One of the most exhilarating and difficult things I do each year is sort through the Smart Women in Meetings Award nominations. The stories of overcoming medical setbacks, discrimination and the difficulties of starting new ventures in the face of adversity left me awed by the bravery you showed in continuing to pursue your dream.

JT Long

Kudos to the fabulous Jaclyn Bernstein, owner of Empire Force Events, who co-founded her local Live Events Coalition during the pandemic height to advocate for the industry. We are cheering you on, Veronica Rivera and hope you will continue bringing your authentic self to benefit San Diego Tourism. Thank you, Jeanette Stensgaard from the Kidney Cancer Association, and all the volunteers who help move the industry forward.

Read More: San Diego: Culinary Women Rising Up

I loved reading about how you found a home for yourself in hospitality. For Marriott’s Louise Bang, it was the ability to be in a state of motion. Entrepreneur Deborah Elias left her biomedical science education behind because she realized being a doctor would never make her as happy as planning events. Discover The Palm Beaches’ Kelly Cavers actually left the industry before realizing, “It does not matter how great the pay was, I missed the product I was selling, but most of all, I missed the community of people.”

I put your three-word descriptions of how you approach life into a word cloud generator and confirmed my suspicions that you are a pretty positive group. The top response was “inspire” followed by “collaboration”, “excellence” and “passion”. You embody the service leadership traits that make events a powerful force for good in the world.

Smart Women in Meetings Awards 2023 Issue 

Your goals gave me hope for the future. From starting nonprofits (I’m looking at you Helene Falgia and your Global Giving Tree) and pursuing certifications and degrees to writing books and mentoring the next generation of event professionals, it looks like you are just getting started.

It was almost too much good stuff. This year, we had five times more entries than any other time in the eight years of the program. I wish they could all be winners. Just know that your story moved us in unique ways we thought needed to be told. I hope this recognition empowers you to go out and continue writing that story while sharing the journeys of your fellow leaders.

I look forward to toasting all of you in New York City at Smart Women in Meetings Awards Gala on August 3. Register for the event here.


JT Long

JT Long

Editorial Director

Smart Meetings