by Michael J. Shapiro | December 04, 2017
Deborah Sexton, who has served as CEO of the Professional Convention Management Association for more than 12 years, will step down after the annual Convening Leaders meeting in January. She will be succeeded by current COO Sherrif Karamat.
 
Sexton elected to move on from the association and shared her decision with the board of directors at its September meeting, according to the organization. The board then voted unanimously to approved Karamat as the CEO, effective Jan. 19, 2018. Karamat and Sexton have worked together since 2005.
 
PCMA has grown to more than 6,000 members and 50,000 subscribers under Sexton, more than doubling its membership and revenue. During her tenure, the organization has focused heavily on educational programs, experimental formats and senior-level networking at its key industry events. The association has also adjusted along with the evolving role of the planner, and in 2018 will intensify its focus on its members as "business-events strategists," a role that incorporates the skills of event design, engagement and strategy.
 
"Deborah's passion, boundless energy and her hunger to continuously innovate have resulted in tremendous growth and progress both for the organization and the industry," said PCMA board chair Mary Pat Heftman, who is executive vice president of convention and strategic alliances at the National Restaurant Association. "We could not be more grateful for her dedicated leadership, driving strategic plans that make PCMA the leader in our industry."
 
Sexton also has served as president of the PCMA Education Foundation and publisher of PCMA's Convene magazine. She and Karamat have helped to expand the organization's global reach and increase the role of the Education Foundation. Under Sexton's leadership, the foundation has more than tripled its support of scholarships, research and education programs. Among other highlights of Sexton's tenure at the organization are the rebranding of the annual meeting into Convening Leaders, as well as the acquisition of the Digital Experience Institute and attention to online technology and hybrid events.
 
"It has been a privilege to serve PCMA," said Sexton. "This organization continues to lead the way in the business-events industry due to the dedication of our staff, the leadership of our board and wisdom of our membership. Having worked alongside Sherrif for more than a decade, I have great confidence in the future of PCMA under his leadership."
 
Karamat started with PCMA in 2003 as vice president of sales. He became COO in April 2008. Before working with PCMA, he was vice president of business sales and services for the Toronto Convention and Visitors Association, during which tenure he was active in PCMA as a member and volunteer. "I am honored to succeed such an inspiring leader, and I'm appreciative of the board's vote of confidence," he said. "Because of the strong foundation that has been established by Deborah's leadership, I know we will build upon this great platform." 
 
Sexton plans to launch a consultancy in the coming year, and to share her experience with others who strive to incorporate innovative solutions to advance the industry.