This is the season for counting our blessings and giving thanks. The hospitality industry has so much to be grateful for as we return to doing what we love, working with partners to welcome guests and create memorable experiences.

Smart Meetings reached out to our esteemed editorial advisory board to ask what they are grateful for during this transition year and how they demonstrate it personally and professionally. As always, their thoughtful responses left us inspired. We love the idea of “grateful grams” that give thanks publicly (thanks Carol), volunteering as thanks and long live the personal-care nap!

The team at Smart Meetings is thankful for our creative, resilient community and the opportunity to deliver the latest news, trends and insights to you daily online and monthly in our award-winning magazine. We wish all of you a restorative holiday season and hope the following strikes a chord with you as we take stock and pay it forward.

Read MoreElevating Holiday Cheer Through Culinary Creativity

image of jenn arturaJenn Artura

Founder, Jenn Artura Consulting LLC

2022 has been a year of transitions. Personally and professionally, I am grateful for focusing on my mental wellness by making a conscious decision to take a step back, observe and redefine what’s important to me. Realizing that my time is my most important currency, I am grateful for each moment to be present, learning to take in the joy around me, and having the courage to walk away from what doesn’t serve me.

I am forever thankful for an industry that has given me amazing friends and colleagues and endless opportunities to travel, experience new cultures, meet people worldwide, and do things most people dream about. Staying true to what I believe is what it’s all about creating human-centered experiences and impacting how people feel is the pure magic of this industry. And as a leader, I am committed to mental wellness at the forefront of business because when we show people we care and express genuine gratitude, the rest falls into place.

As a strategist, I look forward to integrating wellness and business metrics into events, going far beyond green smoothies and yoga; and emphasizing conversation, social interaction, mindfulness, relationship building, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, and the power of communities.

image of eduardo chailloEduardo Chaillo

Global General Manager, Maritz Global Events

I am grateful that my oldest daughter got married, and we were part of the legal marriage in Switzerland and the friends/family celebration in Tequila, Jalisco, which allowed us to deepen our relationship with the new extended family; my middle daughter moved to San Diego with a great new job within the biomedical field; and finally, the little one is a senator at her college and is participating in an exchange program next semester in Madrid. It is a blessing for my wife and me to be able to help them accomplish some of their goals in life.

In my professional life, we are fortunate that our destination, organizational and corporate clients kept their trust, allowing my team to help them in strategic decisions/operations in 2022. In my role within Maritz, I always find an empowering, inclusive environment to help increase its global presence/relevance. Working with leaders like David and Ben has been a privilege as I’ve learned from them and become very good friends. My response is to participate in volunteer positions to give back a little of what I have received, this year as a chair in the EIC’s APEX Commission and returning to the COCAL BOD.

image of mark cooperMark Cooper


Looking back on the year when small- to mid-size business events bounced back with verve and vigor globally, I am thankful to everyone in our industry who embraced the urgency to welcome back meetings into their venues whilst rebuilding their teams. The strength and positivity that our people and industry exude is truly impressive.

I am also grateful to all of those who commit to sharing their knowledge to help educate others, the time they give outside of their working hours and the support they get from their family and friends to help our industry grow. The galant volunteer efforts I see within the IACC family, in areas such as education and ideas exchange, is unique compared to any other industry. We will be much stronger, more efficient and innovative in 2023 as a result!

image of megan finnellMegan Finnell

Director of Meetings, MGMA

I am grateful for feeling settled. The changes that came with Covid brought a greater appreciation for the comforts of being home, in routine, and enjoying life inside a much smaller bubble. I have found such pleasure in a much simpler life with my family and friends. With the shift to hybrid work schedules, life runs at a much slower pace that is much more easily managed as a mom of an elementary school student.

I am so grateful for these changes and try to remember with the terrible disease of Covid came blessings of systemic change to our working world. I often find myself practicing words of gratitude in my head as I enjoy these simple moments at home that never existed before in the frenetic pace of life.

image of carol mcguryCarol McGury

Executive Vice President, Smithbucklin

I am thankful for the health and safety of my family, friends and colleagues. It’s been another year of new opportunities, so I’m thankful for the multigenerational, diverse and passionate group of team members I work with every day. I’m thankful (yes thankful) for delayed flights because it means we are back. Well, not really but I don’t complain about them anymore. I’m thankful and appreciate all of these travel experiences to client events, industry meetings and meeting with colleagues across the globe.

I’m fortunate to work for a company where “giving thanks” is part of our culture. This year we penned over 7,000 grateful grams, all written by colleagues to colleagues. Telling someone thank you, great work, appreciate how you made a difference is easy—I do this through written note cards and in public ways to celebrate the efforts of our team.

Personally, I talk to my 85-year-old mom every day and tell her how much she means to me. I listen to her stories and am thankful she’s in my life. And lastly, I do the same with my husband who still wonders if with all my travel I really work for the CIA.

image of kim napolitanoKim Napolitano

Executive Director of Industry Relations and Intermediary Group Sales, Hilton Worldwide Sales

One tradition I have during the week of Thanksgiving is to reflect upon the areas of my life I’m grateful to have. Like many, I’m thankful for my beloved husband, three amazing adult children, my health and my career. But I’ve become increasingly grateful in recent years to be my authentic self and exude my complete and true personality at home and work.  

One of the areas of my true self is my dedication to a regular fitness and wellness routine, which I’ve been able to take into the workplace and share with others.  

