Reggie Aggarwal, Cvent

Reggie Aggarwal, CEO and Founder at Cvent

Pivotal Moments: The Cvent business idea first came to light a few years after I founded the Indian CEO Network nonprofit in 1996. By 1998, we had more than 2,000 members. I was working full time as a lawyer and an additional 30–40 hours on nights and weekends, planning more than 50 events a year using the classic tools: Excel, Outlook and yellow sticky notes. I knew there had to be a better way. In 1999, Cvent was founded with the goal of making meeting planning easier. Much of our early support came from the Indian CEO Network members, and I am incredibly grateful for those relationships and the event planning experiences that helped lead me to the creation of the Cvent brand.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: The meetings and events industry is valued at more than $750 billion, representing more than 13 percent of total travel and tourism spend, and nearly 40 percent of hotel revenue. In short, the industry plays a huge economic role for destinations and hotels worldwide. It’s the biggest market that no one really talks about. Because of this impact, hotels are pulling out all the stops to attract group business, which in turn facilitates the desire of event planners to book more events. Event professionals need hospitality professionals to bring their events to life, and hotels need planners to fill business gaps and bring new customers to experience their properties. It’s the meetings and events circle of life—and it’s the reason we offer the solutions both parties need most to grow and own their business and maximize their potential.

While meetings and events clearly have an economic impact, what happens post-event is where things really get interesting. The end-results of events are ideas. Meetings are fueling the collaboration needed to generate the ideas that feed business growth and innovation—business is truly better when we get together.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: We have helped our more than 25,000 customers manage nearly 3 million events since 1999. We know how to run an incredible event, and our customers have the results to show for it. We connect event planners directly to suppliers to ensure they are able to find that perfect venue and location where they can host a uniquely memorable experience. Our completely redesigned user experience for our flagship event website and registration solution, launched in October, gives planners the power and flexibility to create any event they can imagine. Finally, our technology and unique on-site solutions keep the attendee experience top-of-mind to ensure a dynamic on-site experience.


Johanne Belanger, Tourism Toronto

Johanne Belanger, FCPA, FCA, President and CEO of Tourism Toronto

Pivotal Moments: I had just begun planning what was to be a year-long sabbatical with my husband when the opportunity at Tourism Toronto came up. I was so focused on our upcoming travel plans that I didn’t consider applying for the job. One day, while on our boat, my husband asked me why I didn’t want to apply for this job—he thought I’d be perfect and would have fun. I agreed on both counts, but we were just starting our year off! That was when he dropped a bombshell of a statement: “Whoever takes this job is going to have it for the next five to eight years. You’re 50. If you don’t try for it now, you will never have another chance at the job.” It was a mic-drop moment. Yikes, I hadn’t realized that there was less runway ahead of me than behind! I quickly threw my name in the ring, and the rest is history.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: Toronto is known for inclusivity and a sense of welcome—it’s something we live and breathe. Those words also describe the hospitality sector. When people travel, they want to feel included. Canada (and Toronto) is having a moment on the world stage right now. In a time where division and exclusion are becoming more commonplace, Canada and Canada’s Downtown—Toronto—welcome the world with open arms.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: Last year, 400,000 meeting and convention delegates spent time in Toronto—staying in hotels, visiting attractions and experiencing restaurants. Toronto is a global hub for meetings and conventions, and a destination that knows how to create exceptional experiences for delegates. That starts with Tourism Toronto and our Business Events team knowing the expectations of planners and then far exceeding them.

Our community works together like no other to make events successful. We are committed to a solid program of partnership development and attendance building that helps make conferences and meetings in Toronto unprecedented successes for clients.

Tourism Toronto stands out by offering unparalleled service and hospitality. We have a team that provides year-prior support, logistics, an attendance-building toolkit, assistance with site selection and visits, customized microsites and a dedicated client-services manager to help planners every step of the way. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how we approach brilliant experiences.


Mark Cooper, IACC

Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC

Pivotal Moments: I spent my childhood in the hospitality industry in my family’s English pub and restaurant. Following an apprenticeship at a hotel, I supplemented my experience with further education and degrees in marketing, management and computer studies. With more than 25 years of experience in the global meetings industry, I have worked for both U.S.- and United Kingdom-based companies in leadership roles with a focus in sales and marketing.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: The hospitality sector is responsible for providing businesses and leisure guests with outstanding service, whether that’s with lodging, meeting and event planning, transportation or traveling. This is an industry that truly relies on customer satisfaction, so it is important that we provide the best experience and go the extra mile for clients.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: Before becoming an IACC Certified Venue, properties undergo a thorough application and inspection process, which looks at facilities, services and other criteria. By undergoing this rigorous process, we can ensure that IACC venues rank in the top 1 percent of small- and medium-sized meeting venues in the world for creating unique events, meetings and conferences.

