Professional Convention Management Association Announces Leadership Change

PCMA CEO Deborah Sexton to launch consultancy in 2018;
COO Sherrif Karamat to become President and CEO as organization plans for future

CHICAGO (Dec. 4, 2017) Today the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) announces a change in leadership. After more than 12 years, President and Chief Executive Officer Deborah Sexton has decided to move on from PCMA and will step down after the upcoming Convening Leaders event in Nashville this January.

Sexton shared her decision with the Board of Directors at the September meeting. The Board voted unanimously to approve Chief Operating Officer Sherrif Karamat as the new President and CEO. This follows careful succession planning at PCMA, where Sexton and Karamat have worked closely together since 2005.

With more than 6,000 members and 50,000 subscribers, PCMA is the world’s largest network of business events strategists. Sexton has led PCMA for more than 12 years, furthering the organization’s dedication to inspiring the business events community with unparalleled educational programs, senior-level networking opportunities and must-attend events on a global scale.

“Deborah’s passion, boundless energy and her hunger to continuously innovate have resulted in tremendous growth and progress both for the organization and the industry,” said PCMA Board Chair Mary Pat Heftman. “We could not be more grateful for her dedicated leadership, driving strategic plans that make PCMA the leader in our industry.”

In addition to her role as CEO of PCMA, Sexton has also served as president of the PCMA Education Foundation and publisher of PCMA’s Convene magazine. Under her leadership, and working in partnership with Karamat, PCMA more than doubled its membership and revenue, as well as expanded its global reach and cultivated dynamic leadership at the Board and Foundation levels. During her tenure, the Foundation has more than tripled its support for scholarships, research and education programs.

Sexton has also led many achievements and innovations during her time at PCMA, including:

  • Building an extremely talented team
  • Reimagining and rebranding PCMA’s annual meeting into Convening Leaders, the industry’s leading educational and networking event
  • Significantly enhancing PCMA’s technology and online offerings with the acquisition of the Digital Experience Institute, resulting in global participation in events and programs
  • Leading development of the business event strategist concept – advancing the meeting planner role to a strategic role that fuses the skills of event design, engagement and strategy
  • Designing the Partnership Program for PCMA, now an industry model

“It has been a privilege to serve PCMA,” said Sexton. “This organization continues to lead the way in the business events industry due to the dedication of our staff, the leadership of our Board and wisdom of our membership.”

“Having worked alongside Sherrif for more than a decade, I have great confidence in the future of PCMA under his leadership.”

Karamat joined PCMA in October 2003 as vice president of sales and became COO of the organization in April 2008. Prior to PCMA, Karamat was vice president of business sales and services for the Toronto Convention and Visitors Association (Tourism Toronto) – a role in which he was very active as a PCMA member and volunteer, serving as president of the Canada East chapter.

“I am honored to succeed such an inspiring leader, and I’m appreciative of the Board’s vote of confidence,” said Karamat. “Because of the strong foundation that has been established by Deborah’s leadership, I know we will build upon this great platform.”

Karamat is already a key member of PCMA’s executive team. Working with Sexton, he has led the development of future planning for the organization. These plans include the expansion of PCMA as a global organization, advancing the content platforms of PCMA and adapting delivery channels for education as technology evolves.

“Working with Deborah, Sherrif has been an integral leader in the development of our new strategic plan and has a clear vision for where we want to take PCMA,” said Heftman. “It will be a very smooth transition for him, even though he has some big shoes to fill.”

Sexton will continue as CEO through the January 2018 Convening Leaders meeting in Nashville, TN. She is looking forward to what’s next and plans to share her experience with those that have a thirst for advancing the industry and investing in innovative and creative solutions. Sexton will remain in a strategic advisory role with PCMA through March. Karamat’s first day as President and CEO will be Jan. 19, 2018.

For media queries from the Americas, APAC, EMEA, and requests for interviews with Sherrif Karamat, please contact: Meghan Risch, PCMA Chief of Staff, Vice President, Corporate Communications

About PCMA

PCMA, PCMA Foundation and CEMA educate, inspire, and listen, 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, IL PCMA has 17 North American Chapters, regional communities in APAC, EMEA and LATAM, and members in 59 countries. The Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA), a PCMA subsidiary, advances strategic event marketing and marketing communications for senior-level event marketers and industry professionals. Visit us at

About PCMA Foundation

The role of the Foundation of PCMA is to support the mission of PCMA through fundraising and grant-giving focused on scholarships, education and research that will advance the business events industry. Annually the Foundation funds over $700K in impact, and since 1985 has funded over 2,500 scholarships, 100 research studies and education programs, and $2.7M in charitable giving.

About CEMA

The Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA) is the eminent community for senior event executives, association peers and industry partners and is an integral component of the Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) brand collective. CEMA promotes professional networking opportunities, facilitates peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and drives industry standards. Through strong relationships with strategic partners, CEMA fosters both finding innovative solutions to business issues and continuous focus on members’ career growth. For more information, please visit

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