ESPA Annual Conference

ESPA 2021 Annual Conference

January 21-22, 2021
A Virtual Event

Event Service Professionals – Time to Re-connect and Re-engage!

The ESPA Annual Conference will now be virtual on January 21-22 and we hope you’ll join us.  We look forward to gathering our event service professional members together for a dynamic opportunity to re-connect. Read President Jamie Huckleberry’s letter which describes why we are transitioning our January 2021 event to virtual.

In the spirit of our theme, #ServicesStrong, it’s our goal to deliver ESPA benefits to as many members and service professionals as possible. Whether face-to-face or virtual, we are always excited to meet, share best practices, learn and network.

Topics will cover current challenges and solutions unique to Event Service Professionals. This is a great opportunity to earn CMP credits for services-centric education.

Keynote Speakers

Opening Keynote
Simon Bailey
SPARK: Act like an Employee and Think like a CEO

Industry Keynote
Larry Perkins, CFE, CPP, CMP
Vice President/Assistant GM, PNC Arena
Reflections: Buck Seventy-Two: A Destiny of Will

Industry Keynote
Jessie States, CMP, CMM
Director, MPI Academy, Meeting Professionals International
WEC Grapevine: It Took a Village – Pandemic Considerations with Local Partners

Industry Keynote
Melinda L. Burdette, CMP, CMM, HMCC
Director, Events, Meeting Professionals International
WEC Grapevine: It Took a Village – Pandemic Considerations with Local Partners

Closing Keynote
Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo
Creating the New Normal
Optimizing your mindset is integral to your success in the present and future

Interested in sponsorship? Email ESPA HQ for details today.

Premier Partners

Conference Partners

Industry Partners

Member Partners

Schedule of Events

All times are posted in ET, Eastern Time Zone.
CMP credit information to be posted shortly.

14:00 - 17:00
Optional Sightseeing Tours – See Tours section for details
  • Kansas City Convention & Entertainment Facilities Tour, Featuring Bridging the Gap
  • 18th & Vine Experience
  • The Kansas City Gangster Tour – Note: This tour departs at 3:00pm
14:00 - 17:00
Leaders Program (Optional, for Associate Dir, Director, VP level)

Don’t miss this opportunity to collaborate and learn with your fellow peer leaders

  • Friday afternoon, January 21, 2:00-5:00pm. Featuring roundtable discussions and a workshop led by our Keynote Johnny Quinn, titled Developing a Champion Mindset – Strengthen your resilience and engagement to thrive today and into the future.
  • Saturday morning: Join roundtables dedicated to topics that are impacting leaders in Event Service positions.

CMP Domain A: Strategic Planning

Note: The Friday session is an optional program with a fee of $69.

17:45 - 18:30
Newcomers Reception (by invitation to new members and first timers)
18:30 - 19:00
Welcome Reception: Hometown Spirit!
08:00 - 09:00
Networking Breakfast
09:15 - 10:30
Grand Opening and Keynote: Breaking Through Barriers, Johnny Quinn, Olympian

In order to grow, you must overcome challenges. Challenges come in different shapes and sizes for everyone. They can make you or break you. Johnny delivers straight-forward strategies to break through barriers so you can thrive at work and in life. Challenge accepted!

About Johnny Quinn

Johnny Quinn was cut three times, lost 2.6 million dollars in NFL contracts and blew out his knee. Then he became an Olympian for the United States of America. From an NFL failure to a U.S. Olympian, Johnny’s “what’s next” attitude led him to success he never imagined.

Johnny Quinn is a highly sought-after speaker for businesses and organizations of all sizes. He is a U.S. Olympian in the sport of bobsled and competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Johnny is also a former pro football player spending time with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. Johnny has been featured on various media outlets around the world, such as: ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, ESPN, FOX, NBC, TIME, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.

Fun fact:  Johnny is the third person ever to have played in the NFL and to have competed in the Winter Olympics.

