by M&C Staff | October 01, 2016

 • Mary Pat Heftman
"In my job, I get to live at the intersection of two incredibly inspiring industries: hospitality and conventions," says Mary Pat Heftman, executive vice president, convention and strategic alliances, for the National Restaurant Association. Her enthusiasm has remained intact since she joined the organization in 1990 and rose through its ranks, becoming a recognized leader in the trade show arena.

Today, Heftman is the force behind the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show -- the largest food and beverage exhibition in the world -- which spans four days and attracts about 70,000 attendees from 100 countries.

"My goal every year is to advance the prominence of the show as the one place where every level and segment of the restaurant, food service and hospitality industries can come together with their peers to get a first look at the latest products, solutions, ideas, and information that will advance both their business and professional growth," she says.

Heftman also serves as chair-elect of the Professional Convention Management Association, where her goal is "to provide leadership with our board of directors, staff and members to ensure we provide appropriate education and engagement opportunities so that business event strategists can realize their potential."

 • Liz King
As founder of New York City-based Liz King Events, King considers herself an event-planning superhero, a queen of details and a tech geek -- all titles she has proudly earned.

King launched her company in 2009 while still running events full time for Columbia University. In 2011, she held the first PlannerTech, a one-day conference to educate industry professionals on how to better integrate technology into live gatherings. The annual event -- now called #techsytalk LIVE -- is a real-life expression of her impressive social media influence and mission to abolish boring meetings.

She also shares lots of how-to content and event best practices online at

Though known as a meetings tech guru, King has expanded her focus by launching a podcast for which she interviews industry leaders about all kinds of meetings-related topics. "I believe the events industry is incredibly powerful but needs to be taken more seriously," she says. "I hope I can inspire thought leadership around this issue and help raise the profile of our industry."

 • Amy Ledoux, CAE, CMP
"I feel that after 30 years in the industry, this is the most exciting period in my career," says Amy Ledoux. The senior vice president of meetings, expositions and events for the Washington, D.C.-based American Society of Association Executives is referring to the launch of ASAE's inaugural Xperience Design Project. To take place in May 2017, the two-day confab will connect association professionals and industry partners who have shared meetings-related challenges and inspire them -- through a highly innovative and interactive meeting design -- to co-create solutions.

Throughout her career, Ledoux has planned meetings all over the world, including the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. At ASAE, where she has worked for more than 12 years, she and her nine-person team are responsible for more than 40 educational programs, six major conferences and three large trade shows annually. She is especially bullish on so-called experiential events, gatherings that seek to provide more meaningful experiences to attendees.

Ledoux is determined to help associations create better meetings because, she says, "their members, in turn, make the world a better place."

 • Lyn Lewis-Smith
The CEO of Business Events Sydney was ahead of the curve when she began to focus on key international markets with a natural business or research base in the destination. Her goal: to boost the Australian city's meeting and convention bookings.

Back in November 2013, she told M&C: "Destinations that will be the leaders in the next decade will be those that are strategic and can prove that hosting a conference there permits industry-specific learning experiences and connections that will lead to legacies that extend far beyond the closing ceremony."

In the years since, BESydney has secured a steady pipeline of business -- maintaining its ICCA ranking as the top Australian city for large multinational events -- and garnering advance group bookings for the International Convention Center Sydney, set to open at year's end.

Most recently, Lewis-Smith, who also is president of the Australian Association of Convention Bureaus, had BESydney commission a series of reports that highlight the many ways meetings boost the local economy and help local residents.

 • Kathy Maher
If résumés could talk, Kathy Maher's could give a keynote at any meetings-industry gathering. The hospitality veteran has held management positions at both Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International, and is now senior vice president, global sales and revenue, for the Wyndham Hotel Group. She also is affiliated with Meeting Professionals International.  

Last year, Maher was charged with overseeing the strategic development of Wyndham's revenue management function globally, with a focus on identifying strategic opportunities for accelerating the company's revenue growth at some 7,800 properties worldwide. She also was tasked with creating innovative sales strategies for a global sales team of 125 salespeople under her direction.

"It's an incredibly exciting time to lead Wyndham's global sales and revenue organization," Maher says. "These are two disciplines that in the past have been considered separate operating groups, and we are approaching it from a new perspective.

"As a woman," Maher adds, "that perspective is even more unique. I always try to lead with self-assurance, team spirit and empathy in all that I do, in hopes that I can help the next generation of leaders. Barriers are breaking down every day."

 • Nan Marchand Beauvois
Any one job for the U.S. Travel Association could be all-consuming, but Nan Marchand Beauvois has three: vice president, national councils; general manager of ESTO (Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations); and managing director of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition. In these multiple roles, she continues to raise the profile of the meetings industry, earning a spot on this list for a second year.

Among Marchand's accomplishments this year was the launch of the inaugural Global Meetings Industry Day on April 14. The event, which aims to showcase the power of meetings, conventions, exhibitions and incentives through advocacy events and rallies, was even more successful than expected: More than 100 events in 30-plus countries were hosted by MMB partners to mark the day, and the #GMID16 hashtag received almost 30 million impressions. Marchand is now planning the second GMID.

Among Marchand's goals going forward is to better connect with planners and help resolve their challenges. "We need to figure out how we can be of value to them and what resources we can supply."