2017 Best in Show

Author: Christopher Durso       

 When it came time for Sally DeBolt, CMP, to name a name, she did — but she couldn’t leave it at that. In participating in the nominating process for our Best in Show awards program this year, DeBolt, director of meetings and events for PLM World, singled out Roberta Tisdul, CMP, senior convention services manager for Visit Indy, in our Convention Services/CVB category. Then she had more to say.

“A side note — the Indiana Convention Center services team embodies so many of these same qualities,” DeBolt wrote. “It’s great to come to a city and see firsthand the collaboration between Roberta and this team. There were some big obstacles in all of our paths. The response and attitude was truly outstanding.”

Teamwork seemed to be a theme this year. With Best in Show, we invite our readers to nominate outstanding meeting and event professionals working behind the scenes, in the shadows, and on the front lines of the industry. While the idea is to spotlight individuals, more than one participant chose to submit multiple nominations for the same destination or venue — meaning they wanted to recognize everyone who worked on their program. Indeed, several people made such heartfelt cases that we ended up including a handful of vice presidents among this year’s awardees, which technically skirts Best in Show’s mission to honor the non-C-suite professionals who help create great meeting programs.

If this year’s Best in Show program has made anything clear, it’s that it can be difficult to draw lines around a meeting’s success. Because it’s usually a collection of people working together, in person and off site, in tandem and autonomously, who create one truly singular experience. Here are some of them.

Convention Center Services

conventioncenterservices_ElizabethHudock_CMPElizabeth Hudock, CMP

Senior Event Manager, Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC), Philadelphia

Nominated by Alaina Sauser, Program and Event Coordinator, ACCESS Destination Services — “Liz was a great resource for our client and our team in planning a superb welcome reception at the PCC. She was on call and available to assist the day of the event. She even covered the cost for extra high-tops, to complete our order. The guests never knew there was an issue with setup, which is how it is supposed to be.”

conventioncenterservices_MargaretVictorMargaret Victor

Sales Manager, Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York City

Nominated by Cory Rosenberg, Regional Direct, West Coast, NYC & Company — “Working for one of the most active convention centers in the country, Margaret is a consummate professional with extensive knowledge of large programs. Her attention to detail, calm and cool demeanor, and willingness to ensure the best t of clients’ programs in the Javits Center make her one of New York City’s great resources.”

conventioncenterservices_DebbieWelsh_CMPDebbie Welsh, CMP

Director of Event Management, Colorado Convention Center, Denver

Nominated by Debbie DesRoches, Director of Trade Show, SnowSports Industries America — “Debbie is a true professional, and we have been so lucky to work with her since our event moved to Denver in 2010. She is always there to help with anything, big or small. There is never a ‘no’ given — if something doesn’t really work, she will offer solutions and new options. She is the best.”

Convention Hotel Services

conventionhotelservices_AnnieBurnsAnnie Burns

Convention Services Manager, Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center

Nominated by Debbie DesRoches, Director of Trade Show, SnowSports Industries America — “Working with Annie is a pleasure. She is always there, and will do anything to make my life easier as well as making sure the events go perfectly.”

conventionhotelservices_LisaChangLisa Chang

Senior Event Manager, Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, Honolulu

Nominated by Maureen Sojka, Events Manager, Creative Marketing Alliance — “Lisa took over as the third CSM for this meeting and was able to help me pull off a perfect event for this client. It was my first event for this client, and it needed to be perfect!”

Above and beyond “The entire banquet staff at the Hilton Hawaiian Village took the time to learn the names of my VIPs and to cater to them and wait on them to make them feel special during our receptions!”

conventionhotelservices_EddieCookEddie Cook

Banquet Housekeeping Aide, New York Marriott Marquis, New York City

Nominated by Alison Milgram, CMP, DES, Senior Events Manager, PCMA, which held PCMA Education Conference 2017 at the New York Marriott Marquis — “It was a little after 10:30 p.m.on Friday night, and I came into the ballroom to check on the setup. One of the décor pieces I had ordered wasn’t quite the height we needed it to be, and while I was trying to figure out what to do, Eddie C. approached to introduce himself. He was part of the overnight setup team for our event, and if I needed anything, he offered to help however he could. He found a carpeted pillbox to put the décor piece on, which worked out pretty well. The next morning when I came to the ballroom, Eddie had left a second box (in a different color carpet) and a note for me saying I should choose the one I liked best, and his team would take the other away for me. I’ve been in this industry for longer than I’d care to admit, and lots of fantastic people are creative and considerate, but for some reason Eddie’s thoughtfulness in finding me a second option and leaving a note taped to it really struck me as the type of hospitality we all should be striving for every day. My instinct is, for Eddie, this type of service just comes naturally, and given that he works the overnight shift I would also venture to say, he’s not often recognized for his service.”

