Smart Women in Meetings 2021: Stellar Performer

Kimberly Bottom

Director of Business Development, CNTV

Positivity, Progression, Perseverance

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Be grateful. Professionally, appreciate that hectic travel schedule. Enjoy those face-to-face meetings, handshakes before business meals and hugs at receptions.

Personally, say, “Yes” to that outing with friends, even after a long day. Take that trip…to the beach, to the open road, to another country.

And should it all disappear tomorrow (spoiler alert: it does), focus on the blessings that remain. A safe home and a supportive family. Play your guitar. Spend time outdoors. Allow yourself grace to mourn what you miss but move forward in hope. It’s only what you make of it.

Pandemic Lesson: I’ve learned the importance of taking imperfect action. The pandemic stopped so many things in their tracks, especially our beloved meetings industry. At first, the weight of the situation made it feel impossible to move forward. I finally realized that my type-A tendency to have a perfect plan wasn’t going to serve me in this new reality. So, I focused on step one. Was it the right step? Who knows? But it was better than not moving. I approached each challenge with humility and accepted there were two outcomes: succeed or learn. And then, take the next step.

Stephanie Byrd

Marketing Specialist, Caesars Entertainment

Compassion, Dexterity, Vigor

Advice My 2020 Self: There’s an amazing amount of opportunity disguised as deterring challenges along the steep climb that is this year. Remember your empathy with each step… also, hurry up and finish your home office renovation ASAP.

Pandemic Lesson: People first, always, and when possible, go (safely) see them! I think it’s been abundantly clear that there’s simply no replacing the spontaneous synchronicity you experience when interacting in person. Understanding and leveraging this reinforced 2020 reminder will only enhance and re-energize future personal and professional pursuits.

Nuria Candel, CIS

Regional Sales Director, Dorchester Collection

Positive, Original, Compassionate

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Invest on that cool yoga matt you have been eyeing (p.s. I’m on my second one since Covid started)

Pandemic Lesson: I have always known that perspective is everything, but I truly put this theory to work in 2020. At times when we are down or frustrated, all we have to do is stop for a minute, look around and realize how lucky we are to have our health, our family and love for each other. This is all we need, so knowing that others don’t even have these basic things, makes us realize how lucky we really are. In the end, we need very little to be happy.

Sanaida A. Goodner

Director of Sales and Marketing, Little Rock Marriott 

Tenacity, Compassion, Positivity

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Life as you know it will change. Challenging times are ahead, but you are strong and you will be just fine! Always remember, during times of duress, our character inevitably defines who we are. How we react during times of crisis, ultimately shapes our future. I lead with love, honesty and empathy. 2020 was a year of reflection, flexibility and awareness. We must take nothing for granted and we must always treat others how we want to be treated!

Pandemic Lesson: We are stronger together; none of us have complete control over anything except our actions!

Kathleen Headington, CMP

Events Manager, Alpha Chi Omega

Compassion, Support, Collaboration

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Enjoy the little things. Sign up for that race. Hug someone. Invest in Zoom. Savor every moment. Take a moment at every in-person event to close your eyes and savor the experience. Inhale the energy level at the registration desk, the life advice that’s shared among staff members during the down time, and the creative food and educational opportunities you’re lucky enough to experience thanks to your professional position. Keep saying thank you to all those who make these experiences possible…and review those cancellation clauses.

Pandemic Lesson: With a lack of in-person events, I feared I wouldn’t be able to bring enough to the table to maintain my position. “Bring value” became a mantra I continue to use today. I chose a willing attitude to support my team, no matter what task that may have included and, in doing so, I helped keep our organization afloat. It may not always be the tasks we signed up for, but we always have the opportunity to bring value to a situation. When we’re willing to serve and support others, we create margin for everyone to celebrate success together.

Liz Hogan

Senior Sales Manager, Embassy Suites St Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort and Immediate Past President, MPI North Florida Chapter

Tenacious, Optimistic, Determined

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Do not take anything for granted and always be open to change. Be a patient and positive leader to those around you. Surround yourself with great people and be open to learning and growing. With a positive mindset and a willingness to learn, you will find the lessons along the way and come out stronger and more resilient than ever.

Pandemic Lesson: Our industry has always been about relationships, but the pandemic created an opportunity to truly build on the partnerships that are the core of what we do. We were all walking through this together, navigating unchartered territory. Together, we found solutions and overcame enormous challenges while strengthening our partnerships along the way. Knowing we were all in this together and working to find solutions is what not only got me through tough times but what certainly makes me stronger in the end.

Sierra Hooft, CMP

Senior Event Coordinator, Conference Services Group, University of Nevada, Reno

Optimism, Adaptability, Perseverance

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Take care of yourself! It’s so easy, especially working from home, to get enveloped in your work and forget to take the necessary time for yourself. Learning your perfect balance will make you far more effective for your clients.

Pandemic Lesson: I learned that I’m never done learning! There is so much more to the event world than I already know and the pandemic this year has opened my eyes to new areas and opportunities. I now set aside time in my schedule for more continuing education to expand my event knowledge, skillset and experience and that is something I plan to continue well into the future.

