. The 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry for 2016: The Educators | Successful Meetings

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

top 25 people in meetings industry 2016

The planning and executing of meetings has never been more complicated. Even a small meeting could have production needs that rival a Hollywood blockbuster. And all meetings need to deal with greater attendee diversity, complex content delivery strategies, and, of course, legal issues. The need for quality education has never been greater. The people listed below have done much to ensure that the industry is meeting that challenge. (View the full "25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry for 2016" here.)

Don Welsh
, president and CEO of Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI)

In January, DMAI named Choose Chicago CEO Don Welsh as its new president and CEO, putting him in a position to affect the global destination marketing industry. From the start, Welsh made clear the organization would establish a renewed commitment to focus on member and partner needs, starting with a reorganization of the staff. Among the major goals he has discussed are increasing global DMO membership, expanding and integrating the organization's educational offerings, and making its accreditation program the standard for the industry. He is also focused on DestinationNEXT, DMAI's online assessment tool designed to help DMOs' members benchmark themselves, align stakeholders, and create a roadmap to success.

Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group

On this list for the second year in a row, Carina Bauer, whose IMEX Group runs IMEX Frankfurt and IMEX America, is easily the MICE industry's largest trade show operator, and can make a strong case for connecting more buyers and sellers than anyone else in the industry. But the IMEX shows' impact goes beyond that. From industry research on vital issues like the impact of sharing economy companies like Airbnb and Uber, to the Politicians Forum, which brings industry concerns to elected officials, Bauer and her company are key advocates. They also play host to one of the largest collections of professional education in the industry.

Anja Loetscher
, director of the Geneva Convention Bureau, as well as a DMAI board member

Anja Loetscher started up the Swiss city's CVB in 2007, putting the destination -- best known for its lake, banking, and role as headquarters of many UN agencies and international associations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross -- on the map as a meetings destination. At DMAI, she has played a key role in bringing the organization's DestinationNEXT project to fruition and working to align the European meetings industry behind it.

Janet Sperstad, CMP, program director for the meeting and event management degree program at Madison Area Technical College; chair of the Convention Industry Council's CMP governance committee

Fifteen years of developing and running the Madison, WI-based college's associate degree program -- the first of its kind in the U.S. -- gave Janet Sperstad a solid outline of the knowledge and skills that meeting and event professionals require. Now she has put that to use in a very important, if little known, program run by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which defines this type competency model for a vast number of professions. "They had one for hospitality and tourism, and event management was just a few little nuggets inside of the hospitality section," Sperstad says. "I shared with them the body of work I did defining the competencies. These models are used by HR professionals in developing job descriptions, qualifying candidates, and ranking of positions, so it's pretty important." As for the degree program, she says, "we talk about the number of sleeping rooms it takes, how much food and beverage, but we often don't talk about the professional behind the work. We have a three-credit course just on exhibition management, something just on registration, something specialized on sponsorship and partnership development." 

William Reed, senior director of meetings for the American Society of Hematology (ASH); current chair of PCMA


As chair of PCMA, William Reed has made it his mission to help provide top-notch educational offerings to both newbies and veterans of the meetings industry. "I am inspired by early-stage career professionals that have a zeal for exploration, discovery, and learning, and those of us that have been around for 'a year or two' need to keep that spark alive inside of us," he says. This passion for education extends to the ASH, where Reed has effectively navigated the fast-changing rules on medical meetings to create a fast-growing ASH Annual Meeting. This has meant adding new components each year and designing an educational and scientific meeting experience that advances research and patient care for anyone with a blood disease, such as leukemia or sickle cell disease. While he calls PCMA his "educational home," Reed looks to nontraditional sources outside the profession for inspiration and learning, pointing to virtual reality as a technology he hopes to use for upcoming events. "I hope everyone in the meetings profession can see a direct link between their work and the outcomes created by enhancing their attendees' excellence when they attend a meeting." 

Brian Stevens
, CEO of ConferenceDirect; incoming chair of the Global Board of Meeting Professionals International


This year, Brian Stevens' event planning service started its own certification program for negotiating hotel and convention center contracts, and its sales have topped $850 million. He has helped to facilitate the sharing of insights between industry leaders by establishing ConferenceDirect's new CEO Summit as well as the Corporate Summit. In the coming months, Stevens hopes to lead the company to over $1 billion in sales, and says he is dedicated to "making our business more mobile friendly and getting data more real time 24/7." While serving on MPI's Global Board -- he will chair the board in the coming year -- he has evaluated MPI's membership offerings and taken steps to update them in order to more fully engage more people globally. Stevens also has helped ConferenceDirect serve as a role model of corporate social responsibility by donating a quarter-million dollars over the past two years toward homelessness relief and to provide clean water to those without it.

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