Annette Gregg, CEO at SITE discusses once-in-a-lifetime experiences, trends in incentive travel, female leadership and personal missions.
Annette Gregg is CEO of SITE, the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence and has worked in the industry since the mid-1990s across various areas of the events industry including the buyer, supplier and planner sides for different organizations. Gregg has recently taken on the role of CEO at SITE, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with their global conference taking place from 17-19 February in New York City.
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In this post-pandemic world it can take a lot to convince people to leave their homes and travel to an event; whilst people do want to meet, their expectations are higher and travel challenges are a consideration, as Gregg notes. However, events such as SITE’s Global Conference are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for participants, whereby they are able to access venues that are typically invite only, with the event planners creating experiences that attendees won’t find anywhere else. These heightened expectations have led planners to continuously up their game on the events and meetings they design and create. It is these can’t-get-anywhere-else experiences that drive excitement around participating in events.
While the meetings industry is staffed by a large female demographic, the majority of leadership roles are not held by females. Gregg is one of the few female CEOS of meetings industry associations. Addressing this imbalance is a challenge, and she has long championed working with other women to help them rise and be promoted within the industry. This type of championing led her to starting a series of women’s conferences around 12 years ago called Rise Up. The series helped women look at how their own internal roadblocks, such as imposter syndrome, negative self talk and self-doubt. There are also a number of external and systemic factors that can contribute this imbalance of female leadership. Mentorship and sponsorship can be very important, and Gregg advises women looking to progress to focus on creating relationships of influence.
Gregg also believes it is important to have a personal mission that goes beyond how we define ourselves through our work, noting her own personal mission statement. She explains that around 15 years ago she was unexpectedly laid-off, which impacted her self-confidence. It was reading a book by Brene Brown called Rising Strong, that led to her mission statement formation and the belief she would not let a situation define her self-worth again. She discusses the power of identifying your own personal tagline is powerful as it brings confidence and forces you to clarify what is really important to you.
One of SITEs areas of focus is research. The organization partners with the Incentive Research Foundation and the Finance and Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP) to produce the annual Incentive Travel Index. Gregg discusses some of the trends that have emerged from the data, noting which industries within incentive travel are leading the way in terms of recovery and which are further behind and some of the reasons for this. She also notes what she found interesting within the data, including the destinations that planners are currently selecting and what attendees are looking for when they get there, as well as more insights from the report.
Looking to the future, Gregg notes the need and importance of nurturing the next generation working within incentive travel. She explains that for SITE, less than 20% of their membership falls into the under-40 age bracket and the need to understand why people join associations today. It’s important that the whole industry understands the different needs and expectations of the next generation of incentive travel professionals as well as incentive trip attendees.