2022 Catalyst Awards: Rising Star Award

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headshot of kayla adamsKayla Adams

Sports Sales Manager, Greensboro Convention & Visitors Bureau

Motivating force: Early on in my career, once I made the connection that sporting events were in fact a form of a meeting, it opened my mind to what sports tourism meant for me as a former athlete. Whether it was AAU tournaments, high school state tournaments or college conference and national championships, I have been involved as a consumer in this space since I was young. Being involved and creating those experiences for other young athletes is 100% my motivation to deliver and to continue to learn and grow in this industry.

Approach to supercharging experiences: I always approach any experience based on the consumer. It is imperative to listen and understand the values and what is important to the organization and/or consumer. A supercharged experience does not look the same for everyone. Asking the right questions, listening and being proactive are all things that I think of when I think of supercharging an experience. It is specific to each consumer and each experience.

Elements of a stellar hospitality career: Volunteering, interning and being a consumer shaped my hospitality career. I have always been fascinated with sporting events and attending as a fan, but once I got an opportunity to play at the collegiate level in college conference championships and national championships, I was able to see the moving parts that comes along with the hospitality and tourism industry. Again, being involved and creating those experiences for other young athletes is my driving force.

Next advance pursuing: Thanks to the Destinations International 30 under 30 program, I am currently taking the courses to get my PDM (Professional in Destination Management) certificate. As our industry continues to rise out of the pandemic, I am continuing to find balance. Mental health is a topic that I am very passionate about as it is easy to face burnout in this industry if we aren’t advocating for ourselves and our needs. I am currently working on a toolkit to share amongst the organizations in which I am involved in hopes to be able to share throughout our industry.

headshot of stefani mazerStefani Mazer

Senior Conference Service Manager, Company Kimpton EPIC Hotel

Motivating force: I am driven by my desire to provide memorable experiences for my clients and their guests. I gain gratification in going the extra mile, introducing them to the unique event spaces and exceptional food and beverage options. When my client is stressed, working under what they feel to be impossible deadlines and insurmountable expectations, I take great pride in delivering an event or program that surpasses anything they had imagined. In the 16 years of my career, I still get goosebumps! This year in particular, we are seeing groups who have not been together in over two years, and are thrilled to connect with their colleagues and friends. I see this as an opportunity to really create a special experience for the attendees, to give them that “wow” factor.

Approach to supercharging experiences: I am a naturally curious person, both in my personal and professional life. I ask a great number of questions to get to know the planner as a person and to find out where their passions lie. Getting to know the planner, their guests and their expectations on a higher level gives me a connection to the person and the program. From there, I am able to bring their vision to life, developing menus with our executive chef, alongside creative surprises and delights, amenities, and event sets.

Elements of a stellar hospitality career: I entered my career 12 years ago in the luxury market, which is where my passion lies. I love what this market allows our team to do; enhance and improve the experiences for all guests. I feel empowered to go above and beyond for all of my guests and enjoy the relationships I have developed with my clients. These relationships have been lifelong and are so important to me!

Next advance pursuing: Wellness and self-care have become so important to so many of us post-pandemic, which is where I see my passion for creating extraordinary experiences moving towards. Including sunrise yoga, green tea meditation breaks, stretches and healthy meal options are exciting new offerings that my clients are thrilled about. Incorporating these items, alongside meaningful meditations and movement (particularly after or during long meetings) is so important to all of us, and it’s an exciting time to be in the event industry.

headshot of kellie myersKellie Myers

Director of Convention Services, Oklahoma City Convention and Visitor Bureau  

Motivating force: I was born in Oklahoma City and I have lived here my entire life. I love my city and I am proud of the way it has transformed over the years. My love for OKC combined with my passion for outstanding customer service motivates me to deliver for meeting professionals. Helping these professionals create unexpected experiences for their attendees in OKC is the best part of my job.  

Approach to supercharging experiences: Having strong working relationships with key industry partners is imperative when supercharging experiences. Having those relationships provides me with inside knowledge and opportunities that I can pass along to my clients. This helps them create special and unforgettable experiences in Oklahoma City. 

Elements of a stellar hospitality career: Customer service has always been a passion of mine. Helping someone navigate through a tricky situation or achieve their goal brings me immense joy and a sense of accomplishment. When one of my college professors approached me with a sales and services internship opportunity at the OKC CVB, I jumped at the chance. Through that internship, I found a career in the hospitality industry. 

