• Power of Association

    FROM THE Fall 2014 ISSUE

Meeting and event associations give planners and suppliers the ability to meet others in the industry, expand their knowledge, become more successful in their careers and provide a plethora of resources. Minnesota Meetings + Events dug into 10 local chapters to find out what each is all about and which is best for you.

Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

HSMAI primarily serves those who work in sales, marketing and revenue management for the hospitality industry in order to grow business at hotels and their partners. The local chapter has about 100 members, including students from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, for whom the Minnesota organization serves as a parent chapter. “Our focus is on education that has real-world applicability,” says Jenny Heger, CHSE, president. One example is a lead-generation seminar called Mining for Virtual Gold, which allows attendees to work on their laptops and discover the tools to prospect more efficiently and dig up new leads and sales opportunities.

Heger became active in the organization when she was national sales manager with AmericInn Hotels. “I was traveling the world, but [HSMAI was] so flexible, allowing me to dial into board meetings, for example,” she says. “It’s that kind of flexibility that helped us win Chapter of the Year.” At this year’s HSMAI Mike Leven Leadership Conference, the Minnesota chapter took home seven awards, including Chapter of the Year. “We competed with chapters of all sizes, including New York, which has 500 members,” says Heger. It was only the second time in HSMAI history that a medium-sized chapter won the award, so we’re pretty thrilled.”

International Association of Exhibitions and Events Midwestern Chapter (IAEE)

“I honestly believe that if you can think of a product or service, you’ll find that there’s a trade show for it,” says Lisa Goecke, vice-chair, communications/social media committee board liaison for the Midwestern Chapter of IAEE, an association for those who conduct and support exhibitions around the world. “Our industry seems to undergo a drastic change every six months, which is a reflection of what’s going on in the marketplace,” says Goecke. “We focus on the exhibition industry, but include broader events as well. Our members are planners and suppliers, and they are given equal weight.” The group offers industry-related education programs, along with in-person quarterly networking opportunities in the Chicago area, where the Midwestern chapter is headquartered.

“We have a number of education and networking opportunities, and in January we have scheduled a just-for-fun tournament,” she says.

“This year, we played kickball in an empty McCormick Place exhibition hall.” In describing her industry, Goecke says, “You’re either bitten by the trade show bug or you aren’t, but I certainly have been. It’s so much fun to be setting up a show the night before, leave while it’s still just a sea of empty boxes, then come in the next morning and be ready for business. It’s very satisfying to see something that was planned for so long come to life.”

International Special Events Society Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter (ISES)

The largest association for creative event professionals worldwide, ISES boasts 54 chapters with 6,000 members in 25 countries. Members include planners of all types: wedding, fundraising, social, corporate and incentive event planners. “We’re all about the creative process of designing and telling stories through events, and we’re very much the celebratory event side of the business,” says Jodi Collen, CSEP, 2014-2015 ISES president-elect and director of event & conference planning at Augsburg College. “We attach to people’s emotions and tell a story from beginning to end.

“I joined ISES in 2000 when I was going through a career transition,” says Collen. “I went to a chapter meeting and I felt like I’d met my people, which sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. I started volunteering as soon as I joined and haven’t ever stopped. The organization changed the trajectory of my career early and in a huge way.”

The Midwest Society of Association Executives (MSAE)

MSAE is a community of more than 1,000 members representing associations, vendors, convention and visitor bureaus and others who work with the association community. According to Kathy Johnson, president, the average association conducts an average of more than one trade show, five conferences or conventions, almost 30 face-to-face education programs and more than 17 board or committee meetings per year. Midwest associations spend an average of $27 million annually on their conferences, conventions and meetings. MSAE provides resources and connections to associations working in partnership with the hospitality and meetings industry.

“No matter who you are or what you do, there is someone in an association working on your behalf,” says Johnson. “Everything we do is designed to help develop the association industry and enhance the association profession, while strengthening individual careers.” Johnson says she loves to quote Simon T. Bailey, the motivational keynote speaker. “He couldn’t have said it better on why I have spent my career as president at MSAE: ‘Associations are more than just a product, service or membership offering. An association is a memory, a connection and a collection of moments. Those moments together become the glue that creates something amazing.’”

Meeting Professionals International of Minnesota (MPI)

Local networking and global clout are the unique strengths of MPI, which has more than 18,500 members representing 86 countries. Committed to education, professional development and advocacy, MPI’s mission is to act as a prominent voice for the promotion and growth of the meetings and events industry. “Chapters have the autonomy to meet the needs of their local membership base, while the international organization focuses on global advocacy of the economic impact of the meetings industry,” says Tamara Olson, CMP, vice president of communications for the Minnesota Chapter of MPI. “It’s a great example of thinking globally and acting locally.” With 400-plus members in Minnesota, the local chapter is the 12th largest in the world and features an almost equal balance of suppliers to planners.

Olson is clearly enthusiastic about being a part of MPI. “Since joining, I’ve developed amazing connections, and now have a local network of dozens of people,” Olson says. “Through MPI, I’ve taken advantage of several opportunities to expand my competencies and grow professionally, enhancing my leadership skills through my work on the Chapter Board of Directors. I have to say it—I love MPI.” 

National Association for Catering and Events (NACE)

When attending a NACE meeting, it’s a no-brainer the food will be fantastic. Featuring more than 50 members in the local chapter, the organization rep-resents area caterers, event planners, hotels, country clubs and industry suppliers. Two years ago, the organization changed the last two words of its name from “Catering Executives” to “Catering and Events,” in response to the industry shifting to focus on events as a whole. In addition to a monthly meetings open to both members and nonmembers, which features great food along with budgeting, sales and marketing and trend-forward info, the local chapter was the first in the country to conduct an annual all-day conference for members.