CMP Domain F: Stakeholder Management

10:30 - 11:00
Networking Break
11:00 - 12:30
Perspectives – Interactive Roundtables by Segment: Leaders, CVB, Convention Center, Hotel
12:30 - 13:30
Networking Lunch
13:45 - 14:30
Breakout Sessions

Topic 1: Meeting Planners Tell All

A group of local meeting planners will join us for a jam session! They will tell it all – what they love, what they need, and what they wish for. Attendees will have an opportunity to ask the questions they have always wanted to ask planners but couldn’t ask their own clients. (Space is limited based on the number of planners that will participate.)

CMP Domain A: Strategic Planning

Topic 2: The Hybrid Pivot

The HYBRID session for all your “hybrid” questions. In a world where technology and business demands are ever changing, how will your team help clients showcase assets in your own destination to attendees that are not physically there? Stay on top of the latest trends and discover your unique value proposition to increase engagement for virtual attendees. Learn what you can you bring to the table through virtual and hybrid content. This session will embrace how to successfully service a hybrid meeting while taking into consideration services which are based on fulfillment levels deemed by peak room nights.

Learning Objectives:

  • Current trends and projections for virtual and hybrid meetings
  • Technology tips on how to integrate local flavor onto the virtual “stage”
  • Case study for a successful hybrid meeting


  • Michelle Moon, CTE, CPCE, CTA, CMP, Senior Director of Destination Experience and Special Events, Visit San Antonio


  • Dustin Roberson, Director of Sales, Encore
  • Sharon Hill, San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

CMP Domain G: Meeting and Event Design

Topic 3: Innovative Services: A New Era of Support Tools

As the world experiences new breakthroughs in public health and sustainability, our industry has naturally followed suit. From marketing materials to giveaways- what new and innovative tools can Event Professionals use post-pandemic? Join us as we discuss what CVB’s and Hotels have been doing to support their meeting planners.

Learning Objectives:

  • What creative tools have event professionals been able to implement with meeting planners to rebuild trust in safe in-person meetings?
  • What’s trending post-pandemic for promotional giveaways, welcome amenities, and gifts a meeting planner can take home on a flight?
  • How is the value of event servicing being maximized post-pandemic?
  • How has marketing, advertising, and destination videos changed since the pandemic?

CMP Domain A: Strategic Planning

14:45 - 15:45
Breakout Sessions

Topic 1: Surprise & Delight: Managing New On-site Client Expectations

Ever wonder how to master expecting the unexpected? Over the last two years, our industry has had to adapt to constant change. One of the changes we have had to overcome has been managing the new expectations that our clients have. In this session, we will dive into ways of anticipating our clients’ needs in a way that can help the services side of the industry stay one step ahead in surprising and delighting our guests. Join us as we go over the NEW expectations for amenities, set-ups, food & beverage trends “post-covid”, site visits and the cleaning standards that our clients are looking to see.

CMP Domain G: Meeting and Event Design

Topic 2: All About the Tech: Digital Tools & Trends

Presented by Dahlia El-Gazzar, Tech Evangelist + Idea Igniteur, Dahlia+Agency

Digital Technology is trending more than ever during these evolving times.  In this session, Dahlia El Gazzar, event tech evangelist, will deliver some of the latest tech that will help you reach your meeting planner clients in new and dynamic ways — from virtual platforms to storytelling and listening on social, to hosted conversations and gamification.  Learn some tips to make your planners’ lives easier by helping them sell your destination/venue to their clients/members with engaging digital assets.

Dahlia specializes in all things tech, audience engagement solutions + event marketing. 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-fuelled ‘go-to’ source for trend-setting solutions, eventtech news, event marketing, + social media expertise.

CMP Domain A: Strategic Planning

Topic 3: Beyond the Sessions – Creating Community Connections & Authentic Experiences

How destination organizations leverage intellectual capital within their communities with increased partnerships and engagement with Destination Champions, i.e., community leaders, local business partners, Colleges and Universities, industry experts and thought leaders.

