February E Focus Print



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President's Message

Hello Chapter Members,

 It is a busy month for our community! Starting out with the Gasparilla Art and Film Festival and onto the Grand Prix and Valspar Golf Tournament all in the first 2 weeks! Over in Plant City everyone is swarming to get their fresh Strawberry Shortcake with those delicious local Plant City Strawberries at the Annual Strawberry Festival! Throughout the rest of the month we have much more filling up our calendars as our amazing Tampa Bay Area sure does have a lot to offer to residents and those visiting us from a far! I hope everyone has successful events and programs and I hope that you all get to go out there and enjoy it all as well!

 I look forward to seeing many of you at Game Night March 8th at Three Daughter’s Brewery! Make sure to bring your Board Games as we will be donating games to The Spring of Tampa Bay. Next month on April 13th is finally Meetings Academy at the brand new Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach!  I am so excited to experience this incredible program that the Meetings Academy team has put together! For over a year and half this committee has been organizing phenomenal speakers and breakout sessions! There are still spots left for the Hosted Buyer Program so please sign up on the website if you are interested of taking advantage of this opportunity! After you register make sure to start collecting soaps and toiletries to donate to the troops for the CSR efforts for STANO. If you have not already registered make sure to do so soon as pricing go up on March 22nd!

 I unfortunately need to share sad news with you all as well.  On March 1st our very near and dear Margaret Williams passed away. Margaret has been a profound leader in our chapter and our community and will be very dearly missed. Margaret was a 26yr MPI member and served on the Board of Directors for many years including her presidency from 2013-2014. There will be a Celebration of Life to honor her on April 8th, 11am at Bible Based Fellowship Church located at 4811 Ehrlich Road. Please keep her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers as Margaret was a beloved, wife, mother, sister, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. If you would like to share photos or memories of Margaret please send them to tampabaympi@gmail.com or share to the MPITBA Facebook page. Let's always remember Margaret's positive can do attitude, incredible mentorship and love that she gave and that big beautiful smile and genuine laughter. She will be dearly missed but never forgotten. 

 There is a limited time discounted registration open for WEC, which the speakers and programs are available to view on the mpiweb.org website! I hope to see many of you there at this incredible global conference! Additionally I wanted to share with everyone that your 2017-2018 Board of Directors met in late February and they are excited to rock and roll next year and they are starting to building their committees so please let us know if there is a new committee you would like to join! Have a great month everyone and in spirit of St Patrick’s Day I will conclude with a quote by Irish born novelist CS Lewis, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”


Ashley Valentine, CMP

MPITBA Chapter President

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Membership News

Judy Athari, Director of Sales, Buffalo Lodging

Anthony Cala, Enterprise Application Administrator, MCW Events

Melinda Lancial, Sales Manager, Andaz Mayakoba

Melissa Silvest, Director of Sales and Event Services, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Kelsey Stetson, Events Intern, Global Equity Organization

Diane Word, Hospitality Student, St. Petersburg College



Member of the Month

Amanda Clark

Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach


1)  How many years have you been in the Meetings/Event business? 6 years

2) During that time, what would you say has been your best experience?  Last week, opening a brand new resort.

3) Why did you first join MPI?  To network and meet like-minded professionals

4) What committees/volunteer opportunities have you been involved in during your membership? Sponsorship with table hosts and silent auction at the holiday party

5) What's the most important/valued thing you’ve gained from your membership? Reawakening my passion is in the event services side and taking the step to transition from Sales back to Conference Services.

6) Please tell us any interesting fact about you that you’d like us to know. I can make fantastic pancakes! I am married to Chef and pancakes are the only thing I cook better than him. 

Congrats Amanda & Thank You!!!



Member of the Month

JC York

Classic Entertainment/Wise Guys InterACTive 

1)   How many years have you been in the Meetings/Event business? I have been a part of this amazing industry for over 20 years.

 2)  During that time, what would you say has been your best experience? This is definitely a hard question to answer since there has been a lot of amazing experiences.  Especially being very involved in our industry associations, the people I have met and worked with, and the awards & recognition we have won as a company.  But I would have to say from a personal standpoint, I love to perform.  So having the chance to travel to places throughout the US and Internationally to perform has been fantastic.  From the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup Finals, to major conferences like the National Republican Convention and City-wide buy-outs, to week long meetings for international companies to a very private and personal Make-a-Wish event.  These are the some of the many reasons why I love what I do.

