Everyone has the ability to create positive change, both in their careers and in their industry. These 20 individuals have gained visibility among senior management in their companies by initiating strategic meetings management programs, developing companywide policies and practices, leveraging volume, and maximizing savings. They are shining examples of advancing their roles beyond logistics to focus on strategy and ROI. Cognizant of their ability to make a difference, they have also reached beyond their own four walls to influence the entire profession as educators, spokespeople, mentors, and leaders.

"Changemakers" in the news

Check out the press release for this article.

And the Winners Are …

Lee Ann Adams Mikeman
Assistant vice president, conference planning and special events

Science Applications International Corp.

Debbie Boschee, CMP
Vice president, conference and meeting services

Prudential Financial Inc.

Beth Cooper-Zobott
Director, conference services

Equity Residential

Jack Eichhorn
Global director of meeting services

Oracle Corp.

Pamela J. Ferranti
Manager, meeting management solutions

Xerox Corp.

Aleka Garcia, CMP, CMM
Account supervisor

Pacific Communications

Joann Kerns
Associate director of global meeting management

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

Patricia Kerr, CMP
Director, distribution
sales support

Manulife Financial Co.

Kelli Livers, CMP
Director, global meeting services

AIG Inc.

Carol Muldoon
Director of meeting services

KPMG International

Camille Paluscio, CMP
Manager-travel, meetings, and events

Volkswagen Group of America Inc.

Patty Reger, CMM
Manager, meetings and conventions

Johnson & Johnson Sales & Logistics Co.

N. Lynn Ridzon, CTC
Director, strategic global meetings management

Amgen Inc.

Kathy Rust
Vice president, corporate meetings and events

Washington Mutual Inc.

Debi Scholar, CMM, CMP, CTE, CTT
Meeting and event services director

PricewaterhouseCoopers

Arlene Sheff, CMP
Senior meeting and event planner

The Boeing Co.

Michele Snock, CMM
Manager, finance learning and development programs

Cisco Systems Inc.

Paul Tomaszeski
Executive director of business support services

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.

Barry Wolpa
Vice president, meetings and incentive trips

Genworth Financial Inc.

Todd Zint, CMP, CMM
Vice president, meetings and event marketing

NFP Insurance Services Inc.

Our Advisory Board

Betsy Bondurant, CMP, CMM, president, Bondurant Consulting, Coronado, Calif.

Joan Eisenstodt, founder and chief strategist, Eisenstodt Associates, Washington, D.C .

Julie Johnson, CMP, CMM, director, events and incentives, Lennox International Worldwide Heating & Cooling Inc., Richardson, Texas

Debi Scholar, CMM, CMP, CTE, CTT, meeting and event services director, PricewaterhouseCoopers, New York

Michele Snock, CMM, manager, finance learning and development programs, Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif.

Pamela Wynne, CMP, CMM, vice president of client services, EMC Venues, Annapolis, Md.

Lee Ann Adams Mikeman
Assistant vice president, conference planning and special events
Science Applications International Corp.
McLean, Va.


PAST Adams Mikeman started out as administrative assistant/conference planner at SAIC 20 years ago, and she now oversees a team of six who coordinate more than 500 meetings, conferences, and special events annually.


CRED She recognized in the mid-1990s that “there was a real void in available internal resources to help professionally coordinate meetings, conferences, and special events for SAIC managers and contracted clients.” Now, with her strategic meetings management program firmly established, she is focused on improving compliance and adoption of the program and updating meeting policies to stay current.


SUCCESS STORY She won't forget assisting the company with Listing Day logistics when it went public on the New York Stock Exchange in October 2006. “I got choked up when they rang the bell and I saw the SAIC logo and our leaders on the podium,” she recalls. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime event and a momentous occasion for our company and me, personally.”


FORWARD-THINKING The next step? To establish a successful preferred-supplier program for groups/meetings to help the company leverage its spending.


ADVICE: Her career path has followed the advice that she offers to newly minted planners: “Mission, Passion, Metrics. Set a mission, be passionate about achieving it, measure your performance, and don't give up!”

