Smart Women in Meetings 2021: Innovator

Megan Archambeault

Vice President of Sales, MGM Grand Hotel & Casino and NEW YORK NEW YORK Hotel & Casino

Compassion, Connection, Focus

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Be flexible and remember that while challenges are going to be thrown our way, you have an incredibly talented team that will be with you every step of the way. It’s important to stay focused on the future of the group segment while ensuring we take care of one another and continue to cherish our client relationships. In this upcoming year, you and everyone around you will take on additional responsibilities and while some days might seem hard, we will come out of it stronger together.

Pandemic Lesson: While easier said than done, we can’t lose sleep over things we can’t control but instead focus on what we can. We’ve had to deliver more challenging messages in the past year than ever in my career and it’s been important to show compassion, empathy, and offer as much transparency as possible. We are going into 2021 as a united team and look to rebuild our industry together. I am incredibly proud to be a leader within MGM Resorts and know that while this year has been challenging, we have all grown stronger and more resilient because of it.

Katie D. Bohrer, CMP

Vice President, Meeting Design & Experience, Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI)

Grace, Grit, Laughter

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Remember what your dad (and Reinhold Niebuhr) always told you, “accept the things you cannot change; have courage to change the things you can; and have wisdom to know the difference.” You are going to get through this and will realize what is most important in life. Your perspective will forever be changed for the better. Be kind whenever you have a chance to make someone’s day better. After all, “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” (George Eliot)

Pandemic Lesson: I marvel at all that was possible. While there was incredible grief and challenges; I have never been so in awe of the human spirit. We are truly intrepid and capable of positivity, creativity and resiliency when tested. I learned that the most trying times have the ability to bring out the best in us. I learned there are always new ways to do anything. Our industry has spun around the dance floor with the lights off and no music, and we have created a beautiful new two-step. Realizing that I am capable of more has been my lesson.

Karolyn Graves-Rhodes

VP Incentive Accounts, Wynn Resorts

Be Optimistic & Positive

Advice for My January 2020 Self: We entered 2020 with great expectations, not having a clue that the year would be filled with a global pandemic that changed everything. Live every day with positive purpose and accept whatever experiences you are given. Believe that it has presented itself to you to learn and evolve into a better person. Embrace the reality of uncertainty. Practice positivity and agility. I love to laugh, but I strongly advise to laugh more, forgive more, and love more. Lastly, be kind. An attitude of kindness boosts resiliency. Be the reason someone smiles!

Pandemic Lesson: You don’t know what you are capable of until you are challenged. The world in which I interacted (people, travel destinations, industry events, activities) became a lot smaller. Within months, the mandatory isolation forced us to live our lives differently. I reunited with the power of stillness, the value in living a quieter, more peaceful life. Nature became my friend. It allowed me to find increased strength, compassion and gratitude. Old habits broke down. Listening to the sounds of nature freed me to clarify thoughts, priorities and goals. Sometimes the most beautiful opportunities are hidden in dire situations.

Sheree Greenhalge

Assistant Marketing Manager, Hino Trucks, a Toyota Group Company

Team, Action, Accountability

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Give thanks. Be thankful for where you are in your life and do not diminish your accomplishments. Know that self-worth doesn’t come from what you do, but who you are.

Pandemic Lesson: You really can weather more things that you thought. Sometimes you need to just take a step back because you can always find a positive in any situation. Realize that some good can happen even during the worst of times, and our collective experiences will make us stronger as we move forward in a new normal way of life.

Devon Jay, CMP

Marketing Events Manager, Ericsson

Strength, Positivity, Adaptability

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: The pandemic brought ambiguity in the industry that required patience, experimentation, and created new ways of working. My former self always worked with a relentless sense of urgency. I would tell her to remember to be brave and patient. Brave enough to take quick actions, but patient enough to know when a decision needs more time or analysis. This will be a year of opportunities for learning and growth so embrace it with enthusiasm.

Pandemic Lesson: Always maintain a positive attitude. I was excited and optimistic as I began to research new ways to deliver events virtually. I found that this excitement energized both myself and my team and empowered us to drive the change to virtual events forward in a more meaningful way. Also, always look for opportunities to collaborate, learn and share, not only with colleagues, but others across the industry, so we can grow from each other’s learnings. Everyone is on this journey together so taking the time to come together, show empathy and support one another makes us all stronger.

Kelly Knowlen

Kelly_Knowlen

Executive Director, Sales Engagement and Special Events, Hilton

Stubborn, Determined, Driven

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Buckle up! Change is coming and your world will be rocked this year. You’ll face challenges never seen in your 30-year career—team furloughs and layoffs, record event cancellations and extremely limited resources. You’ll work harder than you’ve ever worked—but that sacrifice will bring incredible opportunity. You’ll lead and launch game-changing global initiatives that will drive business and bring teams back to work—including your own. So, hang in there, it will all be worth it, and you’ll be just fine.

