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Karen Totaro, CFE, and IAVM make a great team. Her career in venue management has been successful, extensive, and diverse, and IAVM has been there for her every step of the way. A member since 1999, Totaro is now channeling the enthusiasm and industry knowledge from her years of involvement to lead the association as its 2015-2016 Chair.

Totaro, who is currently the General Manager of the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, credits IAVM with directly influencing her career from when she graduated college in the early 1990s up through today. She said it was a helpful resource for her at a time when the industry was starting to grow and full-time venue staff positions were rare.

Totaro said:

I knew I just needed a foot in the door, and then my drive and passion for the industry would help me do the rest. I attended my first regional meeting for IAVM and came back to work so excited to implement things I had learned. Then, I was given the chance to go to Venue Management School and came back on fire to learn more.

Her burn for knowledge, the industry mentors that she lovingly calls her “Yodas” and the association’s support resulted in a career that has spanned both coasts and venues of all sizes, not to mention IAVM leadership roles that include Region IV Director, Chair of the Education Council and seats on the Board of Directors and Board of Governors. She said a pivotal point was when she received an exciting phone call informing her that she was the association’s second vice-chair.

“I remember, to this day, that I was standing in my loft in Cincinnati, and I actually twirled because I was so thrilled! All of these roles, my multiple industry jobs, the obtaining of my CFE, and the industry educational programs I have attended and continue to attend over the years all played a significant role in me taking the gavel in Baltimore,” she said.

Totaro was attracted to a career in venue management because of the  “adrenaline and energy” that comes with producing a successful event. Her first job in the industry was working at the Assembly Hall Arena at the University of Illinois. Her sister, Kathryn, who was two years ahead of her at the university, had a job working concessions there. The rest, as they say, is history.

“The camaraderie there was so rewarding, and to this day my best buds are people who were co-workers at that arena,” she said. “It is simply a fun career. I love going to work, and love the customer service and team-building aspects of the job.”

Her days, like those of most venue managers, are busy and diverse, so she relies on an updated Microsoft Outlook calendar, a tidy desk, and a to-do list to keep everything running smoothly. However, she said that an engaged staff and flexibility are her real secret weapons.

“Most of my days are heavy on meetings, but I do make an effort to engage with staff every day. I have to be visible, they have to know I care and that I see and hear them,” she said. “Days where I am only focused on that day are the best days. I am able to be in the moment, which is not easy. Priorities change every single day, so I stay flexible. Just go with the flow, don’t try and fight it.”

Mentorship is a top priority for Totaro. She said that it’s immensely rewarding for the parties involved and can be organized at all levels of commitment.

“Mentees are everywhere,” Totaro said. “About a month ago, I was talking to some dear friends in the industry, discussing whether our careers would have been different if we had a female mentor somewhere in our early years who could have helped with some of the unique situations we have found ourselves in. We came up with the idea of inviting eight young women in our industry to dinner on Saturday night of VenueConnect, our treat.”

She also recommends IAVM’s mentor program, which is open to experienced venue managers, and mentors many young men and women pursuing venue careers in Atlantic City. As she advised:

They have so much potential. I am excited to see where they go in their careers!

Totaro also had some words of wisdom for junior association members who want to follow in her footsteps:

Volunteer for everything, be it extra work at the venue you work at our helping out at an IAVM meeting you are attending. Find out who is coordinating events and offer up your services. You would be surprised how easy it is and how many people you meet by volunteering. At work you want to be seen as the  ‘can do’ person – no whining, no sarcasm – just ready and able to jump in and help the team. You might not think your bosses notice or care, but I promise you they do.

Totaro also recommended to prioritize participation in IAVM programs, as she explained:

The program that set me ablaze was the Public Facility Venue Management School [now named Venue Management School], which is held for one week in June over two consecutive years. This is where you will clearly determine if this is the career for you or not. There are so many scholarships available, so there is no excuse to not at least try to go. My boss at the time let me attend since it was paid for by my regional scholarship. I just had to write a one-page essay on why I wanted to go.

The goals of IAVM members are at the forefront of Totaro’s planned initiatives, like a branding refresh, as she explained:

Branding does not simply mean a logo change, but a deep dive in understanding what IAVM is to our members and what they see it being to them in the future. Additionally, IAVM excels at education and networking opportunities. Our members say this is what they deem most significant and what they find most rewarding.

Totaro considers IAVM a “top tier” organization for networking, but that there is room to improve. She said a primary goal this year is to better serve IAVM’s Allied members:

The Allied members are seeing the value and recognizing the reward in IAVM participation. I have grown up in this industry with just as many close friends that are Allied members as Professional members, so I truly understand that while the needs may, at times, be different they are all equally important.

Streamlining IAVM programs is another priority, as she outlined:

We have VenueConnect, sector meetings, regional meetings, schools, and much more. Most associations our size produce just a handful of major events per year. They can capture the biggest audience and focus the dollars efficiently while meeting the members’ needs.

Because Totaro knows IAVM, and due to her deep history the association’s members know her, she is in an excellent position to determine the answers to some critical questions and position it for success.

“We have to dig deeper and learn what our members want,” she said. “For example, do they feel torn about trying to make budgets stretch to cover so many event options? Members can expect lots of discussion items and surveys to come as we try to move IAVM forward.”

Totaro is optimistic about her term leading a “fantastic” board, but plans to apply her personal philosophy to the role even if things become challenging.

“You will fail more times then you will succeed, and that is OK. It means you are trying. But the key is how you get up and what you do with what you learned,” she said. “Never be ashamed of your failures or (too humble about) your success. Wear them both as a badge of honor that says who you are and all you have done. I live my life as if something wonderful is always about to happen. And guess what? It usually does!”

PanStadia & Arena Management magazine is proud to be an Official Media Partner to IAVM and its members.