conventionhotelservices_KatieSalivarKatie Salivar

Event Manager, JW Marriott Austin

Nominated by Shelby Olivier, Program Manager, Red Velvet Events — “Katie is an absolute joy to work with. Her calm and sweet demeanor makes her a pleasure to be around on those long days on site. She handles our requests, even the difficult ones, with such poise and grace. I know I can provide for my client when I have Katie as my right hand.”

Rachel Van

Conference Services Manager, Westin Cleveland Downtown

Nominated by Ann Luketic, CMP, Marketing Event Specialist, Progressive Insurance — “Rachel is very professional and detailed. She truly made sure that my staff and guests received exceptional customer service, and she went out of her way to help with the planning of the event.”

conventionhotelervices_DawnVanHoweDawn VanHowe

Senior Event Manager, Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile

Nominated by Dawn Amaskane, CMP, Director of Meetings and Travel, American Osteopathic Association — “Dawn is amazing. Her attention to details big and small is unlike many people’s, from interacting with VIPs to our association staff, to making every piece of our event special. She is an outstanding professional who deserves much recognition.”

Convention CVB Services

conventioncvbservices_RobertaTisdul_CMPRoberta Tisdul, CMP

Senior Convention Services Manager, Visit Indy

Nominated by Sally DeBolt, CMP, Director of Meetings and Events, PLM World — “Having started at PLM World just five months prior to the show, coming into Indy and sorting through two years of planning, previous agreements, unfinished agenda items — even for a veteran planner of 25 years, overwhelming isn’t a strong enough word. From the first month, Roberta Tisdul and the entire team at the Indiana Convention Center ushered me in and got down to business. As any seasoned planner from a small staff would tell you, we rely heavily on our vendors to be actual partners. Roberta is first and foremost a professional. She is knowledgeable about the city and all the fun aspects of a traditional conference-services role. Beyond that though, she really knows her convention center. She is an extension of their convention-services team. She knows the industry; she stays on top of what’s happening to be able to participate in the creative process of planning her clients’ events. She researched our group, and asked the right questions to get to know us and understand our challenges. She offered actual solutions. She is responsive — never a second [follow-up] email [required] or unanswered question. If she doesn’t know it, she finds out. She is fun! Roberta has a knack for getting to know her clients, both their professional style and their personality. She empathizes with the meeting-planner role. She supports on an emotional level when it’s needed versus being all business. It makes all the difference in the world to leave a city with a positive impression — sales is sales, fulfilling the dream is totally different. Roberta is a dream come true!”

Tiffany Eck, CMP

Associate Director of Convention Services, Visit Denver

Nominated by Debbie DesRoches, Director of Trade Show, SnowSports Industries America — “Tiffany is amazing to work with, and does everything in her power to make life easier for myself as well as all of the show attendees. She is constantly finding new things or solutions to help make our event better each year.”

Convention Special-Event Venue Services


Faith Ward

Senior Sales Manager, Palmer Events Center, Austin, Texas

Nominated by Cindy Y. Lo, DMCP, Owner, Red Velvet Events — “She went above and beyond to make sure the opening reception [at PCMA Convening Leaders 2017] was a success for Convening Leaders this year. I’ve always known Faith to be a problem solver and mediator, and she once again showed she’s a team player.”

Professional Congress Organizer/Destination Management Company

Conference & Touring

Destination Management Company, Berlin

Nominated by Monika Will, Director of Sales, Vienna House Berlin — “Having worked with Conference & Touring more than 10 years by now, I can attest they have a highly motivated, organized, and passionate way of working. Conference & Touring always impresses me with their creativity, their enthusiasm, and upbeat attitude. Team members really understand their clients, and they always work out customized solutions. They know how to organize a perfect client experience, and we have celebrated many successful events. I am more than satisfied with their performance and thankful for our great cooperation.”

