Jennifer “Jen” Hoff, president of Taffy Event Strategies, a full-service trade show and management company in Arlington, Virginia, says she loves the “melting pot of skills and personality” it takes to make the show happen. Similar to her love of participating in trade show activities is her obsession with spaghetti and meatballs. Her go-to is Lavo in the Palazzo in Las Vegas, which has meatballs made from wagyu beef, Italian sausage and veal, and served with whipped ricotta cheese. The Virginia Beach native says maybe it’s having grown up in a tourist town, but she likes finding off-the-beaten-path activities when she’s at a trade show. She mixes it up with Connect.
How have trade shows evolved throughout your career?
I see more synergy between the functional departments sales, marketing, operations, and program development. People seem to appreciate how each piece is greater than the sum of its parts. By understanding the big picture and not staying in your silo kingdom, individuals can be part of a collaboration with huge impact.
Why did you get into event planning?
Like most of my peers in the industry, I didn’t know what I was getting into
at the time. My college roommate got a job as an accountant at an association in Northern Virginia when we graduated. I was looking for a job anywhere and wasn’t sure what I was looking for. My roommate said, ‘There’s a job here; they said since you worked for a caterer you might be qualified.’ It turned out to be a conference speaker coordinator position. During the interview process, I thought that meant I would be organizing audiovisual speakers and answering the questions to that angle. Somehow, I got the job and my responsibilities evolved to the logistical and operations aspects of events.