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Debbie Boschee, CMP Vice president, conference and meeting services
Prudential Financial Inc.
Plymouth, Minn.

PAST Boschee joined Prudential in 1976; she became a meeting planner in 1983. She has held a number of administrative positions with the company and was promoted to vice president in 2007.

CRED In 2000, Boschee helped to begin the centralization of Prudential's meetings operations. After a process involving countless interviews with planners within the company and the industry, as well as studying and analyzing financials, meeting spend, and vendor/supplier relationships, she put together a plan to bring the company's disparate meeting functions together. This led to the formation of a centralized meeting department in 2002. Boschee has also been active with Financial & Insurance Conference Planners, serving as its president in 2003-2004.

SUCCESS STORY “When I took over the meeting-planning department, I had a different managing philosophy, and that was challenging for many of my people to adapt to and accept,” says Boschee. “But seeing them grow and blossom, become strategic thinkers, advance and be promoted, and become involved in the industry has given me a great sense of accomplishment.”

MENTORS While handling meetings for Prudential's learning services department, Boschee had a supervisor “who was the first person I worked for who actually understood that meeting planning was a profession. She also challenged me to think strategically. She was always very direct in her feedback to me, which was often painful, but she really pushed me and made me more accountable.”

ADVICE “Someone once told me that you need to under-promise and over-deliver. Everyone in my department has that posted on their computer monitors.”

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Beth Cooper-Zobott
Director, conference services
Equity Residential
Chicago

PAST Cooper-Zobott, who is multilingual, worked for various international companies, helping their marketing teams develop a synergy between international and American events, before landing at Equity in June 1998 as the company's first full-time meeting planner.

CRED Working with the vice presidents of her company's communications, education, and organizational development departments, she has homed in on the messages that the company delivers at its meetings to ensure that they are consistent on a global level and resonate with attendees in the field. She has also been responsible for moving the company to online meeting registrations, developing conference Web sites, and establishing an online platform for conference evaluations.

FORWARD-THINKING As a department of one, planning 30 to 60 events a year, Cooper-Zobott handles the tactical and strategic elements of meetings. She is currently evaluating the viability of an SMMP, as well as exploring the use of virtual media such as Second Life as a means to incorporate new learning and social networking aspects into her conferences. Green meetings are also on her radar; she is pursuing ways to make her events more sustainable and to quantify the environmental benefits of these actions.

GIVING BACK In addition to speaking to meeting-planning students at Roosevelt University, she organizes a raffle at her company's year-end holiday party where the money raised goes to charity.

MENTORS “Working with my fellow planners and seeing what they have done in their own companies has helped me become more strategic at Equity.” Some of those contacts include Patty Reger, sales meeting manager, Johnson & Johnson; Sharon Marsh, program sourcing manager for meetings and events at VeriSign; and Camille Paluscio, manager of travel, meetings and events at Volkswagen.

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Jack Eichhorn
Global director of meeting services
Oracle Corp.
Redwood Shores, Calif.


PAST As a planning pro in the high-tech industry, Eichhorn understands all too well the importance of data mining. That was one of the reasons he was brought on board at Oracle in 2006 — to get his arms around the international spend for the company's 7,000 annual meetings.


CRED Eichhorn has brought many of the ideas he used at his former company, Cisco Systems, to bear at Oracle, focusing on strategic meetings management initiatives by choosing Carlson Marketing Worldwide to centralize sourcing while also selecting preferred hotel partners. His ace in the hole is negotiating with hotels — he spent a decade in sales at Marriott Corp. before switching to the corporate planning side.


SUCCESS STORY Some of his greatest achievements have centered around crises he has dealt with on-site. At one particularly problem-fraught meeting several years ago, Eichhorn had one attendee airlifted to a hospital, met with the local police chief after another attendee's police cruiser “joy ride,” dealt with property security staff after an attendee altercation, and almost lost a dinner location because of high seas.


“In the end, it was a terrific event,” he says. “The SVP was ecstatic about the outcome, and he went above and beyond with his appreciation because of his knowledge of all the extra ‘activities’ I was forced into managing.”


