ConventionPlanit.com gets inside the brains of meeting professionals. How? Before we launched the site, we asked meeting professionals what they need in a Web portal. What they told us is what you see on ConventionPlanit.com!
The Advisory Council continues to play an active role, sharing advice and recommendations for new features and additions to ConventionPlanit.com. Members of the Council are listed below:
Carrie Meadows Abernathy, CMP, CEM
Vice President, Thought Leadership & Strategy
Convenience Distribution Association (CDA)
||Carrie Abernathy, CMP, CEM, recently joined the AORN team, and was previously with Practice Greenhealth as the Director of Education, Training, & Events. Carrie currently sits on the Board of Trustees for the Green Meeting Industry Council Foundation.
Carrie has over twelve years experience as a meeting, event, and education professional. Prior to PGH, Carrie served as the Conference Manager for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), administering their annual citywide conference – one of the top 100 trade shows in the country – and numerous smaller conferences and events. Prior to her employment at the IAFC, Carrie worked at Point Carbon, managing their global warming conferences. Carrie has a B.S. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She lives with her husband and the four-legged friends that have adopted them. She enjoys outdoor activities, travel, and frequently engages in much-needed retail therapy.
Carrie is proud to sit on the veteran Meeting Planner Advisory Council team at ConventionPlanit.com, where she hopes to bring a fresh perspective and new ideas.
“I love ConventionPlanit.com!,” she says. “Instead of taking extra time to research future sites/venues and cities, it is truly a one-stop-shop that has all the information I need. The best thing about the site is that the customer service far surpasses the site itself. If you need something specific, the team is willing to help you and goes above and beyond!”
Windy Christner, CMP
Senior Director, Meetings & Exposition
American Pharmacists Association
||Windy Christner has more than 20 years of experience in the meetings industry and
has been at the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) for more than eight years. The APhA meetings include an
Annual Meeting and Exposition held in the spring with about 7,000 attendees and an exposition of over 200 companies,
and a Combined Forces Pharmacy Seminar held in the fall for approximately 1,200 attendees and an exposition of over
A big fan of ConventionPlanit.com, she calls the site "a reliable and current source for anything
and everything meeting related. It's a one-stop shop for any planner."
Total Hotel Industry Solutions (THIS)
||Ray Ezelle's background is unique in the hospitality industry. He has been a senior hospitality executive with experience in many facets of hospitality management since the early 1990s. His background includes a Destination Marketing Organization, a variety of full-service hotels, a premier destination marketing & event company and a full-service sourcing and event management company. He is currently principal consultant for Total Hotel Industry Solutions (THIS) which provides cost-effective outsourcing solution for proactive sales engagements, lead generation and marketing opportunities for Hotel, Resorts and DMO’s that target group business.
NCBFAA Educational Institute
||Cecilia has nearly a decade of non-profit administration experience, with a focus on meeting management and support. After assisting the association with the Government Affairs and Annual Conferences--along with smaller events such as quarterly board meetings—Cecilia oversaw the launch of the Educational Institute’s own Global Trade Educational Conference (G.TEC) in 2015. Managing the conference from conception to completion, Cecilia found ConventionPlanit to be an invaluable tool in the site selection process. “They are an incredible resource, from RFP Valet to making hotel and location recommendations,” she says. “I cannot thank or recommend them enough.”
Cecilia is actively working towards her CMP designation and hopes to receive it within the next year.
Karin Soyster Fitzgerald, CMP, CAE
Chief Operating Officer
United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation
||Karin Fitzgerald is an experienced association executive who lives and breathes non-profits. She currently serves as the COO of the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation. Prior to USGIF, she served as the chief operations officer and deputy executive director of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Fitzgerald began her association career at the American Subcontractors Association in the mid-80s and has worked for several industries serving in various departments, including meetings, education, membership services, human resources and government affairs. Karin has extensive leadership experience as a volunteer of several professional societies and associations, including the American Society of Association Executives; the Professional Convention Management Association, where she served as president of the Capital Chapter; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute Program, where she served as chairman of the Northeast Board of Trustees; and the Association of Meeting Professionals, where she served as chairman of the board.
Fitzgerald holds a B.S. from Radford University, and is a graduate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Organization Management, with the IOM designation. She holds both the Certified Meeting Professional and Certified Association Executive designations. Fitzgerald is also a Qualified Administrator of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®.
When she is not working, you'll find her out with one of her 12 nieces or nephews or fundraising for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Independent Meeting Planner
||Betti Kelso has a long and diverse set of experiences in the meetings industry. She got her start working with the U.S. government briefing U.S. ambassadors to other countries for the Department of Defense.
She later worked for the Center for Energy and Environmental Management (CEEM) as a planner, and eventually was promoted to Director of Conferences.
