Smart Women in Meetings 2021: Industry Leader

Karina Anthony

Marketing Director, Meet AC

Gratitude, Simplicity, Dedication

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Shift your thinking. Become more observant in order to look at situations differently, carefully consider decisions and take time to craft thoughtful responses. I had just returned from maternity leave ready to immediately dive into work life. My fast-paced, multitasking perfectionism had to take a backseat while I figured out how to handle work life balance (which was about to turn upside down with the pandemic). I used to think I had to be the quickest to respond and take action, but I realized I could pave a new path for myself, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

Pandemic Lesson: Patience and empathy. Emotional intelligence is an extremely important trait for a successful leader and the pandemic not only helped me understand myself better, but also understand the needs of others. Everyone had a different challenge during this pandemic, whether it be loneliness, uncertainty or burn out. Taking the time to communicate clearly with team members and colleagues produced thoughtful work and meaningful conversations. I will take this lesson with me moving forward personally and professionally because it leads to a more mindful method of handling situations.

Nikki Bibbero, CMP, HMCC

Event Manager, Arrow Electronics

Resiliency: Patience, Mindfulness

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Stay positive; persevere through the obstacles life throws your way. Set boundaries and remember the importance of work-life balance. Reflect on where you’ve been and how you got here. Lead and live with compassion.

Pandemic Lesson: Appreciate the small things and simple moments. Remember that everyone is fighting a battle you don’t see, treat them with kindness.

Julie Blank, CITP, CRP

Director, Strategic Accounts, Brightspot Incentives & Events, Vice President of Events, SITE Texas and 2020 SITE Texas Planner of the Year

Breathe, Bend, Battle

Advice for My Jan 2020 Self: You believe you are an adventurer, that you thrive in an environment of change, facing the unknown with excitement and adaptability. Buckle up girl…2020 will put almost everything you believe to be true about yourself and the world around you to the test. Personally and professionally, nothing will look or feel familiar this year. Stand strong in who you are and who you love. Allow yourself what you need to be physically, mentally and spiritually healthy and keep battling. Practice gratitude, don’t let the haters get you down with their negativity, instead chose joy. You’ve got this.

Pandemic Lesson: I was my last priority. Never again. Identify your tribe and hang on tight, they are your lifeline. A crisis doesn’t change people, but it will show you who they really are. You choose: joy or anger, good attitude or bad. It is not always easy, but I control my response. The silver lining my grandma always talked about is real. 2020 often felt like I was living my best and worst life at the same time. I chose to focus on the “best” things, which somehow felt “better” in the midst of crisis.

Deanna Burgess CMP, CEM, CRME

Corporate Vice President of Sales, Station Casinos

Always Keep Trying

Advice for My January 2020 Self: Trust the process, have strength in knowing that all the hard work on building and securing a foundation of collaboration and empowerment will pay off. The future is bright and your experience over the years will keep you on the right track.

Pandemic Lesson: I don’t have all the answers and to remain steadfast in what really matters. It was a year in which I had to reflect on what drives me, personally and professionally, because without it the daunting waves of uncertainty will take your joy away. In my career, I have seen good times and bad; both had their lessons, but this pandemic (and maybe my age) has really shown me joy, and I appreciate it. I have learned so much, and it really feels good to say that out loud. I never want to stop learning and enjoying each lesson.

 Rachael Callahan, CMP

Senior Meeting Planner, American Veterinary Medical Association

Spread Good Vibes

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Ancora Imparo–an Italian phrase meaning “I am still learning,” which Michelangelo wrote on a sketch when he was 87 years old. Approach every day with curiosity. Reframe obstacles as a learning opportunity, and don’t become complacent.

Pandemic Lesson: Empathy is essential. The world has been tasked with redefining normal in the workplace, within households, and even while running errands. We can easily default to forging ahead without acknowledging that anything is amiss, but we can and should be human in times of adversity. Make an effort to ask others what they are going through and offer your support.

Cami Christensen

President and General Manager, Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino

Faith, Strength, Tenacity

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: It does not matter what is thrown at you or how difficult things may seem, you have to keep moving forward. There will be roadblocks and challenges that come along, but you will get to the other side. Keep your faith, stay patient and maintain your grace under pressure. You don’t have to have all the answers. Lead with your intuition and again, keep moving forward.

Pandemic Lesson: It all comes down to understanding the value of people and relationships, having a mutual sense of trust and truthful, open communication. Your team, your family, your friends, your customers, your associates and your relationships with them are the key to continued success. Honest and timely communication about any situation, whether it is good, bad or otherwise will always provide the best path forward.

