The 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry 2017: The Game Changers

25 Most Influential People 2017 opener

Game changers shift the playing field. And there is no template for how it's done. Some do it through the audaciousness of their ideas, others through the force of their leadership, and still others change the game, by the sheer magnitude of their success. These influencers have each taken their own path to end up at the same destination: altering the status quo.

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

Amy Ledoux, CMP, CAE, senior vice president, meetings, expositions and special events, ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership
For associations, which tend to rely on conferences for the non-dues revenue that keeps them going, experimentation beyond tweaking the design strategies that have worked for 50 years can seem like walking through a minefield. That's why the Xperience Design Project (XDP) that ASAE launched this spring was a daring step.

It is the type of experiential meeting design that would have been difficult for any group other than ASAE to launch, says Ledoux. "As a leader for associations, one of our roles is to innovate on behalf of our members," she says. XDP certainly did that, putting on a two-day event, with the first day delivering five content areas going on simultaneously in one room -- learning, experience, location, marketing, and technology. The target audience for this new experience was staff teams that are involved in the development, planning, communication, and implementation of events for their organizations. "The idea was to put people with different job functions and responsibilities at one table to solve a problem," Ledoux says. The 1,500 people at those tables were co-creators, not attendees. "The whole format and the way people were engaged was different than the association community is used to," Ledoux says, calling XDP a showcase of ideas that members can personalize and implement in their own way.

Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International
Since Welsh took on the role of Destinations International (formerly Destination Marketing Association International) president in January of 2016, he aimed to shake things up, both in the association and the industry. This began with a reorganization that removed nine top executives and continued through the establishment of new vision, mission, and value proposition statements.

Under Welsh's leadership, the organization has refocused its energy on its four "CARE" pillars -- Community, Advocacy, Research, and Education -- through initiatives ranging from an Advocacy Toolbox on the organization's new website to the DestinationNEXT Futures Study to the renewed Apprenticeship Program.

This month, at the annual convention in Montreal, the organization will be officially unveiling its new brand, as DMAI becomes Destinations International.

Looking ahead, Welsh says that "Our focus will be to continue to convey to meeting planners that destination organizations are the true experts in their respective markets and play a valuable role in serving the planner during the process."

Oni Chukwu, CEO of etouches
It has been a big year for etouches. This year etouches was acquired by equity firm HGGC. That followed a steady string of acquisitions over the past few years, including mobile technology company TapCrowd; hotel sourcing provider Inevention; venue sourcing and booking solution Zentila; and the wearable smart badge, CRM, and data analytics platform Loopd. Through its use of Amazon Web Services, it has also become a leader in data privacy.

"Our company has been transformed in the past couple of years," says Chukwu. etouches now brings together hotel and venue sourcing, event marketing and content, registration and logistics, engagement and mobile, and data analytics and ROI solutions, all in one place. It is also expanding globally, with offices in the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Singapore, and Dubai, as well as new data centers in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Reggie Aggarwal, founder and CEO of Cvent
Since going private in November of 2016, Cvent has only continued to expand its influence in how venues are sourced and events managed. The company was acquired by Vista Equity Partners and merged with meetings technology provider Lanyon. It now boasts more than 28,000 customers, has more than 200,000 hotels and venues listed in its supplier network, and is investing in further development to ensure its comprehensive platform continues to meet and exceed the needs of planners. This has included the launch of a new group business intelligence platform for its Hospitality Cloud and the redesign of the Cvent Supplier Network.

The organization also introduced Cvent Flex, a new portal aimed at making the creation of an event website as easy as possible.

"We wanted to make the process a frictionless experience for all of our users, regardless of their background in web design," says Aggarwal.

Roger Tondeur, founder, chairman, MCI Group
Tondeur built the MCI Group from a single office in 1987 into what it is today: One of the largest global event management firms, employing 2,100 people in 31 countries, with 60 offices across Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Americas, India, the Middle East, and Africa.

As a major meetings industry player on a global level, MCI has a huge influence on every aspect of planning and executing meetings. Its acquisition of the measurement company FairControl five years ago has made a great contribution to establishing core meetings measurement capabilities around the globe. But the company has placed a special emphasis on environmental responsibility, managing a number of high-profile energy and sustainability events, and earning the IMEX-GMIC Green Meeting Award for 2014. "There has been significant improvement and even leadership from our industry, but the sustainability journey is not over yet," says Tondeur.

Over the course of his career, Tondeur has also played an influential role in many industry associations. He is a member and past president of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) and a member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), and the International Special Events Society (ISES). Tondeur also sits on several committees for convention center development and incentive business planning.