• Meet Michelle DeClerck, CMP, Philanthropist & Planner
• Focus on others; staff, clients, community
• Perfection is the enemy of good
Michelle DeClerck, CMP is a well-rounded, renaissance woman organizing, serving, and creating opportunities for others in a gambit of local philanthropies. DeClerck serves as President of the Board for Opportunity on Deck, which provides year-round, free athletic programming to underserved children and as co-chair for Matthew 25, an organization addressing hunger and homelessness issues locally and overseas.
She also founded Iowa Hospitality Donation Network: a collaborative effort involving Des Moines area hotels, venues, and hospitality partners to collect leftover food, personal care items, and housewares to be distributed to charitable organizations and is involved in many women’s initiatives, including National Association of Women Business Owners, Iowa Women Lead Change (IWLC), and Million Women Mentors (MWM).
Midwest Meetings: What was your first experience with the meeting/event industry?
Michelle DeClerck, CMP: I had the opportunity to help plan an event in Kansas City for an insurance executive, with only my organizational skills and no event planning experience or real guidance. My event was sports related so I hired the Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleaders to help kick off our event. My client was so complimentary and wrote a great note to my supervisor which helped spark my interest to dive deep into the industry.
MM: Tell us more about yourself and your career.
MD: I serve as President for Conference Event Management, having founded it over 13 years ago. As a referral-based organization, I spend a considerable amount of time staying connected to our clients and solidifying what the next opportunity will be for our team.
My main focus is to create a rewarding environment for our staff to ensure they treat every client and vendor interaction with the highest service level. I’m extremely excited about having the opportunity to really listen to our staff and help build a culture that integrates millennial wish list items, along with offering some very unique benefits to help position our company to continue to be in the spotlight as a desirable place to work.
I also spend time on the road with a handful of our key clients, handling their site inspections and popping in on some events.
My other responsibility is giving back to the community through some groups I have founded. I work at helping advance women’s issues and hunger and homeless initiatives, in our state. I enjoy speaking and coaching others in this industry and offering community outreach opportunities to my team to ensure we visibly are making a difference together.
MM: What is your approach to planning meetings and events?
MD: Focus on the client relationship to ensure you are meeting their needs and communicating with them in the manner they appreciate most, and the rest will follow.
MM: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
MD: I was especially touched this year to be honored as a 2016 Top 20 Changemaker in the Event Industry by MeetingsNet and as the 2016 Clive Citizen of the Year.
Seeing our clients interacting with their attendees and laughing during their events helps reassure you that they’re able to network and leave our team to the details to ensure things are going as anticipated, usually better. Then following the event, receiving the client feedback about how they were thrilled with the results so we can share that with everyone—event planning is best through teamwork.
MM: To what do you attribute your success?
MD: Integrity. Never accept mediocrity. Continue to be a change agent for the right reasons. Challenge yourself and others. Provide clarity and seek clarity from others. Hard work through rigor and discipline. Hire talented and bright staff and empower them to do their jobs and to serve their clients well.
MM: How do you keep up on industry trends?
MD: I attend annual industry shows. In addition, I’m an avid reader and keep the daily pulse on mobile travel sites, as well as several daily industry digests that I subscribe to. My staff also know, when I leave for a trip, I take my stack of publications and go through them, tearing out and sharing pertinent articles with them and with my clients. I don’t think I could ever go completely digital as I love my paper pubs.
MM: What is the best advice you’ve ever received/given?
MD: RECEIVED: Perfection is the enemy of good.
GIVEN: I may give too much advice, can I list this as a hobby? Perhaps sharing with those young women I mentor, to find what you have a passion for as only then can you find the greatest happiness.
MD: I am always fascinated by other cultures and appreciate the opportunity to experience and learn about these first hand through my international travels. Giving that same opportunity to attendees and integrating them into the diversity of the hosted destination always becomes very meaningful and has created some of my best memories.
MM: Describe your all-time favorite catering menu for an event?
MD: I created a dinner experience in the rainforest in Port Douglas, Australia and the attendees all said it was the best meal they ever had. All I recall was the awe-inspiring ambiance and the uniqueness of this event, long forgetting what we served.
To Read Michelle's 'Just For Fun' answers see the Midwest Meetings Digital Edition here.