Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 15 2012

Chris Wehking, Director, Meetings and Exhibits at American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Alicia Leonard

July 16, 2012

Chris’s career in the hospitality industry developed from his love of golf and his work as a young man at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota, host of U.S. Open Golf Championships.  With the early interest in Country Club management, Chris pursued an education in business and hospitality management at the University of Wisconsin which eventually lead to a career with Hilton Hotel Corporation initially in Chicago.  While at Hilton, he was recruited into the world of association management where he eventually lead and managed the global trade show and event operations for the American Hardware Manufacturers Association.  Following a lengthy and diverse global event management career with AHMA, Chris eventually decided to take his event leadership background into the medical society industry, wanting to stay in Chicago and near family.  “My first job as a medical meeting professional began by managing scientific meetings and expositions for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and now my experience has lead to managing the scientific programs and exhibitions for the 50,000 physician member, American Society of Anesthesiologists.   My career continues to follow a clear and concise path of passion for the hospitality and event leadership industry.” 

Anyone who knows Chris knows he has a contagious passion for our industry. When we asked where that comes from, he’s quick to respond. “The people, the relationships and the diversity of our industry - every day this industry delivers new relationships,  new lessons,  new projects,  new challenges, new accomplishments,  new facilities,  new destinations, new technology and new experiences.  This constant evolution is what makes it an exciting profession and industry.” 

Chris’ involvement in PCMA goes back to 1999, when “I was finally able join this privileged organization and network with the most influential and respected planners and suppliers in our industry. PCMA provided me with the opportunity to learn, network, build and maintain invaluable relationships and give back to this industry.  I took advantage by getting involved, which proved to be very beneficial to my day to day job responsibilities and influenced my career path in the meeting and convention industry.”   

Chris’s professional accomplishments are many. When we asked what he considered his “greatest,” the answer was surprising. “In reflecting back at years of leading and managing events, programs and projects, large and small and all over the world, in this great industry, there isn't a single greatest professional achievement.  Being respected and recognized for being a consummate professional, well known and respected by my colleagues (planners and suppliers, alike) is my most fulfilling professional achievement.  The privilege of being involved and serving PCMA and this industry, and reaching the pinnacle of service, when the PCMA membership elected me to serve as a board member and now officer for PCMA is one of greatest privileges in my career.”

Chris has been a tremendous mentor to many; we asked him who has mentored him along the way. 

“My personality and leadership style comes mostly from my father, my #1 mentor...  Otherwise, I do not identify with a single industry mentor, as countless individuals have influenced my career and leadership style over the past 20+ years.  I believe that an individual’s career and style is influenced and shaped by all types of people, situations and experiences - good and bad.”  

We wanted to get to know Chris outside of work. “Although work is very important to me and I am perceived to be a workaholic by many; my family and friends are my greatest interest.  Outside of family and work, I like to say my personal interests are very diverse and broad - suggesting that I like to try or experience most anything, at least once.  However, my main interests involve golf, motorcycling, boating, my daughters and them dancing, bird/eagle watching, the great outdoors, finding good cheeseburger joints and great tasting inexpensive red wine.” 

“Most don't realize or would suspect that motorcycles have been part of most of my life and that yes - I have been one of those Harley Davidson riders decked out in black leather touring the countryside - fulfilling my interest in getting away from it all, seeing the great outdoors and enjoying all types of people and places. I even arranged to have the President of Harley Davidson ride my bike through a hotel ballroom and up on a stage for a presentation at one of my events.”

“Biking has also fueled my interest and involvement in charity fundraising, not only through participation in bike fundraising rallies, but supporting local fundraising events to kick Cancer (St. Charles Kick a Thon supporting American Cancer Society and Living Well Cancer Resource Center of Geneva) and promoting charities at my work events (Hope for the Warriors, SmileTrain, Lifebox).”

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