The 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry 2017: The Advocates

25 Most Influential People 2017 opener

The meetings industry has made great strides in the past 10 years when it comes to getting the powers-that-be in Washington, D.C., and the public in general to understand the value of meetings. But the current political climate is going to put that effort to the ultimate test and the meeting industry is fortunate to have the professionals listed here make the its case.

View the full "25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry for 2017" here.

David Peckinpaugh, CMP, CIS, president, Maritz Global Events (includes Maritz Travel and Experient); chair-elect, PCMA Education Foundation board of trustees
As leader of one of the largest meeting, incentive, convention, and event management firms in the U.S., Peckinpaugh's influence and stature in the group event planning market has only been growing. "The biggest danger we have as an industry is complacency," he says. "While the last big public-perception scandal was a few years ago, you know there's another one coming down the pike, and the biggest danger we face is saying, 'We've got it solved,' because we don't."

That view led to his previous role as a founding co-chair of the Meetings Mean Business coalition. "Our organization has an industry presence on just about every board -- PCMA, PCMA Foundation, MPI, IAEE, SITE, the whole alphabet soup." It also explains his passion for ECPAT-USA, an organization that fights human trafficking by teaching travel industry employees how to spot and report it. Peckinpaugh's firm was among the first to join, and his active pursuit of the cause has helped bring many hotels and other firms into the fold.

Michael Massari, chief sales officer, Caesars Entertainment; board member, MPI
From Las Vegas to Atlantic City, Massari is responsible for one of the most important hotel collections in the meetings industry. From his position as chief sales officer of Caesars Entertainment, he has proven to be an innovative advocate for the meetings industry. Massari says there is a "continuing need for our industry to be an advocate for itself, to be out in front of issues, and to make sure that people understand the pluses and minuses of decisions being made at a governmental level. That's critically important right now."

He does that as a member of MPI's board, and has walked the talk at Caesars, too. Both the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) and Caesars Entertainment have adopted the Meetings Mean Business (MMB) coalition's name as part of their own branding message, and this should act as a template for how organizations and destinations can create advocacy initiatives that support both their own businesses and the industry as a whole. "It's been remarkably effective for us, and we're proud to be very early adopters of MMB," Massari says. "I'd love to see our industry coalesce behind this type of branding. I think it would be fantastic for our business if it was Hilton Means Business, Hyatt Means Business, Marriott Means Business, and Detroit Means Business.

Roger Dow, president and CEO, U.S. Travel Association
As the man on the front lines of the United States' travel industry's battle to protect its growth and stability, Dow is concerned about what he calls "the perception that international folks coming to meetings are not welcome in the United States, with some of the rhetoric that's been going on lately." But, he feels, the real impact of these comments is overstated, although the cumulative effect could build into a problem over time. That said, Dow feels the Trump administration does understand the value of meetings and travel in general, noting that when speaking at U.S. Travel Association's annual IPW show in June, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross "was very clear. He said: 'Make no mistake, America is open for business. Security is critical, but we understand the value of travel, tourism, meetings, and conventions.'"

The main threats Dow sees to the United States travel industry are government agencies' ongoing fear of holding meetings out of concern for bad publicity, and a strengthening U.S. dollar that makes it "very expensive for people from Latin America and Europe to come to America," he says. That is why the Meetings Mean Business coalition, which his organization is a leader of, plans to focus on "telling stories" that make people understand the value of travel this year, he says. "The main challenge we face is getting the word out about the value of meetings," Dow notes, adding "The voice of industry for meetings and conventions is becoming much louder, much more integrated, and much more effective."

And while he credits the entire industry for working together on these issues, the volume and effectiveness of its voice is something that Dow deserves more credit for than he is willing to take.