Pandemic Lesson: Facing the adversity caused by the pandemic gave me a unique opportunity to tap into resilience and strength like never before. I was able to find energy, purpose and a sense of accomplishment in what initially seemed like an insurmountable challenge. I grew as an expert in digital experiences and learned how to build meaningful relationships over virtual platforms. I collaborated and accomplished more than ever with colleagues and customers. I gained a deeper appreciation for how truly talented and creative my team members are. And I learned how much can be achieved when the stakes are the highest.

Amy Kramer

Market and Product Innovation Leader, Maritz Global Events

Empathy, Adaptation, Innovation

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Keep progressing forward. Continue to champion ideas and inspire others to push their aspirational limits. Lead with understanding and a design mindset. Failure is okay, learning and growth is the outcome. We will continue to face challenges as individuals, as an organization and industry and our world. As leaders and pioneers, we can change, adapt and grow by leading with heart, innovation and an eye toward transformation. Keep your head held high, your aspirations big and empathy at the core. You will do and accomplish great things.

Pandemic Lesson: Working smarter, not harder. Unlearning past ways will help me continue to adapt, lead and innovate.

Lynne LaFond DeLuca

Executive Director, Association of Club Catering & Event Professionals

Tenacity, Innovation, Unwavering

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Hello Self, you are about to have quite a year! You will be pushed and challenged, but always remember to move forward like you have in the past—with intention and meaningful purpose. Stay true to your authentic self. Listen to your little voice and continue to do the right thing, always putting people first, above all else. This coming year will give you the opportunity to reinvent not only your own business, but the private club industry as a whole. The impact will change life as we know it forever. Trust yourself. You’ve got this!

Pandemic Lesson: I believe that this past year has shown us that no matter how we are challenged, there is always an opportunity for growth and change. Sometimes it takes a “push” in order to move the needle and break a plateau. I helped facilitate and watched as the private club industry reinvented itself in a way that was awe-inspiring and necessary. This happened because it was a “change to survive” mentality, but more inspiring, because it was the individuals in the clubs that pulled themselves up, helped and supported each other and created a new and forward-thinking mentality going forward.

Melissa Mahon

EVP Operations, MAS

Adaptability, Empathy, Improvisation

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Take a big vacation immediately. Invest in Zoom. Buy a bike, Clorox and toilet paper before they are all gone. You will make heart-wrenching decisions this year but know that people value honesty in times of uncertainty. Your team will shrink, but it won’t be long before you are growing again. In a year, you will be running a small film studio—surprise! The virtual revolution will change everything, which will be scary at times, but opportunity is everywhere and you will capitalize on it.

Pandemic Lesson: Necessity is the mother of invention and our team is ready to adapt at a moment’s notice and are willing to think big when times are tough. We regrouped and reinvested in ourselves and it paid off. I learned that financial forecasting is an artform and like storytelling, I embrace this as my strength. I run a people-powered business, even the smallest gestures and acknowledgements go miles in terms of nurturing and retaining talent. “The opposite of fear is passion and if you make friends with your fears, you can convert them to passion” -Stacey Abrams

Anh Nguyen, B.Comm, CMP

Principal & Founder, Spark Event Management and Spark Event Collective

Vulnerability, Self-Grace, Community

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Along the road to success, there are going to be extraordinary failures. You will get knocked down and sometimes you will feel like you are not good enough. When that happens, invest in, and draw on the strength of your community. Draw on the collective strength of the people who share a common vision with you, who love and support you, who show up for you day in and day out—especially the strong, resilient women in your network. At some point or another, we will all need help and when that time comes, do not be afraid to ask for it.

Pandemic Lesson: The pandemic has reminded me about the importance of investing in your community. It is about putting in the effort to build a community around a common vision or a greater good. The Spark Event Collective was born out of the idea that great things can be accomplished when we build a forum where smart, talented women can support each other and work together. The teams that I had the honor of leading or becoming a part of during the pandemic will be a huge asset as I continue to build the Spark Event Collective to elevate women in this industry.

Lisa Palmeri

Vice President, Principal Consultant, Intent Strategy Group, A Division of M&IW

Diversification, Adaptability, Perseverance

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: While the ground shifts beneath you, remember your core values of integrity, hard work, communication, well-being and discovery provide a sturdy foundation and dependable guide. With disruption comes change, so actively nurture these values to develop personally and professionally, and don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Sharing the fruits (and garden vegetables) of your labor with others in need will bring you great joy. Now is a perfect time to color outside the lines and hike a new trail. You will be surprised at how much better you will know yourself when you come out the other side.

