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This year marked DMAI’s 27th annual Destinations Showcase conference and expo held in Washington D.C. on March 14th. The conference is designed for meeting professionals to have the opportunity to come face to face with over 200 destinations from across North America, as well as international destinations, in order to network and potentially do business with one another. The School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) was proud to be the first academic institution that was approved to bring undergraduates to sit in on education sessions and observe how a large scale conference operates.

One of the most appreciated options presented at this event was the opportunity to attend morning breakout sessions run by seasoned meeting professionals. Topics included how to obtain professional certifications, how to effectively market through video production, how to create more engaging conferences and build traffic, and how to better prepare for potential disasters that could unhinge a large scale meeting. STHM Seniors were able to sit on in these sessions and gain valuable insights from professionals who have worked in the industries they hope to one day enter. Students were also able to attend a lunch and keynote session from Thom Singer, an author and networking expert. Singer spoke about the importance of being actively engaged in networking opportunities, and shared a personal story about how numerous connections he made throughout his professional life helped save his daughter’s life when she desperately needed a risky surgery. It was a powerful and memorable speech.

Students were then able to enter the expo floor where they had opportunities to see showcases presented by various destinations, and were able to network with several meeting planners and destination marketers. While the showcase was not designed as an opportunity to seek internships or job opportunities, students nonetheless were able to connect with and impress many of the experts present on the floor. The professionalism taught by STHM leadership enabled undergraduates to hold their own amongst veteran executives and create opportunities for themselves. Overall, the experience was a first for many students and provided valuable knowledge that will aid them when they take their first steps into their chosen industry.