FORWARD-THINKING Developing a key area of expertise has helped him ride out the tech crash and current downturn. “When the economy became challenging in the 2001-2002 time frame … I was very aware of the limited job security associated with meeting planners — especially those whom I knew within the high-tech industry,” he recalls. “I realized that subject matter expertise is more important than ever during tough times.”


ADVICE “You need to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Unfortunately, in my experience, I have learned that a wide variety of people still just consider themselves to be ‘meeting planners.’”

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Joann Kerns
Associate director of global meeting management
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
Plainsboro, N.J.

PAST Kerns moved from an administrative position at McGettigan (now Maritz) to a senior account management position, managing the Bristol-Myers Squibb account, and then was recruited by BMS in 1995 to become an in-house meeting manager. In her current role, she manages all international medical, congress, and association meetings with external participants.

CRED It took Kerns only a few short years to get to a level in her career that often takes people decades. In that time, she had advanced to a senior leadership role at BMS and was instrumental in helping the company to develop a fully consolidated process for managing its internal and external meetings. She serves on several executive committees that help to shape the processes for meetings management, and she takes part in business planning sessions with the U.S. and global marketing teams.

FORWARD-THINKING Her goals include ramping up the company's global meetings management program. She participates on the corporate user and steering committees to design and shape technology resources to enhance operational excellence and to improve processes for tracking and reporting data.

GIVE BACK Kerns is always happy to take time to speak with college kids from Temple University, New York University, Cornell, and other schools who are pursuing careers in meeting planning. She tells the students: “Finish school. Push your education as far as you can take it.”

MENTORS “I was trained by the best,” says Kerns. Specifically Lynn Ridzon, Kerns' former boss at BMS, who has since taken the role of director of strategic sourcing and procurement at Amgen. Also: Christine Duffy, CEO of Maritz; many of the senior leadership at McGettigan; and her friend and brother-in-law, Mark Phillips, an executive at StarCite.

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Patricia Kerr, CMP Director, distribution sales support
Manulife Financial Co.
Waterloo, Ontario


PAST Kerr joined Manulife in 1995 as a junior meeting planner after four years in a nonmeeting planning position at another financial services company.


CRED During her tenure, her department has grown from a one-person operation that handled one outsourced annual incentive program to a 15-member department that plans 300 meetings a year. A member of Financial & Insurance Conference Planners since 1995, she was elected to the board of directors in 2005 and is currently the organization's president.


SUCCESS STORY “I spearheaded a project in which we took a look at our annual meetings and tried to cut costs by negotiating multiyear deals,” says Kerr. “I remember sitting with senior management, telling them what I wanted to do, how much money we could save over a three-year period, and having them look at me and ask, ‘We can really do that?’ That was the first time that senior management looked at us as more than glorified party planners. It was a significant moment, and we've been able to build on it.”


FORWARD-THINKING Kerr is working on implementing a long-term, large-conference strategy. “Organizationally, we've gone from one incentive conference 10 years ago to six incentive conferences today. We're looking to see where we can find some synergy, not only from a cost perspective, but from a resource perspective.” For example, senior management staff spend 35 days a year attending the company's incentive programs, and she hopes that by changing the way that these conferences are structured and scheduled, that time can be reduced to seven days.


ADVICE “You need to have a passion for this profession. There are going to be days when you are up at 5 in the morning and don't go to bed until 3 the next morning. So you will either love this business or learn to hate it. And there's nothing wrong with you if do end up hating it, but developing that passion is what will separate the good from the not-so-good planners.”

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Carol Muldoon
Director of meeting services
KPMG International
Montvale, N.J.


PAST Before joining KPMG, Mul-doon was an event manager for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, where her responsibilities included the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. She started with KPMG 22 years ago as planner of small training events in a group of three, and now directs a 100-member operation.


CRED In 1998, KPMG's senior management, concerned with the number of meetings and programs happening at the local level without much oversight, asked Muldoon to look into rationalizing the process. “It was a big moment in my career,” she says. “I ran some focus groups internally and put together a proposal to fully centralize our meeting needs. The company's CFO and AFO supported the plan, and that was really the inception of what I would consider to be our SMMP program.” Last year, her role expanded significantly as she presided over the merger of the company's event marketing departments and meetings services department.


