Association of Women in Events Announces Founding Board of Directors

The Association of Women in Events, a new organization launched in March 2015, has announced its founding board of directors. The association received over 65 applications for membership on the inaugural board, and founders spent several weeks vetting candidates for these important leadership roles. The Board of Directors is expected to guide the vision of the association throughout the first formative years and shape the community surrounding the organization.

The Association of Women in Events was founded by Carrie Abernathy, Tamela Blalock, Mas Tadesse Harris, Mary Higham, and Kiki Janssens. The mission of the organization is to provide women professionals in the meetings and events industry a place for sharing best practices, networking, professional development, career advancement and recognition. By the end of the 2015 year, AWE initiatives such as membership and education plan to be launched with the guidance and leadership of the board members.

“This specific group of board members are leaders in the events industry, and we feel each of them will truly encompass the mission of the organization and bring the association to life”, said co-founder Carrie Abernathy CMP, CEM, CSEP, “We are excited to start working on the future and building a community”.

The Founding Board of Directors will have one- and two-year roles. Board members were chosen from an array of fields to include media, government, corporate, and association markets. The board members represent several regions of the United States, with members hailing from Washington, D.C., Chicago, Las Vegas, Dallas, Los Angeles, Orlando and Denver. The founding board of director’s first in-person meeting will take place at the Hilton Washington, D.C., on July 23, 2015. The official Founding Board of Directors roster is available at or email

MEET Our New Format for 2015!

It’s a Smarter Way to MEET meet national

You already know that MEET National is the industry show more buyers attend than any other to find the suppliers they’re looking for.

But did you know that for 2015, we’ve enhanced our format so you get even more from the show? You’ll now receive the complete list of suppliers ahead of time so you can connect and set up appointments prior to – and during – the event.

Here’s how it works:

• You get the list of suppliers
• You find the ones you’d most like to meet
• Reach out and schedule appointments via our mobile app or website
• Meet onsite and stay in touch after the show

Here’s why you won’t want to miss a minute:

• Meet and network with fellow meeting professionals and industry experts
• Earn CEU’s by attending a variety of forums on essential trends and technologies
• See the latest creations in meeting planning – and learn how to them to work for you
• Find the suppliers you’re looking for – and who are looking for you.

Don’t miss the one event that’s all about expanding your network with the suppliers you’re looking for.

Register today to secure your reservation!

Visit for more information.

Heike Mahmoud Named to M&C Magazine’s Top 25 Women in the Meetings Industry List

Congratulations to Heike Mahmoud, CMP, of Visit Berlin, for being named as one of the Top 25 Women in the Meetings Industry List by Meetings & Conventions Magazine!

In the July issue, M&C Magazine published a curated list of 25 high achieving women in the meetings industry who have helped shape and strengthen our business.

Since joining Visit Berlin in 2001, Heike Mahmoud has helped Berlin double its meeting business, and the German capital currently ranks fourth in the ICCA city rankings.

Mahmoud is also involved with the meetings industry on a broader scale, serving in several positions for European Cities Marketing and the BestCities Global Alliance.

Latest Webinar – Sign Up Today!

If you missed last month’s webinar about how to organize your RFP’s, you’re in luck. It was so popular we are running it again!

RFP OrganizationWhat: RFP Organization Webinar
When: Thursday July 23 | 11:30-12:00 pm est OR 3:30-4:00 pm est
-Learn how to streamline RFP sourcing with this free online tool by
-Receive personalized consulting
-Customize and compare necessary criteria
-Send RFPs to pre-qualified suppliers
-View compiled responses within your deadline on a comparison chart

Register by emailing or comment below for more information!

Looking for the ideal destination for your next meeting?


Miami is spectacular beaches, world-class boutiques, the trendiest clubs and restaurants. Its state-of-the‐art performing arts centers, a bustling downtown, major sports venues, two national parks, and a mix of cultures are unmatched.

Meeting Venues

Miami offers a vast and diverse meeting infrastructure for meeting planners. Our world-class convention and conference facilities are like no other. For many years, the Miami Beach Convention Center has been one of the most popular facilities in the world.  The convention center features over 500,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space and over 50 meeting rooms. Located at the heart of the Art Deco Historic District, the complex is within easy walking distance of all of South Beach’s best known restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The convention center will soon begin a $500 million renovation and expansion project which will include a hotel next door and be completed by 2018.

