Name: Jeris Lampkin-Smith
Title: Independent Meetings, Incentive and Events Planner
Organization: A Place To Remember Travel and Tours Inc.
Birthplace: Havana, Florida
Education: Bachelor of Science in sociology with a minor in psychology
Career History: Spent 33 years with the federal government, including management and development of staff training meetings. After retiring in 2009, she created an independent meeting planning service.
Working in the travel industry is often seen as a dream job, the ideal “second act” for those who are changing careers at a later age. For Jeris Lampkin-Smith, who is an independent incentive and events planner at A Place To Remember Travel and Tours in Miami, Florida, the transition to work in travel was intentional after an intense career with the federal corrections agency.
Her first career path couldn’t have been more polar opposite from the role of travel agent, but some of the skills and connections she honed at her job proved to be priceless.
Lampkin-Smith grew up in the Tampa area and attended college at Florida A&M, studying sociology and criminology and graduating in just three years by taking classes year-round while working full-time at a local recreation center. After college, she moved to Miami.
“I wanted a new adventure and wanted to experience other cultures and a different lifestyle,” she said. “I had the opportunity to accept a job with the State Parole and Probation Office, where I worked for a few years before I received a federal appointment to become a U.S. Probation Officer.”
Lampkin-Smith worked in the agency for over 30 years, but in a federal appointment, the set retirement age is 57, so she knew she would have to consider another career afterward.
“As you know, 57 is just the beginning,” she said. “I knew that because I had held such a serious position all of my life, I wanted to do something fun and to work with people who were happy. I was looking forward to traveling.”
Before her retirement date arrived, she decided to retrain herself as a travel agent and a meeting planner because she was drawn to the industry and knew she would enjoy working in that capacity. Plus, during her career, she was often tapped to coordinate trainings, workshops and meetings. She was so good at it that today the Federal Officers Association is one of her regular clients.
On a trip she organized for the group in the Bahamas, she met the president of A Place To Remember, and even though her experience as a travel agent was limited, her interest was keen, and Lampkin-Smith was brought on board. It was her management experience and the skills that go with it that got her the role.
“All management positions interrelate to one another,” she said. “As a manager in corrections, I managed staff and offenders, and we had to answer to the courts. That’s a higher level — there are greater expectations. When that skill set is developed, it’s an easy transition.”
Today, Lampkin-Smith considers herself to be an expert affinity meeting planner, meaning she organizes trips for groups that have a common interest, like the Mahogany Group of the Red Hat Society or family reunions. For anyone who is interested in working as a meeting planner in travel, she advises taking time to fully explore and research the destination. She emphasizes that clients will ask detailed questions and have very specific needs that the travel agent is expected to fulfill.
“My core intent when planning a meeting is to make it a good experience,” she said. “I feel like people should get a great value for that investment because traveling can be costly, and I don’t want to take that for granted.”
Tips from Jeris Lampkin-Smith
• Remain vested in your clients’ desired outcomes.
• Never be reluctant to empower your clients with knowledge of tools and resources used for their awe-inspiring event.
• The consummate professionals in this business are those who set their parameters and are never reluctant to network with others.