by The M&C Staff | October 01, 2017

Caryn Taylor Lucia
Starting her career with financial services firm SEI with managing just two staffers who "planned a few sales meetings and managed a few trade shows for the year," Caryn Taylor Lucia, now vice president of corporate event marketing, helms a team of 19 and has become an integral part of the company's strategic vision and overall success. Taylor Lucia notes her group now handles roughly 500 projects a year, organizing everything from face-to-face marketing events and extraordinary client experiences to leading the company's employee recognition program. And now she is working with SEI's business units to raise the bar for client experiences. "Next month, I will celebrate my 24th year at SEI," she says. "I know I am one of the fortunate few that love their job."

Somehow, Taylor Lucia also finds time to serve on the board of directors for Financial & Insurance Conference Planners and as chair of the FICP 2017 Annual Conference, which will take place Nov. 12-15 in San Diego.

Theresa Thomas
When Theresa Thomas landed at risk-management firm iJET from the meetings world seven years ago, she was struck by how much more focus on risk there was in transient travel than in meetings and events. "Obviously, meetings and events have at least the same, if not greater, risk with respect to their attendees vs. the solo business traveler," she says. "But getting the message across to planners has been a slower evolution when compared to travel managers."

Why? "Most of the time, planners tend to assume that the event venue has responsibility," says Thomas, senior vice president of Powered by iJET, iJET International. But in too many cases, she adds, planners aren't really doing their due diligence to ensure the venue has things covered. Executives realize this needs to change, Thomas notes, and planners can benefit themselves and their organizations by stepping up collaborative preparedness efforts.

"I think they're in the perfect position to lead the way," says Thomas. "From the RFP to post-event support, planners really are in control of a lot of the interaction and information exchange with respect to attendees. One size doesn't fit all for every meeting, but I think planners will play a really key role in getting their organizations up to speed."

Leonora Valvo
As a founder and the original CEO of Etouches, Leonora Valvo played an integral role in forging the event-tech landscape as we know it today. Now, as director of the event-registration platform Swoogo, she's striving to modify a blueprint for the future.

Valvo co-founded Etouches and served as CEO for its first five years, helping to create software in the cloud before such solutions existed. But as companies like Etouches and Cvent have, in recent years, gobbled up complementary tools and competitors alike, Valvo has developed an alternate vision for tomorrow's event tech.

"Building everything, trying to be all things to all people -- that's not really the future of software in general," she says. "The future is to have really focused, really good products that are API-driven and well-connected from a data point of view." In other words, the ideal tools are highly specialized but also easily integrated with one another.

Yet, being easily integrated wasn't enough for Valvo, who foresaw a solution in which planners could have multiple best-in-class vendors committed to working together. That was the genesis of Event Tech Tribe, a coalition of six event-tech vendors -- two co-founded by Valvo, including Swoogo, which she runs, and another in which she was an early investor. "It isn't just about data integration," she says, "but also about the leaders being aligned. We have to be transparent with each other. It requires a very trusting environment."

The Tribe even runs a customer-success Slack channel, in which each company has a representative. So customers are never sent away from one supplier to another to have their problems solved; each company is committed to ensuring the optimal customer experience.

"This is the future of software in general," says Valvo. "This is the enterprise killer."

Carrie Westergard
For the past three years, Carrie Westergard has served as executive director of the Boise (Idaho) Convention & Visitors Bureau, where she is responsible for overseeing, planning and directing the operations and programming for the CVB. Under her aegis, the city has upped its game as a meeting and convention destination through customized targeted marketing programs, social media and public relations outreach, as well as special events.

Vogue, which named Boise to its list of the 10 Hottest Travel Destinations of 2017, said the locale is "quietly setting itself up to be one of America's most desirable second-tier cities."

"I believe we are able to offer more marketing and pubic relations services to our clients that are of value and meaningful to them," says Westergard, a member of ASAE and who in 2016 was named one of Idaho Business Review's Women of the Year honorees. "But we have to consistently educate our partners and constituents about our value and what we do. The best part is when groups come to Boise for the first time and are surprised by everything we have to offer." 
To read about the five outstanding women who made M&C's Top Women in the Meetings Industry Hall of Fame, go online to