Don’t let the dulcet tones of her Texas drawl fool you; Patty Stern is a real contender. In fact, this industry leader won Planner of the Year three times and in three locations—Texas, New York City and New Jersey.
Stern got her feet wet on the supplier side at her family’s high-end limousine business in Dallas. Her commitment to involvement and understanding the industry was evident from that very first day. “I joined MPI and the Dallas CVB to get involved,” she says. Involvement is ingrained in Stern, who has been a longtime board member of both MPI and ILEA. Stern joined the business as a supplier, but quickly saw that her skills for planning transportation for conference and convention made her stand out.
Her family’s business was sold to Carey International in 1998 and she continued working for them, largely handling pharmaceutical road shows, but, “I was attracted to the planning side and I wanted to be involved in the planning earlier, since transportation is often at the end.”
She started her own business in 2001, expecting to be a DMC and ended up focusing on conference planning. “My first client was a 5,000-person convention, and I spent an entire year working inside the corporation as a planner,” she says. Her business grew from referrals and, thanks to her marketing background, she was able to offer more than just planning services. “I was one of the first planners in the country to offer a whole marketing module,” she says, including the development of conference websites for clients.
Her business was booming in Dallas, but then one day everything—her direction and home base—took an unexpected turn. “My husband died unexpectedly at the age of 42,” she says. “It changed everything.” She moved to New York City and worked for the New Jersey-based MDP, planning pharma meetings for Pfizer. She spent two and a half years with the company before moving to New Jersey and starting fresh. “I decided to focus on marketing events, rather than planning them,” says Stern, who launched her eponymous company in 2010. “I had to spend the first four years proving myself again.”
But this energetic leader doesn’t let any challenge slow her down. Completely deaf in the left ear and with only 10 percent of hearing in the right ear since the age of 3, Stern says her inability to hear clearly drove her to get more involved in technology. In spite of that, Stern is well-known for her powerful listening skills—she often spins conversations into of-the-moment educational topics for industry associations—and her can-do spirit.