2021 Catalyst Awards: Rising Stars

Catalyst

Introducing our Rising Stars!

Bob Chain

Account Manager, Swapcard

Nominated by IAEE

Motivation: The opportunity to connect people in meaningful ways.

Approach to supercharging experiences: Hospitality is the beautiful intersection of human interaction and serendipity. My approach to supercharging the industry is finding new ways and technologies to increase the probability and frequency of meaningful connections. As we continue to move into a post-pandemic world, every dollar will be overly scrutinized, and we will be asked to do more with less. As such, we must continue the development and adoption of key technologies that drive innovation and new business strategy in the hospitality industry.

Through the continued growth and exploration of omnichannel experiences, we can provide our audiences and partners the opportunity to achieve more than they were able to, pre-pandemic. By providing a value proposition that maximizes commercial, social and educational gains, we can expedite the return to investment in experiences we deliver and provide the opportunity to grow and reach new audiences.

Moment of enlightenment: Working in the experiential industry, it is often hard to realize the true impact you make on an experience because you may not understand the full extent or importance of the gathering. I was fortunate enough earlier this year to be a part of the team developing SXSW Online, the first full-scale digital experience the festival had ever hosted.

Our team was tasked to build a new future for the event and reshape the way we bring together the brightest and best minds of the creative industry. We undertook a six-month journey to discover how to create the most meaningful and personalized experience for each individual.

As we approached the half-way point of the festival, I was able to take a few minutes to join a session that I personally was interested in. I kept a close eye on the chat and a level of euphoria came over me while reading the stories that people were sharing: I saw connections being formed across continents, states, and time zones based on common interests and goals. It was during this experience as part of the audience that I was able to truly feel the value and importance of our work.

Next advance pursuing: How can we maximize the benefits of hybrid to build a sustainable revenue model that creates stronger margins than just a traditional in-person event? I am looking at how we can better deliver personalized experiences and curated content to increase interactions, grow revenue and maximize reach.

Lauren Johnson, CEM, CTA

Senior Sales Manager, Louisville Tourism 

Nominated by IAEE

Motivation: Daniel. Carson. Bailey. Mary Lane. My husband and three children.

Approach to supercharging experiences: The hospitality market can be competitive. I want my customers to experience something they never have before. Let me just tell you that creating memorable experiences for my customers is my love language. Whether it be a behind-the-scenes tour of the Churchill Downs Racetrack Horse Barns or a one-on-one mint julep-making class with bartender in a bourbon distillery, I want my customers to smile when they think about the memories they made in Louisville—and leave here feeling like they are family.

Moment of enlightenment: It was on a site visit for one of the largest pieces of business I’ve ever pursued. A lot of hard work and creativity went into the execution and planning of those three days. At the end of the site visit, I dropped them off at the airport, and the president of the organization gave me the biggest hug and said, “You were born to be doing this job.” It was in that moment that I really did realize how grateful I am to be selling a city that I love so much. Oh, and in case you were wondering, we booked the business! 😉

Next advance pursuing: Over the last 18 months that crippled our nation’s travel industry, I am proud to be part of one of the strongest sales teams in the country that is helping our city of Louisville recover and rebound stronger than ever. The return to in-person meetings and leisure travel has only just begun—I sure am ready to welcome everyone with a big smile and open arms!

Matthew Kalb, CMP, CEM-AP

Director of Business Development, PRG

Nominated by IAEE

Boards: Rocky Mountain PCMA Director of Golf

Motivation: Goosebumps. The side effect of an amazing experience.

Approach to supercharging experiences: Personalization through pre-event communication. Each event has new activations to elevate the experience, but it often forgoes the personalization. Utilizing show app data and learning what breakouts, ancillary events, etc., attendees either attended or bookmarked each year allows us to provide a more customized experience for the future.

Imagine receiving an email or push alert, telling the user about similar topics or events to look forward to. Avoiding the generic “don’t forget to check out the show schedule” and taking the time to individualize the experience takes hospitality to the next level. Even if we don’t have the budget to personalize this experience for everyone, we should be capturing specific data points that allow for a handful of tailored communication touch points during the registration process. Think geographical, dietary restrictions, educational interests, number of years attended, etc.