“Since our focus is on education, we learn about trends, different serving styles, the art of plating food and incorporating different display elements from a design perspective,” says Bruce Vassar, president of the NACE Minneapolis/St. Paul Chapter. “We recently did a high tea at The St. Paul Hotel, and we’re planning our first ever golf outing, which should be hilarious because not many of us are golfers. But it will be a good opportunity to learn more about high-end corporate picnics and outdoor events during the outing.”

Society of Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE)

SITE is a global network of incentive travel and motivational event professionals with 2,000 members globally and more than 60 members in Minnesota. The organization strives for a strict 1:1 supplier-buyer ratio, with mostly national or international supplier members and Minnesota-based buyers and planners. Members have the chance to network with like-minded industry colleagues and also interact with top global suppliers who visit Minnesota regularly and attend meetings. “We’re able to offer our members a chance to link with corporate leaders who hope to improve their company’s performance with incentive travel and motivational events,” says Anne Marie Rogers, board president. “We believe strongly that those experiences can be powerful business tools to unlock and reward human potential needed to achieve corporate objectives and drive measurable business results.”

SITE boasts a Young Leaders program, designed to build the next generation of industry leaders by providing education and networking opportunities to those 35 or younger, or with less than five years of industry experience. The group also sponsors a nonprofit, Erik’s Ranch & Retreats, for young adults with autism spectrum disorders. “Our chapter is vibrant and growing,” Rogers says. “It’s a great feeling to be part of an industry organization that places an emphasis on giving back.”

Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA)

“We don’t care about being the biggest; we just want to be the best,” says Deborah Sexton, president and CEO. Headquartered in Chicago, the group represents more than 6,000 global meeting industry leaders and has more than 6,400 members in its Greater Midwest Chapter, which is one of its largest. The chapter offers educational programs, community service projects, professional recognition and CMP Study Groups to members, who are evenly split between suppliers and professionals. “We’re known for education, research and the career level of our membership,” says Sexton, who notes that 55 percent of members are directors or higher in their organization.

The organization is committed to showing the latest and most innovative ideas at PCMA meetings, as a way to allow members to see ideas in action before delivering it themselves. “We pride ourselves on being an innovation laboratory, and we do lots of different things at our annual meetings, virtual and hybrid events,” Sexton says. “Our members need to see us innovate all the time, and that certainly makes our jobs more fun.”

Society of Government Meeting Professionals Northern Lights Chapter (SGMP)

SGMP is the only national organization in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to government meetings. “We welcome planners from federal, state, county and local governments, as well as suppliers of meeting services and facilities,” says Eric Satre, the chapter’s second vice president and chair of the communications committee. The 50-member chapter holds monthly meetings at hotel venue locations and participates regularly in community service projects for organizations such as Women’s Advocates Inc. Minneapolis is the host city for the SGMP National Education Conference, slated for April 28-30, 2015.

“While SGMP provides valuable education, professional development, and leadership opportunities, it is relationships that make up the fabric of the organization,” Satre says. After joining and attending meetings for the first year, he decided that he wanted to meet more people in the organization and expand his network, so he volunteered to serve on the membership committee, and has been an active volunteer ever since. “Throughout my six years as an SGMP member, I’ve learned that chapter members really care about each other,” Satre says. “I’m happy to call them my colleagues and I’m blessed to call them my friends.”

Senior Planners Industry Network Twin Cities Branch (SPIN)

Founded six years ago by Twin Cities’ resident Shawna Suckow, SPIN is now the largest meetings and events association in the world restricted to veteran planners only. In order to join, you must be a full-time meeting planner for a minimum of 10 years. Most members tend to have 20 or more years of experience. The group, which has about 85 local members, meets quarterly for sessions that focus on education. “We did a very popular session right after Hurricane Sandy on what to do when disaster strikes,” says Linda Hurtley, Twin Cities Branch director.

The group’s membership restrictions and smaller size allow for more meaningful and personal connections. For those who crave an even more direct connection, one of SPIN’s many programs is SPIN Masterminds, which creates small groups of four to eight members that dive deep into a particular topic. “I participated in a SPIN Mastermind group for independent business owners, and it was very helpful,” Hurtley says. She’s looking forward to the SPINCon annual convention in St. Louis, Missouri on November 16-18. “It’s nothing like any other industry convention,” she says. “We try new things, turn things on their ear and learn from our successes and our failures.”

Get Connected






NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR CATERING AND EVENTS (NACE) twincitiesnace.net // 612.770.3635



SOCIETY OF INCENTIVE TRAVEL EXCELLENCE (SITE) siteminnesota.com // 952.746.3500

SPIN spinplanners.com

These interviews are part of a series that highlights new hires within the industry. Have you recently started a new role or do you know someone who has? Submit your ideas to brittany.trevick@tigeroak.com.

Alyssa Alexander was recently hired as director of catering at Hotel Allegro in Chicago.

1. What are you looking forward to the most in your new position as director of catering?


These interviews are part of a series that highlights new hires within the industry. Have you recently started a new role or do you know someone who has? Submit your ideas to brittany.trevick@tigeroak.com.

Chris Skelding was recently hired as director of sales, marketing and events for Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino in Incline Village, Nev.

1. What are you looking forward to the most in your new role as director of sales, marketing and events?


These interviews are part of a series that highlights new hires within the industry. Have you recently started a new role or do you know someone who has? Submit your ideas to brittany.trevick@tigeroak.com.

Mike DiNucci was recently hired as director of sales at DoubleTree by Hilton Phoenix North.