ELEVATE! Speakers & Sessions


ELEVATE! Speakers & Sessions

Keynote Details

Activate your Voice: Lessons from a White House Speechwriter

Join Sarah in a fireside chat where she will reveal the secrets to activating your voice. She will share concrete tips and strategies to leveraging your voice to influence your desired outcome and communicate effectively. She will even incorporate experiences from her time as the head speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama. Don't miss this opportunity to build an arsenal of tools to elevate your own storytelling.

About Sarah

Sarah Hurwitz was a White House speechwriter from 2009 to 2017, starting out as a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama and then serving as head speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama. Sarah worked with Mrs. Obama to craft widely-acclaimed addresses and traveled with her across America and to five continents. Before working at the White House, Sarah was a senior speechwriter for President Obama’s 2008 campaign; chief speechwriter for Hillary Clinton during her 2008 presidential primary campaign; deputy chief speechwriter for Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign; deputy chief speechwriter for General Wesley Clark’s primary campaign; and a speechwriter for Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. Sarah was also a lawyer at the Washington, DC office of WilmerHale. Sarah is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She was a spring 2017 Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, and she is currently working on a book about Judaism.

About Kelsey

Kelsey is a believer in doing life differently. She co-founded davies + dixon at the vibrant age of 24 in 2014. Now as president, she’s led the company to grow by 40% every year, employed a boundary-pushing team, worked with many familiar names in the industry and spoke on several regional panels. She was named 2016 Supplier of the Year Award from Smart Meetings, PCMA Convene's 2016 Best in Show and MeetingsNet 2017 Watch List. She has also been appointed to the Association for Women in Events 2019-2020 board of directors. Prior to launching the davies + dixon brand, she chalked up other “hats off” moments in her career, like having her success as a field sales manager with mark., by Avon highlighted in national media. An industry native with a Bachelor's (and Student of the Year Award) in tourism and events management from George Mason University, her career launchpad representing a luxury golf resort involved partnering with local visitors bureaus to lead regional sales efforts, strengthen client engagement and improve marketing strategy. An East Coast USA original and West Coast transplant, she now embraces the “digital nomad” lifestyle while traveling and managing davies + dixon from anywhere in the world.

About Robin

Public speaking is a fear for most people. Robin Hylton's responsibility is to ensure all Toastmaster clubs are operating at the highest level of inspiration and offering an invaluable educational experience for its members. 

Session Details

Social Media in Crisis Communication

Whether you’ve got battle scars from past experiences or are currently preparing plans to combat crises, understanding the role of social media within event crises is critical. This session explores how to use social media communications with attendees and beyond via real life event examples and practice scenarios.

So what?
1. Learn tactical tidbits and outcomes from real-life experience in utilizing social media communications in crises
2. Build and source a social media crisis communication plan that makes sense for your event
3. Work with your peers within realistic crisis scenarios to practice solution-oriented proactive and reactive responses utilizing social media

Session Details

Storytelling Through Public Speaking

Storytelling can transform the way you communicate your message. This session will walk you through effective communication strategies taught in Toastmasters International Educational Programs worldwide. You'll learn how to recognize your brand, translate it into a story and enhance your public speaking skills.

So what?
1. How to recognize and own your brand
2. How storytelling results in effective communication
3. How to enhance your public speaking skills through storytelling

About Michelle

Michelle leads program development and strategy for ECPAT-USA’s private sector work. She advises companies on corporate social responsibility efforts to
protect children from trafficking. ECPAT-USA partners including American Airlines, CWT, Delta Air Lines, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Uber, Marriott International, and Hilton Worldwide. She has contributed to Congressional testimony, presented to the World Economic Forum, Institute of Medicine, and
the White House National Action Plan on Responsible Business. 

Michelle wrote the American Hotel and Lodging Association Educational Institute’s e-learning module to combat human trafficking in the hospitality industry. She has been interviewed on her work by CNN, the New York Times, Thomson Reuters and Forbes, among other publications. She was named a Changemaker by MeetingsNet, a Hero by MeetGreen, and one of the Top 500 People in Events for Social Responsibility by BizBash. Michelle received her Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University’s School of Social Work with a focus in international social work and social policy. She was recently appointed to the United States Department of Transportation's Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking.

Keynote Details

Human Trafficking: Your role in fighting it!

Join Michelle in a thoughtful and vibrant discussion about the role hospitality professionals and the tourism sector in combatting the issue of human trafficking. She will share insights about how to build awareness in our teams, and impart the knowledge and tools necessary to help you become activists against this terrible trade.