App/Tech Provider Support

professional-management-company_ScotRichardsonScot Richardson

Event Architect, AV Technical Support, Austin, Texas

Nominated by Shelby Olivier, Program Manager, Red Velvet Events — “There are not enough great things to say about Scot. Scot is the definition of a true event partner. He is patient and understanding with my clients (and myself!) when they have questions regarding the technical side of things. He is incredibly solution-oriented, and goes above and beyond to deliver and exceed our expectations on everything. When you’re working with Scot, you will feel like his only client, although he is working with many and juggling it all. I always know I’m going to be taken care of when I work with Scot, and it’s a huge breath of relief.”

professional-management-company_JeffDickJeff Dick

President, Zone Entertainment, Bedford, Ohio

Nominated by Ann Luketic, CMP, Marketing Event Specialist, Progressive Insurance — “Jeff continues to go above and beyond for his clients to find just the right mix of entertainment and equipment. He and his crew provide exceptional customer service.”

Av/Tech Support

Paul Kennealy

Event Technology Manager, Advanced Staging Productions, West Chester, Pennsylvania

Nominated by Alaina Sauser, Program and Event Coordinator, ACCESS Destination Services — “Phenomenal assistance making technology easier to understand for my team and our client. This program was two years in the works, and Paul made every effort to make the event spectacular. Job well done!”

avtechsupport_JamesRasmussenJames Rasmussen

Sales Manager, Markey’s Rental & Staging, Austin, Texas

Nominated by Shelby Olivier, Program Manager, Red Velvet Events — “James is not only professional and easy to work with, but he went above and beyond to not only make me look good to my end client (by saving them money!), but was also very solution-oriented when it came to our limited budget. He came to us with the perfect combination of wanting to make the show look good, but also wanting to be respectful of the client’s budget restrictions. I appreciated James so much!”

avtechsupport_ChetWillisChet Willis

Director of Audio Visuals, J&S Audio Visual, Charleston, South Carolina

Nominated by Maureen Sojka, Events Manager, Creative Marketing Alliance — “Great prompt response for the initial quote; superb on-site tech support. Not only did he go with the ow as speakers changed their minds on equipment, etc., but he pitched in wherever needed for the meeting (bringing in additional chairs, adjusting room temps, fixing a broken banquet table). He was the absolute go-to guy!”

Hotel Sales

Julie Gotschall

Director of Group Sales, Westin Cleveland Downtown

Nominated by Ann Luketic, CMP, Marketing Event Specialist, Progressive Insurance — “Julie is a very proactive salesperson. She takes the time to get to know the group, and understands what’s important to them. She is very responsive, professional, and goes above and beyond to provide exceptional customer service. She makes sure she keeps in touch with the client even after the sale, to see if their needs are being met.”

Laura Kofler

Director of Sales, Marketing, and Events, Andaz Savannah (formerly Associate Director of Sales, Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center and Grand Hyatt Denver)

Nominated byDebbie DesRoches, Director of Trade Show, SnowSports Industries America — “Laura has the special ability to work with your group in the good times and the bad times. And the end result is that she makes everything good. She is always available and goes the extra mile for our group. She is appreciated.”


cvbdmosales_RachelBenedickRachel Benedick

Vice President of Sales and Services, Visit Denver

Nominated by Debbie DesRoches, Director of Trade Show, SnowSports Industries America — “Having worked hand in hand with Rachel since we moved to Denver has been an awesome experience. She has worked endlessly trying
to get the perfect timing for our event. She is a true professional as well as a partner of SIA. We have been lucky to be able to work with Rachel and all of Visit Denver. It is an amazing group.”

cvbdmosales_CarlaThomasCarrollCarla Thomas Carroll

National Sales Manager, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

Nominated by Maureen Sojka, Event Manager, Creative Marketing Alliance — “Not only is Carla’s Southern charm and hospitality the best, but she arranged for four people (plus a guest) to be own to Atlanta, room reservations, and a whirlwind trip to several hotels and off-site venues with no expense. This meeting is only for about 300 people for 2.5 days, and Carla went above and beyond to make sure my board was well taken care of and pampered. By the time I was leaving, I felt like I had found a true friend. Carla is definitely one of a kind.”

cvbdmosales_MaryKayHackleyMary Kay Hackley

Vice President of Strategic Alliances, Visit Austin

Nominated by Cindy Y. Lo, DMCP, Owner, Red Velvet Events — “She went above and beyond to make PCMA Convening Leaders 2017 in Austin a success on behalf of the Visit Austin team.”