I’ve always felt the pull to bring calm and inspiration into my business dealings. We’ve all had conversations that have gotten out of hand, and sometimes we need to take a deep breath and pause. With this in mind, I was fortunate to spearhead a “Wednesday Wellness 20-minute Mindfulness Series” along with like-minded colleagues, inspiring guest speakers and fitness professionals. Held on Microsoft Teams, our goal is to re-center and exhale from the week’s stress. We offer guided meditations, breathing techniques, and chair yoga, and we have even done 10-minute arm workouts. This is just one way to instill healthy habits into the workplace to make ourselves calmer and more thoughtful partners to our customers and families. 

What authentic trait could your workplace benefit from, and how might you bring that to life in 2023? Tell me on Kimberly Napolitano | LinkedIn.

image of brad weaberBrad Weaber

Founder, Brad Weaber Consulting Group

I am grateful for health—both personally and professionally. I truly believe the greatest wealth is health. The past few years have shown us all how important personal health is for not only ourselves but also for each other. Practicing self-care is not a selfish act but a human act. I have consciously allocated more time to care—exercise, mindfulness breaks and even a 15-minute nap each afternoon!! Allowing yourself to breathe allows you to bring such positive energy into your professional life and to those you serve. Personal health leads to professional health…always.  Take the time to reflect daily on what you are grateful for.

image of don welshDon Welsh

CEO, Destinations International

I am thankful for my family, faith and friends. Travel has the ability to be a profound force for good and it moves economies, societies and identities forward like no other sector can. I truly feel blessed to work in an industry that broadens mindsets and impacts communities for the better.

I try to demonstrate daily gratitude by showing and expressing thanks and appreciation to those around me including family, friends and colleagues. A simple thank you, card, or even texts and emails go a long way to show your gratitude. Starbucks gift cards are also a great way—flight crews and hotel staff love them! My wife, Jean and I also love the work of the Wounded Warriors and give back when we can.

Tracy Judge

MS, CMP, Founder and CEO, Soundings

I am thankful for the freedom, resources, and support to create the life I want and for feeling safe to show up as my authentic self. I demonstrate my gratitude by supporting others on their personal journey. One of the greatest gifts you can give another person is making them feel seen. It creates safety for people to be themselves and is the key to unlocking human potential. 

Soundings was founded to make professional freedom accessible to all. Our focus is on creating a community that celebrates uniqueness and offers event professionals the resources and opportunities to build a career that aligns with the life they want. Because professional growth does not happen without personal growth, we help talent identify their strengths, skillsets, and differentiators as the foundation for their career journey.  

How to Feel Grateful When You Just…Don’t

(A Thanksgiving Message for Tough Times)

Thanksgiving may leave you feeling anything but grateful. Walter Bond, author of Swim!: How a Shark, a Suckerfish, and a Parasite Teach You Leadership, Mentoring, & Next Level Success explains how adopting a “shark-like” mindset can spark true thankfulness…even in hard times.

“People associate sharks with ruthlessness, but they actually have a lot to teach us about living with purpose and gratitude,” says Bond. “They have a deep appreciation for their environment. They’re highly adaptable. They move forward with intent. And many cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with other fish.”

There are lessons here for those who want to leave bitterness behind and move toward a life of purpose, opportunity, and fulfillment—all of which nurture gratitude. But be aware: Just as paying lip service to gratitude at Thanksgiving dinner won’t change your outlook, neither will dabbling your toes in the waters of the shark mindset. You have to immerse yourself and swim. 

Following are three of his eight shark lessons:

First, choose to change. Sharks are physically flexible and highly adaptable. Humans aren’t so great at change. If you aren’t feeling thankful, your own set-in-stone thoughts and attitudes might be partially to blame. “People cling to feelings of anger, resentment, and outrage, but why?” asks Bond. “What’s the benefit of fuming about your selfish coworker during your evening commute? Why not at least try to think about something good that happened instead, say, the appreciative email you got from a client? What do you have to lose from choosing to change your focus…other than feelings of negativity?” 

Keep growing and learning. Sharks grow up to a foot a year and are always learning more about their environment. What are you doing to grow toward positivity and gratitude? You can’t expect your outlook to change if you don’t work toward personal and professional development. “Every day, strive to swim a tiny bit closer to your growth goal,” advises Bond. “That might look like reading a chapter in a book about empathetic leadership, signing up for an information session to learn more about an advanced degree, having a meaningful conversation with your partner, attending therapy, or setting aside 15 minutes for a guided meditation before work.”

Let yourself off the hook. Sharks keep their eyes on the water ahead of and above them, ready to react when prey appears. They don’t waste their time or energy focusing on what’s beneath and behind them. “If you’re consumed by past mistakes and regrets, you can’t focus on the present or the future,” notes Bond. “Your mind will be anchored to negativity instead of open to gratitude. It may help to embrace the concept of ‘failing forward,’ or using mistakes as lessons and steppingstones.

Just as forward movement literally gives sharks life, the progress you make will infuse you with renewed motivation, passion, and thankfulness.”

“There’s a lot we humans can’t control: the past, other people, and outside events among them,” concludes Bond. “And put together, all of those things have the power to make us feel mightily depressed, cynical, and ungrateful. But the one thing you can always control is your choices—and by extension, your attitude and outlook. If you choose to adopt a shark-like mindset, it will pay positive dividends this Thanksgiving—and well beyond.”

Walter Bond is a business coach, motivational speaker and former NBA player.