more special this week for Walls.

“It might sound old fashioned, but after the recent events in Las Vegas, I am anxious to see my favorite clients, friends and co-workers,” she said. “Spending time discussing this business we all love is our greatest asset in growing relationships. I feel incredibly blessed in this wonderful field we share.”

Walls began her hotel career on the front desk at the French Quarter Suites in Memphis, Tenn., then moved to the Radisson, where she began as a receptionist in the sales department and eventually advanced to director of catering in her seven years there.

“I walked into the Radisson Hotel to pick up an application for a position on the front desk and was pretty much hired on the spot,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to learn from some industry pros.”

She would later work for Marriott and The Peabody before spending 12 years with the Memphis CVB. She joined the Myrtle Beach Area CVB in 2014, where she is tasked with “promoting, protecting and improving” the destination.

“I have found this to be my biggest challenge, yet my greatest reward,” she said. “This uniquely southern city on the East Coast is one like no other.”

When you were young, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A television meteorologist. Our local weather man was like a magician to me in the way he could predict the future. Ironic that this would have allowed me to only be wrong half of the time.

When you were young, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A television meteorologist. Our local weather man was like a magician to me in the way he could predict the future. Ironic that this would have allowed me to only be wrong half of the time.

What is the biggest challenge facing our industry today and what should we do about it?
I instantly think of [MGM’s] Michael Dominguez and “The Year of Disruption.” From politics and media, growth and inventory to millennials—where do you begin? All we can do is adjust to a new normal with the knowledge of the past, continuing to change this industry’s future.

What are you most passionate about outside of your career in the meeting industry?
My family. Relationships take time to cultivate so you should keep the ones that you have invested the most time and love into close to you. My second passion is interior design, as I inherited my mother’s eye for detail.

What’s the best advice someone gave you?
Keep your commitments. When I was young, I didn’t understand that this would shape the person I became. People can count on you. Also, arrive early—on time is late.

Meet Mikki Walls on Smart Monday at the MPI Headshot Station, which is sponsored all week by the Myrtle Beach Area CVB.


About the Author

Rich
Rich Luna

Rich Luna is director of publishing for MPI and editor in chief of The Meeting Professional.