black and white photo of man in dress shirt and sport coatTim Altbaum, CMP, CMM

CEO, Vario

Motivating Force: I am motivated by the need to create and preach the value proposition smaller companies provide and the level of investment (not just financial) we make in the success of telling our clients’ stories through the lens of audio-visual (AV) and production. By building up those in the minority, we create an equal playing field for all and benefit from our creative and strategic differences.

The AV and event production field is full of talented people and reputable companies, and I’ve never met more passionate and dedicated people than the ones I have the privilege of working with every day. Despite the diversity of companies, just a few behemoths hold a monopoly over our field, and as an independent small business, I’m proud to represent Vario and like-sized businesses through advocacy and education.
Approach to Supercharging Experiences: Many of our first-time customers approach us with a standard set of rules and historical data that guide their programs, often with little room for change out of fear of challenging the status quo. Part of this is out of necessity for hitting some predetermined ROI metric, while some may also be due to the bandwidth of meeting planners and their teams.
At Vario, it is our duty to advocate for and deliver innovative and personalized event production solutions that create memorable experiences. We place equal value on human assets and technology tools, providing the expertise and consistency all stakeholders expect and appreciate.
Events are often just one tool in a company’s toolbox, and whether the purpose is brand recognition, sales enablement or end-user support, it’s our responsibility as production experts to immerse ourselves in the minutia to be a better strategic partner. By assisting planners with challenges and anticipating their needs, we become a reliable member of their meeting management team.
Hospitality Career Highlights: I am most proud of being the head of Vario, where the team we’ve assembled and the lives we impact have become my greatest motivator. Every day, I build stronger relationships with my colleagues and the events’ community, helping our customers achieve their goals.
Having earned biological and digital science degrees, joining the hospitality industry was never on my radar. However, from my first foray into the industry in 1998 to where I am more than 25 years later, I’m realizing how much I’ve grown and how much more there is to learn. Early in my career, I joined industry associations NACE, ILEA and MPI and have been able to contribute through various leadership positions. I am currently president-elect for the Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter. Through my volunteerism, I’ve been recognized as Community Leader of the Year, Supplier of the Year and received a President’s Award for Excellence.
I’ve been fortunate to teach and speak at various universities and conferences focusing on hospitality and tourism management curriculum. I genuinely believe the greatest gift we can give is to educate and empower the next generation of leaders.
Next Advance Pursuing: Now, more than ever, providers like Vario must create clarity. I build partnerships and provide transparency to stakeholders, allowing them to make better decisions about their programming, budget, and full-scale events posture. Our future focus is to help facilitate a top-down approach to the question of “why” and re-evaluate what makes an event successful. I’m passionate about reimagining the recurring/annual meeting. I educate and arm organizers with tools and data to justify the risk of breaking tradition to make the right decision for the future of their meetings. Through the use of innovative AI tools and event technology, we are paving the way for a more streamlined production planning process and the means to provide attendees and internal stakeholders with unforgettable experiences.

man in black polo shirtScott Frankel

President, Animatic Media, LLC. & Conference-On-Demand + LIVE

Motivating Force: I have always been driven to offer unique event technology services to Animatic Media’s client base of events from 50 to 15,000 attendees in size. Over the 25+ years since starting Animatic, I have always challenged my staff and technology partners to find an innovative approach to using traditional technology in different ways in an effort to blow audiences away. Combing the strengths of the creative department led by creative director and Animatic partner, Kevin Dennis, I strive to continuously over-deliver and exceed clients’ expectations. This is especially a feat based on the fact that Animatic’s average client relationship is over 15 years. Talk about the Houdini Syndrome of having to outdo yourself on annual events. When Animatic’s concept team comes up with an idea and the consensus is “it can’t be done” is when “that’s exactly why we should do it” becomes the inspiration to find a way.

Approach to Supercharging Experiences: The secret sauce for event production success starts with understanding the goals. Never just order takers, Animatic always gets involved literally as an extension of the client’s events team, joining planning calls early in the process to “hear” the client’s goals or needs for the event. What is going on with the client is as important as the budget. Did the client suffer some sort of setback and needs to make a statement? Have they clearly become the leader in their industry and it’s time to celebrate that win? Was there a particular pain point from last year’s event that needs to be rectified? What are the planner’s internal clients and executives talking about that is important to them? Participating at this level will only help Animatic to custom tailor content and technology to make certain that the mark is not only hit, but to do as much with their budget as possible. With this philosophy, the Animatic team has been leading the events technology charge for over 20 years.