Moment of enlightenment: I’ve dedicated my career to focusing my efforts in supporting the clients I work with. Since I started in the industry, I’m diligent in taking time to learn and understand every client, event and request as its own unique opportunity. The moment that all my hard work came together was when I received a phone call from my current company PRG.

It wasn’t that I received a job offer, but the culture that made it nirvana. During the pandemic I had time to reflect on my commitment to the industry and knew I couldn’t work for a company that didn’t share the same values. During the interview process I treated it as me interviewing the company to make sure it was the right fit. Knowing I now work for a company that empowers their employees and reflects the same customer centricity, has finally made me feel I’ve taken the right steps in my career to now feel valued.

Next advance pursuing: Another thing to come out of the pandemic was a vision of creating a new type of education session for the industry. So many industry events have very similar educational topics. We attend events to learn something new and are often greeted with the same sessions just put into a different PowerPoint. I don’t want to give too much away, but my goal is to finalize a one-of-a-kind session that we just don’t see in the industry—and begin presenting in early 2023.

Bree Nidds, CTA

Vice President of Sales, Discover Lehigh Valley

Nominated by Destinations International

Boards: Destinations International: Global Leadership Committee, Sales and Convention Services Committee

Motivation: Knowing that there is a positive element to every situation.

Approach to supercharging experiences: A supercharged hospitality experience always puts the end-user first. Recognizing that people come from many different backgrounds and abilities plays a critical role in identifying that end user’s “wow factor.” In any industry, there is often an underlying goal to optimize, achieve goals swiftly and at a minimal cost. However, a hyper-optimized experience may sometimes miss the opportunity to delight a customer. I place a high emphasis on an individual end user’s experience and acknowledge that a person’s satisfaction in any given experience is not universal.

Moment of enlightenment: The tourism and hospitality industry has faced a variety of hardships over the decades. Since March 2020, our team has been navigating destination management through a global pandemic. Our tourism and industry partners in Lehigh Valley were nimble enough to change and continue to navigate and overcome an extremely unknown situation. There are many moments that occurred in the last 18 months that I will look back on in awe of the overall resiliency in our community. I am continuously proud of the work that our team and community initiates and executes as we recover from the effects of Covid-19.

Next advance pursuing: My continued pursuits involve telling the impacts of tourism in a meaningful way. Our industry often focuses on data and insights that fall into our own silo of what we classify as tourism and hospitality. I think there may be more meaning when we begin to overlay tourism industry insights with other industry data points. There is a lot of data out there; interpreting and correlating insights in meaningful ways (that transcend our own industry) will amplify the overall value of tourism and hospitality.

Zeke Ramsell

Manager of Convention Sales, San Francisco Travel 

Nominated by Destinations International

Volunteer roles: Secretary, CVB Reps of the West

Motivation: Sharing the beauty of San Francisco to the world.

Approach to supercharging hospitality experience: The hospitality experience has been dramatically affected by the pandemic. It’s important that meeting planners know why San Francisco is still a top destination for conventions, meetings and events. We have been promoting a return to San Francisco, but also lifting up our neighboring Bay Area destinations and encouraging Californians to meet local. This is the first time that other DMOs and CVBs have worked so closely together. Collaboration with other destination counterparts will help supercharge the tourism industry.

Moment of enlightenment: When the pandemic affected our ability to meet face-to-face, we had to strategize how to stay relevant to our clients. I created the Hotel Webinar Series to put several hotels in front of clients to give them an opportunity to discuss renovations and changes while their properties were closed. These were highly successful, bringing in more than 600 viewers over all webinars. We also worked with different DMCs to add a fun activity at the end, which included a singer/songwriter, drag queen trivia and a cocktail-making class. In addition to the webinar series, I learned the ins and outs of the virtual meeting world and hosted three virtual road shows with over 200 clients total. Running a virtual show was one of the most challenging experiences, and our hard work paid off with both hotels and client attendance.

Next advance pursuing: I, along with colleagues at DMOs nationwide, have created the new group, CVB Reps of the West (CRW). Our goal is to build a network of DMOs that represent the West Coast region and share similar clientele. I hope to learn how new organizations operate and how we can make an impact not only on our clients but also on the tourism industry.

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