“Insight; New York Hospitality Professionals”, a weekly interview series with professionals from the MICE industry in New York.
These are uncertain times for our industry – yet we believe that now is the moment to bring our industry closer together by strengthening our ties and relationships on a more human level. It is for this reason that Shackman Associates is undertaking a series of interviews with other New York hospitality professionals to learn how they are managing during this time.
In today’s episode; New York Hospitality Professionals Karen Shackman, President and CEO of Shackman Associates interviews Lisa Lopez, Director of Sales & Marketing at the Javits Convention Center.
Karen: Hello Lisa. Thanks for participating in this interview, I am excited to catch-up with you.
For our readers, please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background.
Lisa: Thank you, Karen. I am the Director of Sales & Marketing for the Javits Convention Center and I am excited to represent Javits during a pivotal period in the building’s history which includes the 1.2 million square foot expansion opening in 2021. I joined Javits just over a year ago after 11 years with NYC & Company as Regional Vice President of Sales.
Karen: What is your current situation, and how does it differ from the past few months?
Lisa: Our administrative team has been working remotely since March. We had an incredible group of individuals return to the building to erect and support the medical station operation. However, the sales team has been able to continue working productively from home. For me, that means working from my home in the Hudson Valley. Our days have been very busy working with existing clients to adjust their show schedules while promoting our expansion to new customers. I can’t wait to get back to the City and to Javits.
Karen: The Hudson Valley is such a beautiful area and a great place to have a remote office. I totally understand your desire to get back to NYC and Javits though. How is your current situation transitioning now that New York has opened in Phase 3 and today, Phase 4.
Lisa: Our team can work from Javits two days per week, if they desire, now that we have entered the Reopening Phases.
Karen: Under the circumstances, it is great to have that option. What is the norm for you these days?
Lisa: I would say that the norm is that there is no norm. We have all had to get very comfortable with change, as every day seems to bring a new challenge. I feel very lucky to have joined an organization with such strong leadership. Alan Steel, our CEO, and Doreen Guerin, our Sr. Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and our entire Executive Team have been masterful during these challenging months. Their expertise, and the skillfulness of our staff, allowed Javits to support New Yorkers at a critical time in the COVID fight. The Javits medical station was erected more quickly and less expensively than similar facilities while serving the most patients. I am so proud of the recognition our team received from the more than twenty government agencies involved with the operation.
Karen: We have all been so impressed and proud of the huge undertaking at the Javits during the critical few weeks of the COVID fight and the recognition is so well deserved. What an integral part the Javits played in helping manage the fall-out of the pandemic. You mentioned earlier that your team now has the option to work from the Javits two days per week and the rest remote. How do you keep connected with your team?
Lisa: I worked remote for NYC & Company for the first eight years of my career from both California and Minneapolis. When the need arose to work from home in March, it was like riding a bike. I dusted off the old equipment and got right to work. Thankfully, there have been so many great tools introduced to the market for remote workers since I last worked remotely. We live on Microsoft Teams!
Karen: Tell me a bit about your experience with virtual events or networking/happy hours.
Lisa: I have been participating in several internal and industry virtual events. Recently, we had a virtual retirement party for one of our beloved employees who had worked at Javits for over thirty years. I’ve learned that physical separation does not stop our need to meet and celebrate.
Karen: That is true, there should always be a reason to meet and celebrate – and 30 years is a huge milestone. What are your three personal essentials to weather this crisis?
Lisa: I have been in the events industry for so many years and have weathered a few storms, but this crisis is different than any of us have ever experienced. My three personal essentials are the support I get from my team, my friends (most of whom are in the industry), and my family – particularly my husband, Steve.
Karen: Having family, friends and colleagues who are supportive is key. And what are you doing to keep yourself sane and healthy - both mentally and physically?
Lisa: When the crisis was imminent, I had my twenty-five-year-old nephew and his girlfriend leave their midtown apartment and come stay with us. We’ve now been quarantined together for four months. An unexpected joy has been to have this time with them that would have not otherwise happened. We have been cooking and gardening together and their energy has been very positive.