Convention services managers (CSMs) are a planner's secret weapon. They work tirelessly behind the scenes making sure meetings, trade shows, and conferences go off without a hitch. Three CSMs are being spotlighted, as they are the winners of the 2018 Convention Services Manager of the Year Award, sponsored by Successful Meetings, in conjunction with the Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA), honoring a top CSM at a convention center, convention and visitors bureau, and hotel.
CTA, CTIS, Tourism Sales and Convention Services Manager
Frisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, Frisco, TX
A journalism/political science major, Lisa Bethea never imagined herself in the position she is in today.
"I walked into a Frisco hotel at 7 a.m. for an interview and had a job by 4 p.m. that day. I started answering phones and was moved to sales and catering within two months. I kept wondering if anyone would ever figure out that I had no idea what I was doing," she jokes.
She believes it is her sense of curiosity that propelled her to her current position. Her positivity, persistence, and networking have contributed to her success. "I approach every situation with a goal in mind and then seek out the team members in my city who can help us make that goal a reality," she says.
CSM, Event Planning Manager
Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, CA
Jennifer Thomsen is a pro at putting out fires -- but they aren't the types of fires she planned to work with. She went to college with the goal of becoming a firefighter, but after a few years and ride-alongs realized this was not her calling.
A hotel management class after graduation at Orange Coast College led her on the path where she finds herself today. A CSM for 16 years, she becomes part of the team, according to several meeting planners who nominated her for this honor. "Her personality is infectious and she cares. Jennifer takes her position extremely seriously and is a devoted Hyatt employee and is also a devoted wife and mother to her family, which she treasures most of all," says Bob A. Provost, director of trade shows and events, Vans. "She is always willing to help and make any event a success."
Interpersonal relationships are most important to Thomsen. "My best quality is getting to know my clients and building a relationship with them. It helps me get to know them and what their visions and needs are for us to both be successful," says Thomsen.
Lachelle J. Harrison
CMP, Events Manager
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C.
The first big event that Washington, D.C., native Lachelle Harrison planned was the Celebration of Excellence Ceremony at the University of the District of Columbia. Three successful events later, she was hooked.
Harrison decided to take a leap of faith in 2013 and applied for a convention management assistant position at Events DC, Washington, D.C.'s official convention and sports authority. She landed the position and two years later was promoted to event manager. To date, she has led more than 350 high-profile conferences and special events.
Her skills of flexibility, problem solving, and maintaining an upbeat, can-do attitude have driven her success. "I've always had a true flair for fashion, interior design, and entertaining others," she explains. "Those who know me know that I love taking an idea and bringing a vision to life, in a way that makes people feel special. My expertise has always been trusted to plan excellent events."