Ellen Collins, CMP, HMCC

Associate Director, National Sales Team at Vail Resorts

Gratitude, Growth, Grace

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Take time to reflect on what my best-self feels like. Establish meaningful BHAGS for this year and decade. Recommit to personal health, family and friends and adventures. The Boston Marathon is in 3.5 months; It will feel amazing to cross that finish line for the third year with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge Team. Kaitlyn is heading to college this September and Jack is two years off from us being empty nesters. Make space for family memories. Family walks, dinners together, hugs at night and schedule those “someday” trips. Practice gratitude for every experience. Life is a gift.

Pandemic Lesson: The human spirit will not be silenced. We have discovered what is really important, which is not “stuff.”  Virtual platforms and virtual attire. A renewed appreciation for my family, including our Cocker Spaniel, home, yard and neighborhood. We have grieved the losses in our industry and we are innovating for a reawakening. Humans long to be together in-person to laugh, learn and love. Nothing beats face to face. Health is wealth. Patience.

Shannon Frank

Vice President, Global Accounts, HPN Global

Caring, Detailed, Solution-Achiever

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Be patient, be kind, listen, hold your loved ones close, educate yourself, look for those in need and provide service to them.

Pandemic Lesson: Over the past year, I have learned that caring for and helping each other is the #1 priority. While navigating this most unprecedented time in our meetings and events industry, I have found great reward in extending my services on a pro-bono basis to non-client meeting planners who have found themselves lost and panicked not knowing how to best protect their organization. I extended my time reviewing their specific contractual documents and terms, researching current governmental regulations for each state and city for which a contract is in play, and assisting or facilitating the communication negotiation between the organizations and hotels. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars being saved by multiple organizations, rescuing many from possible shutter. Be the helper for which those in need are looking. Having the ability to help someone in need is the greatest gift of all.  “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso

Curry Koch, CMP

Senior Director, Global Accounts- HelmsBriscoe

Tenacity, Empathy, Grace

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: I know you are preparing for another exciting year for meetings, building relationships with clients and prospecting for new ones. My first meeting on Jan. 9 was with a new client and all was going so well! Little did we know what was around the corner. Was I ready? I learned so much and am grateful that I took the pandemic time to invest in me and my business vs. waste the time. Putting “my oxygen mask on” each day to be my better self, ready to help personally and professionally was my goal.

Pandemic Lesson: During the pandemic, I learned so much about myself. It was a test! My husband and I are self-employed, working from home, being together 24/7, but we’re so supportive of each other. Instead of watching a lot of the news, I spent time being grateful each day, getting exercise, keeping in contact with family, friends and colleagues while doing what I could to keep engaged. On top of that, we had 30 days to make an unexpected move from one state to another, but we made it happen with focus, planning and prayer—we even bought a house!

Megan Levin

Executive Director, Refrigerated Foods Association and Owner, Collaborations LLC

Empathy, Courage, Humor

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: The year ahead will stretch you and challenge you and test you. Extend grace whenever you can and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Pandemic Lesson: Sometimes we have to be forced out of our comfort zone to discover new ways of doing things, and sometimes those new ways are even better than the tried and true methods. Embrace opportunities to pivot!

Devin Lewis, CEM, CMP

Director of Regional Sales, Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority

Humor, Focus, Determination

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: This last year has been one for the record books. Who knew that we would still be in the midst of this madness as we continue to be sidelined and hampered in the recovery efforts of the hospitality industry? I have found that by participating in events, I have been able to meet people that I can learn from, create new relationships and hone my skills and keep them sharp. The investment in personal development is key no matter the circumstances.

Pandemic Lesson: Workforces have been decimated and my team has been furloughed for almost a year. What I have learned is no matter the situation, my clients expect and deserve the same level of great service they have always received. We are being asked to do more with less, with timelines being tighter than ever before. Communication is important on all levels. For those who are filling the gaps of our furloughed colleagues, remember to give yourself grace. Know that tomorrow is another day as we work to re-unite those team members with the jobs they love and miss.

Mai Lim

Director of Global Sales, Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI)

Grit, Grace, Consistency

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Be like water—fluid and transparent, always be ready to adapt to changes and be open to unlearn and relearn. Your mind will always believe what you tell it, be mindful of what you tell yourself. The only way to know your life’s purpose is to live it. Embrace the ups, the downs, the unknowns and learn from every experience. You don’t know what the universe will serve you next, so stay humble and kind.

