by Andrea Doyle | March 03, 2017

Convention service managers (CSMs) wear a lot of hats -- mentors, on-site experts, sympathizers, to name a few. But some CSMs go beyond the call of duty to fix a problem, find a resource, or just make sure the planner looks good. Successful Meetings, in conjunction with the Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA), honors the top CSMs at resorts and hotels, convention and visitors bureaus, and convention centers. Here are this year's honorees.

Tyler DeBella, CMP, CTA,
Account Executive
Baltimore Convention Center (BCC)

DeBella has a secret weapon to which she attributes her success: a sense of humor.

"After realizing that an event is a living organism and knowing I can't control everything, the only thing left to do is make joy where there is chaos," DeBella says.

After graduating from Virginia Tech, DeBella landed a job with Hershey Entertainment and Resorts before moving back to her hometown of Baltimore.

Kimberly Smith, director of conference and events for Philadelphia-based Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), used DeBella's help for the AASHE Conference and Expo in Baltimore last October. "The BCC has a jewel in her talents. She is professional, detailed oriented, thorough, has master-level skills, and is just a great person to work with. I haven't worked with someone of her caliber in years, and it was a refreshing change of pace. Tyler is an awesome example of what a CSM should be."

Bill Behrens, CMP, CTA, Director of Convention Services
Experience Columbus

Behrens got his start with Experience Columbus 18 years ago as the housing manager. His position evolved as he began to assist groups that were using the housing service and during the bureau's reorganization 15 years ago, was promoted to director of convention services.

"After college, I joined Hyatt Hotels and worked in various rooms-division positions at the Hyatt Regency San Antonio before being transferred to Columbus and working at both Hyatts," says Behrens. "I thought I was going to remain a hotel guy forever, but then the position opened at Experience Columbus and I haven't looked back."

Dan Williams, CTA, Experience Columbus vice president of convention sales, says of Behrens: "We consistently receive praise from clients thanks to his hard work and attention to detail. He is a major reason many of our clients continue to return each year."

Behrens was nominated this year by Dr. Janiece J. Sneegas, PhD, with the Unitarian Universalist Association, for his work on the 2016 General Assembly. The convention welcomed 5,000 attendees to Columbus and took place at the Greater Columbus Convention Center last June, at a time when the GCCC was halfway through a $125 million renovation and expansion project.

This is the second time Behrens has been honored in the award's 38-year run, after being named a CSM of the Year in 2003.

Todd Donofrio
Meeting and Convention Services Manager
Omni William Penn Hotel

"I wish I could take Todd with me to every meeting," says Kris Vail, a meeting and event planner for Charlotte, NC-based Electric Power Research Institute, about Donofrio, who has been on the staff of the Omni William Penn Hotel for 25 years, serving as meeting and convention services manager for the past nine.

Vail points to an event on which she collaborated with Donofrio -- inspired by the fact that the 101-year-old hotel was where TV host Lawrence Welk got his start as a bandleader, and it was the hotel's engineers who created the bubble machines used on his show.

"I had jokingly said, 'Wouldn't it be cool if we had bubbles as people walked in to dinner, since this is the Lawrence Welk Ballroom?'" says Vail. "Sure enough, as we walked into the room for dinner, the antique bubble machine was on and my guests walked through a shower of bubbles. Todd has truly found his calling. He anticipates and delivers. I wish I could put him in my pocket and take him to every meeting I plan."

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This article appears in the March 2017 issue of Successful Meetings.