by The M&C Staff | July 01, 2015

 > Katherine Lugar
As president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association since 2013, Katherine Lugar has helped to grow membership to its highest point in its 100-year history. The largest trade association in the U.S. hotel industry now represents nearly half of the properties in the country.

Lugar also has advanced AH&LA's focus on advocacy. Armed with more than 20 years of experience in private-sector public affairs, she has helped place the organization at the forefront of industry discussions, such as the recent efforts to gain congressional support in the fight against the deceptive practices of online rouge vendors. In addition, she has spearheaded industry efforts to prevent human trafficking. Recognizing that traffickers might rely heavily on legitimate businesses such as hotels, she has led the charge at AH&LA to educate its members. The organization recently released guidelines to help hoteliers and their employees do their part to spot illegal activity and stop it in its tracks.

 > Heike Mahmoud, CMP
Heike Mahmoud has been working tirelessly to make Berlin a top global meetings destination since she first joined Visit Berlin as director of conventions in 2001. During her tenure, the German capital has doubled its meetings business and currently ranks fourth in the prestigious ICCA city rankings.

Mahmoud's footprint in the meetings industry extends well beyond her duties at Visit Berlin: She has served as vice president, meetings industry, and an executive board member for European Cities Marketing, where she was instrumental in organizing the first joint education initiative between ECM and Destination Marketing Association International, scheduled to take place this summer, and serves as committee chair for BestCities Global Alliance, a network of 12 global DMOs.

 > Nan Marchand Beauvois
A passionate advocate for the U.S. meetings and tourism industry, Nan Marchand Beauvois serves as vice president, national councils, for the U.S. Travel Association in Washington, D.C. In this capacity she oversees the National Council of State Tourism Directors, the National Council of Attractions and the Destination Council. She also helms the powerful Meetings Mean Business Coalition, the organization that was launched in 2009 by U.S. Travel to demonstrate the value of business meetings, travel and events to the U.S. economy.

Beauvois is general manager for U.S. Travel's Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations, a national forum for destination professionals that aims to help them better market and grow their destinations.

 > Fiona Pelham, HON, DB
For grassroots efforts to get a foothold in an industry, concerned people need to step up to the plate and make themselves heard. Fiona Pelham, whose expertise in sustainable meetings has propelled her onto the meetings industry's main stages, has done that and more. In 2005, she launched the nonprofit Positive Impact to provide education to support an earth-friendly events industry; she also serves as managing director of Manchester, U.K.-based Sustainable Events Ltd.

"For years I was a Girl Scout leader, and I saw how community events make a difference," says Pelham. "So for me, it makes sense that every event should have a positive impact on the local communities and environment."

Pelham is the voluntary chair of ISO 20121, an international standard that provides a management system for event sustainability, inspired by the practices used at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In January 2016, Pelham will become the international board chair for MPI.


> Pat Schaumann, CMP, CSEP, DMCP, HMCC
When it comes to planning meetings in the health-care industry, Pat Schaumann wrote the book -- literally. Her Breaking the Code to Healthcare Compliance, now in its third edition, is the standard text on which certification courses in the field have been based. She also serves as director, professional development, health-care sector, for MPI.

Having worked for years as a planner, in 2009 Schaumann founded the International Medical Meeting Planners Association. Two years ago, MPI purchased IMMPA and its burgeoning health-care compliance certification course, devised by Schaumann; between July 2014 and the beginning of this year, more than 300 people took the course.

Schaumann also is working to fill the technology void that addresses the ever-changing codes and planner reporting requirements. She recently teamed up with BusyEvent Mobile to release My Compliance Wizard, an online resource of codes, regulations and laws in 196 countries.

 > Debi Scholar, CMP, CMM, CTE, GLP
One of a handful of experts whose names invariably are mentioned in any discussion of strategic meetings management, Debi Scholar helped to define SMM programs and was an early champion while a meetings director at PricewaterhouseCoopers and a committee co-chair at the Global Business Travel Association. She further pursued this effort in conjunction with her own Scholar Consulting Group, and then as a meetings director with American Express.

Scholar has remained at the forefront of SMM education as a coach and mentor. Since accepting the role last year of global leader and director of virtual meetings for a major pharmaceutical company, she has continued to serve the industry in her spare time by volunteering to help associations, corporations and suppliers with their SMM efforts. She has authored four books about meetings and events.

 > Deborah Sexton, FASAE
For some 30 years, Deborah Sexton (second from left in photo) has worked tirelessly for the meetings and conventions industry, for the past decade serving as president and CEO of the Professional Convention Management Association in Chicago. Previously, she was president of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau and earlier ran her own marketing consultancy for hotel management firms.

In her role at PCMA, Sexton is the leader of a prominent 6,500-member organization with chapters throughout North America, but her influence extends even further. She is a ferocious advocate of education, both within and about the industry. PCMA's own events serve as experimental testing grounds for a variety of education formats, while Sexton has been a vocal industry advocate via the Meetings Mean Business Coalition. When she talks, people listen.

 > Fay Sharpe
Fay Sharpe is the founder and managing director of Zibrant, one of the largest meeting firms in the U.K., and recognized by Britain's The Times in 2014 and 2015 as one of the best 50 places for women to work. Sharpe's commitment to raising women's role in the industry extends beyond her own boardroom: She launched Fast Forward 15, a mentoring initiative for women seeking careers in meetings. Endorsed by several industry organizations, the program selects 15 women (150 applied this first year) and pairs them with senior women in the industry for a year (mentors include Sharpe's fellow Top 25 list honoree Sallie Coventry).

Sharpe created Fast Forward 15 because "though 70 percent of our industry is made up of women, only 25 to 30 percent hold senior positions." She intends to open it up to international participants next year.

 > Martha Sheridan
Martha Sheridan is Rhode Island through and through. She grew up in the state, graduated from its eponymous university and early in her career worked at the Providence-Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau. This was followed by a six-year stint in sales at the Newport County Convention and Visitors Bureau before she returned to the PWCVB in 2006, now as president and CEO.

"I hope my mark is felt each and every day in the form of job retention and creation for Rhode Islanders," says Sheridan, who also served as president of DMAI. "With each event we book and every visitor we convince to visit, hardworking members of our hospitality industry are able to support their families and their community."


> Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC
A speaker, consultant, hospitality and events industry trainer, and president/chief connecting officer for Thrive! Meetings & Events, Tracy Stuckrath's true calling was born from personal experience. Upon discovering she was allergic to yeast, Stuckrath successfully eliminated it from her diet. Her next challenge was to eat heathfully  when traveling for the events she planned, a task she eventually mastered.

"Few planning and F&B professionals know how to address the needs of people with dietary restrictions," says Stuckrath. So she now works to educate venues and planners on how to do that while serving safe, delicious and nutritious food for all at events.