In 1991, Kelso was tasked with opening Patriot Travel, a wholly owned subsidiary of CEEM, to capture the travel clientele in the immediate area near George Mason University, was promoted to president, and eventually purchased the agency. The company diversified and became Patriot Meetings, its biggest client being the
British Standards Institution, which was then introducing the ISO 9000 Quality Standards to the United States. “We planned over 300 training meetings per year,” Kelso recalls.
Kelso’s relationship with ConventionPlanit.com Co-Founders David and Katherine Markham goes back many years.
“They helped me out a great deal then and I came to respect what they did and how they did it,” she says. “I knew them to be knowledgeable, generous, and results-driven. When I heard they were creating ConventionPlanit.com I knew it would be a quality product and something I could count on. It turned out to be true. My favorite part is the RFP Valet – David monitors that thing continuously. I have never had that kind of response from anybody. That is just how they operate – when you ask them for something they are going to do it for you. Period.”
Founder & President
Las Vegas, Nevada
||Darlene Lyons is the founder and President of EzEvents, Inc. She is an active Author, trainer and speaker on the subject of professional event management. She has over 25 years of experience and has been responsible for the planning and execution of over 5,000 events on the North American continent.
She has worked with many of the worlds’ leading speakers and entertainers, and thrives on the excitement of the event industry. Darlene is responsible for the day-to-day operations of EzEvents. Her role includes leadership of the event teams, strategic development and execution of new event strategies, new business development, and event execution.
Prior to creating EzEvents in 2000, Darlene was the Director of Events for a global home portal, Homes.com. In that role she and her team managed over 30 events a month, resulting in record sales and rapid growth. Darlene currently serves as Past President a Director at the Orangevale Chamber of Commerce. In 2012 she cofounded The Orangevale Food Bank. She has a passion for street ministry and enjoys being involved in the community.
“I enjoy using the many features offered by Convention Planit.com. I often depend on the site to get my job done with ease regardless if the event task is big or small,” she says.
Vice President of Meetings
Healthcare Information & Systems Society
||Karen Malone oversees nine staff at the Healthcare Information & Systems Society (HIMSS) and runs the HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition, an $18 million event that is ranked #64 on the nation's Tradeshow 200 list. Nearly 900 exhibitors and 25,000 attendees participate in the conference.
Malone has 20 years of experience in meeting planning, and before joining HIMSS in 1997 worked at Smith Bucklin Associates, the nation's largest association management company.
She has been recognized numerous times for her accomplishments. She was named by Meeting News Magazine one of the 25 most influential people in the meetings industry, in July 2006 was featured on the cover and the main story of Meetings and Conventions Magazine, in October 2006 was named by Tradeshow Week as one of the 100 most influential people in the tradeshow business, and in December 2006 was named by the ExpoGroup as Show Manager of the Year.
Malone uses all the resources she can find to help her plan events, and appreciates what ConventionPlanit.com has to offer. "The site is an excellent resource and toolkit," she says.
Kasey R. McNeil, CEM
Senior Manager, Meetings Operations
American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery
||Kasey McNeil has been a meeting planner for more than 17 years. She has led management of exhibits for annual conferences and other events for numerous associations. McNeil has worked with the International & American Association for Dental Research, AAPA, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), where she managed exhibits for the annual citywide convention as well as the association’s smaller conferences.
McNeil has also served as the Exhibit Operations and Events Manager at the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA)/Digestive Disease Week (DDW), where she managed exhibits for the annual citywide convention, including security, expo floor and vendors, general contractors, and 250-450 ancillary meetings and industry supported seminars during each conference. Prior to working in conference planning, McNeil worked in hotel management for eight years as a banquet manager and catering sales manager at hotels such as the Hilton, Embassy Suites and Doubletree.
Her favorite feature of ConventionPlanit.com is RFP OrganizationSM. She particularly enjoys the platform's ability to organize quotes for service providers without having to re-key any information. "I would highly recommend this free service to meeting planners and tradeshow managers," she says.
Mary Power, FASAE, CAE, CMP
MPowering Leaders Executive Counciling
||Well-known industry player Mary Power planned on entering the profession ever since her days at Michigan State University, where she majored in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management.
In her new role as the Presidnet & CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, she will undertake the unique challenge of understanding the
complexities of CBBB's mission and how all of the pieces fit together. She will also focus on helping people understand what CBBB and its chapters do.
Most recently, she was a Principal at Celtic Partners, a Virginia consulting firm. Power's leadership skills distinguish her in the industry. As a past President & CEO of
the Convention Industry Council (CIC), she fostered consensus on the industry's biggest issues among the 32
meetings-related associations that belong to the CIC.
She also served as the Executive Director of the Human Resource Certification Institute, where she worked to strengthen the Institute's international presence. She made HRCI's certification designations a worldwide standard for the HR profession. She has a broad perspective on the industry, having worked for Sheraton and InterContinental Hotels for 20 years.
