Ok, so the title was a bit misleading but when you read about Wanda Calvin-Claiborne, you’ll see why.
Ms. Wanda and I go back a few years and just recently, I figured out what it was that she does for a living. When you explain it to someone in casual conversation, the response is like “oh…ok”(insert a few bewildered looks). But when she breaks it down so it can “forever and consistently be broke” (line from the movie Love Jones), you will understand that she’s a pretty big deal! Especially in the business world!
We met at a meeting, of all things, and out of all the people in the room, she saw something in me that I never knew I had. She saw my heart and my spirit (she told me this years later). GOD placed Ms. Wanda in my life for a reason; to keep me grounded, humble, honest, trustworthy and BEAUTIFUL (inside and out). She is doing a great job. I see her from time to time and the first thing she asks me is “you alright?” and I say “yes ma’m”. Then she gives me this look that makes me think if I am ok (lol). I can appreciate her because I look up to her as my friend, my soror, my big sister! I respect her so much and once you get to know her, if you’re lucky enough to cross paths with her, you’ll know why.
And the next time you attend a conference, wherever it is, look around. Wanda Calvin Claiborne just might be the woman in charge.
What is your occupation?
I am a Meeting Planner with a Certified Meeting Professional Certification.
What is that exactly?
I plan conferences and follow the process from idea to conclusion of the event. Everything that you can think of that is conference related I do – finding a property/hotel, negotiate rates, review and sign hotel contracts, create signage, work with the web team to create a conference template, hire speakers, order food and beverage, register attendees, order decorations and other things that arise (and something new always arises).
Did you have to go to school for that? What was your major?
I did not go to school to be a Meeting Planner. I actually graduated from Morgan State University with a degree in Communications. I planned to be the next Oprah Winfrey but I think God had other plans for me!
What was it about this particular field that struck your interest?
I took a position as an Office Clerk while I waited for some Producer or Hollywood to discover me. LOL
In the meantime the Meeting Planner at the Maryland State Bar was resigning and I remembered how much I enjoyed planning events and activities for my sorority (Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.) and my church at the time (New Psalmist Baptist Church.) I always wanted to be on the planning committee of some event. The light bulb came on and I applied for the position. It was like the position was designed for me and I was able to make my mark.
I would say your job is a pretty demanding one. What do you enjoy most from your job?
It is very demanding – more than most people think. Before one conference ends the next one is already on the back burner. I am currently closing out the billing for an October, 2014 conference, sending out the preliminary information for my June, 2015 conference while working on a February, 2015 conference that is being held out of the country. The thing I enjoy most is making people happy. Making sure they are enjoying their conference experience.
What is the most irritating thing about your job?
The same thing that I enjoy about conference planning can also be irritating. One day I will learn that you really can’t make everyone happy. When one person is happy with the dinner selection trust me the next person will hate it.
Some people would say your job is “boring”. You would say what about your job?
Boring?? I could say many things about it but boring wouldn’t be one of them. My job is tapping into one’s creativity, knowledge, patience, while working long hours at times and the ability to handle pressure and much more. You can roll a dice on what will be the prominent thing on any given day.
When people attend a conference/meeting, what do you want them to know?
EVERYTHING COST and I do mean EVERYTHING. I hear so many people say things like why am I paying $18.00 for a box lunch at a hotel? Well when you are confined to using the food and beverage from the hotel which tags 6% tax and 21% gratuity to every turkey sandwich and bag of chips it adds up quickly.
How many hats do you wear and which hat makes you the most proud?
You do what you have to do. I have worked a sound board and Audio Visual equipment, been the photographer, shopped for conference give-a-ways, met with VIPs, found a sleeping room where one didn’t exist, created name tags when the carrier lost mine etc. If I had to narrow it down I would say the hat I am most proud to wear however is mom. It is not a part of being a Meeting Planner but it is a job, non the less.
I decided to interview you because I believe you are truly inspiring to me through the conversations we have and the wisdom you share. Where do you get this from? Like, who would you credit is responsible for your personality?
Thank you, that is very kind of you. God created the path that he wanted me to take. Walking that path has allowed me to grow and learn some things that I have been able to share with others. It is important to me to share my mountain top and my valley experiences because both can help others. Sometimes when you are quiet and listen to God’s voice you will have the right things to say and at the right time. Many people have told me I should be more x,y or z. It always makes me laugh because what they are really saying is I should be more like them. What God has for me is for me – including my personality.
What song makes you LOSE YOUR MIND?
If I had to say one song it would be When Doves Cry by Prince (especially when it is re-mixed)
What is your favorite line in a movie and why?
“Let me tell you somethin’. This here, right now, at this very moment, is all that matters to me. I love you. That’s urgent…” Darius Lovehall said that at the end of Love Jones. It speaks to living life to the fullest and not letting anything keep you from ultimate happiness and love.
What makes you suck your teeth and roll your eyes?
If I could do both at the same time it would be mean/nasty people.
What is ONE THING about you (you’d be willing to share) that NO ONE knows about you?
Well a couple people know this but the last night of my Annual Meeting while setting up for the Business Meeting the next morning I grab the mic and sing “I did it my way” by Frank Sinatra. It has very special and significant meaning to me.
What would you want your legacy to be?
That I wanted to be better than my every yesterday and I would do anything in my power to help my fellow man/woman.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Being more spiritually grounded and living life like it’s golden!
If the Wanda of 20 years ago ran into the Wanda of today, what would she say and how would she respond?
If you mean the Wanda of today speaking to her younger self she would say stop running so much. Stop and inhale the beauty of today and let tomorrow handle it self and put down those charge cards. If you can’t buy it with cash maybe you don’t need it.
How can you be reached? (email, social media, etc.)
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