PCMA Foundation honors business events leaders at Visionary Awards


2019 Professional Excellence Awards winners announced

PCMA Foundation celebrated the business events industry and honored 21 outstanding professionals for their dedication, innovation and passion at the 2019 Visionary Awards in Washington, D.C.

The premier annual industry recognition event on May 7 drew more than 1,000 business events professionals to the Marriott Marquis to recognize three Lifetime Achievement Honorees and six 2019 PCMA Professional Excellence Award winners.

“In our fast-paced and demanding industry, it is important to take a breath, acknowledge and celebrate those who go the extra mile to elevate their organization and the business events industry,” said Meredith Rollins, Chief Community Officer for PCMA. “The Visionary Awards from the red carpet to the awards stage is our way of providing special accolades to excellence in the global business meetings and events industry.”

The 2019 event was held in partnership with Visit Austin and Austin Convention Center. All Visionary Award proceeds benefit the PCMA Foundation, which empowers professionals and advances innovations in the business events industry.

The 2019 PCMA Professional Excellence Award winners are:

Senthil Gopinath, CEO of ICCA, as Business Events Strategist of the Year.

This award honors a PCMA professional member who exemplifies professional excellence in their contributions to their organization, PCMA and the business events community.

Gopinath has created more than 17 self-sustaining events in seven countries within the Middle East as he strives to elevate awareness of the business events industry in the region. He’s a creative, passionate and adaptive strategist who is also a respected leader and mentor.

Finalists for the award: Heather M. Seasholtz, CMP, director of meetings and events, Talley Management Group Inc.; and Stacey Thorp, executive director, conferences & events, Freeman.

Greg Bogue, Chief Experience Architect of Maritz Global Events, as Supplier of the Year

This award honors a PCMA supplier member who exemplifies professional excellence in contributions to his or her organization, PCMA and the business events community.

Bogue leverages his more than 30 years of experience to improve the guest experience in meetings, events and incentive travel programs to create better value for both organizations and guests. He encourages clients to think outside the box and never backs down from a challenge.

Finalists: Carrie Ferenac, co-founder and president, CNTV; and Mike O’Neil, executive vice president, delivery corporate and agency services, Freeman.

Christine Faiman, CMP, global account executive, Marriott International, as Community Advocate

This award honors a PCMA member in the business events industry who has developed and managed a unique and impactful program benefiting the community in which his or her meeting was held.

Faiman is a tireless champion for the business events industry with a focus on inspiring others in the profession. She was instrumental in creating the PCMA Capital Chapter Flagship Internship Program from vetting candidates to recruiting professional mentors.

Finalists: Jennifer Bond, CMP, CMM, deputy director of meeting services, American Astronomical Society; and Laura Pilkenton, director, guest services & employee travel, Maritz Global Events.

Jennifer Gardner, creative director, Freeman, as Event Designer of the Year

This award honors a PCMA member for innovative event design.

Gardner has a talent for translating ideas and feelings into experiences that produce tangible ROI. Her design for Freeman’s booth at ExhibitorLive allowed visitors to fully experience the customer journey in four steps.

Finalists: Sally Ann Debolt, CMP, senior events manager, global events, Siemens Digital Industries; and Diane E. Kovats, CAE, CMP, executive director, International Society for Computational Biology.

Janet Cooper, CMP, director of meetings and convention services, RSNA as Digital Experience Strategist of the Year

This award recognizes a digital event pioneer, the change-maker and trendsetter.

Cooper has been called a pioneer in the hybrid event space for her innovation and risk talking. She has grown RSNA’s livestream sessions from nine to more than 200 in less than a decade and created one of the largest online events without compromising participation at one of the largest face-to-face medical conferences.

Finalists: Ken Holsinger, vice president of data solutions, Freeman; and Roberta Odebrecht, DES, CMP, account director, K.I.T. Group.

Elisa Sandoval Wong, CMP, HMCC, account director, The St. Regis San Francisco and Northern California Chapter for Outstanding Service to a Chapter

This award honors a chapter member for exemplary leadership, passion and dedication.

Sandoval Wong was unflappable when she unexpectedly stepped into the president role for PCMA’s Northern California Chapter. At the time, she was transitioning from chapter administrator to president-elect. Since then, she has pursued engagement opportunities for chapter members, created chapter efficiencies and identified improvements in chapter structure.

Finalists: Debra Maines, CMP-HC, senior manager, sponsorship development & events, A. Fassano & Company, Greater Philadelphia Chapter; and Meagan Prescott, CMP, assistant vice president of conference and events, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), New York Chapter.

The 2019 Visionary Awards also celebrated three Lifetime Achievement Honorees announced in December along with all 18 Professional Excellence Finalists.

  • Business Events Strategist Chris Wehking, association and business relations executive, American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)
  • Supplier Eduardo Chaillo, CEO, Global Meetings & Tourism Specialist
  • Educator Lauren Kramer, founder and principal, Meeting Priorities

Photos from the 2019 PCMA Visionary Awards are available at https://foundation.pcma.org/press-photos/.


About PCMA

PCMA educates, inspires and listens, creating meaningful experiences where passion, purpose and commerce come together. We are the world’s largest community for Business Events Strategists, providing senior-level education, networking and market intelligence for the global business events industry. Our mission is to drive social and economic progress through business events. Headquartered in Chicago, PCMA has 17 chapters throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico with members in more than 40 countries. Visit us at pcma.org

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