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Inspirational women in the MICE industry: Catherine Bird, Center Parcs

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PA Life spoke to Catherine Bird, National Sales Manager at Center Parcs Conferences & Events, as part of our International Women’s Day interview series with influential women across different industries. Catherine, or Cat, as she is widely known as, has a wealth of experience gained at her previous roles at Lime Venue Portfolio, De Vere and University of Nottingham. Cat is one of the inspirational women in the MICE industry whose contribution to her peers is invaluable and she continues to be a role model for many women. 

What words of encouragement would you give to younger audiences who want a career in sales and events?

Self-motivation is absolutely key if you want to succeed in a sales and events position. Set yourself daily or weekly goals, make sure they align with your company’s goals – and stick to them! I’d also say that you need to be really, genuinely, passionate about what you’re selling, because if you don’t believe in it then your clients won’t either.

“If you’re not passionate about your product, it’s time to move on!”

Never, ever stop learning. Gain as much knowledge as you can – go to all the industry events, network with others in the events sector, and pick up tips and tricks from other sales professionals that you meet. Most importantly, be yourself! It’s a bit of a cliché, but for client-facing roles where you’re making connections and building relationships, you have to be authentic and genuine.

How do you contribute to creating a supportive environment for women in leadership roles?

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have some incredible women mentors supporting me in my career, so I’ve learned from the best! I’d like to give a shout out to Carla Garman, the founder and director of Abstract Events. She’s been a wonderful mentor for me. She beat breast cancer last year, runs her own business and somehow manages to find the time to provide a ton of support to others around her – what a superwoman!

These days, I do everything I can to create a supportive environment for those around me, particularly women in leadership roles. I know that when you’re new in a leadership role, asking for help can be really scary – but you should never struggle on your own. It isn’t a weakness to ask for support. I make sure my team know they can always ask me for help – and I’m constantly asking them to help me, too!

Can you share how you turned a setback into a stepping stone for further career success?

Overcoming obstacles and challenges is a fundamental part of life. It’s how we learn and grow! I’ve faced plenty of difficult situations which have knocked my confidence. For example, there will be times when you make mistakes at work (I’ve made plenty over the years!). It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by this or want to bury your head in the sand – but what’s important is how you deal with it. Taking responsibility, having open and honest communication with others who are affected, and taking steps to fix the problem. Once you’ve done this, it’s time to move on. Mistakes will happen, and learning how to handle them helps you to become more resilient.

We are pleased to have Center Parcs Sherwood Forest on our Spring 2024 magazine cover. The venue has undergone an extensive renovation and expansion and re-opened it accommodation and event facilities in February this year.