We’re incredibly passionate about educating and sharing best practices with our industry colleagues and partners. We provide annual reports with some of our key partners, including IACC Meeting Room of the Future and Hotel Horizons Report. We host IACC Americas Connect, IACC Europe Knowledge Festival and IACC Australia Asia Pacific Annual Conference, which provide our members with access to fantastic education sessions and a platform to network with others.


Sherrif Karamat, PCMA

Sherrif Karamat, CAE, MBA, President and CEO of PCMA

Pivotal Moments: I previously served as vice president of business sales and services for Toronto Convention & Visitors before I joined PCMA as vice president of sales in 2003, and then became chief operating officer in 2008. I officially began my new role on Jan. 19, 2018. As chief operating officer, I was a key member of the PCMA executive team and led the development and implementation of the organization’s new vision: driving global economic and social transformation through business events.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: Business meetings and events are a catalyst for economic and social transformation across communities around the world. For example, the meetings and events industry continues to grow across all segments as it contributes hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue to the U.S. economy and supports 5.9 million jobs, according to a new report by Oxford Economics that was commissioned by Events Industry Council and supported by Meetings Mean Business Coalition and other industry partners.

Meetings boost domestic and international visitation, such as transport, hotels, retail and restaurants, facilitating business growth by connecting buyers and sellers. Knowledge-sharing leads to innovation and business collaboration both locally and globally, and provides a platform for international trade and investment.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: We drive global economic and social transformation through business events. Our initiatives are about showing the real power of what business events do for people, businesses and communities. To achieve this, we create platforms such as European Influencers Summit in Europe—an exclusive opportunity for experienced and influential business event leaders in Europe to create invaluable business connections through education and networking. In the Asia Pacific region, PCMA ICESAP hosts an annual conference to deliver an effective networking and educational experience and showstopping events that strengthen the community. Convening Leaders gathers more than 4,000 industry professionals and event planners for four days of cutting-edge, topical educational sessions, innovative industry insight and networking opportunities.

Finally, through PCMA Foundation we are dedicated to growth through research and investment in our industry’s future. In 2017, the foundation directed $493,000 to fund industry innovation, nurture professional development and advance student achievement.


Brad Dean, Discover Puerto Rico

Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico

Pivotal Moments: Puerto Rico holds a special place in my heart. I’ve always loved the people and the island and thought it had great potential. I met my wife there more than 25 years ago, when I was working in an entirely different industry. It is truly an honor for me to lead the new DMO and continue to help push Puerto Rico forward along its path to a resurgence of epic proportion. And right now, there’s no group of people who need the transformative power of travel at work more for them today than our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: Travel becomes a first date for relocation and a magnet for commercial investment. We have the privilege of representing our industry and our communities, but with that comes great responsibility. Destination organizations are not just marketing agencies—we are campuses of collaboration that bring about progress and nurture a sense of community. We light the fire of economic growth. We don’t just create jobs—we launch careers. The challenges of marketing and representing a destination can be increasingly complex, especially when challenges are vast, and, in many cases, unpredictable—natural disasters, terrorism and more. We all think it won’t happen in our destination—but unfortunately it can, and now more than ever, we need to be prepared for the unimaginable. Destination organizations and our hospitality partners remain at the center of recovery, solutions and hope. They are the connectors, the caretakers, the brand stewards and the catalyst for action when a community needs them most.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: Perspective and priorities. Planners are professionals who have high expectations and shoulder a tremendous burden of responsibility to their stakeholders. They deserve our full, unwavering support from start to finish. Like my peers, I am proud of my destination and its people, and I am eager to compete by positioning Puerto Rico as a premier destination for meetings and conventions. We are ambassadors of Puerto Rico, experts in the destination and its history, culture, gastronomy and traditions. Our ultimate goal is to provide a sense of place, where we engage, connect and create a memorable, unique experience.


Julie Adeline Krueger, The Freeman Company

Julie Adeline Krueger, Business Development Director, International at Freeman

Pivotal Moments: In my global business development role, I support Freeman international strategy, sales and industry relations. Thanks to my culturally diverse background, I have developed a strong empathic and collaborative sensibility that has served me extraordinarily well in the experiential marketing industry. That, combined with 15 years of event industry experience and a strong passion for bringing people together, led me to move from Germany to the United States in 2017 to pursue greater opportunities with Freeman and bring the world even closer together.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: We often forget that the hospitality industry is even larger than the automotive sector—and delivers an immense economic impact. Hospitality is everywhere. It is one of the oldest industries on Earth, and every country on the planet has a hospitality sector. Because an industry is formed by the people who are in it, from the bellman to the CEO of the largest brand experience company, it is our responsibility to be the best host possible, and to create the right platform for people to come together. Because when they do, they change the world.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: We help customers find the right answer to the question, “How can we create the most meaningful experience for our audience?” For every event and every occasion, there is a different answer to this question. It is about collaborating as a team to find the best concept and approach that addresses each audiences’ unique needs and desires—from helping to ensure doctors can learn in the most efficient way at a medical congress to enabling engineers to best collaborate at a conference, to inspiring consumers at some of the world’s largest events. We look at various factors, such as new formats, markets, engagement techniques and experimental experiences, to craft a strategic approach that helps our clients turn opportunities into success stories.