Hospitality Career Highlights: There are so many things that you can call highlights, but I would say that with all of the accolades and honors that I have received over the years, I am humbled by a few. Just being nominated for this award is at the top of the list. When I look back and previous people in the conversation for this award it truly puts things into perspective for me. Next is client loyalty. Our average client at Animatic has been with us for 15 years. When you realize how many AV and production companies have come and gone in that timeframe, it really makes me realize we are doing something right. The fact that I can call some of the iconic people in this industry friends is incredibly special to me. There are so many creative and techy feats we have pulled off over the years that have now become industry staples, I sometimes forget that they were Animatic firsts. Things like inventing the plasma/LED podium, synchronized video playback before there was the proper technology in place, simulated video walls and mapping, etc. The last thing is that when you are asked to produce events for the events industry and attended by event professionals, it’s no secret that there is scrutiny. But when you are invited back year after year, it really does say a lot.

Next Advance Pursuing: Our upcoming Augmented Reality offering that we have been developing over the past few years is going to be a game-changer in enhancing the way we experience in-person events while making for new opportunities for show management at conferences and exhibitors in a trade show to interact with attendees in a new, more effective way. Coming out of the pandemic I was very cautious about managing that transition. We are staffing up even more with the idea of adding some new clients and maybe an additional 30 events annually to our portfolio. Finally, I am writing a book about my life/event experiences. With the recent addition of my youngest son Jesse into the business, I’m realizing all that needs to be learned. With 30 years of experience under my belt, I want to pass on the knowledge, not just to my son but to the entire younger generation of event professionals by paying it forward. Finally, for the first time since Covid, Animatic is taking on new clients.

man in neon green shirt talking into microphoneWill Curran, DES

Head of Klik, Bizzabo and founder of Endless Events & #EventProfs Community

Motivating Force: My driving force has always been the pursuit of innovation and excellence in the events industry. From my early days in high school, when I founded my first company, to my current roles, I’ve been passionate about leveraging technology to create unforgettable experiences. This passion extends to my community-building efforts, where I aim to foster a space for professionals to connect, share insights and grow. The satisfaction of delivering exceptional customer experiences and contributing to the industry’s evolution keeps me motivated every day.

Approach to Supercharging Experiences: My approach is rooted in a blend of technology, creativity and data-driven decision-making. I believe in the power of cutting-edge tools—from CRM systems like Hubspot to community platforms like to the tool I recently started working at Bizzabo SmartBadges—to amplify the impact of events. My team and I focus on understanding the unique needs of each client and event, then tailor our solutions accordingly. We’re not just about ‘wow’ factors; we aim for meaningful engagement, whether it’s through virtual events, hybrid models or in-person gatherings. This holistic approach has led to a 90% customer retention rate and numerous industry accolades.

Hospitality Career Highlights: I founded Endless Events in high school and grew it into a nationwide, technology-driven enterprise which was named at the #1 event management company by G2. I’ve had the privilege of working with major clients like Amazon, Google and Louis Vuitton. My podcasts, including #EventIcons, Event Tech Podcast and Event Brew, have garnered hundreds of thousands of downloads, respectively. I’ve also been recognized as one of the most influential people in the events industry.

Next Advance Pursuing: At Bizzabo, I’m leading the Klik team in developing next-generation event engagement solutions. We’re diving deep into data analytics and machine learning to create predictive models for event success, aiming to revolutionize how we measure event ROI. Our goal is to integrate these advanced technologies into Klik’s existing platform, offering a seamless, data-driven experience for event organizers and attendees alike. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to set new industry standards in event technology and engagement, reinforcing Bizzabo’s position as a leader in the field.

man in plaid shirt and black sport coatJoe Hirsch

Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Switch–Creative Agency + Production House

Motivating Force: Blending the right amount of creative content into event production has been Switch’s key to success for over 40 years. Switch engages and communicates with audiences through Switch Productions and increases brand awareness with our field marketing programs. We are a unique Creative Agency + Production House as we have everything under one roof. Many of our team members have been with Switch for 20, 30 and even 40 years. This, incredibly experienced team is what motivates us to create new partnerships every year. The proof is in our average tenure of 9.5 years and account retention year after year.

My career has encompassed many different facets of the events industry. It is my goal to understand what a meeting planner experiences so that I can partner alongside them as we go through this journey together. Hotels, general service contracting, AV, event technology, DMC, and production experience help me to become a supplier partner who is educated and can help troubleshoot event planning situations as they happen. Servant sales and leadership is at my core.

