Hospitality management alumna Brittany Martin came to the University of South Carolina as an undeclared major looking for the perfect career. Today, she is an event manager for the Georgia World Congress center and manages conventions and events for some of the country's biggest companies. Below she shares some insights into her career in event management.
Please share a summary of your career path.
After graduating from the University of South Carolina, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia to pursue my career in event management. My focus has been mainly on trade shows, sporting events, large meetings/conventions and concert productions. I’ve had firsthand experiences working behind the scenes for some of the country’s top brands, including TNT, TBS, TVONE, NCAA, NBA, Mercedes-Benz and MLS. My journey so far has taken many turns, starting in event marketing with Warner Media, then pivoting to being a freelance event specialist, and now to my current position at the Georgia World Congress Center.
What do you like most about your current role?
What I love most about my current role is how versatile it is. No two days ever look the same, and every event has its own personality. I have gone from doing a 15K run in downtown Atlanta one weekend to a 50,000-person volleyball tournament the next. I meet guests and attendees from all walks of life with many different stories and experiences, and it is beautiful to be able to play a role in their lives.
Was there a particular experience or person who has been influential in your career?
There have been many people who have played a role in my professional success, but I would say my first post-collegiate boss and current mentor Natasha Goode has played a significant role in my career. I had no idea of how immersive and in-depth events could really be when graduating from college, and she opened my eyes to the possibilities that lie within corporate event planning. I got to experience my first Final Four and NBA All-Star weekend while working with her and the team at Warner Media, and since then she has been a solid guide for navigating the industry. We studied for our CMP (Certified Meeting Professional exam) together and her knowledge has been invaluable over the years. One of the most important lessons she taught me was to be intentional in my work, get the job done, and at the end of the day have fun executing. Problems are bound to happen, but the ability to bounce back is the key to long term success.
What is one of your proudest moments from your career?
My most memorable and proudest moment was being selected for the International Association of Venue Managers( IAVM) 30 under 30 class of 2020. The confirmation came during one of the most unpredictable times in our industry, and it gave me the confidence and excitement I needed to continue pressing forward. Events are a labor of love and I have found myself up in the middle of the night planning, working, and creating to ensure that everything is executed in excellence. There are so many behind the scenes moments, that when someone stops to recognize you for that extra effort, it makes a massive difference. To be nominated and chosen has truly been a highlight of my career.
How has the University of South Carolina impacted your career success?
My experience at the University of South Carolina was a major determining factor in pursuing a hospitality management degree. Although I was leaning towards pursuing a degree in psychology, I chose to enter college with no declared major because I wasn’t sold on any specific career path at that time. I was 18 years old and having just graduated from high school where I did a little of everything, I had no idea where I wanted to land. It was my introduction to hospitality class that sealed the deal. My professor was entertaining, told many stories of his life in the industry, and painted a picture of a fun life of parties, sports and entertainment. What 18-year-old doesn’t want that? Over the years, each of my professors held a different role in shaping my development and refining my niche in the industry. The practicums and internships gave me the real-world experience I needed, in order to focus my energy on what I enjoyed most about hospitality - events. My final internship was in Atlanta for an event design company, and after that summer semester, I was sold on the creative chaos that is sport and event management.
Was there a particular class or topic that is instrumental in your job today?
There was one class that was a pivotal part of why I chose my current path in venue management. My class was given an assignment to shadow someone in the industry that mirrored a career we were interested in pursuing. At that point in time, I hadn’t had much real-world experience with convention centers or events of that nature, and so I cold called the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center and asked to shadow someone in their events department. This one assignment and phone call led to my first event internship and relationships that I have come to cherish over the years. After shadowing the senior event manager for a day, I followed up with a thank you note for all her wisdom, and for taking the time to teach me. As a result of that gesture, a few months later, I received a call from the same woman I shadowed, to join their team as an events intern. This position sparked my excitement for conventions and opened my eyes to a world of new possibilities.
What advice would you give to a student considering a career in event management?
The best advice I can give to anyone considering a career in this industry is to be present, be polite, and be intentional. I attribute much of my career success to being in the right place at the right time, ready to meet the right need. I have purposefully sought out and volunteered to work behind the scenes for festivals, sporting events, conferences, and live event productions to understand the processes of how a well-oiled machine works. I listened in rooms where I had no idea what was happening. I asked questions, I showed up on time, and I brought my personality into every space. Sports and events are hard work, and you will spend long hours with the same people. What’s most important is that those you work with know you can hold up your end of the projects, and that you all have a great time doing it.
Anything else you would like to add?
One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Maya Angelou, says, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I think about this each time I encounter a potential client, my colleagues, family members or even a random person on the street. Actions speak louder than words ever could, so I make sure that I consistently set the intentions in all I do to become a better steward for people. I could win 100 awards, and that would give the appearance of success, but if I’m not able to look at myself in the mirror and be pleased with who is looking back at me, what have I really gained? If I can make a positive impact on one person’s life, be it with a smile, a hug, a funny story from my life, or a kind word, that means in some way, I have succeeded. Success happens daily, not just when it is acknowledged. Make it your goal every day to have fun, treat people well and work hard, and life will return that kindness to you.