Brad Paisley entertains ASAE attendees and others at Express Live!, a venue near the Greater Columbus Convention Center, during the 2019 annual meeting & exposition.
When Columbus was chosen as the location for the American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) 2019 Annual Meeting & Exposition, Experience Columbus President and CEO Brian Ross called the event a “game changer” for the city. The destination came together to host the conference — held Aug. 10-13 at the recently renovated Greater Columbus Convention Center — which welcomed nearly 5,500 event professionals. Experience Columbus’ theme surrounding the event was “more is possible,” emphasizing the impact of the conference, which showcased some of the newest developments in the association world, from health and wellness initiatives to inventive food distribution methods.
Throughout the LEED-certified, 1.8-million-square-foot conference center, there were water infusion stations for attendees, which used daily herbs from the center’s onsite Smartfarm. Lunch on the expo floor was also innovative in that delegates built their own meal from different items — including something for all food preferences — packaged in compostable containers. Amy Ledoux, CAE, CMP, ASAE’s senior vice president of meetings, expositions, and special events, said it was “the most unbelievable food and beverage design and delivery by Levy,” adding that she’d never “seen anything as spectacular in quality and presentation” in her career. All leftover perishable items were donated to those in need throughout Columbus after the event.
For the conference, Experience Columbus worked with a record 600 community volunteers, who filled 1,000 shifts throughout the event, and 50 dedicated community partners. Plus, Columbus hosted the most successful Classic, an annual fundraiser for the ASAE Foundation, to date, generating $372,800 — the most the event has earned in the organization’s 13-year history. Attendees could also volunteer during the conference, and those CSR activities raised a total of $30,188.
Despite being within walking distance of some of Columbus’ best restaurants and entertainment options — including COSI, Nationwide Arena, and Express Live! — ASAE attendees didn’t have to leave the convention center grounds to see some of the best of what the city has to offer. In the 10,000-square-foot Arnold Plaza outside the venue, Experience Columbus built a pop-up featuring animals from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Delegates could pet adorable baby penguins or participate in giveaways from local shops. Other attractions in the city that offer mobile experiences like these include the science center COSI, which offers pop-up science experiments, and the Columbus Idea Foundry, a community workshop that hosts make-and-take projects for attendees.
Ledoux also praised the ease of getting around the conference venue during ASAE. “The convention center is honestly a dream layout,” she said. “Both attendees and staff said that the center was so easy to navigate.”
In addition, the convention center is the first in the world to earn the designation of Sensory Inclusive Certified through KultureCity, making it extra accessible to people with autism and other sensory needs, according to the organization’s website.
And for women visiting the center, Columbus-based Aunt Flow contributes 100 percent organic and biodegradable feminine hygiene products for all of the bathrooms.
By the end of the 2019 convention, it was clear Columbus had made a real impression on ASAE attendees, 20 percent of whom are likely to plan a meeting in the destination within the next five to 10 years, according to ASAE.
“We appreciate all the care and attention [the city] paid to our members and attendees,” said Ledoux. “I guarantee they will not forget their incredible experience in [the] fabulous city of Columbus.”
Sherrif Karamat, President and Chief Executive Officer
Sherrif Karamat, CAE, is President and Chief Executive Officer of PCMA. Karamat also serves as President of the PCMA Foundation and Publisher of Convene magazine.
As CEO, Karamat leads the vision, mission and promise for PCMA’s global family of brands. Karamat serves the greater business events industry as a prominent business architect, enabling our community to become a catalyst for economic and social progress, organizational success, and personal and professional development.
In his previous role as Chief Operating Officer, Karamat led the development and implementation of PCMA’s new vision: driving global economic and social transformation through business events. In addition to his responsibilities at executive level, Karamat also directed streamlining of PCMA’s content creation and delivery channels into one organization. He oversaw partnership, business services, membership, business development and technology teams.
As part of PCMA’s growth strategy, Karamat has led a major data intelligence program and played a key role in the 2017 acquisition of Incentive Conference & Event Society Asia Pacific (ICESAP).
A leader in the business events industry, Karamat previously served as Vice President of Business Sales and Services for Toronto Convention & Visitors (Tourism Toronto). He has served on various boards and is currently a director on the Destination International Board of Trustees.
Karamat is a life-long learner. In addition to completing his bachelor’s degree and Masters of Business Administration from York University in Toronto, Canada, he has completed postgraduate certificate programs at Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. At Harvard Business and Law School, he completed a program on strategic negotiations for senior executives and a program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one on data intelligence and big data.