About Nancy

Nancy DeBrosse began her career in the meetings and events industry in 1986 when she began working in sales for Projection, Inc. an audio visual/production company based in the Washington, DC area. The majority of Nancy’s career has been on the sales and marketing side
of the business; however she has also spent several years overseeing operations teams both pre-events and on show site. In the final years at Projection, Nancy was Vice President of Sales and Marketing. She has experience working events for some of the largest associations in the country.  Early in her career, Nancy became very active in the industry by joining PCMA, ASAE, IAEE and MPI. She has served on many local and national committees and boards and has been President of both the DC Chapters of PCMA and IAEE. She served on the PCMA National Board of Directors from 2014-2016. Nancy was recognized in 2010 as PCMA’s Outstanding Member to a Chapter.

Nancy has worked for Experient since 2008 when she was hired as the VP in the Washington, DC office overseeing the Strategic Account Management team. After four years, Nancy was promoted to Sr. VP of Strategic Account Management. Together with her team of experts in the industry, Experient works with over 500 clients annually helping to produce some of the largest events in the association and tradeshow markets. Nancy has also been involved with Experient’s global initiative to work with international meetings held in the United States as well as assisting Experient’s clients wanting to meet overseas. Nancy has a great passion for the meetings industry as well as a passion for mentoring the younger generation entering the industry.

About Tahira

Tahira is a curious event producer, passionate about intentional event design and the integration of now ubiquitous technology to enhance the human experience at events and everyday. This knowledge is shared in her book and in ongoing blog posts and industry contributions, including several sections in the 9th edition of the CIC Manual which provides the framework for the CMP studies and frequent speaker.

Tahira is committed to the industry and has been recognized for a range of contributions, including a Top 20 Trendsetters by MeetingsToday (2018) and honored as MPI BC Chapter Mentor of the Year. In 2016, she was named a MeetingsNet Changemaker, In 2015 she was named one of the “ Top 5 Women in Event Technology ” and inducted into the Meetings Canada Hall of Fame in the Big Idea category.

Driven by a fascination with what we are learning about neuroscience and the power of the five senses to enhance memory, knowledge retention and improve connections, she is continually seeking appropriate ways to design the most relevant meeting and event environments. An instructor at BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) she instructs both Special Event Planning and Sustainable Event Management. Tahira also loves travel, cooking, time with her family, and anything with bubbles!

Session Details

Nancy will be hosting a Q&A with the luncheon Keynote, Michelle Guelbart 

Experient has focused on combatting human trafficking and is working with ECPAT-USA.

Session Details

Crawl, Climb, Claw, Cruise: Design Your Journey

Nobody said it was going to be easy, this thing called life. Everyone has their own journey to follow as we weave together career and family, continuing education and taking care of ourselves, and often others close to us. It isn’t always a clear climb to the top, and sometimes it feels more like sheer mountain face, but the twists and turns are what makes it worthwhile. Come, explore with me!

So what?

  1. Education and certification options
  2. Map your own career milestones present and future
  3. Create a support network plan

About Sarah & Courtney

Sarah & Courtney have championed sexual harassment preventative measures for event professionals. Their 10-step action plan has given meeting professionals real, tangible tools they can implement into their meeting or event. They have received industry wide coverage and recognition for the tools they share with event organizers. Their session was rated in the top 5 at MPI's 2018 World Education Congress in Indianapolis.

Session Details

#MeetingsToo - How To Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Meetings & Events Industry

#MeToo: two words that have sparked a powerful national movement, from Hollywood to Corporate America to the technology sector and beyond. In this session, Sarah and Courtney will shed light on sexual harassment in the meetings and events industry and share some actionable steps organizations and individuals can take to get ahead of the issue.

About Dahlia

Dahlia has an OMG-attitude about all things tech and audience engagement solutions. With more than a decade of experience in the meetings and events sector, working on both the professional planning side and as an association collaborator, Dahlia is known as the coffee-fueled ‘go-to’ source for trend-setting solutions, tech news, and social media expertise.

Her mission is to untether the busy professional from their desktop and office and enable them to be more efficient and productive working from a beach in Mexico [umbrella drink in hand] through their mobile device utilizing smart solutions and apps.

