The 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry for 2016: The Advocates

top 25 people in meetings industry 2016

Advocacy in all its forms seeks to ensure that people are able to have their voice heard on issues that are important to them and have their views considered when decisions are being made about their lives. The meetings industry has been doing a much better job at this in recent years, in large part because of the people listed here. (View the full "25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry for 2016" here.)

Michael Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer of MGM Resorts International; co-chair of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC)

Few people work as tirelessly to promote and advocate for the meetings industry as Michael Dominguez. From MPI to ASAE to the U.S. Travel Association, the list of industry organizations in which he holds, or has held, a leadership position is a long one. 

His big advocacy post at the moment is co-chair of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition. Dominguez's leadership has helped to increase the profile and effectiveness of the coalition. Earlier this year, he played a key role in transforming North American Meetings Industry Day (which he helped launch) into Global Meetings Industry Day. The initiative sparked events around the world that resulted in global media coverage of the importance of the meetings industry. In addition to all this, Dominguez also finds the time to speak at meetings industry events around the world.  

Beyond that, the man has a day job. At MGM Resorts International, he's responsible for 42,000 hotel rooms and more than 3 million square feet of meeting space. And he finds a way to be an industry leader in that role as well. His innovations in incorporating wellness concepts have become templates for the hospitality industry.

Matthias Schultze
, managing director of the German Convention Bureau


Ranked No. 2 on the International Congress and Convention Association's list of large association meeting host countries, and representing the No. 1 city, Berlin, the German Convention Bureau holds a key place in the European and global MICE market, and not just because it is also home to the IMEX Frankfurt industry show. Aside from his ongoing partnership with IMEX, Matthias Schultze was a leader in driving the creation and work of the new European DMO partnership -- the Strategic Alliance of National Convention Bureaux -- announced in April, on Global Meetings Industry Day. The goal of the group, which now has 24 members from Sweden to Spain, is to create a high-level platform for continent-wide industry advocacy and information sharing, enabling the group to simplify and strengthen the approach to key markets and to work on joint research projects. 

Nan Marchand Beauvois, vice president, National Councils & General Manager, ESTO, U.S. Travel Association


Nan Marchand Beauvois is overseeing an increasingly successful movement to get the MICE industry to build a long-term advocacy organization that will keep reminding the public, the media, and elected officials just how big and how wide an economic footprint the industry has. She calls Global Meetings Industry Day, a day of advocacy for meetings and events that encompassed more than 100 events in more than 30 countries, "an amazing success." Another initiative is the #WorthMeetingAbout campaign, which will go mainstream during the two presidential nominating conventions this month, pointing out that "when you think about how the president of the United States is elected, it happens at a series of face-to-face events," she says. "We really want to continue spreading our message that face-to-face meetings are good for you personally, your return on investment, your bottom line, and for the community." The second annual Global Meetings Industry Day is set for April 6, 2017. 

Julie Larson, former project manager of meetings and events for McDonald's 

Over the past several years, this restaurant franchise giant has embraced green meetings at a level few organizations of its scale have, thanks largely to the efforts of Julie Larson and her team. McDonald's recently wrapped its Worldwide Convention held at Orlando's Orange County Convention Center, where some 15,000 attendees took part in sustainability efforts such as waste reduction, sustainable sourcing, and food donation. The sustainability push continued beyond the event. "More than 1,000 restaurants [now] participate in coffee ground collection and more than 200 stores are participating in food donation initiatives," says Larson.

Last month, after 21 years with the company, Larson left McDonald's to establish her own planning company, offering her insight on sustainability to an even wider audience.

Tom Noonan, president and CEO of the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau; former president/CEO of Visit Baltimore 


As head of the CVB for Baltimore and now for Austin, TX, Tom Noonan has been a major voice for cities on the rise. In Baltimore, he helped reassure planners amid the unrest surrounding the death of Freddie Gray, assuring groups that the city was still a safe and vibrant place to meet. Now on board with the Austin CVB, Noonan says, "My plan is to bring some of the ideas that I was able to implement in Baltimore to Austin," such as forming a foundation to help visiting groups engage with the local community and creating a tourism app. "We also need to reinvigorate our five-year marketing plan to accurately reflect all of the new product entering the market." 

As Austin continues to attract top-tier events and expand its infrastructure, Noonan aims to grow the CVB. His current focus: ensuring Austin is a successful host city for the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Convening Leaders annual meeting next January. "We anticipate the Austin meeting will attract 4,500 attendees, who will generate an economic return of $11 million," he notes. 

George Aguel, president and CEO, Visit Orlando


Meetings destinations don't get much bigger than Orlando; with more than 66 million visitors in 2015, it's the most visited destination in the nation -- and a No. 1 spot on Cvent's list of top destinations for meetings and events in the U.S. But George Aguel and his team are not resting on their laurels; they plan to reach out to global markets, touting Orlando's fast-expanding properties and meetings options. He is also dedicating himself to his charity group, Bikers Against Child Abuse.

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This article appears in the July 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.