by The M&C Staff | October 01, 2017

In an industry dominated by extraordinary women, those who stand out truly are its crème de la crème. M&C 's third annual Top 25 Women in the Meetings Industry shines the spotlight on these outstanding professionals who've demonstrated extraordinary talent, leadership, creativity and advocacy in our field.

Following, we detail why these distinguished individuals (in alphabetical order) earned a place on this year's list; click here to find five repeat winners, who earned a place in our "Hall of Fame" for their consistent professional excellence.

Lindsay Arell, LEED AP
Often when people are passionate about green meetings, that enthusiasm stems from a love of the outdoors. Such is the case for Lindsay Arell. As founder of Honeycomb Strategies in Denver, sustainable programs consultant to the Colorado Convention Center and chair-elect for the Green Meeting Industry Council, Arell has lived in Colorado most of her life, and environmentalism is in her DNA.

"I grew up with it, I've lived in very outdoor areas," she says. "It just clicked."

She dove into meetings sustainability while working for the CCC in 2007, as Denver was gearing up for the Democratic National Convention. "I pitched the idea to the GM to manage the sustainability of the convention. I learned a lot fast," she says. She now helps clients all over the country green their events. "A lot of people don't want to do anything because they're scared they'll get it wrong or ask the wrong questions. I get them to look at what they can do to help."

Tammy Blount, FCDME
Tammy Blount, president & CEO of the Monterey County (Calif.) Convention & Visitors Bureau, became one of the most respected and high-profile CVB leaders in the industry by raising her hand high -- and often. "When you want to lean in and participate, there is always an opportunity in this industry," says Blount, current chair of Destinations International's board of directors. She has served on myriad committees and task forces for the organization in her nearly 30 years in the industry, including as co-chair of DI's Destination Next Task Force, launched to help DMOs survive and thrive in the future.

Her long-term involvement with DI, she says, has allowed her to keep up with the changes in this field. "We [CVBs] are far more political now and act more as community catalysts than ever before."

The greatest challenges ahead for CVBs, according to Blount, will include the growth of the sharing economy; technology and how bureaus embrace it; as well as political, safety and security issues, and the role CVBs will play, she says, "to make sure visitors, planners and their delegates feel safe in their destinations."

Karen Bolinger
In her six-year tenure as president and CEO of the Melbourne (Australia) Convention Bureau, Karen Bolinger has turned the organization into one of the most innovative and globally active. And 2017 is, arguably, the bureau's brightest: It released The Future of the Business Meetings Industry report, which delves into how content should be delivered to the increasingly sophisticated conference realm. The research was undertaken not just for its own benefit, but for the industry at large.

"The finding I valued most was that the next generation of attendees wants to meet face-to-face more than ever," says Bolinger, adding that they value more personalized experiences in less-structured environments. Her hope is that the report helps CVBs, association boards and companies consider what their clients, members and staff want from their next conference "to get the best out of the events and stay relevant."

The MCB will close out the year with another huge feather in its cap: Through its lobbying efforts, M2 Melbourne (, the first-ever offshoot of Montreal's prestigious C2MTL conference, will debut next month. Says Bolinger of the coup: "It shows that the way we do business in Melbourne is transformative and innovative, which is what C2 is all about."

Marian Bossard
Marian Bossard heads the planning team for the enormous Toy Fair trade show, which this year spanned a record 443,000 square feet of exhibit space in New York's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. But what makes the executive vice president, global market events, for the Toy Association stand out isn't so much her deft contributions to the show's success, but her contingency plans for the future.

"The future success of trade shows is not going to be measured in net square feet," she says. Even as Toy Fair has continued to grow, Bossard has created new initiatives to take it to the next level. Two years ago, she launched Play Fair -- a co-located, consumer-focused, fan-based event open to the public and -- unlike Toy Fair -- catering to families. "I think that our members' needs are changing," she notes. "If they stop doing B-to-B shows and go to B-to-C, now I've got that covered."

This year, Bossard helped to launch, a year-round resource to facilitate sales for her members well beyond the trade-show floor.

"It has to be about what the customer needs," Bossard concludes, "and you've got to keep adapting."

Doreen Burse
As vice president of global sales for Marriott International, the world's biggest hotel company, Doreen Burse leads more than 200 salespeople who book more than $7 billion annually across some 30 different brands. Her team works closely with all of the chain's biggest customers -- from national associations to global corporations.

Having been with Marriott for more than 30 years, Burse knows the finer points of the business, in lean times as well as robust market conditions. And having held positions in procurement and finance before moving to sales, she brings keen insight to critical topics such as contract negotiations -- knowledge she often shares on industry panels.

A frequent presence at meetings industry events, Burse is on the global board of trustees of the MPI Foundation; she is also a former council member of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives and a current member of GBTA, PCMA and Women in Travel & Meetings.

Trina Camacho-London
As the vice president of global sales, the Americas, for Hyatt Hotels Corp., Camacho-London is responsible for overseeing a team of 85 that is on track to generate more than $900 million in sales by year's end.

It's a role the 24-year Hyatt veteran relishes, having worked her way up the ranks at the company, which included stints in just about every department, including F&B. Her sales efforts didn't go unnoticed: She has been awarded Hyatt's Worldwide Sales Manager of the Year and three times was a member of the Worldwide Sales Teams of the Year.

"You have to be open and prepared for constant change, staying ahead of the competition, which in the hotel industry landscape has changed significantly," says Camacho-London. "You have to surround yourself with good people and to always be coming up with the next big idea."

An active member of PCMA, she is chair of Hyatt's Americas Diversity and Inclusion Council and a board member of both the Meetings Mean Business coalition and the Association Management Companies Institute.

Kathy Doyle
In the crowded field of tech customer events, only the most innovative, creative, informative and engaging conferences stand out. Since 2007, Kathy Doyle, director of global customer conferences for Cisco Live and Cisco Connect, has been pushing the envelope to ensure the tech giant's events, including its largest, Cisco Live US, ticks all those boxes and more. "It's a necessity and a part of our DNA," she says.

Among the ways Doyle and her team wowed  customers at Cisco Live US 2017 (which drew 28,000-plus  attendees) was inviting them to create their own "superhero" personas for the event,  introducing a redesigned exhibit show, launching Cisco's collaboration platform Spark and delighting them with a showstopping concert by pop superstar Bruno Mars.

When asked what she loves about the job, Doyle says, "My adrenaline is at the highest when I get to see the vision for an event come to life and know that what we create makes an impact on our customers and partners, both personally and professionally. Ninety-six percent of our attendees have a strong emotional connection with the Cisco Live brand, and that's priceless."

Carrie Freeman Parsons
It's hard to think that a company with more than 7,000 employees across numerous offices could be considered a family, but that's the goal of Dallas-based Freeman, the exhibition, experience and decorating company founded 90 years ago. Carrie Freeman Parsons, vice chair of the company, says, "It's always been very important to align the family values with the company values, and we've always been specific about what it means to work for Freeman and what our higher calling is: connecting people in meaningful ways."

A working mother, Freeman Parsons feels she brings a female touch to the leadership level of the company her grandfather started and her father now chairs. "I don't know if this is unique to me as a woman or just how I look at things," she says, "but we are giving latitude to leaders and saying you can put culture first and it might make your strategy stronger."

In recent years, Freeman Parsons has advocated for changes in how meetings are designed, rebuilding events from the ground up and eschewing the "that's how we've always done it" mentality.

"It has to start with the CEO or the board having a vision of what they want to achieve with the event and what it means to the organization overall," she says. "We might be pushing the boulder up the hill a little bit, but that's our noble quest, trying to equip clients with the best way to move forward."