Takeaways from this session will include how to increase economic growth that can be derived from Community Partnerships at meetings and events as well as how to connect conventions and events with local community influencers. Discussions will also touch on Volunteer Ambassador Programs and how to harness the power of volunteers and community resources- this has gotten harder post Covid. Finally, we will look at how to create community experiences for group attendees.


  • Yvonne Williams, Senior Manager Destination Services, The Palm Beaches


  • Katherine Fox, Director, KC2026 FIFA World Cup Bid, Greater Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation
  • Ashley  Medeiros, CMP, Senior Manager Destination Services, The Palm Beaches
  • Tiffany Faublas, M.B.A., Marketing Director, Downtown Development Authority, West Palm Beach

CMP Domain G: Meeting and Event Design

16:00 - 17:15
General Session: Team Engagement and Building your Security Culture, Mark Herrera, Director of Safety & Security, IAVM

Team Engagement and Building your Security Culture

Securing Mass Gatherings through Exceptional Focus, Performance and Control in Extreme Situations

Mark Herrera, Director of Safety & Security, IAVM

In this session Mark will provide an overview of:

  • How the health pandemic has impacted security
  • How do you build the right culture so that everyone has buy in? What is your security culture?
  • What are the current challenges that the event industry needs to focus on?
  • How do you build heightened awareness?

Through a checklist of nine objectives, Mark will describe how to build a security culture, increase heightened levels of Awareness and De-escalate undesired behavior when facing potentially aggressive Situations.

Course Objectives:

  • Increasing personal safety & decreasing stress when encountering someone uncooperative
  • Securing facilities with a bottom to top approach
  • Utilizing De-escalation strategies and techniques to avoid potential explosive situations
  • Programming the mind through mental preparation to see beyond one’s normal pre-conditioned expectation as it relates to potentially disruptive behavior and by providing a tool for maximum team engagement.
  • Enhancing conflict management to assist one in preventing confrontations from becoming volatile situations
  • Enhancing professionalism and assisting employees in recognizing the impact their words or actions have on the public
  • Controlling the body’s physiological effects during uncomfortable situations in order to gain maximum control with a positive outcome
  • Reducing vicarious liability by training employees how to handle encounters skillfully and professionally thereby, reducing potential complaints and lawsuits
  • Leveraging guest services to mitigate safety and security risks

CMP Domain C: Risk Management

18:30 - 20:30
Reception: ESPA Speakeasy sponsored by Visit KC

Shhh.… it’s a Speakeasy, sponsored by Visit KC!  Calling all guys and dolls to dress to the 9’s and channel your inner flappers and gangsters as we celebrate ESPA “roaring 20’s” style.  Experience firsthand how we earned the nickname “Paris of the Plains” and remember the secret password is SERVICES! 

08:00 - 08:45
Networking Breakfast
Grand Opening and Celebrating Event Services Achievers
09:00 - 09:45
General Session: The Fundamentals: Creating Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Meetings, Greg DeShields, Executive Director, Tourism Diversity Matters

As our industry rebounds, are you prioritizing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

There has never been a more relevant time for organizations to prioritize Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.  And Event Service Professionals have the power to make a DEI impact in their own destinations and venues.

DEI fosters higher degrees of engagement, productivity, and innovation that contribute to increased revenue.

When we make a case for the value of DEI, there are two crucial perspectives, the Moral Case and the Business Case. The Moral Case refers to our shared humanity and how when one group suffers, we all suffer, and when we invest in the equity of every group, we all benefit.  The Business Case, diverse companies are more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.

Implementing your DEI strategy is the actual walk behind the talk. It is not enough to talk about it when it comes to creating change with meetings and events. There must be action behind the words and meaning behind your DEI comments as values.

When working with vendors and suppliers, develop broader diverse and equitable perspectives for problem-solving and creating inclusive creative service solutions.  Be sure to reflect the kind of diversity your clients and attendees want to see, so they know they are being represented and understood. Diversity and Inclusion are essential to building an infrastructure that mirrors the destinations we represent.

