We want to be the highlight of our clients’ day,” says Mary Ellen Brennan, account supervisor at StoneArch Meetings in Minneapolis, of her professional ethos.

Brennan never intended to be in the meetings industry. Born in North Dakota as the youngest of 10 children, Brennan initially had dreams of an acting career. After obtaining her theater arts degree from Moorhead State University, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked as a receptionist while auditioning for theater roles. Her next job was at a movie distribu- tion company, where she worked on VHS distribution of Nightmare on Elm Street. Later, as a “D-girl” (development girl) at NBC Productions, Brennan was made an associate producer for one of the first movies NBC produced. She worked in that capacity for the next seven years. “It was a really great learning experi- ence,” she says. “I got really lucky.”

When LA became incompatible with her family life, Brennan moved in 1990 to Minnesota, where she finally found her niche in meetings and events. “I love people. I’m energized by talking to people, by helping them find solutions and connect,” says Brennan, who has been at StoneArch Meetings for eight years now. She acts as a liaison between production and creative for clients. Her role also includes relationship building, speech coaching and content development. A key part of her approach is making people laugh.

“I bring humor to every meeting. Whether a serious or not-so-serious subject, humor helps diffuse things and bond us together,” she says. “In our business, if you’re going to spend 18 hours in a ballroom together, day after day, you got to have fun together, you have to enjoy each other, you have to respect each other. The entire meeting team has that philosophy.”

Brennan isn’t the kind of person who sits behind a desk. The avid scuba diver and mother of four sons travels so frequently—three-fourths of the year—that she’s a Platinum SkyMiles Medallion member on Delta. “I think that helps in our work to see different cultures,” she says. No matter how great the adven- ture, Brennan always comes back to Minnesota to provide her client list—which includes industry heavy- weights like Medtronic, Optos and International Dairy Queen—with memorable experiences and personal- ized attention.

Over 400 association executives, staff and members of the hospitality community connected at the Associations North Solutions Conference at Mystic Lake Center on June 13-14. The conference consisted of the Annual Meeting & Expo, a Cornholapalooza (bean bag tournament) and a Golf Classic, and an open-concept trade show.

 

A firm understanding of her own goals has pushed Sydney Wolf to the top of her game.