Another facility popular for smaller conventions and conferences is the Miami Convention & Conference Center, located between Downtown Miami and the edge of the Brickell financial district. It’s a foundational element of the James L. Knight International Center/Hyatt Regency complex and features a 444-seat auditorium, a 117-seat tiered acoustically balanced lecture hall and 20 meeting rooms. Also just announced is the new Marriott World Center which will offer an 1800 room hotel with 100,000 square feet of exhibit space and two ballrooms.

Miami is the only city in America with two sparkling new performing arts centers designed by superstars Cesar Pelli and Frank Gehry. It is also the only city in the world with a brand-new cultural arts center, a new world-class baseball stadium adjacent to downtown, a new art gallery district and a brand-new science museum scheduled to open in 2015.

The Greater Miami area now has nearly 50,000 hotel rooms, from unique and charming boutique hotels to major-brand convention properties. One thing that further contributes to Miami’s appeal is that virtually all of its hotels offer outdoor function spaces that showcase spectacular views of Biscayne Bay from downtown, or the Atlantic Ocean from Miami Beach.

Learn more about Miami.

National Conference Center Celebrates Turnaround Success

Anyone driving by The National Conference Center or West Belmont Place, knows there’s a lot going on at the property. The National and West Belmont Place represent the largest open market meeting, training and event center in the nation, located within close proximity to Washington Dulles International Airport and just outside of Washington, D.C. Purchased out of bankruptcy just over a year ago, the property has undergone significant changes and improvements which have resulted in a dramatic uplift in business.


Last year, LaKota Hotels & Resorts was retained by the new ownership to reorganize and re-energize the operation. LaKota brought in new onsite leadership and worked with them to reorganize the sales and marketing team, develop a capital improvement plan and infuse and reinforce a “whatever it takes” attitude. The result was one of the fastest and most dramatic turnarounds in the history of the conference center industry.

Earlier this summer, The National hosted a reception to celebrate their turnaround success.

The National's Turnaround Reception

The National’s Turnaround Reception

In 2013, prior to new ownership, The National was at a financial low with a downswing that continued into 2014 when the property was purchased and the new management team brought in. The team managed to completely reverse the downward direction during the remaining seven months of 2014, actually increasing revenue 34% over the prior year. In 2015, the team accelerated the trend with 2015 revenues forecasted (conservatively) to increase another 73% over 2014, which is a 140% increase over 2013. Occupancy in 2015 has increased by 130%. Usage from all group market segments is up double to triple digit percentages at The National and West Belmont Place including corporate, association, government, military, religious, fraternal, weddings, social functions and events. So far this year, more than $5 million in additional group business had to be turned away due to advance group commitments.

The key players of the new executive leadership team include Vice President and General Manager Geoff Lawson, a proven hospitality executive with years of conference center experience, numerous turnarounds and a former president of the International Association of Conference Centers; Chief Marketing Officer Chuck Ocheltree, a conference center sales and marketing icon with a number of turnaround successes in his career; Kahilua Herlihy, chief financial officer with years of experience as an accounting and finance executive in the D.C. hotel market; Allan Reynolds, director of food and beverage, with exceptional culinary experience in revamping conference center food and beverage operations; Chris Ferrier, executive chef who brings large 4- star hotel and catering experience and a passion for exciting, locally-sourced and innovative food; and Kellie Mueller, an exceptional leader in conference planning who returned to The National as director of conference services.

This new team set about to shake up the former operation and set it on a new path by investing in top sales talent, repositioning the property in the marketplace, and initiating capital improvement and renovation plans. “The dramatic turnaround at The National is a true testament to the ability and attitude of the onsite team, which is by far the strongest leadership, sales, and service group of folks I have had the pleasure of working with in this industry,” stated Sam Haigh, LaKota president and chief operating officer.

Capital improvements include renovations internally and externally with new dining and gathering areas, lobby improvements, a renovated fitness center and outdoor gathering areas such as patios and fire pits, taking advantage of the property’s large campus setting. With the physical improvements and service changes, dining at The National is an entirely new experience, as is relaxing and enjoying the evening entertainment in The Bar.

