by Successful Meetings staff | July 01, 2014

Once again, we present our annual list of luminaries, chosen because they have either contributed to the business of meetings, made it easier for meeting professionals to do their jobs, helped raise awareness of the industry, or, through their actions, have had a significant impact on the industry.


Paul Van Deventer, President and CEO of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) 

When Van Deventer joined MPI in April 2013 as president and chief executive officer, he inherited an organization in disarray. More than one year later, MPI has a distinct plan to improve the professionalism of the industry and raise the profile of meetings as a legitimate business tool.

Under Van Deventer, the bi-monthly "MPI Business Barometer" has been transformed into a quarterly research report called "Meetings Outlook," which is available for free to non-MPI members, making it more accessible to both the broader meeting and event community and beyond. Another initiative he spearheaded to increase the profile of the industry was the development of an educational commercial and a public television segment.

On the education front, Van Deventer has overseen the purchase of the Healthcare Meeting Compliance Certificate (HMCC), which teaches critical information on compliance regulations, laws, and techniques for managing healthcare meetings. He also approved the reimagining of MPI's venerable CMM Certification Program through a partnership with the Global Business Travel Association. Though controversial among some planners who already have the designation, the move will raise the profile of the CMM and increase the pool of those who can earn the certification around the globe.

Martha Sheridan, President and CEO of the Providence/Warwick CVB and Chair of Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI)

Martha Sheridan 1
Sheridan is not only one of the few women to head a CVB, but one of the very few to be elected to lead the board for DMAI. So far on her watch, the organization has completed a research study called "Generation Next," which predicts what the destination marketing organization (DMO) of tomorrow will look like. Under Sheridan, DMAI has launched a new database of core performance metrics that will help DMOs benchmark themselves against the rest of the industry. Called Destination Arena, the new database currently features nine months of data from more than 100 DMOs in 13 countries. By the end of 2014, DMAI hopes the database will have tripled in size.

The organization is also partnering with MPI on a new study exploring the role of digital channels in meeting planners' decision-making process. All of these initiatives put DMAI in a position to help DMOs stay relevant and better serve the meetings industry.

Shawna Suckow, Founder and President of Senior Planners Industry Network (SPIN)
Shawna Suckow 2014
Suckow has run SPIN for six years now, and she continues to use the organization as a platform to offer a variety of forums for meeting planners at the highest level. Her most recent innovation is The Hive Network, a private community that connects veteran suppliers with meeting planners for education and networking.

Unlike SPIN, which organizes education and events "by senior-level planners, for senior-level planners," The Hive Network is open to suppliers at all levels of industry experience. The HIVE Network offers suppliers a Customer-Certified Sales Expert designation comprised of a series of web-based sessions taught by members of SPIN. Adding suppliers to the SPIN mix is a savvy move that will raise the level of the dialogue between planners and suppliers at the highest level. And that can only benefit the industry as a whole.

Karen Kotowski, CEO of the Convention Industry Council (CIC)

It's been a busy year for the head of the CIC, beginning with the February release of an updated "Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy" study, showing that 1.83 million meetings were held in the U.S., attended by 225 million delegates and contributing more that $115 billion to the GDP. Kotowski has also signed off on the CIC's latest initiative: creating a working group to take a hard look at the issue of room-block poaching.

The CIC's Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) formed the new working group to develop resources to help planners better manage and protect room blocks. The first step in that endeavor has been to conduct a survey to assess the scope and impact of poaching activity that planners have either personally experienced or witnessed.

In step two, supplier partners will provide information to help develop tools and resources to combat the issue. Given the size of the meetings industry, the results of these efforts have the potential to save organizations millions of dollars in attrition fees. It will be interesting to watch as the program develops.

Roel Frissen, Vice Chairman of MPI International and Co-Founder of EventModelGeneration (EMG) 
Roel Frissen
The Netherlands-based Frissen first made a splash as the managing director of Parthen Group, a company that provides registration software, meeting supplies, registration services, and venue finding. In that role, he steered his company in the direction of environmentally friendly practices such as sourcing sustainable products (like event badges and lanyards), and the use of carbon offsets. He also played a key role in the formation of the First European Chapter of the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) and he is the vice chairman of MPI. But it is his work in EMG that has earned him inclusion on the list this year. Together with his business partner Ruud Janssen, Frissen is exploring ways to merge the disciplines of business modeling, meeting design, meeting architecture, service design, content design, and event ROI into a logical whole that can turn those models into practical tools for crafting innovative and sustainably successful events.