Robert Haas, Chief Administrative Officer
Robert Haas is responsible for PCMA’s IT, human resources, data and finance departments as its first Chief Administrative Officer. He utilizes data, content and personalized experiences to help PCMA better understand its members’ needs and develop an audience-focused strategy.
Haas has more than 15 years of database marketing, product development and consulting experience from working in business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries. He understands how innovation, research and technology intersect and evaluates what is leading edge versus cutting edge.
Haas will leverage data to determine best practices in business events and how the industry can drive global economic and social transformation.
He previously served as PCMA’s Chief Innovation Officer. He joined PCMA as Vice President of Business Development and Data Intelligence. His previous roles include Senior Vice President of Strategic Product Development and Marketing at Scranton Gillette Communications Inc. and in direct response marketing for Tribune Direct.
He has a bachelor’s degree in international business from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin.
Mona Cotton, Chief Business Officer
As Chief Business Officer, Mona Cotton leads the Business Development, Client and Member Services, and Business Services teams. She has more than 20 years of business leadership experience in the areas of partnership, sponsorship, business development, media publishing and business services.
Cotton, a PCMA leader for more than 15 years, takes a strategic approach to transforming PCMA’s client relationships and business opportunities. Her role at PCMA is to facilitate connections between business-to-business organizations and business-to-consumer operations, identifying opportunities to fuel economic and social progress and success for PCMA and its members, customers and clients.
While she has watched as business events shifted from logistics to engagement, Cotton said the value of relationships remains steadfast in the industry.
Prior to PCMA, Cotton led and supported various sales efforts at the National Association of REALTORS, Airborne Express (now DHL) and Fox Associates, a Chicago-based magazine representative firm. She received a bachelor’s degree in marketing and advertising from Indiana University.
Michelle Crowley oversees regional brand development, content outreach and innovation as PCMA’s first Chief Growth & Innovation Officer. She is responsible for regional and revenue development in the Americas, Asia Pacific (APAC) and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions. In addition, Crowley is responsible for education and product development.
She leads PCMA’s global growth strategy by evaluating and identifying how the organization can deliver value to its members through new and existing business models, education programs and new products.
Crowley began her career at PCMA and continues to work with global travel brands, build strategic relationships and partnerships with key markets, and design year-round engagement campaigns. She has held various positions at PCMA including Vice President for Global Growth and Business Transformation.
Crowley is 2019 MBA graduate of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She received her bachelor’s degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Meredith Rollins, Chief Community Officer
As PCMA’s first Chief Community Officer, Meredith Rollins leads the community engagement team.
The team delivers programs and services that strengthen the connections between PCMA members, facilitate knowledge sharing and advance the network of professionals in the global business events industry. Her key areas of responsibility include community and chapter engagement, research, social impact and volunteerism. She remains Executive Director of the PCMA Foundation.
Rollins joined PCMA in 2007 and held roles in project management, global development and account management with the PCMA partnership program. She was Director of Strategic Development for the Association for Corporate Growth, a global community for middle-market M&A business leaders from 2012 to 2015. Rollins became Executive Director of the PCMA Foundation in 2015.
Rollins received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Gina Meier, Director, Human Resources
Gina Meier is Director of Human Resources for PCMA, a position she has held since 2006. She is responsible for helping PCMA execute its vision of driving global economic and social transformation through its human capital.
Her responsibilities including professional development, culture, talent development, employee integration and employee engagement.
Meier began her human resources career in 1999 as human resources manager for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide LLC, now a subsidiary of Marriott International Inc. She previously worked as director and manager in Starwood’s housekeeping division.
Meier received a bachelor’s degree in hotel/motel administration and management from Eastern Illinois University.
Bruce MacMillan, Chief Marketing Officer
Bruce MacMillan is responsible for PCMA’s global brand development and marketing strategies as PCMA’s Chief Marketing Officer. He leads the marketing, events and print and digital teams, which includes Convene magazine.
MacMillan has more than 30 years of experience in the global business events and tourism industry and has worked with business enterprises on every continent. His past leadership roles include CEO of VisitDFW, a regional consumer content marketing venture, CEO of Meeting Professionals International and CEO of Tourism Toronto.
He developed and led Vancouver, B.C.’s successful national bid for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. MacMillan also runs BANDWIDTH consultancy, advising destinations on event sales and marketing strategies and served as consortium consulting partner in the Destinations International DestinationNEXT global initiative.
MacMillan has received numerous awards including twice being named one of the Top Twenty most influential people in the global MICE industry.