Approach to Supercharging Experiences: If you work for a creative agency and production house, then you better know how to supercharge the attendee experience. We must know how to supercharge the customers’ experience too! Knowing your customers’, meeting stakeholders’ and their constituents’ goals and objectives is the key to success. Understanding where they have been and where they want to go in a multi-year evolution and growth plan helps to build upon the event’s content, messaging and the experience that each attendee will take away from that event. Retention and behavior change is what determines the success metrics of a meeting. This is one of Switch’s superpowers.

Hospitality Career Highlights: I am a multi-faceted supplier partner who has extensive experience in hotels, general service contracting, audiovisual, destination management, event technology and agency. I learned early on in my career that mentorship helps to define one’s career. Mentorship isn’t a given but is earned. I’ve been damn lucky to have crossed paths with our industry’s finest leaders and to work incredibly hard to achieve their success metrics along with their respect. There are four leaders that I have worked with at multiple companies because of our similar work ethic, sales skills, relationships and other wonderful attributes that cause a bond that endures time.

Next Advance Pursuing: It’s an exciting time at Switch. Our 40+ years have been built supporting business events and production along with our field marketing programs. The Creative Shop, acting as the brain trust of Switch, helps to fuel the right content and messaging. Our home is a 100,000+ sq. ft. national operations center and studio that includes our Creative Shop, Fabrication Shop, Print Shop, Staging, Event Technology, Video and Production Studio, Digital Lab and much more. We have been building exhibits for many years but haven’t had a rental inventory as everything has been a customized build-to-own solution. Switch is now perfecting the right exhibit management program where we will design, build and manage your booth(s) for all your tradeshow needs. It is our intent to be a full-service exhibit solution provider which will make Switch a more strategic solutions provider in the agency and production space.

woman in black shirtAnca Platon Trifan, CMP, DES, PMED

Founder, CEO & Principal Event Producer at Tree-Fan Events LLC

Motivating Force: My driving force has always been the fusion of creativity, production, AI tools, technology and human connection. As CEO of Tree-Fan Events, I find immense satisfaction in leveraging cutting-edge production and technology tools to create events that are not just visually stunning, but emotionally resonant. There’s an unparalleled thrill in seeing a complex project come to life, but what truly fuels me is the transformative power these events have on individuals and communities. Whether it’s a corporate meeting, a tech conference or a private gathering, my goal is the same: to craft an unforgettable experience that educates, inspires and connects people. My core value of “collaboration over competition” steers my approach in both leadership and project execution, emphasizing teamwork and shared success. As a fervent advocate for women in male-dominated tech and production-focused industries, I’m equally passionate about empowering the next generation of leaders. It’s this multifaceted motivation that makes every challenge an exhilarating opportunity.

Approach to Supercharging Experiences: When it comes to supercharging experiences, my approach is both holistic and laser-focused. At Tree-Fan Events, we don’t just “do events.” We craft narratives. Leveraging my background in AV event production and technology, I zero in on the pulse of what’s cutting-edge, combining AI tools, immersive AV experiences and data-driven strategies to create unparalleled atmospheres. But production is just one piece of the puzzle. Authentic, impactful experiences must also touch the human spirit. That’s where my core values kick in. I firmly believe that shared visions yield the most potent results, which is why I invest deeply in team synergy and client partnerships. Aside from that, I’m always passionate about finding ways to integrate wellness components to ensure the well-being of event professionals, behind-the-scenes techs and attendees alike. Mental and physical wellness isn’t a side note; it’s a keynote. I ensure that this principle is woven into the fabric of every event we produce, creating not just events, but transformative experiences. Finally, my podcast “Events: Demystified” serves as a platform to dissect and share these complex orchestrations, inviting industry pros to demystify the magic behind world-class events. All in all, I aim to create a 360-degree experience that educates, engages, and most importantly, elevates.

