Mary Manier is passionate about her role as director of sales for Experience Grand Rapids. It’s no surprise, given she was born and raised in the Michigan city and has been with the same organization for the past 35 years. We sat down with Manier to find out more about her professional accomplishments, including her day-to-day work, what excites her about Grand Rapids and an incredible idea for a FAM trip.
What I Do
I work with national clients on introducing them to what Grand Rapids has to offer for their national or regional meetings. On a typical day, that means prospecting groups that are a fit for Grand Rapids, working with the sales team, getting RFPs and ideally getting planners to come here on a site visit. We’re kind of an unknown destination, unfortunately, in that we don’t really have a bad reputation—we just don’t have one at all. We’re working on that.
What I Actually Do
I get to show off my hometown. We launched what we call the 27-hour experience three years ago and its been very successful so far. We do a VIP FAM trip once a year focusing on planners with potential for us in the Washington, D.C. area. A local corporation allows us to use their private jet. We send a car to their home to pick them up and fly in eight or nine clients from Dulles into Grand Rapids. From the time they leave to the time they get back is about 27 hours. We give them a really quick tour of convention center, hotels, the city and one of our major attractions, then they’re out. When that group flies back, we have a couple hours’ layover and it goes back again.
Who’s Helped Me Along the Way
Two of my mentors are George Helmstead, our retired vice president of sales, and Susan Babich, director of national accounts at the Sacramento CVB.
The Best Career Advice I Ever Received
Ask questions, be positive and work hard.
What Excites Me Most About My Job
After 35 years, introducing people to Grand Rapids who have never heard of us or who don’t know anything about us and having them say “Yes, we’re going to bring our attendees to our city,” still excites me.
My Favorite Spots Around Grand Rapids
My favorite attraction is the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park—it’s spectacular, especially in the spring. I love the beaches too. We are 25 minutes from Lake Michigan and our side of the lake, we have beautiful white, sandy beaches.
Most Fun Event I’ve Gotten to Work On
We have a large event called ArtPrize housed in our city for two weeks in September and about a week to 10 days in October. It’s the largest open art competition in the world. We have 1,400 to 1,500 artists who display art anywhere in the city, from office buildings to the street to the river.It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from—when you’re standing next to each other and having a conversation around art, it brings you together.
Read the rest of Mary Manier’s story on the Association for Women in Events blog.