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

25 Most Influential People 2017 opener

Having an idea is just the first step. Without the vision to get from square one to square two to square three, and beyond, an idea is about as useful as a bucket with a hole in it. The strategists on this list have all navigated complex paths to transform their ideas from concepts to reality.

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

Nina Freysen-Pretorius, CEO, The Conference Company South Africa;
president, ICCA

Freysen-Pretorius' taking over the helm at International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) this year illustrates how leaders are emerging from beyond the traditional centers of Europe and North America. It's an encouraging example of the level of globalization the meetings industry is achieving in spite of all the external forces working against it.

The challenges she faces leading ICCA are daunting. Political stability, particularly with reference to safety and security, is the issue of our time, but there are other threats looming as well, such as the global need for appropriate infrastructure like affordable airlift, roads, meeting facilities, and accommodations; skilled and professional services to support meetings; and governmental support of the industry.

Working with the ICCA board, Freysen-Pretorius is implementing an aggressive approach to raise the profile of meetings, the cornerstone of which is measuring and publicizing the industry's contribution to the GDP of countries around the globe. "It is our hope that this initiative will empower meeting practitioners all around the world to lobby their governments for the support and recognition necessary to prove our relevance and importance within the economy," says Freysen-Pretorius.

Roberta A. Kravitz, executive director, International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM); member, PCMA Education Foundation board of trustees
ISMRM started expanding its global reach beyond North America and Europe in 2004, holding its annual conference in Kyoto, Japan. When she became executive director the next year, Kravitz began the task of guiding her organization through a set, four-year rotation, despite the significant costs of locating in Asia or Europe.

"There are some organizations that will say they're international because they have an international component to their membership," Kravitz says. "But as soon as they find out how much it costs to put a meeting on in Europe, they'll say, 'Well, you know what? Let's just do it in the U.S. this year.' I don't have that luxury. We have worked hard to not be accused of being North American-centric. We don't want to fluctuate our registration fees in order to pay for a more expensive year. Two years of our four-year rotation, which are strategically placed, underwrite the other two years."

This has enabled Kravitz to keep the 9,000-plus member ISMRM's international growth strategy front and center while being financially responsible to the society -- a strategy from which many other international associations could learn.

Christian-Claus Roth, Co-President, International Pharmaceutical Congress Advisory Association (IPCAA), Head Global Scientific Engagement Governance, Novartis Pharma AG
As the co-president of IPCAA, Roth is very much involved in assessing the impact of external regulatory requirements on global medical event and congress management for the Pharmaceutical Industry. In his role as the head of scientific engagement governance for Switzerland-based Novartis Pharma AG (a firm ranked No. 175 on the Fortune Global 500 list of the world's largest companies), Roth is responsible for similar topics as he covers for IPCAA for essential parts of the health care industry.
As anyone who's watched the trials of pharmaceutical and life sciences meeting planners working to implement the complex rules of the United States' Open Payments Act -- regulating how these firms can report the costs of bringing health care providers to educational events and conferences -- will tell you, that is a vital and difficult job. After all the pharmaceutical industry is under intense scrutiny and regulations are broadly similar but have different specifics in nearly every country in the world.
"The ultimate goal is to ensure transparency about the way the Pharmaceutical Industry interacts with external parties," Roth says. "It is great to see how much has already changed in the healthcare industry and how everybody embarks on standards and values."
Noting that the industry's "actions and efforts are interlinked," Roth adds that his role at IPCAA has a strong focus on working to ensure stakeholders understand not only "why standards matter and what it means in our daily business," but the reasons why the pharma industry organizations including IPCAA create and follow ethical standards.
Speaking to meeting planners in other industries looking to enhance standards, Roth says, "I have learned that the background details and the 'reasons why' matter a lot" in helping people to understand, embrace, and even expand those standards.

Jennifer Patino, DMCP, CEO, Hosts Global
Since taking on the role of CEO in 2011, Patino has brought about big changes to Hosts Global. She put in place new standards for qualifying DMC alliance members and has guided the organization to tremendous growth, both in number of offices and revenue, with Hosts Global now serving more than 300 destinations globally.

Last year, the organization led the DMC initiative on emergency preparedness, ensuring that all its members have a clear, thorough plan. It has created a DMC board and client advisory board to stay a step ahead of the fast-changing needs of both planners and suppliers, and it continues to develop its global brand capabilities, ensuring it is meeting all the needs of its members.

Key to all of this, according to Patino, is getting the DMC members in a room together at its annual Hosts Global Forum. "Exceptional educational content mixed with the collaboration between clients and DMCs helps us all build this organization and defines our priorities for the coming months," she says.

Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX Group
Under Bauer's watch IMEX Frankfurt and IMEX America have continued to experience growth in attendance, and have become major platforms not only for planners and suppliers to network, but also for galvanizing action on major issues affecting the meetings industry. "One challenge and opportunity for our industry right now is continuing to sustain and grow the sense of shared purpose we've worked so hard to build over the past decade," she says.

IMEX, from the start, has been about bringing people together, cultures together, and schools of thought together. "It's been about creating unity and building a shared vision where everyone who wants to move the industry forward can learn, teach, network, and do business freely," says Bauer. "We all need this sense of community and connection now more than ever."

IMEX Frankfurt and IMEX America continue to serve as important touch points with programs like the Politicians Forum, Future Leaders Forum, and its sustainability and legacy initiatives. It's one of the key organizations that is helping to create a larger context for the industry where future thinking about the development of the MICE busines becomes second nature. And Bauer is leading the charge in that effort.

Jami Stapelmann, director, global travel and meetings, Estee Lauder Companies
The biggest challenge Stapelmann has running Estee Lauder's global Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) program is acknowledging the complexities of local markets around the world. "In order for a global SMM program to work, you have to provide global leadership with regional relevance," she says.

Stapelmann and her team have designed a framework that matches the organization's corporate goals and objectives against supplier capabilities around the world. "This allows us to be flexible and adapt to variables such as industry consolidation and economic and political influences," she says.

Stapelmann is also an enthusiastic adopter of new technology concepts in conference space, such as venues and meeting spaces that bridge the gap between business travel and meetings. "Being open to new ideas enables us to strengthen our chain-wide relationships and as a result provide better service delivery, reporting, and compliance to corporate payment solutions. In the process she's also establishing the model for how to achieve success in SMM initiatives on a global level.

Arne Sorenson, president and CEO, Marriott International, Inc.
No organization is further out in front of the hospitality industry than Marriott. Since its acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts last fall, the brand is by far the largest hotel company in the world. That puts Sorenson in a very important place when it comes to shaping the meetings and events industry.

But Marriott has worked to offer more to meeting groups beyond the sheer number of rooms. It continues to expand its offerings for business travelers with enhancements to its website, where meeting planners can connect with more than 750 of the brand's hotels, accessing images, tips, and trend articles about hotel offerings and how to leverage them for group gatherings. Its Meeting Services App makes it easier than ever for planners to put in requests and suggestions on everything from VIP needs, to shipping issues, temperature changes, and more, and have them handled in real time. At the same time, under Sorenson's leadership the brand has expanded its business-friendly offerings in other ways large and small, including mobile check-in and check-out capabilities and the addition of Netflix to hundreds of Marriott properties.