Kate Patay, Smart Meetings Smart Style Ambassador and the woman behind the eponymous Patay Consulting for the last five years, recently announced that she is taking a role as director of engagement with Terramar US, a DMC Network Company. Here in her own words is the story behind the decision to shed the event boss mantle and join a team again.
Talk about the decision to go back to working for a company.
I’ve been known for bold moves, but never rash decisions. After 20 years in the industry, I spent the last five years operating my own successful business, which to me was always deemed as the pinnacle of success. “I AM THE OWNER!” in all caps was the dream. But there was something missing.
An anomaly in the industry, my business thrived during the pandemic, yet I was feeling more disconnected from it than ever before. Mainly, that was because as the business grew, I was forced to do more of the work I didn’t enjoy to keep it successful (licenses, insurance, tax reviews…all the necessary evils) and less of the work that keeps me fulfilled and happy (connecting, speaking, branding, planning, events and marketing).
It took a lot of introspection to realize that I wasn’t happy being the one at the helm. I wasn’t walking my talk—a cardinal sin in my book. As a consultant, I would come on to a team for a specified project or event and work to achieve that particular goal, and then just move on.
I didn’t get to stay and celebrate those wins or work towards even greater achievements with the teams. I just jumped onto a new team with a new vision and a new project. While that sounds like fun, and it can be for a while, it felt isolating to not have a team to come back to and brainstorm our next big milestone together.
To many, the pinnacle of your career is creating your own business and thriving, but I’ve come to learn that that is all just perception. I was afraid that if I gave up my business that I would be perceived as a failure, when in reality I knew I was taking a bigger step in my career and practicing what I preach—giving myself a better work/life balance and doing something that presented me with the challenges I thrived on.
And an interesting thing happened, I learned I wasn’t the only one. Sharing my thoughts on this publicly showed me just how many of us are ready to move into new roles, but fear what people think of us if they *gasp* go back to working for someone else.
I’m sitting here sharing this story because of the responses I received when I shared my vulnerability on a public platform. I decided to jump…and my industry caught me. It’s ok to not be sure if you want to go in-house, work with a small business, return to corporate, or take the leap to start your own business. Put it out there to the world that you’re open to something new and it’s amazing how the world responds to you.
How do you see the role of DMCs changing in the meetings ecosystem?
My answer would have likely been different if you had asked me when I was still working on-property. Right now, we are seeing how our industry has reset after monumental challenges over the last few years and I believe that the role of the DMC is more important than ever. Planners have more on their plate than ever before and venues are challenged with staffing and bandwidth to execute events to the expectations and standards we’ve always held for our industry, which is where your DMC comes in.
I, personally, looked long and hard at many options. I saw the impact DMCs were having by helping with showcasing the destination and taking the pressure off of hotels in designing the in-house pieces and assisting with all those little pieces that elevate the experience (ground transportation, activities, dining, manifest, etc.). These are all of the places where our industry is struggling to find adequate staff and it’s exactly where a DMC can help fill those gaps in service and exceeding guest expectations. I see the growth potential for all of us if we embrace this vital role that has for so long operate behind the scenes.
I believe we’ve been given the opportunity as an industry overall to change the ways in which we’ve always done business, to be more nimble and streamlined, to create better workflows and care for our employees. Partnering with a trusted, reputable DMC is one of the easiest ways to achieve this and overcome many of the pain points we all face.
What makes you most excited about the future of the industry and the destinations you serve in particular?
I’m excited for our industry to start truly working together as better partners to each other. We’ve used these buzzwords for so long, but frankly, that’s all they were—ideas and buzzwords. We have not always been great at this. We’re excellent at “do as I say, not as I do” and I’m including myself in this generalization. If you preach self-care and work/life balance, but haven’t had time to meet your closest friend for dinner in 6 months, then I’m looking at you.
As meeting and event professionals, we’re expected to smile and work through all challenges, which we do because the show must go own, but we don’t need to do it alone. We need to let go a little and rely on other professionals to help us reach our goals. Being transparent, sharing the overall vision and how you define success, and allowing for new ideas on how you can get there is going to be the key to us coming back stronger and better than ever.
What do you hope meeting professionals have learned from the last two years?
I sincerely hope that we’ve learned empathy, compassion and that we truly are stronger together. I hope we’ve learned that we can say no, in all facets of life. No to overextending ourselves, no to business that isn’t the right business for us, no to anything that doesn’t serve us. No. It’s a full sentence. We can set healthy boundaries if we properly communicate them and move our industry forward together to be better than it ever was before.
“Being transparent, sharing the overall vision and how you define success, and allowing for new ideas on how you can get there is going to be the key to us coming back stronger and better than ever.”
I’m taking away a renewed sense of purpose on how I can impact the meetings and live events industry overall. I’m fortunate to have landed with a spectacular company that believes in the mission of taking care of its people so they take care of the clients…and they walk that talk!
Plus, I have their support to continue to educate our industry, be an advocate, speak on topics that are relevant and meaningful, and most of all continue to align myself with the organizations and foundations that help us achieve all of this.
Terramar is a leader in the DMC world, but also in the betterment of the industry and those that are members of it. The saying about a rising tide lifting all boats has been around for so long because it’s true. I love that this company sees the bigger vision of how we can all be better and encourages not only me, but all of its employees, to help move us all forward together and lead by example. My platform has changed slightly, but my message has not. I hope to reach more people and empower them to make bold moves that better themselves and our industry overall.
Why did you wake up and decide to broadcast to the world one of the most vulnerable things you were going through?
I knew I wasn’t alone. All of the conversations I’ve had with industry friends and colleagues have been circling around this for quite some time, yet it’s scary to admit how we feel out loud. We run the risk of opening ourselves up to criticism and negativity, and none of us need more of that in our lives.
I’d go into the state of the mental health of our industry overall right now, but I’d need 27 more pages to even scratch the surface. I saw my industry quietly burning out and decided that if speaking up helped even one person to take the leap they’ve been dreaming about, then I was doing the right thing.
Maybe we can start having more raw, open conversations about how we accomplish all of these great ideas that I know we have…let’s really get down to business and affect change. Our time is now.