Next advance pursuing: I was recently promoted to the role of director of convention services. In my new role, I plan to expand our services offerings, create more unique experiences for meeting attendees, help highlight OKC as the convention destination on the horizon that it is through FAM trips and site visits, and help our services team meet its full potential. I am excited for the future of the OKC CVB and the city as a whole!  

headshot of zuoni amy shenZuoni Amy Shen

Sales Coordinator, Destination Toronto

Motivating force: Feeling motivated is easy when you have such a great product and an even better community! I’m inspired by how amazing Toronto is. Each neighborhood has something unique to offer, and our city is filled with wonderful, supportive people. That needs to be shared with the rest of the world. Our community including the stakeholders, partners, and local businesses are passionate about the city and the products they deliver. Seeing their creative ideas, professionalism and passion really drives me to help bring more meetings to our city! Toronto deserves to be showcased, and I want to be a part of making that happen.

Approach to supercharging experiences: Here’s a valuable lesson that my amazing colleague taught me: You always remember the things that made you feel good—whether it’s a gift, an experience or a simple act of kindness. That extra effort truly supercharges an experience. It’s also a core value of our services department. First, you need to really understand your clients—communication is key here. Then, use your creativity to provide them with what they need or to help solve a pain point. Lastly, make the experience personal; make their hotel room a second home and treat them like family. After all, the rumors are true: we Canadians are very nice, eh!

Elements of a stellar hospitality career: Honestly, I didn’t know much about the hospitality industry or even what a DMO/CVB did. Three years ago, when I was working at a temp agency, I stumbled upon Tourism Toronto which is now Destination Toronto. Since my knowledge of the industry was basically nonexistent, our HR manager set up meetings for me with each department to truly understand our organization.

To this day, I am so appreciative of the meetings she set up—the insights I took away set the foundation. Those meetings were also the beginning of the valuable relationships I’ve built since. My department is very close-knit and super eager to teach. Their knowledge and amazing support have shaped my hospitality career into what it is today. I am grateful for everything they’ve taught me and pledge to always be a student with an open mind and a big heart.

Next advance pursuing: One word: sustainability. Sure, it’s an on-trend topic but I sincerely hope to embed sustainability into everything we do. I’d also like to debunk the myth that it is difficult or costly to implement sustainable practices. At Destination Toronto, we’ve already started to practice gifting with intent.

To put intention into what you are giving is infinitely more valuable and meaningful than any branded product. Putting time and thought behind the gift can be linked to a shared experience or local product, a great way to support our community and reduce our carbon footprint. I hope to find new ideas and sustainable solutions that our industry can adopt—ideas and solutions that are cost-effective and easy to implement.

headshot of taylor savageTaylor Savage, DES, CFMP

Regional Director, Convention Sales, Experience Columbus

Motivating force: Meeting professionals are responsible for bringing people with many different backgrounds and experiences together to network, find solutions and advance purpose. I am motivated by understanding what a meeting’s purpose is and helping connect that purpose with resources that can add value. When I think about my own life, I think about the many opportunities I have had because people networked, collaborated and brought change. I’m inspired by the impact meetings have in shaping the world and want to help meeting professionals facilitate an event that can foster an environment for education, networking, collaboration, purpose and advancement.

Approach to supercharging experiences: My approach to everything is, “Treat others how I would want to be treated.” I put myself in the position of the attendee, and how I would want to feel or what I would want to gain out of an experience. Once I have my attendee “hat” on, I begin working through solutions or creative ideas for an experience, and then collaborate with people that have different views and expertise to curate a supercharged experience. My goal is to always create an environment where an attendee can walk away feeling inspired—whether it’s from a new idea or an exciting connection.

Elements of a stellar hospitality career: My personal travel and family background are what initially drew me to the hospitality industry. I began working at my family pizza shop when I was 16, which introduced me to restaurants and how they can bring a community together. After graduating college, I worked in many different departments of hotels, while also driving for a rideshare company and banquet serving at a private event space. I enjoy meeting people, working hard and accepting opportunities.

Throughout each step of the way, I have had coworkers, friends and mentors who really helped shape my desire to be client-facing and help drive economic development in my community. My city is an incredibly welcoming and collaborative place to live, and I take tremendous pride and passion in playing my role in moving it forward.

Next advance pursuing: The pandemic shed light on many issues and challenges that our industry is facing. A challenge that I am very passionate about is collaborating with my industry peers to find solutions for industry recruitment and retention. I have always been a firm believer that the hospitality industry is one where if you love it, it will really love you back.

There are incredible opportunities in many different facets of the industry that I do not think people realize at the high school and college levels. Above and beyond my role at Experience Columbus, I would like to get involved in my local community to bring awareness of the many opportunities that our industry can provide.

Back to 2022 Catalyst Award winners page.

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