Become an Agent of Change

February 12, 2021

Carrie Abernathy

Carrie Abernathy CMP, CEM, CSEP is an award-winning event strategist who has been active in the world of meetings for over 15 years. Carrie was co-founder of the Association for Women in Events, the Events Industry Sexual Harassment Task Force, and is a speaker, blogger and coach at A Woman with Drive. Carrie also co-hosts the talk show “Events: From Black to White,” which explores equality in the events industry.  

What does being a “change agent” mean to you? Odds are, you already are one even if you don’t realize it! With 2020 being a pivotal year for us all, shift happened in a big way. I am certain that almost all of us received a big lesson on not only how to be an agent of change in our professional lives, but our personal ones, as well.

What is an agent of change?

An agent of change is anyone from inside or outside an organization who helps an organization to transform how it operates. A change agent will promote, champion, enable and support change. Does this sound like you? If this isn’t ringing any bells, think of early 2020 and how your role changed. Did you offer suggestions for new efficiencies, ways of business (ie: virtual, hybrid) or do a lot of research on how to keep your organization thriving? If so, congratulations—you just went through Change Agent 101!

At its core, being a change agent is being a critical thinker and strategic executioner of ideas. There are light versions and extreme versions of this. I am happy to relay my journey in both so that you can see just how simple affecting real change in your life and other lives can be.

Social change

An important topic in events (and the world) in 2020 was diversity, inclusivity and equality. The impact was felt far and wide and several initiatives were launched in this hospitality sector. I personally launched the virtual talk show “Events: From Black to White” with Derrick Johnson, director of event strategy at Talley Management Group. I was called to take a leadership position and use my voice and platform to work to affect change. Participants of this show are also affecting change by showing up as part of the monthly conversation.

Not all agents of change need to take the lead role in transformative projects. For example, just by attending and sharing your experiences during and after those sessions, you are truly affecting change—within yourself and within your own networks. You are doing transformative work in either of these situations, and you should feel good about it!

Personal change

One of the “silver lining moments” of 2020 was that we experienced a shift where we had to evolve not only in our jobs, but also had the opportunity to reassess our personal lives. What have you done for yourself or your family this year to affect change? Perhaps you decided that you aren’t going to wait on your dreams and moved into your dream house or town. Perhaps you weren’t spending enough quality time with those around you.

Last year, I decided to launch my website, A Woman with Drive, as a passion project. It turned into speaking, coaching and much more. It has been so fulfilling. I was heading toward burnout and needed to evolve. Working a full-time job in meetings and also running a women’s organization left little time to do anything for myself.

This change provided me with so much personal fulfillment and joy. I think sometimes we need that nudge to change, and post-pandemic life has been that reason for many of us. No matter how small it seems, you have the real power to affect change in your life and in others’ lives through big and small shifts. You just must make the commitment to yourself to begin.

A case for the evolution of events

Although many of us were distraught by the idea of having to shift so drastically, change was forced upon many of us in 2020. Planners had to find new revenue streams or new ways to engage virtually with attendees and clients. Through much trial and error, research and sharing, we made it through 2020. We pivoted, shifted, about-faced—whatever you call it, it was change, and most likely you guided your teams through it.

Perhaps the way your business utilized virtual or face-to-face meetings will never be the same. In some ways, the change may have been necessary. Old business models tend to get stagnant when utilized by the masses over time. For better or worse, this forced review of our business models and systems will no doubt change the way we do the business of events far into the future.

Not all change has to be bad, and there are several pathways to transformation and evolution! Only when you shift your mindset to lean in to the change, or to be the change yourself, will big, exciting and surprising things happen.


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