“The best way to tell we’re on the right track is the tremendous volume of business we’re seeing as well as the very high marks and exceptionally positive feedback from our clients,” stated Geoff Lawson, The National vice president and general manager. The property will continue with additional renovations as part of the ongoing capital improvement plan, so that clients will experience new enhancements with each return visit.

Reunite With Industry Friends

During each ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition, thousands of association leaders come together to reunite with their favorite industry friends, connect with new and impressive professional peers, participate in advanced education from progressive thought leaders, and celebrate the industry at a number of networking and recognition events.

At the 2015 ASAE Annual Meeting, August 8–11 in Detroit, MI, join 5,000+ of your colleagues from across the country for three full days of powerful networking, thought-provoking education sessions, and innovative business solutions. Register today to enjoy the $150 early bird savings!

There are hundreds of reasons to attend this year’s ASAE Annual Meeting. What’s yours?

Learn more about & register for the ASAE Annual Meeting.

Be sure to visit in Booth 934 and participate in the onsite Stellar Tip Contest!

Get Organized

It’s been a flurry of activity so far in 2015 as association meeting professionals everywhere have put on a multitude of conventions, seminars, workshops, webinars and other events to serve their members.

The busy season never seems to end, but the spring flurry of activity is now behind us, providing a window to regroup and find ways to work more efficiently. has many tools to help meeting professionals do just that, and they are all free to meeting professionals!

Try some of these:

RFP Valet® – To support meeting planners with efficient RFP sourcing, offers a personal valet to consult with you and identify suitable suppliers. They help you send the RFPs to a targeted list and obtain bidding responses in 24 hours – guaranteed! You can use your own RFP document – no re-keying is required. Meeting professionals love this service – read what they have to say about it.

RFP OrganizationSM – Once the RFPs start rolling in, how can you easily process and compare them? offers a complimentary, easy to use sourcing tool to make this easy. Track incoming RFP responses on a streamlined, online chart with this free service. Say goodbye to disorganized email responses! Check out a sample chart.

Stellar Tips – Just when you think you’ve used up all your own ideas for future meetings, it’s time to tap into the collective knowledge of your peers for fresh new approaches. The Stellar Tips Archives offer just what you need! It’s a treasure trove of hundreds of ideas posted by other meeting professionals you can use for your upcoming events. Just type in a keyword and watch the targeted ideas appear in your screen. But don’t stop there – be sure to submit your own meeting-related tips and vote on the ideas from others that you like the most. Each month the Stellar Tip that receives the most votes wins a $100 gift certificate!

Green Meeting Tips – How green are your meetings? What are the latest best practices in this area? Virtually every association today is striving to make their meetings more environmentally sustainable. Meeting professionals need information and advice, and provides it in our Green Meetings Best Practices online guide. It includes a wealth of industry resources and articles on green meetings. Blog – Join the conversation in the blog, where you can read the latest posts on a range of meetings topics and some of the most popular recent articles in the e-Alert newsletter.

Testimonials from your Colleagues – Want to know what your meeting planner colleagues are saying about It’s easy to find out – check out the testimonials and learn what makes their lives easier and how you can tap into the same resources.

If you need more information or have questions, call the RFP Hotline at 866-922-8988 or

A Round Rant

Enjoy a special guest post from Al Rickard, CAE, President of Association Vision, a communications company;


Try to envision the next convention experience for your attendees: Your members stream into the packed opening session to a drumbeat of lively music. They reconnect with friends and colleagues. The stage is set with elegant lighting and exciting graphics. The speakers deliver their messages with energy and connect with the crowd. Everyone has a positive takeaway as they anticipate the rest of the meeting.

Then the crowd disperses to several concurrent breakout sessions. But the rooms are relatively dark and devoid of energy. The speakers are hard to see from the back, and there is no lighting on them. The room is set mostly (or entirely) with rounds with chairs on all sides, forcing half the attendees to turn their backs on the tables and block the already tight walkway space. It also prevents attendees from using the table space for their laptop or to take notes.