Pandemic Lesson: The pandemic really validated what I’ve always believed in: Life is short, unpredictable and can change in a blink of an eye. Control what you can. You are responsible for your energy, your thoughts, your words, your action and your reaction. Focus on what really matters, love more, exude gratefulness, choose joy and tune out the noise. Extend the grace you would want extended to you and to the people you love. Everybody is fighting a battle; be kind. My mantra: Faith over fear, wisdom over worry, peace over panic.

Ann M. Luketic, CMP, CMM

Agency Marketing Specialist, Progressive Insurance

Resourcefulness, Determination, Confidence

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Identify the problem you are trying to solve before struggling to find solutions. This truly defines resiliency as disruption to our normal activities will continue for longer than we anticipated. You need to formulate a strategy, plan for the long haul and think beyond finding immediate solutions. Trust your instincts and take the leap. Opportunities are all around and you need to be open to them. Now is the best time to take a risk and find a renewed sense of purpose. In a situation where you’re not alone in your quest, you can stand out by taking the unconventional path.

Pandemic Lesson: Industry relationships are important, and I realized that some were sustained by convenience. I assumed that I would see my peers at recurring industry events. Relationships require effort, especially when the opportunity to meet is removed. We have more influence on each other than we realize and our need to contribute is strong. Setting aside time to focus on relationships and reconnect with peers is vital as they are the best resources. Renewing a sense of community, participating in collective innovation, and giving/receiving support strengthens my resolve to be a valued industry partner.

Nicole Marsh, DES, CMP, DMCP

Partner, Imprint Events Group

Leadership, Agility, Care

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Be prepared to make tough decisions in the year ahead. You will have to worker faster, harder and smarter than ever before. Your leadership will be put to the test within your company, within your community and within the industry. Take the lead! Trust your skillset as you relearn what you have been doing for more than 23 years. Challenge yourself and discover ways to do things better, different, quicker! You are surrounded by an amazing team and everyone has each other’s back. Don’t overreact. Be thankful you have been financially smart as a company and are positioned to weather the storm.

Pandemic Lesson: We are stronger together. Although as business owners, we tend to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, in times of crisis we need to rely on each other. If there is not currently a safe space within your circles to do this in, create it! By surrounding yourself with other smart and driven business owners and industry leaders, we learn from and can lean on each other. Garnering this knowledge from trusted sources and applying it to our specific situation has certainly made us stronger. Knowledge is power!

Deanne Martin

Sr. Manager, Global Events, Aerospike

Pragmatic, Tasteful, Adaptable

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: As the event environment is slowly changing, look and benchmark trends that you are witnessing. Start to be more conservative on the long-term contracts and up your contact with your networking groups as well as friends in the industry. Keep your pulse on the world situation and educate your team. Continue moving forward but be ready to pivot if needed and have a back-up plan, if possible.

Pandemic Lesson: I learned so much, from new trends to new contract skills. This pandemic has been a beast. Just like the weather, you can forecast based on trends, current data and experience, but really knowing what will happen next has infinite possibilities. The bottom line is that people like to meet one another; conversations are just easier in person and that there is a thing called “Zoom fatigue.” To all events people out there, go with your gut and hopefully we will be meeting in person soon.

Beth A. Miller, CDS, JD

Director of Global Accounts, ConferenceDirect

Honorable, Diligent, Hopeful

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Slow down. Lead with empathy. Stay true to yourself. Nothing is simply a coincidence; deeper meanings abound. Stay focused. Seek knowledge. Search for unexpected opportunities. Patience is indeed a virtue. Gratitude is everything. Nothing is perfect. Family and friends are life. Don’t be too serious. Remain hopeful and positive. Enjoy every moment. Keep in touch and stay connected to those you need, and to those who may need you. Don’t get lost in the chatter and chaos. Get creative.

Pandemic Lesson: 2020 fostered a surreal phase in my professional life with a vengeance. Once the paralyzing fear dissipated, I learned the true meaning of acceptance and adaptation. I learned I’m stronger and more capable than I ever thought. I learned just how much my clients rely on my expertise to navigate their meetings landscape. Virtue and patience became key lessons—supporting my clients in the extra-tough times without changing my work ethic, and also watching seeds I’ve sewn with prospective clients’ blossom. Empathy is the key to effective communication. These solid lessons learned will survive the 2020s and beyond. 

Colleen Pace

Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau

Adaptable, Positivity, Intentional

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Be ready to pivot, don’t wait—act. Have a strong foundation and ability to adapt to change. Keep listening and responding to adversity. Appreciate the people who surround you both professionally and personally. Have gratitude even when things seem too difficult to overcome. Stay positive and keep moving forward.