SUCCESS STORY “As an individual planner, I used to have full responsibility for the firm's annual partner meeting, and to have the chairman of the firm recognize the value I brought to putting that meeting on was extremely important. As a manager, being able to grow our department and be seen as a real partner by our internal clients and company leaders has been a real achievement.”


FORWARD-THINKING Her new meetings department is a year old, and “we've tracked a lot of data. The key is what we do with that data.” The goal is to better leverage spend with suppliers and to extend the small meetings program to more cities. She is also on the steering committee for a new in-house training center KPMG is developing, “and I'm looking forward to being involved in its design and operation.”


ADVICE “Don't just accept that things are the way they are and can't be changed. Seek out new opportunities.”

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Camille Paluscio, CMP Manager — travel, meetings and events
Volkswagen Group of America Inc.
Herndon, Va.

PAST Paluscio has worked for Volkswagen since the early 1980s, with the exception of four years when she ran her own company in the 1990s. At press time, she was juggling her new position as manager of travel, meetings, and events with her company's move from Auburn Hills, Mich., to Herndon, Va. In addition to collaborating with the company's human resources department on “look and see” trips for personnel who are changing locations, she is moving to Virginia, although most of her department will remain in Michigan.

CRED In 1999, Paluscio and a former boss proposed a new combined travel, meeting planning, and events department at VW. “We had talked about it off and on for years, and then one day we realized we should present a formal proposal.” Once the department was created, Paluscio spent the first few years wrapping her arms around meeting logistics. But once she started trying to gather data “and found that we weren't capturing the spend in any one place, I knew that I couldn't talk to suppliers from a position of knowledge.” Enter SMMP. “I realized that we needed to gather information, and then in my research, I came across SMMP, and it all made logical sense,” she says.

SUCCESS STORY “Once SMMP caught upper management's attention and opened everyone's eyes to the possibilities of real savings — I knew consolidation made sense, but it was a real achievement when my company recognized it as well.”

FORWARD-THINKING Her next challenge is continuing to grow a close relationship with procurement.

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Patty Reger, CMM Manager, meetings and conventions
Johnson & Johnson Sales & Logistics Co.
Skillman, N.J.


PAST Reger developed an SMMP at her former company, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, which was purchased in 2006 by Johnson & Johnson, and the two companies' departments were integrated into one. “Every corporation has its own processes in place, and it makes sense that the group we joined had its own way of doing things,” she says. And an SMMP wasn't part of that way.


Back in 2004, with Pfizer, Reger was the epitome of the SMMP advocate. “I wrote my business plan for my CMM on creating an SMMP in my former company. Then I sold the plan up through senior management and gained approval to develop and lead a cross-functional team to develop the plan into reality,” she says. “We launched the team, and in its first year, we achieved 15 percent savings over the previous year.”


SUCCESS STORY She applied for and was accepted to Meeting Professionals International's board of directors and became involved in public speaking and teaching. “Taking control of my destiny and finding a way to remain relevant in my career and life has been my greatest career achievement.”


FORWARD-THINKING Reger is working on employing some SMMP elements when it makes sense. “I feel we're making progress again, moving forward, and gaining some traction,” she says. She also requested and was granted an active role in the development of content for an 800-person national sales meeting as a way to “employ the strategy part of my skill set.” Not only did the end result lead to “an incredible sense of personal satisfaction,” but kudos that couldn't be matched when her vice president said to her, “You have just completely redefined the role of meeting planning as we know it.”

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Kathy Rust
Vice president corporate meetings and events
Washington Mutual Inc.
Seattle, Wash.

PAST Rust began her career in the travel business, and over time transitioned to event travel and finally event management. After spending time managing a travel agency, she left the U.S. for a number of years, living in both Haiti and Québec. Upon her return to the event business, she went to work for American Express managing its event travel team, and then moved to Microsoft as an event travel manager, where she ended up managing Microsoft's global travel program for four years. She moved to WaMu in 2005.