More people pour into the rooms (especially for the more popular sessions) and the limited seating at the rounds is quickly filled. Staff members scramble to cart in more chairs to build a couple rows in the back of the room. But it’s not enough – dozens of people are left standing or sitting on the floor in the back. Anyone arriving a little bit late takes one peek into the room and bails out to try to find another session they like. And they paid a big registration fee for this?!

Sure, it’s hard to predict how many people might attend each breakout session. But this scene is repeated over and over again at major conferences. Just dividing the number of people at the opening session by the number of breakout sessions should yield an appropriate number of chairs that will be needed. But somehow the formula usually doesn’t work (or is not being applied).

The oft-repeated rationale for setting breakout sessions with rounds is that it promotes attendee interaction. That’s fine for the 10 minutes before the session starts, but after that, attention is focused on the speakers, and side conversations are distracting at best and rude at worst. Most of the space in the room is occupied by large tables that position attendees further from the speakers and waste most of the space. Meanwhile, dozens of people are sitting on the floor in the back of the room trying to make themselves comfortable.

It’s 2015, people! Can’t we do better than this?

What are the alternatives? Crescent rounds (with seating only on one side of round tables) solves the backs-to-the-table problem, but it also cuts the number of seats nearly in half. Classroom-style seating might seem stuffy and formal to some, but it can double the number of chairs in the room and position people so they are facing the speaker. Theater-style seating increases capacity exponentially, albeit while sacrificing table space. Combinations of seating configurations are often appropriate as long as the necessary seating can be provided.

In his book, Seating Matters, Paul O. Radde, Ph.D, presents a compelling case for improving seating at meetings. He advocates curved-row seating, among other approaches, to improve the attendee experience. While straight tables make this challenging, they can be positioned at an angle on each side to make it easier to see the speaker without turning too much.

In his “Audience Member’s Bill of Rights,” Radde notes that attendees should have a clear, close, and unobstructed view of the presentation and that seats should be facing forward within 5-12 degrees of the main focal point of the presentation. Do breakout sessions at your meeting meet this standard?

If all this seems elementary, it is! Yet this seemingly simple seating problem continues year after year at meetings everywhere. Round tables have a purpose – they are ideal for meals and small discussion groups. But for breakout sessions, they are just “out of round.”

What do you think? Comment below and let’s fix this problem!

A Relaxed Yet Refined Meeting Experience

Ritz Carlton Half Moon BayAs the only luxury Ocean front golf resort in the San Francisco Bay Area, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay provides guests with a relaxed yet refined experience, whether for a romantic getaway, meeting or special event.  The award-winning resort is excited to unveil a complete enhancement of its guestrooms and suites.

Inspired by the cool tones of grey and blue from the neighboring Pacific Ocean, mixed with beachside accents such as pickled wood entry floors and driftwood inspired headboards, the enhanced guestrooms radiate a sense of a California coastal estate throughout the 261-guestrooms.

The guestroom corridors begin the journey to the guest’s retreat with ocean colors and muted orange hues which are found in a patterned carpet reminiscent of ocean kelp mixed with mid-century graphics. The spacious accommodations welcome the guest with paneled walls painted in a crisp white finish with plush draperies and rich carpeting surround the room in cool grey and blue muted hues. Improved technology featured throughout the guestroom such as multiple plugs for powering any device, and generous built-in storage encasing the HDTV, laptop safe and hanging closet and drawers. The end result is an atmosphere of understated, timeless elegance reflecting the tranquil beauty of the Pacific Ocean and Northern California coastline.

During a stay the idyllic property provides a magnificent backdrop for a fun-filled vacation along the Northern California coast with an endless array of outdoor activities.  The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay features diverse and vibrant surroundings ranging from world-class beaches to lush recreational areas. Guests can enjoy all things adventure including running, hiking, biking, surfing, golfing, kayaking, whale watching, horseback riding, and paddle boarding, just to name a few. Although not recommended to participate in all of these activities in one day, the options are extensive and offer something for everyone.

By the end of a busy day, guests can enjoy roasting s’mores by the fire pits on The Ocean Terrace or retiring to their guest room for a muscle soothing Arnica bath, designed to relieve aches and pains with an aromatic soak of regenerating bath salts and Arnica essential oil.

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

1 Miramontes Point Road, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019 • (650) 712-7000