This session will provide subjects that will enhance your professional expertise:

  • Understanding The Fundamentals of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • TDM The Black CVB Leaders Open Letter to the Industry Research Report
  • Action Steps and Resources for Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Meetings
  • How to deliver more Equitable Hybrid and Virtual Meetings
  • Credentialing and Self Improvement Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Recommendations

CMP Domain: E: Human Resources

09:45 - 10:15
Networking Break
10:15 - 11:00
Breakout Sessions

Topic 1: Know the Risk: Cybersecurity Incident Response

How well do you understand the risks of cybersecurity? According to a recent industry report, hospitality ranked third among industries compromised by cybersecurity breaches in 2019, and the industry suffered 13% of the total incidents. Cybercrime, which includes everything from theft or embezzlement to data hacking and destruction, is up 600% as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as reported by Embroker. Nearly every industry has had to embrace new solutions and it forced companies to adapt, quickly. What steps do we need to take to incorporate key planning, preparedness, and cybersecurity response functions as a venue? How do we integrate our Federal, State, and local partner agency roles, resources, and responses into a cyber incident? This session is an opportunity to learn more by using an event scenario from a leading cybersecurity expert. We will examine both the IT aspect and the consequence management aspect of a cybersecurity incident during a live event at a large venue.


  • David Chu, IT Security Manager, Massachusetts Convention Center Authority

CMP Domain C: Risk Management

Topic 2: We know you want more: DEI & Business Events, A Deeper Dive

In this session, we will do a deeper dive into the Language of Diversity, providing a tangible and substantive takeaway for DEI awareness and learning. Our guest speaker, Greg DeShields, will present on the importance of understanding who we are talking to, how pronouns play a role, guide us on able/disabled community interactions and he will share best practices for integrating DEI concepts into your day to day interactions. As part two of the session, our DEI Task Force will share a list of actions that Event Service Professionals can take now in your own venues and destinations.

CMP Domain: E: Human Resources

Topic 3: The ABCs to CMP

Are you thinking about earning your CMP designation? Here is an opportunity to join like-minded peers to learn about the benefits of becoming a CMP. Experienced CMPs will share their knowledge in an open conversation. Here’s your chance to have your questions answered about what is involved and to explore best practices on how to prepare for the exam. We’ve got you covered


  • Ashley Medeiros, CMP, Senior Manager, Destination Services, Discover Palm Beaches
  • Vanessa Kane, CMP, Director, Meetings & Events/Exhibits, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
  • Kelly Kirby, CMP, Director of Conference and Catering Management, Loews Kansas City Hotel
11:15 - 12:00
Breakout Sessions

Topic 1: Making a Splash on Social Media During Large-Scale Events

From craft beer to comic books, Big 12 basketball to big-name productions, Kansas City delights in welcoming large-scale events designed for locals and visitors alike. It’s a no-brainer to capitalize on these events via social media, but proper execution requires planning, engagement, identification and follow-through. Our speaker Derek Byrne, Visit KC’s Social Media Manager, has played a key role in some of KC’s large-scale events and will share their tips and tricks on executing coverage in a meaningful, memorable way.


  • Derek Byrne, Social Media Manager, Visit Kansas City

CMP Domain I: Marketing

Topic 2: We Know We Are Valuable: How do We Prove it?

Proving the value of your Convention Services Team is hard, but how do we do it anyway? In this session we’ll discuss ways to measure, explain and share the metrics that matter. We’ve all shifted, adjusted and taken on more responsibilities during COVID. Now it’s time to showcase the value and breadth of services that we provide!


  • Julie Brakenbury, CGSP, President, ESPA


  • Denise Reid, Event Planning Manager, Hyatt French Quarter
  • Brandy Martin, CTA, Convention Services Manager, Experience Grand Rapids
  • Kari Ballard Ziblut, CMP, Sr. Event + Conference Manager, Type A Events

CMP Domain F: Stakeholder Management

12:00 - 13:00
Networking Lunch
13:00 - 13:30
ESPA Business Meeting
13:30 - 14:30
Keynote – GET IT: Communicating from the Heart AmyK

Imagine having the ideal set of communication skills to break down barriers, inspire action, heal relationships, solve problems and create real connection. What if you had the confidence and courage to share your ideas, speak with conviction and honor the worth of your own voice? You’d be unstoppable: both brilliant in business and happy in life.