CRED Her experience working with the Groups and Meetings Committee of the National Business Travel Association helped to give Rust a good understanding of what it took to implement a strategic meetings management program at a corporate level. “I understood the need to manage spend, collect data, and implement good policies, but I never had the chance to implement them at Microsoft. When I went to WaMu, its strategic meetings management program was in its infancy, and I've been able to formalize the use of technology, develop a preferred-vendors program, work with key planners to collect data, and establish more effective communications.”

SUCCESS STORY Rust recalls her early days at Microsoft, when her team took over some business that was beyond the scope of what they were supposed to be able to handle. “We got the business, pulled the program together, and changed the whole momentum of our team. We grew from three to 18 persons, and instead of handling meetings with 3,000 people, we had meetings of up to 15,000.”

FORWARD-THINKING At WaMu, she is once again in a position to effect change. “I came here at a great time. It's exciting to see us tighten up our meeting infrastructure and make tools work. With the team we have now, we have a strong voice at the table, and we'll be in a strong position to influence our key executives.”

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Debi Scholar, CMM, CMP, CTE, CTT Meeting and event services director
PricewaterhouseCoopers
Florham Park, N.J.

PAST A hospitality intern at Disney World during her college years, Scholar spent 20 years working in training and development at Westinghouse Furniture Systems, Dean Witter, and her own company. She started in the training realm at PwC but moved to the meetings department in 2002.

CRED With a policy dating to 1999, PwC was an early adopter of strategic meetings management. For the past two years, Scholar has been driving a Six Sigma project in PwC's meeting department to control spend and improve service. She is co-chairwoman of the National Business Travel Association's Groups and Meetings Committee and serves on the NBTA Foundation Board of Trustees. Scholar also participates on the Meeting Competitive Advantage Forum, a best practice and benchmarking team composed of 20 meetings-industry leaders from Fortune 100 companies.

SUCCESS STORY Applying SMMP in her present company: “I feel a huge sense of accomplishment from the millions of dollars we've been able to save in the last two years.”

FORWARD-THINKING In the past few years, Scholar's department has become PwC's central webconferencing resource. Moving forward, she would like to help the company's meeting planners become more comfortable organizing meetings in the virtual world.

MENTORS Fellow members of the NBTA Groups and Meetings Committee, in particular Kari Knoll Kesler, global manager of meetings and events at Honeywell, and Madlyn Caliri, CPM, director, global procurement at Reed Elsevier, have been valuable mentors to Scholar, both for what they have taught her about strategic meetings management and for what they told her they cannot teach her. “They said to me, ‘This is the way we do it, but you're going to have to figure out how an SMMP can work in your culture and environment.’ One size doesn't fit all,” says Scholar. In addition, her director, Kathy Murray, helped her to navigate through PwC stakeholders and is the executive sponsor for the SMMP.

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Arlene Sheff, CMP Senior meeting and event planner
The Boeing Co.
Seal Beach, Calif.

PAST Sheff has spent a total of 32 years in the meetings industry, including stints as an association and government planner, followed by eight years at Bridgestone Tires. She also ran her own company, Meetings Etc., for 10 years before moving to Boeing nine years ago.

CRED Sheff has taught at about 18 MPI Institutes and countless local chapter events, as well as leading several college courses and initiating and teaching her very popular FUNdamentals of Meeting & Event Planning workshop series at The Boeing Co. A live wire in front of a group, she engages people before the event and makes sure that everyone participates.

“It has to be fun for me,” she says, adding that she has found that if she asks the people in the audience to introduce themselves to the person sitting next to them, they are more likely to participate.

SUCCESS STORY Although she now counts it as one of the secrets to her success, public speaking did not come naturally. “Growing up, I would have stayed home from school rather than speak in front of the class,” Sheff recalls. One day, a friend coerced her into teaching an F&B course for Hyatt at a local MPI chapter event, and she never looked back. “I was scared silly,” she recalls, but the positive feedback gave her the confidence to try it again.