Pandemic Lesson: I learned two important lessons: 1. I’m a survivor. Like many of us, last year was one of the most difficult of my life. I’ve had to tap into traits and skills that haven’t been as acutely tested in recent years as in 2020. Surviving means summoning the mental fortitude to overcome new obstacles, navigating an unknown industry future while finding innovative ways to provide value, and keeping the faith for brighter days. Despite being somewhat introverted, I am a social being and thrive when spending time with family, friends and industry colleagues—never take these relationships for granted.

Garland Preddy, CGMP

Director of Education and Training, Society of Government Meeting Professionals

Humor, Hope, Help

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Be creative when “we’ve always done it like that” is impossible or just doesn’t work anymore. Always consider the other—the other side of a situation and the other person. Help when you can and ‘stay in your lane’ as appropriate. Be encouraging when others are down. Be supportive as others are facing new challenges. Be a good friend. Share joy—it’s contagious in a good way!

Pandemic Lesson: I learned there are many important things in life to spend time on. I now allow others to help, when I always had to do it myself in the past. I gave away things that brought me joy—my piano. I hope it is being enjoyed as I did for over 40 years. I gave away yarn to someone who wanted to knit and couldn’t afford the yarn. I helped a stranger who had fallen and broken her hip—I stayed with her until her husband and ambulance arrived. I didn’t even recognize her behind her mask—it was my neighbor.

Melissa A. Riley

Vice President, Convention Sales and Services, Destination DC

Mindfulness, Discovery, Proactive

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Take advantage of this time to explore ventures you never had time for previously. You can benefit from both the solitude of working from home and the collaborative virtual environment we’ve fostered over the past year. Further your education, start long-term strategic projects, and take time to develop your creative process. These initiatives will help further mature soft skills for continued growth and make you and the organization better off in the long term.

Pandemic Lesson: I never doubted the ability of my team, but I continue to be amazed by the adaptability of their work and spirit. If there is a task to be done outside normal job responsibilities, I have countless volunteers. If we need market strategy, they jump at the opportunity to lead the discussion. When I ask, they offer endless support. I have an incredible team and I’ve learned to never underestimate them!

Anna Robins

Senior Director, Keep Memory Alive

Determined, Savvy, Swift

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: While you can’t control things, you can control how you react and respond, so look on the bright side and know that this too shall pass. Stay informed, but don’t allow the overwhelming amount of information to bring you down or sacrifice your peace of mind. Do your best to help people around you because you don’t know another person’s journey. I would also tell myself to appreciate the smaller things that 2020 brought, such as more time with my kids and the opportunity to finish some of my wish projects.

Pandemic Lesson: I’ve always been creative, but this year really forced me to utilize all available resources. For example, we created a virtual 50/50 raffle, cross-promoted it through all of our social platforms and email database, then announced the winner on Facebook Live. We raised crucial funds for Keep Memory Alive and Cleveland Clinic Nevada while reaching a new audience, so we will continue thinking in those ways in everything we do to expand to a larger base. This year also allowed me time to rework our policies and protocols so they are more streamlined moving forward.

Elizabeth Sage, MBA, CMP

Associate Director, Events and Trade Shows, Illumina

Absorb, Reset, Evolve

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Get clear on your purpose, that’s what will guide you in the face of ambiguity. Practice self-compassion daily. Leverage your squad and let them lift you when you don’t have the energy to do so on your own.

Pandemic Lesson: I’ve learned that humans are more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for, and that our reliance on each other is essential to get through the hard things. I’ve also seen how from the ashes of severe disruption comes the opportunity for reflection, innovation and rebirth—everyone loves a good comeback story!

Michelle M. Shannon, CMP, HMCC

Associate Director, Strategic Meeting and Event Management, Novo Nordisk, Inc.

Optimistic, Self-Motivated, Unwavering

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: I believe that regardless of what happened in 2020, I would have advised myself to continue to reach, continue to be prepared for the unknown, always think outside of the box as one never knows what is around the corner. Always stay two steps ahead…and that 2020 would be a true test.

Pandemic Lesson: I have gained the knowledge and the confidence that what we bring to ourselves, our stakeholders, our partners is a valuable asset. I have been tested to learn new innovative approaches, guide and coach a team through unchartered waters that we were all learning about at the same time. While I know there are challenges ahead, this past year has given me the tools, the education and the ability to know that the foundation built and initiatives that have been in place and those that we have been working towards can withstand change.

Michele Shry, CMP

Manager, Event, Meeting & Travel Management, Petco Health and Wellness Company, Inc

Agility, Calm, Commitment

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Michele, in the coming year you will not only be developing your new team, but you will also be challenged to embrace being uncomfortable during unimaginable times. Your strength, your unwavering resolve, and the sheer determination that you are known for will be how you once again get through the uncertainty, stress and the unknown. Stay strong! Stay Focused! Be Fearless! Take Care of Yourself! You will come out on the other side with more compassion, and a be stronger mentor to your team and a better leader.

