ARDA Promotes Networking and Professional Growth Opportunities at WIN Annual Meeting
The American Resort Development Association (ARDA) recently held its WIN Annual Meeting at the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek Resort and Spa in Orlando, Florida. ARDA WIN aims to advocate, educate and connect members by fostering personal and professional growth. Each year, this in-person meeting assembles and connects like-minded professionals for a unique education and networking opportunity.
The conference kicked off with a delightful breakfast for attendees to enjoy as ARDA President and CEO Jason Gamel opened the event and set the stage for what the gathering would provide guests, namely the opportunity to network with individuals in similar positions across companies. Gamel encouraged attendees to meet as many people as they could throughout the day and to learn about their unique experiences and the paths they took to get to where they are now. He remarked on how doing so would help attendees build an amazing and empowering community that could enhance their own careers. He also took some time to talk through the varying aspects of ARDA, ARDA-ROC and AIF to help participants understand the full scope of responsibilities.
Fiona Downing, Senior Managing Director of Panorama, RCI and Travel + Leisure Clubs and Chair of ARDA WIN, then welcomed attendees and encouraged them to remain open as they met and talked with fellow guests, so that everyone could learn from one another by sharing their own personal stories. She went on to share her own personal journey of how what started as a temporary, entry-level job in telemarketing for RCI before entering college led to a successful, 32-year career in the timeshare industry, thanks to hard work and never saying no to a new challenge. Downing recommended attendees do the same – stay engaged and open to new things – to get the most out of their careers.
Laurie Hansen, Vice Chair of ARDA WIN, served as master of ceremonies for the day’s events and kicked off the morning’s general session by introducing the first panel discussion, “Women of Influence and Impact in Central Florida.” This conversation, moderated by Kelly Cohen, Managing Partner of The Southern Group, and featuring Michelle Maikisch, incoming Executive Director of the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX), Kathy Ramsberger, President & CEO of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, and Beverly Seay, an entrepreneurial modeling and simulation defense industry senior executive and member of the UCF Board of Trustees, highlighted panelists’ unique perspectives on women and work while sharing their journey to leadership, challenges along the way, and advice for young women hoping to do the same. Ramsberger encouraged attendees to surround themselves with great leaders, which can be found all around, and to align themselves with as many people they admire as possible. Seay noted the importance of empowering people, rather than making other people’s decisions for them. Maikisch agreed, noting that she believes her role is to help others be successful. Cohen and the panelists also discussed the importance of work-life balance, as well as volunteering and networking. A key takeaway from this conversation was to be clear in what you ask for and ask for what you need.
The morning session also included a keynote speaker conversation between Sam DePoy, Senior Vice President of Global Public Policy for ARDA, and Downing. DePoy is a leading star in Washington, DC’s inner lobbying circles. She shared the story of how she got to where she is, growing up in a small, coal mining community in Pennsylvania and working at the Federal Bureau of Investigation before taking a secretary position in the government affairs office for the National Association of Realtors (NAR). At NAR, DePoy’s new boss was a woman, and she was excited to have a real mentor. However, DePoy shared that her new boss had no interest in mentoring and equated the situation to trying to buy oranges at a hardware store, as her boss just wasn’t equipped to give DePoy what she was looking for. So instead, DePoy wrote a personal check to join a female networking organization and found the “orange grove” she was looking for. She left attendees with her keys to being successful: 1) knowing your stuff, 2) being out in front and 3) establishing integrity – trust your instincts and follow your compass.
Attendees were then invited to take part in a delicious lunch buffet before hearing from keynote speaker former Congresswoman Val Demings. Demings highlighted three simple things it takes to be successful and get out of your comfort zone. The first is courage to take the first step even if you can’t see the rest of the staircase. She noted how fear is the destroyer of dreams. The second item Demings highlighted is preparation, whether that means networking or going back to school. She encouraged attendees, stating that while it may be hard, hard does not mean impossible. The final item Demings discussed is opportunity, which is the only one not within an individual’s control. However, she emphasized that courage and preparation will help open up the opportunities. Demings concluded by sharing an inspiring motto for attendees to adopt, “I believe in me in 2023.”
The afternoon general session opened with a panel discussion on “Quiet Quitting: Is it Real? Are Employees Disengaged and What Can Employers Do About it?” The term “quiet quitting,” in which an employee does not go above and beyond at work and just meets their basic job requirements, has recently taken over social media. Moderator Kimberly Marshall, Chief Human Resources Officer of Travel + Leisure Co. led a conversation with Denise Haeggberg, Senior Vice President of Global Talent Management at Marriott Vacations Worldwide, Abby Escalante, Director of Associate Engagement for Grand Pacific Resorts and Leigh Ann Nieman, Director of Member Experience for Disney Vacation Club, about the term and what employers can do to overturn the trend. Panelists began by noting how the coronavirus pandemic changed our lives and our work, but that a shift had already begun before COVID, as demographics began to change with more and more boomers retiring. With the current labor shortage, which is expected to last for quite some time, it is now a workers’ market, and employees are looking to have their needs met and to work at a company that appreciates them. Nieman stated that leadership is key, and it is leaders’ responsibility to find out what their employees need and why. Escalante added that as soon as an issue is identified, leaders must act, especially when it comes to mental health. She went on to discuss the importance of mental health and communicating to employees the programs your company provides. The panelists discussed how it is important to learn what motivates employees, which varies by individual, and finding fun and engaging activities that encourage team building.
The conference concluded with an impactful workshop, “Women Lifting Women: Women in Leadership Training,” facilitated by Susan Apgood and Anjali Varma, professors at the American University Kogod School of Business and Co-founders of EmpowHERed. This workshop provided insight into the challenges and barriers that women leaders often face, including exclusion from networks, lack of mentors, preference for gender similarity, lack of confidence, home and childcare responsibilities, and more. It also offered attendees tools that can be integrated immediately to overcome these barriers, including tips on how to communicate more effectively and assertively and advice on how to stop overthinking and apologizing.
ARDA would like to thank all the sponsors who helped make this such a wonderful event, including Disney Vacation Club, First American Title Insurance Company, Hilton Grand Vacations, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Interval International, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, RCI, Westgate Resorts and Wyndham Destinations, as well as Concord, Fidelity National Timeshare, Manley Deas Kochalski LLC and MasterCorp.
Thank you to everyone who attended this annual event. We look forward to seeing you again soon at ARDA’s upcoming events, including the 2023 Spring Conference on April 16-19, 2023, at the Hilton Orlando, the ARDAdventure VIP Retreat – 2023 Peak Pursuit on July 19-21, 2023, at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and the 2023 Fall Conference on November 8-10, 2023, at the Fairmont in Washington, DC.