Her desire to share her experience contributed to one of her proudest moments when, last year, she received the 2007 Corporate Event Planner/Producer of the Year Event Solutions Spotlight Award. The thrill was even greater because one of her daughters, a catering manager, was in the audience for the ceremony. “I still get a smile on my face, goose bumps, and a tear in my eye when I think about the moment I heard my name called.”

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Paul Tomaszeski
Executive director of business support services
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.
East Hanover, N.J.

PAST Tomaszeski began his career as a CPA at Novartis on the financial side of the business and moved into his current position 11 years ago.

CRED He was instrumental in developing a strategic meetings management program at Novartis in 2003 by forming a dedicated meeting solutions group for sourcing, planning, and contract-management expertise. Without a mandate, he worked hard to sell the value of the department internally, and his team now boasts upward of 90 percent compliance to the program. In January, he was also asked to become the North America travel manager for Novartis Group Cos. in the United States and Canada.\

SUCCESS STORY Executing a product launch meeting for 3,000 attendees in Dallas last June in just two weeks time. “That's start to finish,” says Tomaszeski, from contracting to booking travel and executing meeting logistics. The crunch was due to an accelerated drug approval. “Once the approval came through, the drug needed to be launched immediately.'”

FORWARD-THINKING Looking ahead, he has his sights set on meetings beyond pharma: “We have specifically been focused on pharma meetings up until now. But there are other business units within Novartis Group Cos. in the U.S. that could benefit from our best-practice sharing. We are meeting with them and asking them how we can help them.”

ADVICE “Throughout my career, I have never said no to any work that comes my way. Anything anyone has ever asked me to do, I find a way to do it.”

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Barry Wolpa
Vice president, meetings and incentive trips
Genworth Financial Inc.
San Francisco

PAST His wide-ranging career has included practicing law for four years; being a Club Med G.O. (director of entertainment) and salesman; and several positions as a marketing director.

CRED While working as marketing director for AMEX Life Insurance Co., he realized that he wanted to work on incentive programs. “I spoke to the president and was able to take on the responsibility for meetings and trips in addition to my position as marketing director.” Even after the company was acquired by General Electric, he continued both until the late 1990s, when he realized “I wanted to be more strategic when it came to meetings and incentives, and it made sense to give away the marketing end to focus on that.”

SUCCESS STORY While Wolpa loves the strategy and planning and relationships that go into meetings, his true love is incentive planning. “Creativity really comes into play with incentives,” he says. “And I can really make a difference in the lives of the salespeople.”

FORWARD-THINKING At press time, he was looking forward to his retirement, which coincided with an incentive trip planned for Beijing in May. “I'm ending my career with a dinner on the Great Wall of China on a night with a full moon,” he says. “I expect it to be an emotional moment when the fireworks go off.”
After that? “Nothing is off the table, and nothing is on the table,” he says. “Somewhere out there lies my future.”

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Todd Zint, CPM, CMM Vice president, meeting and event marketing
NFP Insurance Services
Austin, Texas

PAST Three years ago, Zint started at NFP (which is a subsidiary of National Financial Partners Corp., based in New York) with a team of two meeting planners, supporting only the Austin distribution channels. But he had a vision of centralizing an NFP meeting-planning department into one fully integrated shared resource. Today, he heads a team of five who project manage, plan, and implement more than 100 meetings a year for the entire company.

CRED To consolidate the department, Zint drew on past experiences, including his 2001 acquisition of the CMM designation.

“When I first moved into management, one of my greatest challenges was letting go of the meeting logistics and transitioning into thinking and acting strategically,” he says, noting that part of the CMM coursework involved writing an internal SMMP. “Now,” he says, “SMMP is my day-to-day priority, while empowering my team members to do what they do best. My quarterly goals emphasize improved processes and cost saving initiatives.”

FORWARD-THINKING Zint would like eventually to oversee the company's travel management program, which NFP has recently launched companywide. “Meetings and travel are closely tied in many ways,” he says. “For example, integrating online travel and procurement opportunities encompasses both areas. Managing this change is a natural progression for my career.”