Lauren Jacks

Event Sales Manager, Rock Central Detroit / Owner, Lauren Jacks Events

Flexibility & Cautious Optimism

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Girlfriend, buckle up! The year ahead of you will be full of emotion, change and questions, but at the end of it, you will come out stronger. The challenges you will be facing will shape you as a professional and it’s up to you to decide how you handle them and carry yourself. Always go back to your “why.”

Pandemic Lesson: As a professional who is passionate about creating and fostering relationships, the pandemic really shook up my world by taking away my ability to meet and maintain relationships with fellow industry pros. I quickly learned that my passions are not defined or controlled by setbacks and that if I wanted to continue my journey of meeting and networking, I had to create my own opportunities to do so. I’ve formed some of my strongest relationships through the frequent Zoom coffee dates, social media interaction and email check-ins during this pandemic.

Samantha Johnson

Director of Sales, Allegiant Stadium

Perseverance, Grit, Confidence

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: This year will be about people and change. Compassion will be pivotal in understanding the needs of clients and coworkers. Stay realistic, stay optimistic and look towards the future whenever possible. Take time for yourself and check in with others. These times are unprecedented in our personal and work life, so take it one day at a time.

Pandemic Lesson: Relationships are valuable in our industry and can be built even during unprecedented times. As a brand-new venue, our team has established a momentous amount of trust and confidence with our current and prospective clients by being transparent and understanding. As our industry re-opens, we will move forward with a people-first mindset to relate to our clients and deliver an experience that is reflective of the top-notch brand and venue we represent.

Jacqueline Kennedy

Director of Business Development, Hyatt Convention Alliance

Positivity, Listening, Solutions

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Hug your family and friends tight. Savor how freely you move about the world, bracing yourself for things to come outside your control. Embrace big changes as an opportunity to put fresh approaches into play. Be resilient; push yourself to create something new for the Hyatt Convention Alliance. Position yourself as a leader, a creative thinker and someone unafraid to tackle new solutions in a high-stakes scenario. Through it all, remain grateful for your beautiful family, supportive peers and mentors at a company that has given you the opportunity to test and learn through it all.

Pandemic Lesson: That I am worthy. I was furloughed for close to five months, staying home with my young kids, watching the industry that I love crumble. It was a gift of time with my family, overshadowed by a great loss. When I got the call asking me to return, I knew it was a call that many of my deserving peers did not receive. I hold that reality close. Since then, I have felt honored every day to work alongside others as we rebuild the industry in order to welcome all our peers and guests back someday soon.

Stacey Ladd

Producer and Manager of Studio Operations, LEO Events

Patience, Strength, Sleep

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Expect the unexpected, buckle up and don’t take yourself too seriously!

Pandemic Lesson: I think I learned more in 2020 than I have in a long time. Between learning to juggle home life and work life simultaneously to learning a whole new way of producing events, it’s absolutely been a whirlwind of a year. But I wouldn’t trade it for another. I’ve grown more in my career this year than any other year, and that will make me stronger going forward.

Jaclyn Levine, CMP

Meetings Department Manager, American Society of Echocardiography

Determination, Optimism, Flexibility

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: There is a time you are about to face; everything will feel off-kilter, out of balance and not in place. You are going to have to reset and re-orient more times than you can count. Just when you think you have adapted, be prepared for change. Take this time and reach out to family and friends. Reconnect. Feel safe at home and find your new normal at work again. The journey ahead will teach you lessons you never knew you needed to learn.

Pandemic Lesson: I have learned to enjoy the longer-term outlook. My current realities are going to shift and I can no longer anticipate or sometimes even control what each day will bring. Instead of feeling disoriented by change, I have learned to try to embrace and grow from it. By focusing on the longer-term outlook, I have learned to slow down and find happiness in the simple things.

Kathy McAdams, CASE

Vice President, Convention Sales, Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board

Flexibility, Open-Mindedness, Gratitude

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: The world as you know it will change beyond your wildest notions and will seem overwhelming at times. Focus on your family, friends and health—both physical and mental. As you weather the impact on your work and industry, reach out to colleagues to share, unload and grow. Now more than ever, the communication with your peers will be invaluable. This will ensure your ability to be successful in the new world, which will be ready and waiting!

Pandemic Lesson: To take the title of the book from Marie Forleo, Everything is Figureoutable. Take the time and energy to figure it out. And you do not have to do it alone. Teamwork is essential so make sure you are part of an awesome team…which I am! A team can help insulate you from the naysayers, and help you achieve and celebrate the victories.

Lindsay A. Plath, CMP

Sr. Professional Development Coordinator, Illinois Association of School Business Officials

Resolute, Flexible, Confident

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Stay true to your values. This year will throw you curveballs at every turn—you can handle it. Change is hard, but necessary. Give yourself grace. Rest when your body tells you to. The work you are doing is making a difference. I’m proud of you.

Pandemic Lesson: I have learned that I am stronger and more adaptable than I realize. From completely shifting my job to virtual delivery to moving across the country during a pandemic, I can handle a lot. 2020 taught me to trust my intuition, practice patience (with myself and others), and keep pushing forward. In the wise words of Glennon Doyle, “We can do hard things.”