Recently featured in: Top 500 People in Events by BizBash; Smart Meetings magazine 2017 and 2018 Top 100 smartest women in the meetings industry who inspire us; the top 25 women in the meetings industry list by Meetings & Conventions Magazine; the top 20 of the #eventprofs US & Canada Power 100 List; the top Five Women in Event Tech List. Dahlia was also selected to be one of MeetingsNet's 2015 Changemakers and named a Meetings Today Magazine's Trendsetter & Industry mover & shaker. She is an Evernote aficionado, speaks globally on meetings and events technology, new-and-upcoming technology solutions and platforms. and Her mission is to empower event professionals with practical intel on everything tech related and educate them on the emerging digital innovation opportunities to elevate their events and audience engagement.

About Marie-Claire

As current AWE vice president and past board member, she has taken on numerous roles within the organization, from strategizing blog content to developing the Hall of Fame, from managing the website to sourcing new partnership and initiatives on behalf of AWE. All of her roles help ensure AWE is fulfilling its mission to provide professional advancement of women in all facets of the events industry. Aside from getting the job done, she goes the extra mile and is efficient in all aspects of her work. She consistently contributes problem-solving ideas and solutions and is not afraid to challenge an idea or process to ensure we are showing up the best possible way and providing the positive disruption expected of AWE. She’s also given a new voice and perspective to AWE with her affiliation and involvement in the tech industry. She is CEO of Event Tech Tribe, CSO of EventOPS and founder of ShowGizmo.

Session Details

Starting a Movement: Making it happen with what you have in front of you right now

Movements ignite action and advance your mission. Getting started may seem daunting, yet even if you don’t have a celebrity powering your crusade, you have the potentially untapped power of your community of grassroots advocates, aligned speakers and the collaborating partners who desire to be aligned with your Movement.

Join this high-energy, big-picture team (Dahlia El Gazzar & Marie-Claire Andrews) for an out-of-your-seats presentation and discussion that will leave you energized to start your own movement - whatever that could be.

So what?

  1. Identify who the most important person in a movement actually is (sneak preview; It Ain't You!)
  2. Gain skills to begin building your own movement community - when the world's your oyster (or, Think Big, Baby!)
  3. Identify when to start, when to push and when to step back

About Jon'll

Jon’ll Boyd enjoyed a successful career in sales and marketing before embarking on her venture, as the CEO of Completely Yours Events​. Her educational background and corporate planning experience led her to the fateful decision to pursue her own business after ​being unexpectedly downsized from her corporate career.​ Certified through ​Lovegevity The Wedding Institute​, Jon’ll first ensured that she was completely prepared for her new and exciting role. Today, she leads a team of ​four Lead Event Planners managing over ​65 events each year.

Jon’ll Boyd has spoken with countless industry professionals on business strategies, wedding start-ups, and marketing. Boyd has spoken to such organizations as Ladies DC, Cheryl Wood Empowers, Northern Virginia Community College, Prince George Community College, Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement, and the National Association of Catering and Events – Greater Washington DC Chapter. In addition to planning and teaching, she also has become the go to event expert at numerous speaking engagements for corporations, organizations, and event industry professionals.

About Brad

Brad Weaber, Principal of the Brad Weaber Consulting Group is a thirty plus year industry leader with a multi-faceted career in the meetings, hospitality and events industry. Prior to launching his firm, Weaber was the Chief Operating Officer with Connections Housing as well as the Executive Vice President of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and served as Executive Vice President for association management company SmithBucklin’s largest division, Event Services, which includes Courtesy Associates, the meeting and event planning firm that he also oversaw as its President. Before that, he was Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer for Experient, Inc, a Maritz Travel Company. He also held regional and senior vice president positions with Conferon Global Services and management roles at a Renaissance Hotel.

Weaber is also actively involved in a number of industry associations and organizations, including the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), and Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). He has also served on advisory boards for a number of cities and hotel properties, been a featured speaker and panelist at industry events and a frequent contributor to a number of trade publications as well as facilitated or served on dozens of advisory boards. Weaber is a graduate of the University of Illinois and makes his home in Washington, DC.

Session Description

Managing A Team

The Real challenge when building an event industry dream team isn’t finding willing contributors - but keeping them together. Sometimes maintaining cohesion seems impossible, threatening the quality of your work. Learn from Jon’ll about how can you anticipate the most common pitfalls and avoid the forces that would pull your crew apart? 

So what?

  1. How to keep your employees motivated
  2. How encouraging team members to have fun actually helps yield maximum results
  3. How to ensure your employees know their roles are vital and that individually they make a real difference

Session Description

The Never Ending Journey to Authenticity

Join Brad Weaber, Founding Supporter of AWE and the Principal of Brad Weaber Consulting Group on his reflection of his 34 + year career in the meetings and hospitality industry. This candid yet humorous chat will explore those areas of professional development that they don't teach you in school. The journey from the farm to the boardroom had many twists and turns and Brad will share various stories that helped not only mold him as a person but also his career. Brad will share his secrets of what worked and didn't work on this never ending journey of true authenticity. This will be an interactive session with open dialogue to seek and share your own stories on the journey to authenticity.