Always looking for new ideas herself, Power is a big fan of the "Stellar Tips" section of ConventionPlanit.com, where she finds some of the best new ideas from meeting professional colleagues.
VRS Meetings & Events Inc.
||Valerie Sumner is principal of VRS Meetings & Events Inc., a full-service meeting and event management firm. She was previously president for all divisions of the TCI Companies, and also worked for The Capital Informer, Radisson Hotels, and Americana Hotels.
Annette M. Suriani, CMP
Principal and Meeting Strategist
AMS Meetings Solutions
||Annette Suriani, CMP, specializes in the creative side of meeting planning. Before taking on her current position, she was hired to merge two distinct trade shows into one, using her organizational abilities and her experience in creating new ventures. In other previous positions, she created meetings departments where there were none. Suriani also enjoys developing sponsorship packages, marketing materials and special events. She likes to see each meeting unfold and watch attendees gain knowledge that helps them run their businesses better.
Her skills in these and the many other areas of meeting planners have led to a 20+ year career in associations, 18 of which have been in meeting management. Suriani is responsible for several conferences each year, including an annual meeting with exhibits and several board meetings. She also does some independent work on special events and even planned a public show on residential housing for the District of Columbia.
In particular, Suriani finds ConventionPlanit.com to be especially helpful. "Just like the old commercials for yellow pages, I like letting my fingers do the walking," she says. "Just a couple of clicks and I can get information on a hotel, on a city, get tips from other professionals - without having to be put on hold or leave a message.
Carrine V. M. Todman-Lewis, DBA, MTA, CMP, CVEP
Meeting Industry Consultant/Event Strategist
Washington, DC Metro
||Carrine Todman-Lewis is an accomplished meeting industry professional with 10 years of progressively responsible experience planning and managing conferences, meetings, and special events for government and association clients for audiences ranging from 25 to more than 2,500. Carrine has extensive meeting industry knowledge and a proven track record of success in customer service excellence. She is a personable and influential communicator with exceptional organization, financial management, and contract negotiation skills.
Carrine was the conference lead on the team that won the 2009 Assistant Secretary’s Outstanding Contractor award from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. She was the 2005 recipient of the Maralyn Eisenstodt Scholarship, which recognizes a professional dedicated to a career in meetings and hospitality. She is a Certified Meeting Professional and a Certified Government Meeting Professional. She recently added Certified Virtual Event Producer to her repertoire. She is a member of the Professional Convention Management Association, where she serves on the Emerging Professionals Committee and is a student mentor. She is also a member of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals.
Carrine earned a Master’s degree in Event and Meeting Management and a Professional Event Management Certificate from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. She also earned undergraduate degrees in Business Administration—Marketing and Business Management Technology from the University of the Virgin Islands, in St. Thomas, VI. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Business Administration degree with a Leadership specialization at Walden University. Her area of research interest is service quality in the hotel industry.
David Williams, CMP
Administrative Management Services, Inc.
||David L. Williams has a broad range of experience from several perspectives and more than 25+ years in the association/conference management industry.
AMS has managed hundreds of conferences and several associations with a membership base ranging from 50 to 5,000. Williams is currently involved in the full-service management of three association clients with a rich history of stand-alone conference management agreements. With offices in Ohio and New York, AMS and Williams are noted in the hospitality industry for their integrity and attention to detail.
He is a member of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He is Past Chair of the International Relations Task Force and Committee of PCMA, past Board member of PCMA and a current Trustee of the PCMA Education Foundation.
Director of Meetings
American Institute of Chemical Engineers
New York, New York
||Jeff Wood's career began at the front desk of the Statler Hilton Hotel in Boston.
He later became assistant director of sales at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC before taking his first job as a meeting planner at the American Bankers Association.
His career has taken him to several associations, including the New York State Food Merchants
Association in Tarrytown, New York, and later to the Direct Marketing Association in New York, where he worked for 12 years before joining the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).
Wood especially likes the "user-friendly functionality" ConventionPlanit.com has to offer.
With no registration process or third party commissions to be concerned about, ConventionPlanit.com is an "essential information source" for the meeting planning community.
Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM
Director of Meetings
International and American Associations for Dental Research
||Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM oversees a department of three meeting professionals as the Director of Meetings at the International and American Associations for Dental Research. The team is responsible for planning the annual conventions for each organization annually for up to 7,000 attendees, as well as regional conferences in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.
Zeck has more than 20 years of experience in the meetings and events industry having planned everything from Congressional receptions and gala dinners, to national and international conventions and meetings.
Before joining the ACEC recently, Zeck served as the Manager of Events and Conferences at the American Council of Engineering Companies and the American Red Cross national headquarters. She holds a Masters degree in non-profit management and health policy from Virginia Tech University.
A big part of her online activity takes place on ConventionPlanit.com, which Zeck calls "user-friendly and reliable."