Hospitality Career Highlights: In my hospitality journey, each milestone has been a stepping stone towards innovation and excellence. Starting as a Certified Event Professional, I founded Tree-Fan Events, a woman-led boutique agency that quickly gained traction for its creative, tech- and production-driven approaches. My knack for swiftly pivoting to virtual events during critical times even earned me the 2021 Quickest Virtual Event Pivot Award. But accolades like the 2023 Smart Woman in Meetings Award and being listed among BizBash Connect Corporate Meetings’ 40 under 40 in 2022 are not just feathers in my cap; they’re validations that we’re on the right path. With a strong focus on partnership, I’ve successfully managed complex events involving multiple stakeholders, from pharma hybrid conferences, to data and AI tech conferences to intimate C-suite wellness retreats for executives. Through one of the top technology podcasts for #eventprofs, “Events: Demystified,” I’ve created a knowledge-sharing platform that’s a hit in the industry. As an engaging speaker and advocate for women in male-dominated industries, I’ve also lent my voice to national and global stages, advocating for diversity and inclusion. But what truly lights my fire? Crafting unforgettable experiences that resonate on a human level while seamlessly integrating cutting-edge technology. This holistic approach defines my career, propelling me to aim higher, reach further, and impact more lives.

Next Advance Pursuing: Professionally, I’ve been channeling my energy into launching a wellness-led subdivision within Tree-Fan Events’ main event division. The aim is clear: to incorporate elements of physical and mental well-being into the corporate event structure, bridging the gap between productivity and holistic health. I envision transforming traditional events into revitalizing experiences where attendees don’t just walk away with business cards but also with a renewed sense of self. Its high time wellness stops being an ‘add-on’ and starts being a cornerstone of event planning. On the personal front, I’m setting my sights on the national stage in natural bodybuilding. Having already taken first place in previous competitions, I’m excited to take my passion for fitness to the pro level. It’s not just about sculpting the body, but also sculpting the mindset that enables peak performance—in the gym and in the boardroom. These parallel pursuits aren’t disparate; they’re symbiotic. My foray into professional bodybuilding complements my professional mantra of wellness, making it a dual track where each fuels the other. The stage is set, and I can’t wait to flex both my entrepreneurial and physical muscles like never before.

woman in green shirtJohanna R. Walsh, MBA

Vice President of Event Production, Encore

Motivating Force: I live to problem solve and I love the feel-good neurotransmitters we experience creating events—from the adrenaline to the dopamine. I believe events are critical tools to motivate people, build communities, share joy and drive change. Every day I wake up thinking about how I can inspire my team, create connections and build relationships that make the event experience better for everyone involved.

Approach to Supercharging Experiences: Our business is a team sport, so it all comes down to two fundamentals: communication and documentation. That sounds basic but even the most complex events are flawless because of constant and clear communication with all of your stakeholders and detailed single sources of truth paperwork. While I was at George P. Johnson I led large, cross-functional event teams of creative, design, production, engineering, content, exhibits and meeting services. In order to create some of our industry’s leading experiential programs, each team member was aware of how their roles impacted each other’s workflow. Creative impacts food and beverage which impacts registration which impacts content which impacts hotels. Our goal at Encore is to provide a seamless, thoughtful attendee experience and that is a massive coordination effort no matter the size of the meeting or event. As a partner, this also creates a trustworthy customer experience. Our clients have hired us to support their goals through innovative vision and flawless execution. By providing proactive, consistent communication and sharing detailed documentation our clients can have complete confidence that their event will be a success.

Hospitality Career Highlights: My start in production was as a fashion assistant on magazine and catalog photoshoots. That world has the same principles as events: coordinating a group of people to deliver an experience at a specific moment. As I entered events, I was taking catering waiter positions and learning best-in-class service at catering and special event companies. It really started there. I have traveled the world promoting sustainability in our industry, producing private concerts at Davos, building high-end event experiences, and now driving the development of production services at Encore. When I think back to my proudest moments, it always goes back to the incredible relationships I have developed over the years. My favorite event was not one that had the biggest audience, or biggest budget, it is the one where the 100 people brought together to produce the event had an incredible camaraderie and vibe. Teammates were high-fiving down hallways and there were dance parties at our daily stand-ups. The show was a big success in large part because of the connectivity and joy felt amongst the team.

Next Advance Pursuing: In the big picture, I’m applying the skills from my recently attained MBA from Georgetown University every day—finance, marketing, management, supply chain and business development—to this formative career opportunity as VP of Event Production at Encore. I’m also reveling in the opportunity to shape experiences for our customers and problem-solve for their needs. One of my passion points is ensuring our customers have consistent experiences at every touch point they have within Encore—from a key board meeting to a large general session. We are deploying customer service and project management standards across our production business to deliver on that goal. I love advising customers on how to achieve their goals through the way their events are structured. Cost drivers are a key part of that and I’m tinkering with a tool that will allow planners to play with their percentage allocations to understand how to best achieve their goals and stay within budget.

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