So what?

  1. Belief Systems - the impact they have on each of us every day in every encounter
  2. Heart, Head and Gut - Do they need to be aligned?
  3. Social Media - Help or Hindrance to Authenticity?

About Caitlin

Even at the tender age of 8, Caitlin could read the writing on the wall: Lemonade’s heyday had come and gone. Thus, she began her marketing career as sole proprietor of the only fresh grapefruit juice stand in the neighborhood. Thanks to the use of innovative thinking, a clear competitive differentiator and a keen understanding of her audience, she enjoyed the sweet (or in this case, sour) taste of success for the first time. In the intervening years, she’s used the same recipe to market conferences and trade shows within a wide range of industries, including healthcare, renewable energy, media, technology, and luxury goods. Now armed with two Master of Business Administration degrees in Marketing and International Business, Caitlin’s tools may be more sophisticated, but her goal is the same: to help clients create and seize opportunities based on market conditions and to stand out in a world of sameness.

About Leonora

Leonora is the co-founder and director of Swoogo, an award-winning event marketing & event registration SaaS software platform. Before bringing Swoogo to market Leonora founded, ran and raised $23m in capital for her first venture-backed software company. With more than ten years in the event tech space and thirty as a start-up founder and small business leader, Leonora is a technologist and a marketer who can speak authentically about events, tech, start-up growth, and leadership with deep personal knowledge, current context, and an eye towards the future.

Leonora is also the co-founder of Women in Event Tech, a community of people who believe in creating more opportunities for female leaders in the event technology space. Leonora has been a mentor at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, founded Women in Event Tech to further female leadership opportunities in the event tech space, and sits on the Economic Development Board in Warren, Rhode Island.

About Carrie

Carrie Abernathy CMP, CEM, CSEP is co-founder and Executive Consulting Officer for the Association for Women in Events, and also Vice President of Thought Leadership and Strategy with Convenience Distribution Association. Carrie has served on several advisory councils and committees to include: PCMA’s Emerging Leaders Committee, Cleveland CVB Advisory Board, Team San Jose Advisory Council, Reno-Tahoe Advisory Board, Salt Lake City Advisory Council, Destination Hotels Advisory Council, Green Meetings Industry Council Foundation (Chair- 2014/2015), Nomination Committee for PCMA and was named Collaborate Magazine's "40 under 40" industry planners to watch. She was named Smart Meetings Magazine’s Top 50 Smart Women of 2017, Successful Meetings Top 25 Most Influential industry professionals in 2018, and was a nominee for “Event Professional of the Year” for the Professional Convention Management Association’s Visionary Awards last year. Carrie is an avid fisher, golfer and skier and resides in Denver, Colorado with her partner, Dave, and their three dogs.

About Johnnie

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of association management, Johnnie White is the Sr. Director, Global Education, Meetings and Strategic Partnerships at the American Academy of Otolaryngology. He is responsible for the development and management of the Academy’s global education program, which includes a robust online program. Prior to this position he was the Executive Director of Center for Education at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation (CRF). In this role, Johnnie was responsible for the strategic management and planning of the annual Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics Scientific Symposium, which attracts an attendance of 12,000 and is one of the most technology advance medical meetings in the industry, as well as more than 40 other educational programs. He was the 2013 Chair of the Board of Directors for the Professional Convention Management Association He is also an adjunct Faculty member at Georgetown University and Northern Virginia Community College.

About Jeanne

Following many rewarding years of partnering on international opportunities, Jeanne returns to the Hilton Worldwide Sales association team as a managing director. In this role, she leads day-to-day team operations while also directly managing a group of sales professionals. Jeanne is proud to be at Hilton and proud to be part of this team in particular. She looks forward to helping Hilton reach next-level performance and achieve “most sought-after” status with association customers.

Panel Description

Have fears and challenges kept you from the next step in your career? Sit with three leading industry women to learn about their trials, successes and failures on their career journey and be inspired to Elevate! your own career!

This panel will be moderated by Johnnie White, MBA, CAE, CMP and features the following panelists: Caitlin Fox, Leonora Valvo, Carrie Abernathy, CMP, CEM, CSEP and Jeanne Dees. More details on all in the above bios!