• Open Mic: What, Exactly, Do We Do?

    Melissa Jurcan, president of ILEA Seattle, penned a moving tribute to the hospitality industry for the Emerald City Applause Awards. Here is an abridged version. 

    POSTED November 1, 2018

A few weeks ago, my nephew, who’s 9, asked me: “What exactly do you do all day?”

That question sent me down a rabbit hole. I like to think, as planners, we’re the creators and the creatives. We are innovators and inventors. We don’t invent things; we invent experiences. 

We’re people who like to dream big. We like to go beyond. We can’t really go small; it’s not in our DNA. When we’re together, we feed off each other, and we must make every event the best it can possibly be. 

And so even if it’s midnight before an 8 a.m. move-in, if we’ve thought of an idea that can make the event more impactful, we’re making it happen. The client doesn’t expect it, but it has hit our brain, so we have to bring it to fruition. 


» Have considered Cheez-Its its own food group

» Have enlisted family and friends to serve as whatever the heck you need: “Hey, friend, we don’t have a volunteer to work as a street guard. Can you be downtown at 5 a.m. tomorrow?”

» Cannot imagine having a get-together with family and friends without a theme, branding, color scheme or vision board

» Have in your purse measuring tapes, X-Acto knives, snips and zip ties

» Have turned your house (and, let’s be honest, your car, too) into what I call “the warehouse”

» Have picked up some very random skills, such as how to hold a 13-foot Burmese python when you are putting it in a dog crate

» Have had to jump into a giant dumpster to sort recycling

» Have slept under your desk or sitting in the stairwell

» Have perfected the art of the changing out of grubby move-in gear into formal attire 30 minutes prior to doors

Sometimes, we are therapists. We also have been known to be electricians, crafters, medics, plumbers, seamstresses and bouncers. 

We get to be architects of moments that get etched in people’s lives. In a time when we are all behind multiple screens—where there is turmoil in the world—we get to bring people face to face to share in emotion. Events can and do make a difference in this world: a daddy holding his daughter’s hand walking through the gates; a nonprofit being able to raise funds for an important cause; a company that wants to have a real, authentic relationship with its fan base; a protest; the Super Bowl; the inauguration (or most of them anyway); the Olympics. 

So what did I say to my nephew? “I get to collaborate with brilliant, imaginative and creative people, and we get to be magicians together.” 

I am so proud to be a part of this industry with the most generous and caring people I know—who, at the drop of a hat, will help one another, no matter the circumstances or competition. 

This is the event industry. It is our community. It’s our family. 

—1.5 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka
—1.5 oz. Baileys Salted Caramel
—2 oz. half and half

Combine ingredients in a Belgian beer glass garnished with soft caramel along the rim, chocolate sauce and a chocolate branch. Looks fancy schmancy and tastes deee-licious!

Courtesy of Shore Lodge in McCall, Idaho


This past October, the world lost a business and philanthropic giant with the passing of Paul Allen. Here in the Northwest, his absence will be deeply felt. Among his many achievements, Allen co-founded Microsoft; founded Vulcan Inc., Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Allen Institute for Brain Sciences, and Allen Institute for Cell Science; and was owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers. There doesn’t seem to be an industry that he hasn’t touched, expanded and improved, including the meetings and events industry, particularly in the Seattle area.