As an international award-winning speaker, Amazon #1 best-selling author, and 20+ year coach and consultant, AmyK Hutchens introduces leaders and go-getters to the power of taking life one conversation at a time. Her Magical Phrases and communication techniques, used around the globe, have helped close multi-million dollar deals, save marriages, advance careers, heal family dynamics, and align individuals with their “right” and best lives.

AmyK’s humor and wisdom shines through in this compelling and energetic program filled with practical tools that will inspire & equip you to communicate confidently. Join us and get the results your heart desires!

CMP Domain F: Stakeholder Management

15:00 - 17:00
Bonus Content! Mobile Workshops

On Sunday afternoon, we will get out into Kansas City to some great venues for mobile learning. Pick your preferred workshop from our options below.
(Note that capacities are limited so we reserve the right to move you to a different program if our capacity is reached.)

  • Behind the Scenes with a National Exhibit (Mobile Workshop Full): Learn what goes into the planning and execution of a national exhibit behind the scenes at Kansas City’s Union Station.  Attendees will get a chance to experience firsthand and up close Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away exhibit.  This groundbreaking exhibit with its record-breaking run-in Kansas City is truly a site to behold and attendees will be treated to a pre-tour talk with a special guest who will share the story and take-aways from the process to get this coveted national exhibit to KC.

CMP Domain G: Meeting or Event Design

  • The State of Sports Events:  Attendees will head to the Negro League Baseball Museum to talk with local sports experts as they give their special perspective on what it takes to bring world class events to Kansas City and the work that goes into “cross promoting” these events.  They will share what they look for when working with their service professionals to make these events a success across the country.

CMP Domain A: Strategic Planning

  • A Creative Exchange: When faced with servicing a convention group that is seeking an opportunity for a unique regional experience for their attendees…look no farther than your own back yard.  Curating dynamic community partnerships is not only a current trend but also a cost-effective way for planners to introduce a host city to their attendees.  In this session we will show you how to share the very best of your city when you care to put your creative style front and center…hint, hint!

CMP Domain G: Meeting or Event Design

Bonus Content! Mobile Workshops – Education on the Go

Select date to see events.

Registration & Earning Credits

Please note to receive Continuing Education (CE) Credits for attending sessions, you must pre-select all sessions during the registration process. Only sessions listed on the agenda with a CMP Credit noted will be eligible for CMP Credit. You may add/delete sessions prior to the conference. You will only have CE Credits tracked for those sessions you selected. Following the conference, your sessions will be listed in the My ESPA Portal under the “My ESPA” drop down on the “My Continuing Education” page.

Registration Rates

Advanced Rate (valid through January 8) General
Active ESPA Member $299 $350
Member Group Discount (3+ registrants)
Please contact ESPA to register at this rate.
$240 $280
Non-Member $325 $375
Hardship Rate (members on furlough or laid-off)
Please contact ESPA to register at this rate.
$150 $150
Student Rate (must provide proof of student status upon request) $25 $25

 Virtual Platform

The virtual Conference will take place on the PSAV Chime Live platform. We will provide you with a link to the platform in January, as well as tips for the best viewing of the event.

 Hardship Rate Requests

Members who are experiencing a furlough or layoff due to COVID-19 can request the hardship rate of $150. Please send your request to

Cancellation / Substitution Policy

There are no refunds for cancellations once registered, however, If you are unable to attend, you may make a registration substitution. All substitutions requests must be sent in writing to

Payment Policy

Registration will not be final and access to the event will not be provided until payment is received. Please contact ESPA headquarters at with any registration questions.

