The Making of the Smart Women in Meetings Awards

We have a tradition here at Smart Meetings. We put our Smart Women in Meetings nominees to the test. We ask them about their inspiration, their leadership style and their legacy. While there are no right answers, we are looking for women who have thought about these important topics enough to verbalize where they came from, where they are going and how they plan to get there.

The answers this year were heartfelt, creative and inspirational. You described yourselves as cheerleaders (Liz Lathan, EVP Haute Rock Creative), educators (Leslie Menichini, vice president of sales and marketing, Rosen Hotels & Resorts), approachable (Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX Group), elevating (Carrie Abernathy, executive consulting officer AWE) and genuine (Cheryl Rogers, corporate events manager, Solara Medical Supplies). One person self-identified as an “idea igniteur” (Dalia El Gazzar, tech evangelist at Dahlia+ Agency). We love that.

Your stories and dedication touched us. Johanne Belanger, president and CEO of Tourism Toronto opened up about how losing a job helped her realize her true leadership potential and how, as a multiple breast cancer survivor, she feels “blessed to have been given a lens to look through to appreciate every day, every hour and every interaction.” Catherine Chaulet, president of Global DMC Partners, reminded us that “Opening someone’s mind to other points of views is beautiful.”

Sandy Biback, founder of Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking shared the power of one person saying “yes” as a way to move everyone forward—even if the solution seems out of sight. Holly Chessman, the author of Amplify, How to Grow Your Reputation and the Kickass Career You Love, advocated for the power of women’s mentorship in the male-dominated tech world.

Amy Conrad, director of operations with Enclave, Las Vegas, said she is motivated by her three daughters every day to show that a woman is just as capable, just as brilliant and just as deserving as a man. Shannon Coldon, director of sales with Caesars Entertainment embodied the enthusiasm that fueled so many statements. “I love life, my job and my industry!” she said.

MoreLeadership Defined: Congratulations to the 2019 Smart Women in Meetings Award Winners

This very considered approach to the hard work of bringing people together to encourage meaningful change was not surprising since the words used to describe you in the in the nomination forms included powerhouse (Kappi Bowen, manager of marketing programs, Abbott Diabetes Care), tenacious and gracious at the same time (Amy Walkowiak, vice president, HPN Global), authentic to the bone (Suzanne R. Spaner, founder, Meeting Matchmakers), exceeds expectations (Jessica Martini, meeting sales director, Visit Anaheim), a one-woman show (Shameka Jennings, director of education and events, National WIC Association), and intellectual philanthropist (Christy Lamagna, visionary, Strategic Meetings & Events).

One woman (Patricia Durocher, CEO of Global Cynergies) was described by multiple nominators as “someone who is always giving back to a cause all over the world.” Another (Maggie Tuitele, director of event sales and marketing, Keep Memory Alive Event Center) was held up as a model because she is “driven by a desire to connect with people in a meaningful way, with the proceeds benefiting the research, treatment and clinical studies of neurological diseases.” This really does approach rocket science and brain surgery.

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Three Leading Words

Once all the nominations and responses have been collected, we look for patterns. For the second year in a row, I fed the answers from winners to the question “three words that describe leadership” through a word cloud generator to come up with the themes that resonated.

The winner, by a long shot, was “passion.” These women are passionate about their clients, their teams, their industry and their families. Christine Russo-Robertson credits her passion and commitment with building trust. Martha S. Howard, national accounts manager at Lodging on Biltmore Estate said her passion was finding new ways to deliver exceptional experiences to groups. Claire Smith, vice president of sales and marketing with Vancouver Convention Centre shared her passion for the “incredible impact of meetings” with many of the winners.

Other common themes included collaboration (Jaclyn Sass, associate director of event marketing with Merkle), Integrity (Nan Marchand Beauvois, senior vice president, U.S. Travel Association), confident (Jasmine Caban Mendez, senior national group sales manager, LondonHouse Chicago), creative (Lakesha Patterson, vice president and owner, Elm Planning), strategic (Julie T. Sibthorp, director, CHG Healthcare) and curious (Jennifer Grove, founder, Repeat Roses).

I am so looking forward to spending a day with these wise leading women at the Smart Woman Summit at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas in May. Will you be there?

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