The March 2018 Smart Meetings Magazine cover story featuring 100 women who inspire us started with an email. In January, we asked you, our readers, to nominate the women in your lives who are making brilliant things happen every day. And, wow, did you ever respond.

Rave Reviews

Testimonials to the transformative roles women are playing in the hospitality industry included a colleague who said of The Webster Group President and CEO Wendy Drake, “She works with a multi-generational staff to plan and execute more than 50 events a year, ranging in size from 10 to 43,000, including trade missions, multiday conferences and conventions, dedication and commissioning ceremonies, galas and concerts. She continuously works one-on-one with her staff, as well as a team, to train and learn from industry peers and each other. She is always open to feedback and willing to go the extra mile for her clients and staff.” That is some pretty high praise.

Check out this testimonial for Lasso40 Founder and CEO Lucy Giovando Watts: “She has shown first-hand how a woman can go from planning logistics to starting her own event technology company.” Talk about a living role model.

How about this encomium about Fort Worth Convention Services Manager Paola Bowman’s nomination? “She possesses the highest degree of integrity, proven interpersonal communication and amazing initiative and entrepreneurship skills,” wrote an admirer.

These are women who had such a positive impact on their co-workers, clients and industry peers that readers took time out of their busy days to tell us about them.

Of course, we wanted to know more.

The Hard Questions

We sent a second round of emails with three queries. 1.) What inspires you? 2.) What is your superpower? And 3.) What action item are you working on at this pivotal moment in time?

Again, the responses had us giggling, sniffling and nodding our heads.

Ashley Rhodes-Courter, a motivational speaker, New York Times and international bestselling author of Three Little Words and Three More Words, and CEO and founder of Sustainable Family Services, shared how her history as a foster child shaped her desire to help high-risk families get support they need to avoid the fate her brother met—death at age 29 of a drug overdose. “It is my hope that my personal crusade will prevent tragedies like this from happening to others,” she said.

These visionaries, entrepreneurs, innovators, industry leaders, trailblazers and rising stars praised their fellow hospitality superstars, families and, in one case, cowgirl of yesteryear Dale Evans. Anya-Anyielle Reed, trade show operations manager for Solar Energy Trade Shows, said her anxiety inspires her. “For the longest time, my fears would hold me back from participating in activities, or just doing things that I was interested in. But this year, I set my goal to push past those fears and use them as fuel and motivation to accomplish my goals.” That impressed us.

Their superpowers ranged from thinking quickly when problems occur to helping others realize their goals and staying positive. Angela Skeen, founder of Eventfully Angela admitted that she has affectionately been called the human form of Xanax because she calms event anxiety.

Many of our Smart Women 2018 winners were focused on mentoring others, men and women. Still others said they were focused on devising new ways to delight attendees with creative venues, technology and agendas. Some are marching, raising money and praying for causes personal and political. All expressed a sense of urgency to make a difference in people’s lives today.

The Cloud Knows

We stayed late at the office one night and ran the responses through a word-cloud generator to come up with an amazing picture of what motivates these role models. It showed that at the center of everything we do is “people.” When you consider the industry, that should be obvious, but when the topics for a given issue range from technology and security trends to food and beverage and negotiating strategies, it can be difficult to remember that those things are only effective when they put the human element first.

Also big and bold were the words “relationship” and “together.” None of us do what we do alone. I can assure you this publication is a team effort. And every event takes a village to tend to all the details. These women’s words are a testament to that orchestral harmony.

Now I am looking forward to spending a day with these wise leaders at the Smart Women Summit at Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront in Chicago in April. And I look forward to seeing you there, too.