Catering Services

cateringservices_ErinKetterErin Ketterer

Director of Catering, Starr Catering Group at The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

Nominated by Alaina Sauser, Program and Event Coordinator, ACCESS Destination Services — “Erin is a superstar! She has a way with words that is evident in her wonderful descriptions of food (without any food being present!) and speaking that just captivate our clients. She comes from the service industry and truly understands our clients’ need for white-glove service and is on the ball all the time. I love working with Erin — she makes my job easier!”

Above and beyond “Our event at The Barnes Foundation was a huge success in large part due to the catering team, led by Erin. She surprised the client with an offering of sparkling rosé on site at the event for her guests; this beverage had originally been tabled due to budget concerns, but Erin was able to offer a few bottles free of charge. This really set a good tone for the evening, and the event was a roaring success.”

cateringservices_KatherinePutnamKatherine Putnam

Regional Director of Operations – Convention Centers, Levy Restaurants, Austin, Texas

Nominated by Shelby Olivier, Program Manager, Red Velvet Events — “Katherine is a very talented individual who
not only juggles the logistical aspects of catering, but has a unique knack for design that you don’t find with many catering professionals. She is resourceful, creative, innovative, and takes great pride in her work. In a fast-paced environment where I know how easy it can be to let your work get stale, she insists on making her events unique and seamless.”

Third-Party Support

thirdpartysupport_RickyHopkinsRicky Hopkins

Vice President of Global Accounts, ConferenceDirect, Canton, Michigan

Nominated by Robyn Jones, CMP, Conference Manager, Association for Asian Studies — “Ricky Hopkins is our account manager, and assists us with the site-selection process. But I would like to nominate Ricky for what he does for us outside of contract negotiation. Each year, he attends our conference from start to finish and assists our staff with anything we need. He helps unpack all of our conference materials, carries heavy boxes of programs to designated areas, and assists with complete registration setup. Not computer systems, but the actual physical setup of the space. He is my right hand on site when working with the hotel, including convention services, catering, AV, housekeeping, and front and back of the house. He will meet with my photographer, temps, or whomever else I need assistance with, since I can’t be all places at once. I think he goes above and beyond the typical site-selection provider’s role. He definitely flies under the radar and probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.”

Above and beyond “This past March, my flights were canceled and I was unable to arrive at the conference location on the scheduled date. This is the first time this has ever happened. But Ricky was on site and was able to communicate with the hotel all of my needs, ensuring my board meeting began without incident, and overall helped make sure everything ran smoothly due to my one-day delay in arrival.”

thirdpartysupport_RobinWallaceRobin Wallace

Senior Director of Global Accounts, HelmsBriscoe, Germantown, Tennessee

Nominated by Sherry Walker, Director of Conferences and Travel, Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity — “She is a leader in the industry, an honest and ethical person, a trusted colleague, and a real go-getter.”

Special Mentions

Laura Campbell

Director of Whim Hospitality Services, Whim Hospitality, Austin, Texas

Nominated by Jessica Fitting, CMP, Program Manager, Red Velvet Events — “Laura continued to go above and beyond in making sure this wasn’t just what I needed, it was more than I hoped for — and all delivered with professionalism and cheerfulness. She checked in with me many times throughout the program to make sure all was going okay, and helped a lot in the proposal phase to craft the design.”

Above and beyond “On a ranch event, we were setting up all the furniture and the tent the day before for a reception-style program. It’s a working ranch, and there are longhorns and donkeys free-ranging, and we realized that if we were to leave the hay bales we rented for seating, they would likely be eaten overnight! Whim offered to hang on to them and come back the next day, even though they weren’t scheduled to. It was a little thing that could have really affected the feel of the event, and they were more than happy to accommodate and o er the solution before we even realized there was an issue.”

Sam Cario

General Manager of Events and Experiences, Cleveland Metroparks

Nominated by Ann Luketic, CMP, Marketing Event Specialist, Progressive Insurance — “Sam is amazing to work with. Even though he is planning hundreds of events each year, he takes the time to get to know the client and make them feel like their event is their priority. He goes above and beyond to provide exceptional customer service, including being on site during the event. He is a true professional in the industry.

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