Don’t let the dulcet tones of her Texas drawl fool you; Patty Stern is a real contender. In fact, this industry leader won Planner of the Year three times and in three locations—Texas, New York City and New Jersey. 

Stern got her feet wet on the supplier side at her family’s high-end limousine business in Dallas. Her commitment to involvement and understanding the industry was evident from that very first day. “I joined MPI and the Dallas CVB to get involved,” she says. Involvement is ingrained in Stern, who has been a longtime board member of both MPI and ILEA. Stern joined the business as a supplier, but quickly saw that her skills for planning transportation for conference and convention made her stand out. 

Her family’s business was sold to Carey International in 1998 and she continued working for them, largely handling pharmaceutical road shows, but, “I was attracted to the planning side and I wanted to be involved in the planning earlier, since transportation is often at the end.” 

She started her own business in 2001, expecting to be a DMC and ended up focusing on conference planning. “My first client was a 5,000-person convention, and I spent an entire year working inside the corporation as a planner,” she says. Her business grew from referrals and, thanks to her marketing background, she was able to offer more than just planning services. “I was one of the first planners in the country to offer a whole marketing module,” she says, including the development of conference websites for clients. 

Her business was booming in Dallas, but then one day everything—her direction and home base—took an unexpected turn. “My husband died unexpectedly at the age of 42,” she says. “It changed everything.” She moved to New York City and worked for the New Jersey-based MDP, planning pharma meetings for Pfizer. She spent two and a half years with the company before moving to New Jersey and starting fresh. “I decided to focus on marketing events, rather than planning them,” says Stern, who launched her eponymous company in 2010. “I had to spend the first four years proving myself again.”

But this energetic leader doesn’t let any challenge slow her down. Completely deaf in the left ear and with only 10 percent of hearing in the right ear since the age of 3, Stern says her inability to hear clearly drove her to get more involved in technology. In spite of that, Stern is well-known for her powerful listening skills—she often spins conversations into of-the-moment educational topics for industry associations—and her can-do spirit. 

League City CVB manager Stephanie Polk shares her career journey.

Originally from Kentwood, Louisiana, Stephanie Polk, TDM, CTE, first made her mark on the travel and tourism industry as director of marketing for the Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau. There, she helped to elevate the city as a destination for recreation travelers and business groups. Wowed by her accomplishments, in 2020, League City brought her on board to lead its marketing efforts. She shares with us highlights and advice from her experience in the industry. 

 

Event planning and experience design go hand in hand. Just ask Maria Moyano, experience designer for the Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC), based in NYC. “I think that everything is an event. You can go have coffee, and that’s an event. Everything is also an experience. You feel happy, and that’s an experience. It’s about what you are trying to get out of the event—and then how does an experience elevate it,” says Moyano.

 

In the wake of COVID-19, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) set out to provide planners with up-to-date intel and sound advice, appointing Dr. David Nash, founding dean emeritus of the Jefferson College of Population Health, in the process as its chief health advisor. Dr. Nash and Kavin Schieferdecker, senior vice president of the CVB’s convention division, share how the partnership came to be and its potential lasting impact.