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Global Events Visionary: Ms. Caitlin Harris

The meetings and events industry is built on connections and relationships. Being part of a team that manages supplier relations for an organization of over 1,500 people must not be an easy feat. That is exactly what our latest Global Events Visionary (GEV), Ms. Caitlin Harris, does!
Caitlin has not only been a supportive partner of MarketID and our international clients through the years, she is also a perfect example on how one can grow in the industry. She was recently promoted to Director of Global Supplier Relations, starting out as a BCD Meetings & Events (M&E) intern 10 years ago.
Learn more below about our latest GEV, the value her team contributes to her company (and the world!), and what it takes for her to continue being successful.
Can you share what role you and your department play at BCD M&E?
CH: I’m responsible for managing the overall strategy and activation of BCD M&E’s global non-hotel supplier program. This comprises of curating a diverse portfolio of partners to support the various markets and lines of business BCD M&E services worldwide. Within the Supplier Relations team, our goal is to find opportunities to connect our partners (both hotel and non-hotel suppliers) with our colleagues through education, marketing efforts, and relationship building, in order to drive compliance, grow business together, and ultimately produce successful events for our customers.
Who are the industry players that you engage with on a daily basis?
CH: Being that my focus is on the non-hotel partnerships, the majority of my time is spent with suppliers supporting those categories: anything and everything from DMC, AV/Production, Ground Transportation, Merchandise, Air Charter, Virtual Solutions, Tourism Bureaus- you name it! I also spend a large portion of my day meeting with internal team stakeholders, listening to their client activities and supplier needs, sharing partner updates, and brainstorming ways their operations team and our Supplier Relations team can continue to address client initiatives via our partner program.
My understanding is that you are the gate keeper at BCD M&E for suppliers. Do you have advice to suppliers to best access your organization’s resources.
CH: I can’t tell you how important partnership is for BCD M&E, and something we hope the supplier finds reciprocated and they, too, feel equally valued. Because of this mindset, we tend to be quite methodical on who we bring into our portfolio and the number of partners within each category. With that being said, there’s typically the need to balance honoring the loyalties of our long-term relationships and keeping an open mind to unique or emerging supplier offerings that allow us to enhance program experiences. My advice to suppliers is be patient with us – we will be transparent as to whether or not we can foresee a strong business case to incorporate a new supplier into the portfolio, based on the trends of the business or potential volume anticipated. It might take some time to get to this point, but if the opportunity is right, we will certainly be open to the engagement!
How do you manage to sustain these relationships? And, based on your experience, what is the best way to make new ones?
CH: A lot of time and efforts are spent with our partners, explaining the complexities of our organization and where the strongest opportunities exist. And as the business continues to evolve, we want to make sure we’re both staying at the forefront of ways to successfully support client needs – this is completed through periodic check-ins, communications, and attending industry shows throughout the year.   
Building new relationships would go hand-in-hand with the comments above. We will never shut a door on a potential opportunity and always open to listening to ideas.
We know, from our own personal interactions with you, that you move mountains to facilitate business between your team and suppliers, but what is it that does not fall under your scope of responsibilities?
CH: As the saying goes, ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.’ My role doesn’t comprise of making the end decision of which suppliers will be selected for the client’s program. Within the Supplier Relations team, our goal is to equip our colleagues with the best options by consulting and educating, but the decision is in the hands of our operations team to select the program’s suppliers based on the scope of the opportunity and who they ultimately feel is the best option for their client’s engagement. It’s so important that the suppliers take the time to nurture the relationships with our local teams for this reason!  
Over the years connecting suppliers with the BCD M&E team, you must have received many interesting inquiries. Which one was the strangest or funniest?
CH: A unique request – we had recently been tasked with finding the appropriate supplies for a Sake Barrel Breaking Ceremony, a celebratory event to wish for a prosperous life or business endeavors. The caveat, however, was our team needed it within two weeks for a program operating in a small New Jersey town. We certainly leaned on our network of industry colleagues to make it happen!
On a separate note, and not strange nor funny, but one that’s worth sharing… at the beginning of the Ukraine war, a European client requested that BCD M&E assist them with a mission to help evacuate their employees and families—and urgently. We had reached out to our supplier community looking for support in finding long-term housing and transportation to move this group of 1,900 people. Within 24 hours we had an overwhelming number of options from partners across Europe, some even offering up additional supplies for the children or volunteering their staff for assistance. It was incredibly humbling to see the support and impact from our industry network on what can be achieved in a time of need.
What advice can you share with those who aspire to be in the position you have worked hard to be in?
CH: For me, it was a couple components: say ‘yes’ – put yourself out there and find ways to participate in unique projects, attend networking events, join in on industry educationals. There are some great opportunities for continuous learning and growing relationships with industry colleagues. And the second is just to be your authentic self!