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Fast Forward 15: Meet VisitScotland's Katherine Nelles

Fay Sharpe, founder of Fast Forward 15 interviews Katherine Nelles, corporate & incentive market manager, VisitScotland Business Events.

Can you outline your roles and responsibilities?

I am responsible for managing corporate and incentive business events from Southern UK and Ireland with a key focus on strategic sectors. I help to develop engagement platforms for third party agencies, corporate planners and decision makers to generate enquiries and confirmed business which can tie-in to Scotland’s sector driven approach.

How long have you worked in the events industry?

I’ve worked in the business events industry for around 15 years now. I am originally from Toronto and started off my career in the beautiful Fairmont Royal York Hotel in the city before transferring to Fairmont St Andrews in Scotland. I started working at VisitScotland Business Events in April 2018.

What did it mean to you to be included as a mentee on the FF15 programme?

Honestly, it was a mix of emotions at first. I was of course very honoured and excited to be to be part of such a highly respected mentoring programme but I was also very nervous. I know now I really didn’t need to be. I have found the whole experience incredibly useful. Not only has the experience helped me grow as a professional but also it has helped me develop and grow in my personal life. Over the past year I have made some fantastic new friends with the mentees from this experience and gained so much insight and knowledge, which will help me further progress in my career.

Who was your mentor, and what was the best bit of advice they gave you?

My Fast Forward 15 Mentor was Mark Riches, who is very well respected in our industry and has vast experience and knowledge of all things business events. Mark gave me so much great guidance during the year, from suggested readings (Good to Great by Jim Collins) to really focusing on finding my strengths and adapting my outlook to suit them. He also reminded me that I should always be learning and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, no matter at what stage I’m at in my career.

What do you enjoy most about working in the industry and at VisitScotland?

VisitScotland Business Events really is a game-changing organisation, which continues to strive for social and economic change. I really love being part of the wider picture and being part of a team that actively promotes Scotland’s thriving business events industry. I really love promoting Scotland’s sectors and knowledge, as well as its outstanding landscapes, not only to a UK audience, but also at trade shows to the international market too.

Who, or what, has inspired you?

Vicki Fanuzzi, who was one of my first bosses when I started my career in the business events industry at Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in Toronto. Vicki is such a firecracker of a leader and she inspired me to continue working int his industry. In such a male dominated industry she stuck to her guns and continued to push for what she believed was right for the business.

What do you see are the biggest challenges facing the industry over the next three years?

Obviously, we’re in a bit of an uncertain situation at the moment so I think post-recovery it will be the industry embracing the new mixture of virtual and face to face events. I personally don’t think virtual events will replace in person events, but I do think a lot of businesses will continue to use them for the foreseeable future. I also think sustainability will remain a top priority for the industry. Whilst we’ve been making some progress and making events ‘greener’ more will need to be done whether that’s only choosing flights that offset carbon emissions for international travel or companies focussing more on their local areas and planting more trees or focusing on their CSR.

What message would you share with young women thinking about a career in the events industry?

Just go for it! It is such an engaging and powerful industry to be a part of. Each challenge is different, each event is different, and it really is fun and engaging. I would really recommend finding a mentor or friend to speak with outside of your organisation. It is so beneficial to have someone to give impartial advice and to bounce your ideas off, who doesn’t know the inner workings of your business. Throughout your career you will meet such creative people and make lifelong friends, it really is a fantastic industry.