Pandemic Lesson: 2020 reinforced my mantra that rings true in all situations and circumstances: “Don’t be afraid to fail, you will come out stronger on the other side of failure.” I can strongly lead my team through what some consider the worst of times by bringing my honest, most genuine self to the forefront daily. Also, when struggling, it is OK to be vulnerable and seek partnerships with my tribe of planners and colleagues. Being honest with myself and my team allows me to collectively provide support, inspiration and opens the door to thoughtful discussion.

Emily M. Spiegel

Senior Vice President, MKTG Sports + Entertainment

Resourcefulness, Confidence, Innovation

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Soak it all in: the thrill of your team pulling off a successful event, being onsite, running on adrenaline and little sleep to finish the job for your clients. You’ll quickly realize how much you miss it. The coming year will be challenging in so many ways. But that feeling from right now will give you hope that one day you’ll all be back doing what you love, because there will always be the need for live events. There’s no true substitute! (And get ready, things are about to get crazy. Go ahead and buy extra toilet paper now.)

Pandemic Lesson: The last year taught me that I am at my best as a leader during times of uncertainty and in the midst of crisis, when tough decisions are necessary in order to be successful and move forward. I have the ability to lead my team to quickly innovate and adapt as the business requires. Together, we discovered what we are really made of, and it was reassuring. We’ve weathered the storm. How we handled the past year gives me great confidence in my capacity, along with my team, to handle whatever might come our way in the future.

Lindsay Vidrine

Vice President of Destination Marketing, Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

Calm, Optimistic, Creative

 Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Launching our “OKC: The Modern Frontier” brand campaign in Feb. 2020 will pay off more than you know, particularly by uniting locals and unifying messaging as you open the new OKC Convention Center amid a pandemic. On an unrelated note, buy stock in Zoom and home improvement stores…just trust me.

Pandemic Lesson: Oklahoma City is resilient and time and again has faced unprecedented challenges that don’t change who we are, but that reveal who we are. I’ve seen this play out across our community through the pandemic and have been reminded how strong, compassionate and innovative our partners are both locally and nationally in the hospitality industry. We’ve been through a lot, but I’m also seeing new opportunities as a result of the past year that keep me excited about the future.

Amanda G. Voss, CMP

Vice President of Sales for Bellagio and Park MGM

Optimism, Courage, Compassion

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Find the strength to lead through the dark. 2020 will impact you profoundly, so take in the lessons, remain calm in unsteady waters, and lift others up. You will find pockets of light through all of this.

Pandemic Lesson: The biggest lesson was garnering a larger focus on human intelligence than ever needed before. It was essential to truly listen to an employee’s words in a virtual world, making sure they felt supported, and allowing myself to be vulnerable at times so they knew they were not alone. Providing a sense of calm through something I had no control over tested me as we continued to go on an uncertain path with Covid. I knew I needed to provide a heightened level of support to my teams and my colleagues. Even though Covid continued to challenge us, I was determined to provide a light at the end of the tunnel that this too shall pass. I have always said your team is the most important aspect to the business model, however going through this experience I am validated more than ever that leaders must stay vigilant in our human intelligence and for that I thank my team for making me stronger.

Alisa Walsh, CITP, CIS

CEO, Haute Rock Creative & EventWorks

Bold, Decisive, Adaptable

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Take a moment to really connect with your connections. You are in the business of creating unforgettable experiences for clients and their guests by bringing them together around a shared idea. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that in your quest to create memories and connections for others, you are actually fostering your own ties around a shared passion. It’s these relationships that will not only help you to get through a tough year, they will help you thrive.

Pandemic Lesson: My lesson is two-fold. You can’t experience growth without change. While it is true that one may prefer the comfort that comes with controlling the impetus, embracing your ability to adapt will allow you to evolve in ways you wouldn’t have imagined. The old adage is true, “when a door closes, a window opens,” but if you stay focused on that closed door, you might miss the window. And surround yourself with a strong team of strategic and creative minds. They will be the ones who help you spot that window and, if one isn’t there, they will build one.

Paula Zeller

Divisional VP of Sales & Marketing, Remington Hotels

Bold, Tenacious, Purposeful

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Always be grateful, regardless of your situation and listen and serve others. Be inspirational and purposeful in everything you do. Be bold and don’t settle for the way things were but how you can improve the current situation. Remember the perspective of others is important and progress can come in very small steps, just keep building on each step daily. Remember to learn and evolve every day and don’t give up, be relentless and determined.

Pandemic Lesson: Don’t get caught up in what has worked in the past, because in most situations it will have to be a different path than before. Don’t rely on your past skills or learned behaviors, be innovative and focus on the what if’s, not what I have accomplished before. Be mindful, focused, purposeful, bold and relentless every day in everything you do. Always know serving others is the key to success and valuing what you have both personally and professionally is highly important.

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