The quest to be our highest and best selves is never an escalator ride straight to the top. As women work to elevate their careers, their peers and the industry as a whole, the path often requires detours, taking a step back, evaluating obstacles in the way and calling on others to help chart a new course.

Sometimes, dispatches from those who share our path can give us the very clues we need to avoid pitfalls and the courage to face the inevitable challenges. That is why, for the last five years, Smart Meetings has honored the women who truly inspire us. It’s also our perfect opportunity to ask these trailblazers for pearls of wisdom—lessons learned on their journeys to the industry’s peaks.

This year, we gathered nominations by asking you, the Smart Meetings community of “Smarties,” who inspires you. The response was incredible. We received testimonials about suppliers who went above and beyond to help when weather—and other acts of God or Goddesses—threatened the success of a program; co-workers who uplift everyone by always being cheerful and infecting the team with a can-do attitude; and veteran meeting professionals who continue to learn and mentor others.

It was a tough job, but we narrowed the field to those who most clearly epitomized the brilliant approach to gathering that this publication was designed to promote. Then, we sent those high-achievers a set of questions about how they keep moving forward on good days and bad. We asked them for the three words that best describe their approach to overcoming difficult challenges (you will see the responses under each of their names).

Tips for Scaling Higher Heights

The most common themes were “perseverance,” “persistence,” “positivity,” “creativity,” “collaboration,” “focus” and “grit.” Many gave a shout-out to the need for being strategic, calm, flexible and optimistic when problems arise. That positive, can-do attitude is one of the hallmarks of this outstanding collection of winners.

We also asked them the best advice they had ever received (whether they took it or not). This brought sage words from family members, mentors and household names (including Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant) about the importance of surrounding yourself with people smarter than you, staying positive and believing in your gut—words that can inspire us all to keep striving and innovating.

When asked to describe an Everest Moment, they described being most proud of the births of companies and children, moving to a new country, coveted promotions, innovative programs and ongoing commitments to being present. They also told stories of surviving health challenges, career setbacks and slashed budgets to reach their goals.

For their Next Summit challenge, they said they planned to tackle personal, professional and social goals, including teaching others what they have learned, making big career moves, running marathons and finding balance.

How can anyone fail to be inspired by such thoughtful responses? Personally, I know I was energized and ready to face my own previously seemingly insurmountable challenges.

These inspirational women fall into eight categories. Each of these is important to the health and advancement of this essential industry. The Visionaries paved the way for women as leaders. They displayed the skills and courage to climb higher, and they reached back to clasp the hands of others following in their path.

The Innovators and Entrepreneurs put something new into the world, created jobs and elevated the industry with fresh approaches and creative solutions.

The Industry Leaders and Stellar Performers rise to every new challenge and inspire everyone around them to bring their best selves. They carry heavy loads and point the way to smoother trails.
Our Rising Stars give me hope for a future led by smart, talented, dedicated professionals. They bring renewed energy and perspectives, and we welcome them.

Finally, there are our Hall of Fame recipients. The select few we award with this designation have repeatedly shown themselves as true leaders and role models in our industry. They lead the way for us all, and we should all be grateful to them. I present to you now, the 2020 Smart Women in Meetings. Let’s all raise a glass to this year’s inductees.

Back to the Smart Women in Meetings Awards 2020