ADVICE Always think about what you can bring to the job next. “In each position that I've worked, I would reach a point where I realized that in order to move up, I needed to provide value and demonstrate that value in a strategic manner.”

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Pamela J. Ferranti
Manager, meeting management solutions
Xerox Corp.
Webster, N.Y.

PAST Before managing meeting consolidation for Xerox, a role that began in July 2004, Ferranti's 24-year career with the company included posts as travel services manager, marketing manager, and warehouse manager.

CRED After serving as the focal point for rolling out Xerox's online booking process for business travelers, the travel services veteran was tapped to create a similarly consolidated environment for managing the company's global meetings. Working with StarCite's meeting technology, Ferranti established the processes to track meetings activity across the 57,500-employee company. The meeting-consolidation program is in the midst of a global rollout, with Canada already on board and the European arena aligning their processes.

SUCCESS STORY At Xerox, “We don't like mandates,” Ferranti says. Nevertheless, her department has created measures to make it more difficult for people to go off on their own and avoid the department's policies. Gradually, people have come around. Ferranti is proud to point to her department's satisfaction rating, which has climbed from 75 percent three years ago to 96 percent this spring.

FORWARD-THINKING Ferranti's department rolled out a green initiative in early 2008, significant not so much for its mission — energy and waste reduction for meeting and events — but for its metrics. The initiative sets specific quantifiable goals for each aspect of the environmental program and measures the outcome. For example, Ferranti has set specific 2008 targets for such things as badge recycling (50 percent), use of hotels with green policies (40 percent), transitioning face-to-face meetings to videoconferences (5 percent), and more.

GIVING BACK Ferranti volunteers as president of the board of directors of the Wayne County Fair, an annual six-day agricultural fair in Palmyra, N.Y. She is the first woman to hold the job in the fair's 152-year history. Last year, the event drew 16,000 visitors and more than 100 commercial exhibitors, in addition to hundreds of fair exhibitors.

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Aleka Garcia, CMP, CMM Account supervisor
Pacific Communications
Costa Mesa, Calif.

PAST Meeting planning was pretty much the last thing she expected to do when Garcia was hired at Pacific Communications. Having spent five years on the road as a planner with CME Inc., she wanted to stay put for a while. But it quickly became apparent that her planning expertise was just what Pacific needed, and within six months, she was on a plane to manage a meeting in Barcelona. Just a few years later, she is an account supervisor, overseeing a staff of five to head the agency's Strategic Meeting Management group.

CRED Garcia created the SMM department herself “to strengthen the agency's offering while integrating all components of a program, beginning with the concept of the meeting through the final reconciliation of the program.”

Her department is considered a core competency at the agency and billed as an offering to clients. This means she is included in monthly business planning meetings and client pitches.

SUCCESS STORY Garcia most enjoys seeing her staff get kudos from clients. “When a planner on my staff is recognized and thanked by the client for management and execution of an event, I start gushing with joy! It's an amazing thing to watch a coordinator/planner grow and evolve.”

FORWARD THINKING Garcia realized early on that the key to getting a seat at the table was to talk the talk of her superiors. In particular, when Craig Sullivan, vice president and director of client services, joined the company, Garcia educated him on where her skills fit with the bottom line, even developing a billing matrix showing different client projects and how much more money handling meetings in-house would bring in.

“It was a little bit trying at first to learn the lingo, because he was a [marketing] guy,” she recalls. “But the minute I could show the money that we were making, he was all over it.”

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Kelli Livers, CMP
Director, global meeting services
AIG Inc.
Houston

PAST Livers started out as an in-house planner at a small insurance company that was eventually acquired by AIG. She moved up through the ranks, and in January 2005 was chosen from among 60 meeting planners at the company to head a strategic meetings management program for AIG on a global level.

CRED In March 2006, she launched the SMMP for all U.S. offices. Just one year after the initial program rollout, her team was capturing between 80 percent and 85 percent of meeting spend — a huge accomplishment that she attributes in large part to strong support from senior management. Since that time, she has been fine-tuning and enhancing the technology and working to put global preferred-supplier agreements in place. In addition, she serves on the National Business Travel Association's Groups and Meetings Committee, where she participates in speaking engagements and contributes to white papers on strategic meetings management.

