by M&C Staff | October 01, 2017

The following women, seasoned professionals in the meetings world whose accomplishments are legion, would invariably appear year after year on any "top" list in our industry, hence M&C's decision to recognize them as perennial leaders. 




Carina Bauer

A chat with Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, a few weeks before IMEX Americas was set to open, amazingly did not find her frazzled or harried by a to-do list as long as her arm. Echoing an overarching industry topic, she is focused on bringing events into the 21st century, advocating for IMEX's theme, "Purposeful Meetings."

IMEX will release research on the event's Smart Monday, Oct. 9, in Las Vegas, about how to work health and well being, sustainability, technology, behavioral science and meeting design into events. "We're breaking it down to help people wrap their heads around it," says Bauer. "You can have a lot of fun with these elements. Too often we do things because we've done them before, so we want to shift that conversation a little bit."

A force behind IMEX since 2002, Bauer recognizes how great the meetings industry is for women. "You're not in a minority -- that makes a big difference," she says. "We did do some research with one of our German meeting partners on this, and what started as a little survey ended up with 1,000 respondents. That told us how important these issues are to the industry. Having seen the responses, there still is some work in this industry in terms of making sure there are enough female role models and encouraging younger women to go for leadership positions."

Nan Marchand Beauvois

With her three roles at U.S. Travel -- vice president, national councils; general manager of ESTO (the Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations), and managing director of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition -- Nan Marchand Beauvois continues to be a major voice and advocate for the travel and meetings industry. 

Marchand not only launched Global Meetings Industry Day in 2016 -- dedicated to showcasing the power of meetings, conventions, exhibitions and incentives through advocacy events -- she has seen it grow to include 122 events held at 106 locations in 35 countries in only its second iteration, held on April 6 of this year. "We had great support in North and South American, but also in Poland, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia - all first-time supporters," she notes, adding that this year's GMID included a radio tour in seven markets. 
The event's social media campaign this past year was impressive, too, garnering more than 40 million online impressions, including 10,000 tweets using the event hashtag. "What was encouraging was the increased engagement with elected officials at many events championing the industry, as well as increased collaboration and engagement with multiple industry groups partnering together on joint events," Marchand says.

Other recent achievements include signing Canada as the first Meetings Mean Business Coalition licensee based on the U.S. organization that Marchand helms and which aims to demonstrate the value of business meetings, travel and events to the U.S. economy. She'd like to see even more countries form their own MMBC. "We have been approached by several countries, and the conversations are ongoing," she says. "All of this is happening organically, and I credit the awareness that GMID has gained for Meetings Mean Business' work and the interest these countries have in establishing similar organizations in their countries."

Debi Scholar

"I love to learn as much as I can," says Debie Scholar, by way of explaining how she finds the time to pursue a designation as a social media specialist in addition to her day job and role as a strategic meetings management coach. 

But the SMM coach and expert has her hands full. As global director, virtual technologies, meetings, congresses and events, for a global pharmaceutical firm, she continues to push the meetings-management envelope and develop new, unique solutions in that highly regulated sector. Recently, she collaborated with industry peers to facilitate the integration of three major tech software providers -- including Cvent and two enterprise platforms commonly used in the pharma and life sciences industries -- who hadn't previously partnered with one another. "I realized it was a solution that could truly benefit all pharmas," she explains.

Scholar also has been guiding a well-known philanthropic organization to develop an SMM program -- a project she began a decade ago and is proud to be bringing to reality. "It's a case study on how tenacity toward a goal can improve an organization's ability to optimize the money they receive," she says.

Scholar has long been known as an SMM pioneer, practitioner and educator, and she continues to spread that gospel. Several months ago -- when she realized there wasn't enough year-round peer sharing on the topic -- she launched an SMMP Slack group ( There she shares the latest chapters from her SMMP Toolkit book and uses the platform to discuss experiences and best practices. It's all about advancing the industry -- interested planners and meetings managers can simply request to join. 

Deborah Sexton

"We need to be a little less risk-averse and a little more innovative as an industry," posits Deborah Sexton -- a notion that has clearly influenced her 12-year tenure as president and CEO of the Professional Convention Management Association. The organization's principal annual gathering, Convening Leaders, has become a living laboratory of ideas, an opportunity to experiment with different event technologies, learning philosophies and session formats. Each year, Sexton acknowledges the work in progress, encouraging attendees to take the best ideas back to their day jobs and put them into action in the real world.

The 30-year industry veteran is particularly excited about PCMA's latest initiative to raise the status of its members and the awareness of the work they do, because the future of the industry, she says, is dependent on acknowledging this "next level" of planning -- in the form of the "business events strategist." 

"These are people who are coming at events in a different way," Sexton notes. "They understand engagement strategy, audience acquisition, revenue development, meeting design and strategic planning. They have a strong financial acumen -- they're looking at event budgets in the context of how they fit into an organization's overall strategy."

PCMA execs began using the term "business event strategist" at last year's annual meeting, but this coming January, says Sexton, they'll be launching the initiative in force. Sexton compares forthcoming education on the topic to getting a master's degree in meeting design. And a crucial facet of the movement is based on Sexton's long-held belief that the industry must raise the profile of the occupation. "We need to get to universities," she says, "specifically in their marketing and business-school programs, and alert them to the fact this is a huge, exciting career, with a strong future."

Melissa Van Dyke

In her eight years as president of the Incentive Research Foundation, Melissa Van Dyke has transformed the organization into a research powerhouse. This year alone, the IRF launched 17 different projects and released 12 white papers, with the information shared via platforms including webcasts, daily tweets, infographics and a mobile app. 

Van Dyke continues to look for ways to better serve the incentive community. Last month, her organization launched a new event, the Leadership Insights Forum, which targeted high-end executives bearing responsibilities for engagement and motivation and gave them exclusive access to new IRF research.

"When I took this job, that is what I wanted most for our industry: a continuous, respected, insightful source of research to help ensure that anytime we're walking into our client or stakeholder's office we have recent, relevant information to help make the program better," says Van Dyke. "When a program gets better, we all win -- and it takes good data to make that happen."