by Andrea Doyle | March 09, 2016
They're your partner, your logistics expert, your go-to person -- they're your convention service manager (CSM). Here are three of the best CSMs of 2016. 

Every year, Successful Meetings joins with the Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) to recognize these unsung heroes of the meetings and events industry. Although the winners come from three different facets of the industry -- a convention center, a hotel, and a convention and visitors bureau -- they all have one thing in common: a can-do attitude and incredible attention to detail.


HOTEL 

Richie Acosta (pictured above, left)
Senior Catering & Convention Services Manager, Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando

With more than 22 years' experience in the hospitality industry, Richie Acosta is the senior catering and convention services manager at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resort, located at Walt Disney World Resort. In this role, Acosta helps meeting and event planners coordinate and execute their events at the resort's convention and event facilities. With his extensive background in convention services, Acosta has honed his skills of engaging planners and earning their trust in him to create incredible experiences for their groups. Prior to joining the team at Walt Disney World, Acosta worked for Marriott and Hilton Hotels. 
 
How did you get involved in this industry?

After high school, a family member gave me an opportunity to work for a nationally recognized food and beverage company. He became a mentor and is the reason I am still in this industry today.

Is this what you envisioned yourself doing? 

Following college, I thought that I wanted to go into the pharmaceuticals field but the meetings and events business kept calling me. Through the mentorship of my family member and from my previous experience in the industry, I felt that my skills were best fit in this environment, plus I loved the opportunity for growth and also the potential to travel the world. I haven't looked back since.

What is your proudest accomplishment? 

My proudest accomplishment is to see my career come full circle. I had a mentor coming into this line of work, which proved essential to my career growth, and I love that I can now be a mentor to my associates and assistants. Nothing makes me prouder than to see them succeed. I am also proud of my family. It is wonderful to have their support and I hope I've been able to be an inspiration for my two daughters. 

What attributes and/or qualities have you developed that have helped you become successful? 

Growing up my dad taught me these seven rules for success: work with others, have a commitment to excellence, be confident, be resilient, be open to changes, be a problem solver, and be a communicator. These rules have greatly influenced my career and led to my success as I have applied them when working with my clients and associates.

What does the future hold for you?

As Walt Disney said, "It is kind of fun to do the impossible!"  I don't know what the future holds for me, but I hope it is with Disney where I've had endless opportunities. I would like to continue my work with the company and potentially grow into leadership roles. 


CONVENTION CENTER

Jamie Huckleberry (pictured above, middle)
Director of Event Services, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh, PA


Jamie Huckleberry has been director of event services for the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (DLCC) since its 2002 debut. Huckleberry played a key role in its opening, establishing best practices and protocol for the event services department and working closely with the sales department. She empowers her team with the authority to make informed decisions that positively affect the overall customer experience, with her team becoming an extension of the show manager's staff.    
   
How did you get involved in this industry?   

My major at East Stroudsburg University (ESU) was Recreation and Leisure Services Management. While attending college I had an opportunity to participate in the Walt Disney World College program for a semester. While at Walt Disney World, I shadowed CSMs at the Contemporary and fell in love with events. When I returned to finish my degree, I turned my focus to commercial recreation with the intent of entering the conventions industry upon graduation.
 
Is this what you envisioned yourself doing?   

While at ESU I did practicums within the four areas of my major. However, it wasn't until I experienced the job shadowing at Walt Disney World that I knew this is truly what I wanted to do.   
 
What is your proudest accomplishment?   

Standing in the middle of our exhibit hall amongst 20 world leaders as I serviced the 2009 G-20 Summit. It was a truly humbling experience and one I will never forget. Knowing I took part in planning this event and helping to facilitate it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
 
What attributes and/or qualities have you developed that have helped you become successful? 

You have to work with the belief of "going with the flow" and the understanding that events have moving parts. You can plan all you want but things happen while the show is going on which require flexibility and a level head. Paying attention to the specifications of show managers and following through with them to create a successful event is also important to me and to the client. Lastly, service with a smile.
 
What does the future hold for you?  

I can't see myself in any other career as I love the hospitality industry and hope to continue moving forward.


CVB


Ethelene Hardy-Stover (pictured above, right)
Convention Services Manager, Greenville-Pitt County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Greenville, NC

As the convention services manager at the Greenville-Pitt County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Greenville, NC, a city of nearly 90,000 residents, Ethelene Hardy-Stover's role is essential to the bureau's success. She has held this position for more than 15 years.

How did you get involved in this industry?   

I earned a bachelor's degree in behavioral science from Shaw University, Raleigh, NC, and subsequently relocated to New York City. Gainfully employed as a supervising probation officer and earning the "probation officer of the month" for seven consecutive months led to the appointment to team-write The New York City Handbook of Policies and Procedures for Probationers.

My husband's retirement caused the return to my roots, Greenville. In 1996 I accepted an administrative assistant's position followed by a promotion to convention services manager in 2000.

Initially, I was hesitant in accepting the position at the CVB, due to lack of experience in the field. Additionally, the absence of my involvement with the criminal element of society was unsettling. My probation officer position contributed a significance role in reducing recidivism. 

My experience in the travel and tourism arena has proven rewarding. There has not been a regrettable moment. 

Is this what you envisioned yourself doing?   

The position affords me the opportunity to provide services to event planners that choose Greenville-Pitt County as their destination. From the initial planning stage to the very last farewell, my involvement with the event planners is to achieve successful planning and execution, which is my utmost priority. Meeting event planners from all over the world and the results of my interactions remain the platform for continuous business opportunities with the CVB.

What attributes and/or qualities have you developed that have helped you become successful?

Going above and beyond the call of duty for each event planner is my motto.

What is your proudest accomplishment?   

Witnessing the smiles of event planners following a successful event. The self-gratification experienced when the event planner expresses satisfaction is a positive leap in the right direction for the bureau. I have developed an attitude of thankfulness. Following the close of each event, escalating the satisfaction level of the next event is my primary goal. Each experience is a stepping-stone.
 
What does the future hold for you?  

Approaching life's next plateau, presumably a jubilant adventure, spending days with my new granddaughter, Brooklyn Isabella, volunteering at a faith-based institution, and part-time employment with a local funeral home are all avenues I will continue to pursue.