FORWARD-THINKING Livers put together a steering committee in the U.S. called the AIG Meeting and Event Travel Counsel, which consists of 15 department heads from each of AIG's major business units. The group gets together to evaluate preferred-supplier agreements domestically and make changes when necessary. “It's a commitment from these people. It gives them a voice in where our programs are going and ensures we have their buy-in and compliance.”

GIVE BACK This self-described animal lover rescues homeless animals and brings them into her family, which includes her three children and many dogs, cats, and horses.
“I won't mention how many animals we have because people would get scared,” she jokes.

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N. Lynn Ridzon, CTC
Director, global meetings management
Amgen Inc.
Thousand Oaks, Calif.

PAST Before her move to Amgen in May 2007, Ridzon was director of global meeting management at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., where she worked for 21 years. Before that, she spent 10 years as a meeting planner and travel consultant with Revere Travel and six years as a reservations agent with Trans World Airlines.

CRED Since the early 1990s, Ridzon has been pioneering meetings-consolidation models. First for meetings within the Squibb Pharma Group, and then after the merger with Bristol-Myers, she grew the program to include all U.S.-based meeting requests within the company for all business units. Before leaving for Amgen, her department had embraced a process called consumption and specification management, which assesses meeting and travel consumption patterns to identify needs and eliminate unnecessary expenditures.

FORWARD-THINKING Ridzon sees two items at the top of the meetings industry's “to-do” list: First, improve the technology supporting hotel/planner communication. (“Hotels are generally archaic in terms of how they are able to respond to meeting requests, especially allocation of meeting space.”) Second, create more clarity around strategic meetings management. “An SMMP means different things to different people,” she says, noting that the industry needs consistency in SMMP practices and definitions to create reliable benchmarks for success.

GIVING BACK With many years of experience to share, Ridzon is conscientious about making time to answer the frequent calls she gets from planners breaking ground on SMMPs. “I talk to and counsel a lot of people,” she says. She also participates in conferences as a speaker or moderator a couple of times a year. Ridzon is a member of ACTE and NBTA.

ADVICE “Don't set yourself up to be an order taker. Embrace the philosophy of a consolidated meeting environment and let others see you as a valued business partner.” And, she says, an SMMP “doesn't happen from the bottom up; it happens top down.” To get your ideas moving, you first need to be able to explain your rationale and relate that to your company's objectives.

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Michele Snock, CMM
Manager, finance learning and development programs
Cisco Systems Inc.
San Jose, Calif.

PAST Snock transitioned out of the meetings industry in late April while this article was under way, but her recognition as a CMI Changemaker comes from 20 years in meetings management, most recently as Cisco's global manager, meeting services. Before Cisco, she spent six years with Advanced Micro Devices, four years with Conference Planners (now part of George P. Johnson Co.), and started her career in the hotel industry.

CRED At Cisco, Snock is credited with restructuring the meetings department as a strategic organization, with consistent processes across the globe, and tracked cost savings in 2007 of $10 million. She was a member of the Meeting Competitive Advantage Forum and served on NBTA's Groups and Meetings Committee.

SUCCESS STORY Snock recalls a 1999 speaking invitation from the Northern California chapter of Meeting Professionals International. “They wanted someone to talk about the perspective of a finance organization in relation to meetings. I thought, ‘Wow, someone thinks I have something to say.’” While that first invitation led to many more — about 20, she estimates, since 1999 — she'll always remember that initial time at the podium. “People asked a lot of questions. It was exciting.”

GIVING BACK Snock plans to use her hospitality training (before she worked as a meeting planner, she spent 10 years in the hotel industry) as a volunteer for a three-day walk for breast cancer coming up in September. She'll be working in the food service area, sleeping in a tent, helping to support the walkers. “I love to serve,” she says.

ADVICE Snock advises anyone starting a strategic meetings management program to make a business plan and get an executive sponsor. “Without it, you're really dead in the water. You have to align your initiatives with those of your company. It's about saving money.”

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