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Planner Spotlight: Jennifer Collins

JDC Events’ President and CEO Jennifer Collins strives to help others spark change by bringing people together

By Linden M. Bayliss

Jennifer Collins, a certified meeting professional and president and CEO of JDC Events in Silver Spring, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., has been leading her events company for more than 20 years with the philosophy that events can be the catalyst for all kinds of change—when people get together, incredible things can happen.

Jennifer Collins, president and CEO of JDC Events
Jennifer Collins, president and CEO of JDC Events || Photo by Joy Rahat Portraits

Founded in 1997, JDC Events focuses on offering turn-key help to organizations for corporate events from symposiums and trade shows to conferences and more. The enterprise began as a solo venture headquartered in Collins’ then-basement apartment in Washington, D.C. She says before she decided to branch off into corporate events, the business specialized in producing family reunions. “I loved the ending of them,” she explains. “Not because they were over, but because of how they made people feel. That’s really what the buzz was for me—seeing how they changed people and seeing the bonding, the connectedness, and the ongoing interaction and engagement.”

Today, Collins and her team of talented professionals not only manage events for clients like Paris-based Studios Architecture and the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, but also offer two portfolios of events that they host themselves—Equipped and Fuse—for the first responder industry and the events industry at large, respectively.

“Fuse is for event organizers who are interested in really generating that community mindset into their events,” Collins says. Fuse’s events and digital content offer planners resources and guidance on how to encourage attendee engagement, increase overall event profitability, and design events in a values-based way so attendees will keep coming back.

Collins is also the author of “Events Spark Change,” a book suited for both planners putting together one-off events for the first time and full-time professionals who are in a rut. The book outlines Collins’ SPARK model for planning events—a five-step outline that covers all the bases: sensory, purpose, activations, resources, and know-how. Collins says she began the project after noticing some people who were struggling to get their events just right and could benefit from some guidance on best practices to make them more effective.

“You know, I’ve had the front row seat for many, many years in people’s lives,” says Collins, “and to see how they were changed and transformed because of the power of an event—that’s why I wanted to share that knowledge with others, so they can do it too, to continue to make a difference in people’s lives through this powerful vehicle we’ve created.”

Collins also continues to support her alma mater, American University in Washington, D.C., and new generations of students through both her scholarship, the Jennifer Collins Experiential Learning Endowed Fund, and mentorship. Collins also offers mentorship to fellow women business owners outside of the university.

“You use the gifts and the skills you’ve been given, and you help others with them,” she says. “Everybody can make a difference and bring somebody else along—and that’s what I live by.”