Francesca Radabaugh

Vice President of Operations and Director of Association Management, Paragon Events Inc.

Unify, Adapt, Persevere

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Invest in Zoom and toilet paper! Just kidding. I would tell myself to prepare myself and my team for things to drastically change for longer than expected. Mentally prepare for a lot of separation and solitude and be ready to support those around you through some very challenging times. Focus on the little wins and good moments, and always be grateful for the blessings you have—some people won’t be as lucky as you are during the coming months. Be ready to learn some new skills and get creative!

Pandemic Lesson: As Paragon shifted gears to virtual events, I have found that many driving factors and basic principles still remain surprisingly true. To engage and excite people, you have to be creative and thoughtful—always tethering your choices to achieving your client’s end goal. Although achieving this has required more forethought and new skills, it has been exciting to be challenged in a new way. Although circumstances change, your guiding principles remain the same, and you should view every challenge as a chance to excel and evolve.

Stacy Roberts

Senior Vice President, Operations, Global DMC Partners

Positivity, Perseverance, Perspective

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: To get ready for the long haul, stay positive and find the fun too! The last year was tough, there is no doubt about that, and outside of telling myself to take a vacation immediately and purchase stock in Zoom, I would have wanted to be prepared to just brace myself for the long haul and the roller coaster of emotions, uncertainties, challenges and opportunities ahead—and to know that there would still be so much good that would come out of this crisis to celebrate along the way.

Pandemic Lesson: The entire past year has been a live business case study in action! What sticks with me the most is that the way you respond to a situation, and how quickly you change and adapt is critical. Being visible, providing value to your audience and then listening to their needs as you fine tune is how you can rise above during any situation. We always thought everything had to be 100 percent perfect, but in times like this, it’s okay to try something new and be at 90 percent, but still be there and providing the value people rely on you for.

Melisa Rodgers

Director of National Accounts, Terranea Resort

Determination, Empathy, Adaptability

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Spend as much time as you can with your loved ones and friends doing what you love to do.

Pandemic Lesson: As a hospitality professional, I always lead with a heart of service and now more than ever, empathy, compassion and collaboration allows me to continue to help my clients and colleagues to navigate our recovery and renewed path forward.  Relationships, caring for one another and staying connected will always supersede even the greatest of challenges.

Laura M. Rowles

Director of Marketing and Events, Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce

Positivity, Flexibility, Responsiveness

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: In the midst of hardship and challenges, take time to evaluate those who have helped you and focus on what’s truly important in life. And know without the darkness, you cannot appreciate the light.

Pandemic Lesson: People will often look for the experts during a crisis. Make sure you have the expertise you need to help lead your staff and colleagues through this crisis. Share your expertise with those around. You will be amazed by the positive effect it has on the team, and the innovation it will inspire during the crisis itself. Additionally, thank goodness for Zoom. Being in the business of relationship building, keeping up the face-to-face collaboration was extremely beneficial to our membership and an important lesson learned during the pandemic.

Katie Vanderheyd, CMP, DES

Meeting & Event Planner, Wells Fargo Bank

Put Self-Care First

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: The year ahead is going to be more challenging than you can imagine right now and you will be repeatedly tested. Don’t worry, you will be able to handle everything that comes your way, even when it doesn’t feel like it at first. Lean on your digital event experience—even the seemingly familiar will provide new obstacles and you have the skills to tackle them. Approach each situation with optimism and make the best of it, you might not have to look as hard as you think to find the positives.

Pandemic Lesson: I truly learned the power of embracing change. So often, we become comfortable in our circumstances to the point where even a minor shift causes a shock to our system. We work on the same annual events, collaborate with the same business partners and take for granted that this is not a given. The changes I experienced this past year, related to the pandemic or not, were anything but minor. By being forced into change, I’ve found opportunities that I would not have sought out on my own, and the confidence that my expertise will carry me through the uncertainty.

Kelly Van Dyke, CMP, CTA

Food and Beverage Director of Events, AHC Hospitality 

Pivot, Evaluate, Self-Care

Advice for My Jan. 2020 Self: Slow down. A perfectly formulated response or idea at the drop of a hat is not necessary at all times. Have patience and compassion. Sometimes, people just want to be heard or listened to and need someone to talk to. When the old man in the checkout line is telling his life story to the cashier, listen in; it might make you smile. And most importantly, remove yourself from social media by at least 75 percent. You will be happier, more present and positive and you will like yourself more. Purposely replace this time with things that make you happy.

Pandemic Lesson: Directing an events team through a pandemic has been one of the most challenging and rewarding times in my career. For an industry that operated at such a high functioning level, an abrupt halt was shocking and confusing for my brain. I have learned and taught others to evaluate, pivot and pivot again. I have lowered my expectations a bit and have learned to acknowledge other’s needs in times of doubt and uncertainty. As we begin to rebuild the meetings industry together, pivoting and compassion will make me a better director for my staff and clients alike.

Back to the Smart Women in Meetings Awards 2021
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