For the first time, executives from Live Nation Entertainment’s Ticketmaster, Concerts and Touring divisions will be at VenueConnect, which takes place July 26-29 in the Oregon Convention Center, Portland, Oregon, USA.

In addition to the opportunity to network with some of the world’s top live event promoters, ‘Live Nation Entertainment Backstage’ will include an education session focused on the latest dynamics in show booking:

Standing Out In A Crowd (Sunday, July 27, 1 pm) .
Execs from Live Nation Entertainment will appraise the traditional and emerging role of the venue. Exploring the new world of concert promotions where revenue optimization is essential and the venue is viewed as a yield management partner.

Moderated by Cole Gahagan, EVP of Client Revenue with Ticketmaster, session panelists include Mike Evans, President, Live Nation Arenas; Gerry Barad, COO, Live Nation Global Touring; and Brad Wavra, SVP, Live Nation Touring, Live Nation Concerts.
 Mike Evans, President of Live Nation Arenas, said:

Our venue partners are tremendously valuable to Live Nation Entertainment, and we feel it’s important to express that from all branches of our company. We take pride in the array of services we provide venue managers – from the world’s greatest live events, to the most advanced ticketing and event marketing solutions in the industry – and we’re looking forward to sharing the latest developments on those services at this year’s conference.


Diary: IAVM stadiums hybrid meeting 23 October – Sofa vs. stadium

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IAVM is holding a Stadiums Hybrid Meeting on the topic of how do stadiums keep the fans coming out to events? Presented by industry veterans, this hybrid meeting will explore these challenges and highlight some of the innovative approaches sports teams, event promoters and stadium operators are taking to make the in-stadium experience something fans do not want to miss. There are three ways to join the meeting:

View the live streaming video of the meeting – Watch the presentation live from the convenience of your office.

In-person at the broadcasting stadium, the AT&T Center in Arlington, Texas (pictured, photo: GE) – Registration for this option includes lunch, the live presentation and a stadium tour.

In-person at a satellite stadium – In Georgia, host sites are the Georgia Dome and Georgia State University in Atlanta, and Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw. In Arizona, the host sites are the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, the Golf Academy of America in Chandler, and Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. Registration for this option includes a live video stream of the meeting, networking and a venue tour.

Safe Stadium Operations conference

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IAVM is presenting a conference in person and on-line, covering stadium safety. The WebSITE Spring 2013: Safe Stadium Operations hybrid conference will take place 1 May 2013 from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm ET (USA).

Led by Paul Turner with Cowboys Stadium and Erik Waldman with the Georgia Dome, this conference includes three in-depth sessions covering essential event safety and emergency response planning specific to the unique layouts and operational needs of stadiums.

Athletic directors, stadium operators, safety directors and their staff will learn best practices from industry veterans, receive event safety tools and assess venue vulnerabilities with emergency management specialists. This is an excellent educational conference for students and a great professional development opportunity for stadium and event staff at the high school, collegiate and professional levels.

The local host sites are the University of Phoenix Stadium, the Georgia Dome, and the main host site, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Registrants who visit the local host sites will have the opportunity to meet peers, network, participate in a special discussion session, and take a tour of the respective facilities. Registrants who attend Cowboys Stadium in person will also be able to attend the Texas Rangers vs. Chicago White Sox game that evening.

Prices are: Student – $25. Member – $49. Non-Member – $89.



Collaborative alliance for IAVM and IAEE

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The International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) have created an association alliance.

When our staffs met to discuss an alliance, several areas were identified where it makes sense for us to partner with one another. IAEE has a philosophy that when two industry organisations can collaborate and it benefits each other’s members, every effort should be made to move forward with the collaboration. We are pleased that this has worked out,

said Cathy Breden, CAE, CMP, Chief Operating Officer at the IAEE.

The two organisations will cross-market educational programmes and networking events and other products developed for their memberships. The alliance will allow for cross-participation at live programmes and access to digital resources from both. Both will endorse the certifications offered to their memberships: IAVM offers a Certified Facilities Executive designation (CFE) and IAEE offers a Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM) designation.

The two will partner to co-support women in leadership roles in the exhibition, event and venue industries. This May, IAVM will promote IAEE’s Women’s Leadership Forum (–education/womens-leadership-forum/) at the Fairmont Hotel, Washington, DC, and IAVM members will be able to register at the IAEE member rate for the event. The programme will feature Hattie Hill as the leadership facilitator. Hattie will lead conversations throughout the day with her philosophy of “Smart People, Smart Choices, Smart Processes.”

Panel members will include Mary Dolaher, CEO of IDG World Expo and Christine Duffy, President & CEO, Cruise Lines International Association. Betsy Myers, a senior official in the Clinton Administration will be the featured speaker for the programme.

As part of IAVM’s efforts to recognise women in leadership roles, IAVM will present an educational session at their annual VenueConnect conference (, 27-30 July 2013, focused on the development of female leaders. IAVM will also host the Women of Influence reception presented by Venues Today magazine, recognizing top women executives in the venue industry during the conference in New Orleans, La.

IAVM President and CEO, Vicki Hawarden said:

We are very excited to be able to join forces with IAEE’s team and interact with their membership of highly capable and passionate event and exhibition professionals. Many of IAVM’s goals and our basic mission overlap with IAEE’s. The opportunity to encourage their members to participate in our educational and networking events will truly expand the quality of networking and substantially increase the depth and breadth of expertise found within both organisation’s memberships.

Vicki Hawarden

Vicki Hawarden

The IAVM supports over 4,000 venue professionals from arenas, stadiums, convention centres, performing arts halls and university complexes, as well as Allied members that support venues with services and products. IAEE is composed of approximately 1,300 members (organisations) and over 8,000 member representatives (individuals).