All attendees are requested to review the ESPA Registration Disclaimers, Consents & Code of Conduct



This brochure describes the value of professional development and education for services managers. Print this out and provide it to your manager – it contains quotes from meeting planners about the value they place on their CSMs, including when making re-booking decisions.

ESPA Recognitions – Submit a Nominee for a Deserved Recognition

Leadership in Services Award – NOMINATIONS DUE DECEMBER 18, 2020

Considering the current climate in our industry, ESPA is launching a new award that recognizes Event Service Professionals who have demonstrated leadership in 2020 and have been proactive and positive in the face of adversity. With the many obstacles that COVID has presented this year, these individuals took the lead to keep the well-being of our industry or of their own community top of mind.

To be nominated for this award, a person would have demonstrated leadership in helping to shape their own organization in response to COVID, initiated community services that impacted your local charities, or demonstrated leadership in our industry either through ESPA or other professional organization initiatives. These individuals have a positive, can-do attitude that impacted others, or our industry, in a meaningful way.

Nominate a service professional you feel is deserving of this award! Recipient(s) will recognized at the 2021 Annual Conference.


Is your manager committed to excellence in Convention Services?

Each year at the Annual Conference, ESPA recognizes an executive for his or her commitment and dedication to the profession of event service and to giving key support and leadership to members of their services team. As a member of ESPA, if you feel your organization has an executive who is a mentor, an ESPA supporter and convention services advocate, if he/she encourages your team’s professional development, submit your nomination!

Please fill out our online Nomination Form  – winners will be selected in the Winter of 2020 and will be invited to attend and receive the award.

Criteria and Guidelines

  • Nominee supports staff participation in ESPA
  • Nominee must be an executive of an organization which has an ESPA member. Executive is defined as a VP or higher at a CVB; a member of the executive committee or GM at a hotel; or a VP, GM or Executive Director at a Convention Center.
  • Nominee personally and consistently supports quality assurance in the organization’s convention services operations.
  • Nominee supports staff development, growth and continuing education.

2020 recipient: Bill Bennett, General Manager, Valor Hospitality


Event Service Professionals, has your planner client shown leadership and partnership with an event in 2020?

This award was designed to recognize the hard-working meeting professional who exhibits personal and professional characteristics that create an environment that focuses on teamwork, as well as shows support for the event services profession.

This is your chance to recognize a planner that represents the best of the best! Event Service Professionals know better than anyone when a planner is prepared, shows professionalism and is a great leader when producing an event or meeting. Why not recognize them for their dedication and hard work?

To submit a planner for consideration, please fill out our online Nomination Form – winners will be selected in the winter of 2020 and will be invited to attend and receive the award.

Criteria and Guidelines

  • You must have worked with meeting planner in an event services capacity , i.e. as a CSM, during the past year
  • Shows superior leadership and management qualities before, during and after the meeting
  • Recognizes the importance and supports the role of the CSM in the meeting planning process


ESPA Members who are CMP designates or are studying for the CMP – Apply to participate in the ESPA virtual annual conference.

The Annual William H. Just CAE, CMP Memorial Award recognizes an ESPA member who has earned or is earning their CMP certification and is in good standing with the association. The award was established in honor of the late William H. Just, CAE, CMP who founded ACOM (now ESPA) in 1988. Just also played a key role in the establishment of the CMP program. Bill Just embodied valuable attributes including being a visionary, incorporating creativity, professionalism and leadership into his endeavors. This award recognizes these qualities in its recipients.

ESPA members can submit an application which includes an essay on how the CMP designation has been beneficial to them, why they decided to receive this certification and details on their industry and community involvement. The winner will receive a complimentary registration to the next ESPA Annual Conference which helps to support their CMP continuing education status.

To submit yourself for consideration, please fill out our online Nomination Form – winners will be selected in the winter of 2020 and will be invited to participate in the virtual annual conference.

Congratulations to 2020 Bill Just Memorial Award Recipient, Heather Walker, CMP, Director of Client Experience, VisitDallas.

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