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Vice President, Strategic Meetings Management
SunTrust Bank

PAST Harris has been working in various facets of the meetings industry for the past 16 years, starting in special event sales, then moving to catering, and convention space and hotel sales. Her first corporate meeting planning job “involved handling soup to nuts, but I quickly moved to specialize in the site selection, contracting, and negotiation of meetings and events. As a sourcing manager on a consolidation account, that’s when I began to understand the thought process around consolidation and supplier management.

CRED Since 2000, Harris has worked with several Fortune 500 companies on various components of their strategic meetings management programs. Then in 2005, she brought the SMM concept to SunTrust as a consultant. “I was able to build the business case that not only earned the approval for the SMMP, but also created my current position to develop and execute the program companywide.”

“I did not apply for my current role; I created it. I was able to put together a business case to show the ROI in bringing me on as a full-time consultant. In the consultant role, I was also able to move a decentralized organization to a centralized SMM strategy.”

HIGHLIGHTS “I was passionate that an SMMP was the right direction for the company, and I would say that seeing the program grow and gain compliance and momentum (which resulted in a 20 percent savings in year two) was one of the greatest highlights of my career.”

LOOKING AHEAD “Over the next few years, I see my focus concentrated on the ROI and overall value of meetings to the organization. I envision many opportunities for me to share the successes and challenges I have met along my path in SMM and to assist other companies in building strategy for a successful program or to retool an existing program for greater impact or increased adoption.”

KUDOS In 2010, Harris was among the first 29 people to earn the Global Business Travel Association’s new strategic meetings management certification (SMMC). She also joined GBTA’s Groups and Meetings Committee. Since then, she has spoken at various conferences, instructed classes on SMM, and become an SMMC educator.

ADVICE “Build strong relationships with both your peers and suppliers alike. This industry is a close-knit community with a wealth of knowledge. Be open to learn from your relationships, but most of all, share what you have learned with others.”—Barbara Scofidio