May 24, 2022
Today, we have the great pleasure of speaking with Liz Holtby! Liz is a giver! She is the Vice President of Operations for Meeting Escrow. Liz has some important information to share about financial risk management and incentive travel. In this episode, she tells her story, talks about the services she provides and the value of incentive travel, and shares some great insights!
We hope you enjoy listening to today’s informative conversation with Liz Holtby!
Liz started her career in Toronto with the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (now CPA), planning meetings for their Executive Office and Board of Directors. Since then, she has worked with various marketing, as well as Meeting and Incentive Travel companies in an operations-related capacity. Her roles have included human resources, finance, operations, administration, and technology. Primarily, she ensures that the operations team has the support required to deliver programs on time and within the budget.
Currently, daily, Liz manages financial risk for a variety of organizations. She handles client event budgets by managing funds in segregated domestic and foreign currency trust accounts.
Liz is passionate about education and mentorship and helps cultivate the next generation of leaders in the Business Events Industry through her teaching positions at Durham and Centennial Colleges. She is also a member of their Program Advisory Committees.
She is a graduate of Ryerson University’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program with a Bachelor of Applied Arts. She is TICO certified and is the 2022 President for SITE Canada (Society of Incentive Travel Executives).
Liz graduated from university in Toronto with a degree in commerce and a specialty in hospitality and tourism. She took one inspiring course in meetings and event management, given by Duff Shaw, an icon in the industry. Liz wanted to follow in his footsteps as a teacher and inspire others as he had inspired her. That led her down the path of incentive travel, meetings, and conferences.
In 2008, Liz left the industry because of the recession. She worked for a marketing company for about three years and then got back into the incentive travel industry. She joined Meeting Escrow in 2018.
Joining Meeting Escrow
Joining Meeting Escrow was an opportunity for Liz to marry the MICE industry with the finance side and risk management.
Most people in the industry are part of the industry because they are creative people who care about the details.
What does Meeting Escrow do?
Meeting Escrow provides a variety of different financial solutions. During a crisis, their clients become concerned about the advance deposits they pay to their vendors. The deposits get put into an Escrow trust account where the beneficiary is both the client and the vendor. The account is mandated by an Escrow agreement signed by both parties. The agreement outlines when the deposits were put into the Escrow trust account and when they get paid out. That is very helpful for both clients and vendors because a client could go bankrupt as easily as a vendor could, and if that happens, the funds go to the other party.
Secure Vendor Payment Program
Meeting Escrow also has a Secure Vendor Payment program. They have twenty different currencies of trust accounts for when money sits in Escrow or a trust. They work with clients who have programs in various countries around the world. When they take in money from clients, they exchange it immediately. Then it sits in the foreign currency trust account, so there is no currency fluctuation.
Incentive travel is all about providing people with experiential moments that they cannot do by themselves. Right now, incentive travel is more important than ever because it gets people away from their screens and helps them connect with people in different countries. It helps bring back a sense of community, camaraderie, and motivation.
Most of the people that Liz communicates with through Meeting Escrow are hoteliers, DMCs, clients, or third-party agencies. They are busy now and finding it hard to get the staff they need, so people are doing multiple jobs within those companies to get their incentive programs off the ground. Their focus right now is on execution and planning for the future.
Changes in the industry
When Liz started teaching about four years ago, she used to tell her students good things about the industry. It was hard for her students to find jobs within the industry back then because they were in short supply, and companies within the industry wanted people with experience. Now, many jobs are available, so students can pick and choose. They can also research what they truly want. As a result, many students are now focusing on roles in areas of sustainability, charity, and CSR.
Getting back into teaching
Liz is looking forward to getting back into teaching to have the opportunity to bring more great graduates into the industry again.
In-demand skills within the industry
Young people should develop project management skills and certifications to become marketable and successful within the industry. Because anything you focus on when you execute an incentive program, a conference, or a meeting is a project. And each project is different.
Document your task
Things seldom go as planned with projects. It is vital to document all the relevant tasks, milestones, responsibilities, and dates. That will help you stay on top of things and execute your job with minimum stress.
Project management means creating a database and automating your project. That will ensure that everyone working on the project is clear about their area of responsibility.
CRMs are a helpful tool if you get into sales. They are an excellent way to generate sales, document opportunities, follow up on sales potentials and leads, and follow a sales cycle.
Automated tools, like CRMs, project management tools, accounting software, Mailchimp, and others, are helpful. They can make individuals more efficient and help small companies perform like big companies.
A four-day workweek
A four-day workweek is about being as efficient in four days as you could be in five. Automating some of your processes can make a four-day week a realistic possibility.
Recommended tool for better efficiency and organization
Liz recommends that people within the meetings and event industry use Zoho because you can buy one subscription that includes all the components and platforms beneath it. They include Zoho Project, Zoho CRM, Zoho Forms, Zoho Books, and Zoho Campaigns.
2023 will return to 2019 levels
Much of what Liz has been reading says that 2023 will return to 2019 levels. It also seemed to be the consensus amongst the 450 event planning professionals she got together with recently in Ireland.
As a result of Covid, Meeting Escrow has been armed with all the risk management tools they need to move on and keep going.
“Dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s is truly what finance is about.”
“The majority of people in this industry are in this industry because they are creative people.”
“I think incentive travel cannot be any more important than it is now to get people away from their screens, out of their desks, and connecting with people in a different country.”
“Incentive travel is about providing experiential moments that people can’t do on their own.”
“What you are executing when you execute an incentive program, a conference or a meeting is a project. And no project is the same.”
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