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Ashley Fishback helps ensure Missouri Bar events are safe, enjoyable

Ashley Fishback can’t count the number of times she has accidentally typed “2022” instead of “2021.” As the meetings and events planner with The Missouri Bar, she is always thinking a year ahead – outlining details for the next three to five meetings to ensure the events are pleasant and safe for bar members and staff. 

Fishback works within The Missouri Bar’s Projects Department, helping plan Annual Meeting, the Fall and Spring Committee Meetings, Young Lawyers’ Section meetings and events, and independent Board of Governors meetings. She works with venues and hotels to outline logistics, which includes meeting room setups, scheduling, audiovisual equipment, hotel room blocks, lunches, pricing, and more. 

The last year-and-a-half has been challenging because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fishback said.  

Due to cancellation policies with event venues and hotels, The Missouri Bar must decide whether to cancel or continue with events several months before they occur – which is difficult since CDC requirements and venue situations are continuously changing during the pandemic. If the board or executive committee – in consultation with the executive director – do proceed with the event, they must consider several priority details – how to hold the event (i.e., virtual, hybrid, or in person), how to meet the recommended safety precautions adopted by the bar, how to acquire the proper equipment, and more. 

You want to make the decision that’s going to be the safest, most productive, and efficient for The Missouri Bar and our members,” Fishback said. 

The core segments of The Missouri Bar’s 2021 virtual Annual Meeting will be Sept. 20-24 and include plenary sessions featuring prominent speakers, the swearing-in of 2021-22 Missouri Bar President John Grimm, farewell remarks from outgoing president John Gunn, and the Missouri Chief Justice’s Address. The Missouri Bar will share videos of Gunn’s farewell remarks, the Chief Justice’s Address, and Grimm’s outline of priorities for the coming bar year so all members, not just those attending the Annual meeting, can view them. And for the first time, the bar will use Facebook Live to broadcast the swearing-in ceremony on Sept. 24. This year’s virtual event will also feature bonus continuing legal education sessions that start as early as Sept. 8 and “encore” sessions that extend the educational offerings through the end of September. Click here to view the full schedule and register. 

The Missouri Bar’s events and meetings have been virtual since March 2020. Fishback said there have been some exciting opportunities manifest since The Missouri Bar shifted its events to virtual platforms – one of those being the spike in member attendance at Annual Meeting and the Spring and Fall Committee Meetings. The 2020 Annual Meeting attendance more than doubled compared to previous years – 2,300 members versus 800-900. The virtual Spring and Fall Committee Meetings over the last year-and-a-half had three times more members attend compared to the pre-pandemic, in-person committee meetings held in Jefferson City. 

“Lawyers might have a lunch break that they can dedicate to attending a part of Annual Meeting virtually,” Fishback said. “They don’t need a whole day or a whole week to take off work to come.” 

Annual Meeting quickly became Fishback’s favorite event to plan. Her first day at The Missouri Bar was one week before the 2018 Annual Meeting, one of the bar’s largest events. She didn’t let that intimidate her, though – she quickly jumped in and applied her industry knowledge. She said she enjoys the adrenaline rush from planning the event and watching the Project Department’s hard work come to fruition after months of planning. 

“During the event, I’m that background person that’s making sure nobody else sees the hectic side of events,” she said with a laugh. “It’s just fun to see everybody having a good time and learning more about the profession.” 

Event planning has always been Fishback’s career goal. After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia, she worked in a few hotels and held several positions, including banquet setup, bartender, event planner, and general manager. She later worked as the services and events manager at the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau before joining The Missouri Bar. 

“Having seen the room setups and the coffee break setup and knowing what the behind-the-scenes is helps significantly,” she said. “It’s little things that I think most people don’t think about, but in the end, it’s going to make a better-quality event where the attendees have an even better time.” 

Outside of work, Fishback enjoys creating stained glass artwork, hiking, and bicycling.