Pandemic Lesson: I have learned to focus even more on collaboration and connections with people; you aren’t in this alone. The amazing resiliency of the human spirit has been inspiring to witness. We are truly stronger together. The necessity of cutting through the white noise and focusing on what is most important. This has allowed conversations and relationships to evolve to an entirely new level. Overcoming adversity with speed, strength and positivity is one of the most important lessons I have learned through the pandemic.

Amy M. Pettigrew, MPA, CMP

Director, University Advancement Events, The Catholic University of America

Kindness, Fortitude, Zen

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: I would tell myself to invest bigtime in Zoom, Roku, Pfizer, etc. and to trademark the word “pivot”. Seriously, I would tell myself to get as many hugs as possible, spend as much time as possible with family and friends, and to really treasure the little things like attending industry events, traveling, and going to my favorite restaurant. I would also better prepare myself for the “what ifs” such as making time for professional development opportunities like digital event trainings. Even though January 2020 times may not require these skills, it’s always better to be overprepared vs. underprepared.

Pandemic Lesson: Professionally, I’ve greatly expanded my horizons in the areas of virtual meeting/event technology and pandemic/health preparations. I’ve also used these pandemic times to attend numerous educational workshops/webinars and obtain multiple certifications.  Personally, I have learned how invaluable relationships are and that tomorrow is not promised. I’ve also become better at accepting moments of stillness and reflection. Lastly, the pandemic has made me more aware that I need to always be prepared for times of uncertainty, whether financially, physically or otherwise.

Maureen “MO” Robinson

Director of Sales, South Point Hotel & Spa

Attitude, Compassion, Patience

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Do not project outcomes of any situation based on what was the “norm.” Patience and flexibility will be useful in moving forward. Slow down and realize the importance of the balance between life and work. Your life experiences will be the best education in dealing with work relationships and any challenges presented. Savor the importance of time with people—coworkers and clients. Use the telephone more.

Pandemic Lesson: People are so important now and I want to be hungry in all the learning experiences the future brings. Take care of ourselves; I don’t think we ever appreciated how important our health—physical and mental—is.

Megan M. Seppmann, CVP

Vice President of Sales, Wisconsin Center District

Gray, Dynamic, Stable

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Control the controllable. Not everything will go according to plan and new challenges will pop up unexpectedly, so be flexible. Your teams will be looking to you for reassurance and direction. Mentor them by leading by example. Take a deep breath and remember you’re not alone. Lean on your colleagues in Milwaukee and peers across the country for guidance and support. No one has all the answers, and that’s okay.

Pandemic Lesson: Covid will eventually be behind us and life going forward may look a little different, but one thing is certain: how we treated our team members and clients through this journey will not be forgotten. People will always remember how you make them feel and showing compassion and empathy has never been more important than over the past year.

Bonnie Taylor

Director of Sales and Marketing, Hilton Tampa Airport Westshore, Remington Hotels

Tenacious, Caring, Determined

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Bonnie, keep in mind that you cannot control everything.  As you face trials and tribulations, adapt to what makes sense in the moment and know that things will continue to change. Find your “why.” What is the purpose of the moment? When you figure it out, decide, commit, act, succeed and repeat. Continue to be caring, tenacious and take care of yourself.

Pandemic Lesson:

I learned to overcome many challenges through adversity. Focus on the things I can control. When I feel I am reaching the peak of a challenge, I pause, focus on the positive, breathe and keep moving. Knowing there is hope and we are all in this together has been a relief for me to continue to move on. No matter how challenging it may be, never ever give up. Acts of kindness and boosting my colleagues, friends and family member’s morale has been part of my own healing process as we rise up.

Kristin Veach

Marketing and Content Manager, Event Leadership Institute and Principal, Trio Creative Communications

Positive-Attitude, Collaboration, Adaptive

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Besides investing in online meeting software and virtual event platforms, my advice would be to focus on what you can control and remember you are stronger than you can imagine. From an early age, my parents instilled that in even the most challenging situations or events out of our control, we can control how we react and respond. Approach any new challenge as an opportunity to grow and learn, which leads to building strength and resilience that will help in every aspect of life–and is key to professional and personal success and happiness.

Pandemic Lesson: Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. No one got to where they are today without help along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask—and remember to return the favor to others, too. It’s also too easy to focus on the routines of crossing things off a to-do list and moving to the next project. Another important lesson learned has been to slow down, stop rushing from one activity to the next, truly tune in to enjoy the simplest moments, and re-discover the joy of trying something new.

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