Our Meet the Team series introduces you to the people at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center that help bring your idea for a meeting or event to life. Find out more about Ashleigh Conner, Director of Events, including how she landed a career in hospitality and some of her favorite things to do in Columbia.
What are some skills you bring to your role as CMCC’s director of events?
I’m incredibly detailed-oriented, efficiently organized, a good manager of time, able to multi-task, and communicate well with others. I think I was born to be an event manager. My prompt, productive, perfectly-put-together mom instilled most of the other skills in me to be a successful planner, list-maker and worrier, but there is an accredited degree for the hospitality industry, too. Jimmy Buffet said, “If we weren’t all crazy, we would go insane.” There is a method to my madness; every event manager is different.
How long have you been with Experience Columbia SC?
I have been with Experience Columbia SC (formerly Midlands Authority) and the CMCC since before the convention center was built. I helped open the building and planned the grand opening activities in 2004. In fact I still have my hard hat and steel-toed boots. I’m passionate about what I do and I love the people I work with.
How did you get into the meetings and hospitality field?
In high school, I moonlighted as an entertainment booking agent for a top-touring band, so my career in the hospitality industry began very early. Through college, I was able to continue being a talent agent for several successful bands and I was the founder and president of a nonprofit organization for musicians—both of which were relevant for my career goals.
I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in southern Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management.
While in college, my facility management career began as an intern with the CMCC, I quickly established a record of executive leadership and earned the Director of Events position in a few short years. I have been a member of the Professional Convention Management Association for 15 years and I have continued my certification as a Certified Meeting Professional recognized by the Events Industry Council worldwide. I am dedicated to raising industry standards and practices in hospitality and meeting management.
What's your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of what I do is interacting with our clients, getting to know what is important to them and forming long-term relationships.
Do you have any memorable stories from your time at CMCC?
Every day is an exciting day at the CMCC, and I never know what is in store for me until I arrive at the facility. That is what is so awesome about the event planning industry; no two days are ever the same. Let me say just when I think I’ve seen it all…I haven’t.
One of the most notable events I’ve ever planned though was my wedding. My husband proposed and 99 days later 500 of our closest friends and family joined us for a traditional church Halloween wedding and reception at the CMCC.
Some of my most exciting and memorable times are when I help quickly solve problems. I love the adrenaline rush of problem solving and the satisfaction of wowing clients with successful solutions. Developing a sixth sense to be able to have insight to envision what clients expect even when they aren’t sure is a valuable quality to have.
What do you like most about living and working in Columbia?
Columbia is my home. I love our “famously hot” southern hospitality college town. We are swiftly growing, but still have a “small-town” feel. My favorite aspect of Columbia is that we are a walkable city.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Columbia?
I love spending time at Riverfront Park. From any location at the park you can see the bridges that lead into downtown reflecting in the river’s water, and the city-scape skyline creates a beautiful backdrop. I also highly recommend the State House and grounds tour. It’s an excellent way to learn about Columbia’s history.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I have two little boys, named Cash and Noah, who are my and my husband Brian’s whole world. I love church, spending time with my family, shopping with grandmamma, being crafty, cooking and adventuring in faraway places.