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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Meeting Leaders: Lindsay Ference

Executive Profile

Name: Lindsay Ference

Title: Director of Sales

Organization: Visit South Bend Mishawaka

Location: South Bend, Indiana

Birthplace:South Bend, Indiana

Education: Studied business administration with a concentration in management at St. Mary’s College

Career History: 

Inn at St. Mary’s Hotel and Suites

Hilton Garden Inn and Gillespie Conference Center

Summit Planner Inc

Visit South Bend Mishawaka

Lindsay Ference was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, and grew up playing in the waters of Lake Michigan, boating and biking the trails that run along the shoreline. Her active upbringing gave her a both a love of the area and a local’s familiarity with it, making her a great candidate to be the South Bend/Mishawaka CVB’s director of sales.

“I’ve always worked on conferences and meetings throughout my career,” said Ference. “It comes as second nature for me; building relationships and helping people problem solve is my niche.”

While a freshman in college at St. Mary’s in South Bend, where she studied business administration with a focus on management, she got a part-time job working at the front desk of a hotel near campus. She stayed there for four years, moving up the ranks to guest services management.

“I never thought of hospitality as a career path, but I just sort of got sucked in,” she said.

Ference then went on to work at the Inn at St. Mary’s on campus. In 2009, the owner of the hotel, Holladay Properties, built a Hilton Garden Inn and the Gillespie conference center on the adjacent property to the Inn at St. Mary’s, and Ference took on a role in sales and office management and corporate business management, selling meetings at all three properties. The role taught her what it is like to organize and implement large group events from the hotel side.

In 2014, Ference moved to the other side, working for a corporate incentive travel and meeting group and planning all aspects of corporate meetings for groups of 150 to 5,000 people. Her previous hotel experience proved invaluable.

“I organized all of the group’s air travel, food and beverage, AV, hotel and event space, and off-site activities,” she said. “I focused on groups going to tropical destinations, but having worked in hotels, I was able to negotiate contracts successfully because I knew that I could ask for. The goal is to try to find the best fit for both sides.”

In 2016, an opportunity to join the team at Visit South Bend/ Mishawaka opened up when the director of sales retired, and Ference could step into the role of sales and service manager. Ference had worked closely with the team during her time in the local hotel industry, and soon afterward, she was promoted to director of sales.

Ference believes the key to her success is her intimate knowledge of the area.

“I would tell people who are interested in this career to know the local area they’re representing well,” she said. “Another key is to know the logistics that go into planning a successful event and be able to make suggestions to the client on what amenities the facility can offer.”

Though moving up the ladder may take time, Ference recommends that anyone choosing a career with the CVB get as many perspectives as possible to see how the different elements work together and how different roles can work together.

“Working in a hotel that didn’t have a bunch of departments was helpful because with a small staff we planned and executed every event and made sure everything was running smoothly,” she said. “Having behind-the-scenes knowledge helps the wheels turn when you are thinking about which people can pull off the event you want to do.”

Tips from Lindsay Ference

• Use your DMOs (destination marketing organizations) for sourcing. Local DMOs are experts on their products and can make suggestions on best-fit venues or locations to make your event unique and memorable.

• Ask what services each DMO offers. You can benefit from visitor information to each attendee to financial sponsorship incentives. We are always looking for ways to assist with the experiential portion of your event.

Where possible, try to incorporate a local theme into your event. Have your DMO suggest items or locations for off-site events that will incorporate local businesses. Attendees like to be immersed in local culture and experience things they can’t get anywhere else.