Mike McIlwain, PSAV

Mike McIlwain, CEO of PSAV

Pivotal Moments: I joined PSAV in the midst of the economic downturn in 2009, when meetings and events were under extreme duress from all sides of business and government. During this stressful time, we pushed our company to become a more vocal voice about the power of face-to-face meetings. This was one of the key areas of focus that helped elevate me into the leadership role that I enjoy today.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: The hospitality sector is a key element in the successful execution of events, which drive significant change in the world. Everything is accomplished by people gathering together to hear the same message, learning how to become better at what they do and ultimately becoming change agents.

Everyone involved in the meeting and events industry—from meeting professionals to the presenters, to attendees—deserves an impactful experience so everyone can leave that interaction feeling it was time well spent. PSAV recently sponsored a white paper about planning and conducting purposeful meetings with deeper meaning, innovation and insight. The hospitality industry needs to continue working toward this concept by providing full, rich experiences. This includes knowing how people act, interact and think; how the brain processes information; and how technology is a tool, and not a solution, to help achieve meeting or event goals.

By choosing to work in this industry, we have willingly accepted the challenge to positively change lives. It’s a responsibility we should all take seriously as we strive to exceed the expectations of our customers. At PSAV, it’s something we keep in mind every day.

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: PSAV’s role is to bring creative solutions to our meeting planner customers so that they can effectively connect and inspire people while delivering on the purpose of their organization. With our world continuing to provide more distractions than ever before, the role of technology in the meeting space is more critical than ever. We create the environment for planners to break through the noise and capture the attendees’ attention in the meeting-space environment—to create lasting impact.

Meeting planners are very detail-oriented individuals. They need to be. As a result, they truly appreciate our world-class service and attention to detail. Match that with our unique combination of creative, production, advanced technology and staging services that result in one-of-a-kind experiences, and you’ve got a pretty strong working relationship.

We also hire very well. Our highly trained professionals are passionate about delivering exceptional event experiences. They go the extra mile in every interaction with our customers because they know the impact they can make. They are fully engrained in PSAV’s purpose of connecting and inspiring people, as well as our mission to serve as an invaluable partner on our customers’ journey. PSAV has been around for more than 80 years because of our people. They are the lifeblood of this company and our customers are the beneficiaries of their hard work.


Mary Neister, Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau

Mary Neister, CMP, Vice President MCI, Hawaii Tourism USA and Meet Hawaii at Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau

Pivotal Moments: After starting my career on the East Coast, I traveled across the country, working in various sectors of the hospitality industry, including food and beverage, catering sales, conventions services and group sales. I had led numerous sales and marketing teams through hotel renovations and brand changes, shared my expertise with sales professionals in classroom settings and served as director of sales and marketing for multiple properties as well as a regional DOSM, overseeing 16 properties simultaneously. I’ve found my dream job and life mission, and it is located in paradise.

Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: Although we live in a fast-paced, technology-driven world, the hospitality industry still relies on human interaction due to the nature of the product—personalized events and memorable experiences. The Meet Hawaii team acknowledges the importance of true hospitality and offers planners opportunities to personally connect with the sales team and with program attendees through the execution of exceptional meetings, events and incentive programs. Hawaii is known for its impeccable hospitality and offers the total package—significant and deeply rooted cultural heritage, epic landscapes, outstanding accommodations and memorable culinary offerings—which continue to inspire program attendees and leave them feeling rejuvenated when they return to the workplace, resulting in increased productivity in all facets of their life. Hawaii’s unparalleled hospitality encourages attendees to “come back better.”

One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: The Meet Hawaii team’s extensive knowledge of the Hawaiian Islands and the diverse offerings available on each island allow them to create tailored programs that not only accomplish client goals, but leave a lasting impression on attendees. Our services support planners in coordinating all facets of the Hawaii meeting experience, from securing the perfect venues and methods of transportation to curating unique dining experiences and unforgettable activities. The Meet Hawaii team also understands the impact of the Island’s “aloha spirit” and works to help planners incorporate the concept into every aspect of their programs. For many people, Hawaii exemplifies the best destination that you don’t really know. The Meet Hawaii team’s goal is to shortcut that learning process and ensure a truly memorable experience from start to finish.


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