 3) Why did you first join MPI? I joined for a dual purpose, both professionally and personally, to brand my company and to develop personal relationships within the industry and my local market.  Turned out to be a great investment for both.  Throughout my time with MPITBA I have been able to grow and expand my business, as well as, make some strong connections with leaders in our industry that I now get to call friends.

 4) What committees/volunteer opportunities have you been involved in during your membership? I’ve been pretty active with my membership since joining the chapter. I have served on the Board of Directors as the VP of Communications and the Director of Public Relations & Community Outreach. I have also served and still serve on numerous committees: Ambassador, Communications, Education, Meetings Academy, Connections Campaign, Special Events (Holiday Party), and Awards.

 5) What's the most important/valued thing you’ve gained from your membership? Education and Experience through involvement.  There is so much to learn about our industry, especially since it’s always evolving.  You can gain a lot through our guest speakers and education programs; however, some of the best learning lessons are working with some of the most talented professionals in our industry. 

 6)    Please tell us any interesting fact about you that you’d like us to know. I both honorably and proudly serve on the Board of Directors for the SEARCH Foundation. The SEARCH Foundation exists to assist special event, meetings and hospitality professionals faced with a life threatening illness or any catastrophic occurrence. The great thing about SEARCH is that it’s there for anyone within our industry; it isn’t tied to any one particular association.  That the money we raise goes directly back to those within our industry; Assisting Event Professionals in Crisis.  I would be more than happy to talk about SEARCH with anyone who wants to know more and/or help support an amazing cause.   https://searchfoundation.org/

Congrats JC & Thank You!!!


By now you have probably seen the MPI Survey in your inbox.  Please take the 10 minutes or less to share your opinions with us.  This survey is the most important tool we have for capturing the thoughts of our members. Participation not only guarantees your voice is heard, but also shapes the future of our community as a whole.

As an extra benefit for participating, you will be entered into a drawing for one free registration to Meetings Academy 2017.  That’s right, we are giving one lucky member the best education and networking that our chapter has to offer for simply speaking your mind.  What could be better?

Please take the time to help shape the future of MPI Tampa Bay Area Chapter.  The survey will close on Feb. 14 at 11:59 CST. Should you not receive the email or have technical issues while taking the survey, please email membersurvey@mpiweb.org.

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Calendar of Events




 February  Education Program


Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Location: Bryan Glazer JCC
522 N. Howard Avenue
Tampa, FL 33606

Lights, Cameras, Microphones!

Budgeting Realities for Your Live Event Production

Featured Speaker: 
Colleen Cussick, ON Services – A/V Specialists
Every meeting and live event has basic A/V needs that must be met successfully. The speaker must be elevated (stage), heard (audio), seen (lighting), and displayed (video). Add in specialized sessions, evening events, and scenic elements to the basics and suddenly you find yourself needing a LARGE budget for the proper equipment. Learn the fundamental elements of production needs and how to realistically budget for them, including the components you're forgetting to include! Knowing essential component price tags will help in negotiations between planners and venue A/V companies, helping to establish working relationships. Clients save money; planners look like heroes, and EVERYONE WINS!

Learning Objectives: 
1) Participants will learn pricing for common components like wireless mics, projectors (per 1,000 lumens), lecterns and staging, audio speakers, and labor. 2) Participants will learn about the common forgotten components that need to be included in A/V budgets, such as poly-tac, power, permit fees, rider requirements, and even RF Wranglers. 3) Participants will learn what planners and A/V vendors need to discuss to alleviate confusion or apprehension about verbiage used.

1.0 clock hours of Continuing Education (CE) - CIC Domain G: Meeting or Event Design

MPITBA has aligned this program with the above Convention Industry Council (CIC) Domain; this is for self-reporting purposes and has not been pre-approved with CIC.


About the Speaker:

Colleen Cussick started in the “music biz” at the ripe age of 16, booking bands at local venues so kids her age could experience music without having to wait until they reached legal age to get into clubs or paying expensive concert tickets. During college, she was University of Arizona's director of concerts, working with national acts that came to campus, and booking bands to play at venues and clubs around Tucson. She interned with Island Records, promoting an up-and-coming band named U2 around campus and the local clubs, as well as other bands that college radio loved to play.

 After graduating, Colleen continued to work with national concert promoters, advancing promotional needs, running the production office on show days, and growing her knowledge and connections. Colleen moved to Nashville on the advice of many friends in the touring business, working as a production assistant touring the country with Tim McGraw and LeAnn Rimes. 

Seeking stability, Colleen ran a stagehand company, advanced A/V for a Nashville company, and is now with ON Services – A/V Specialists providing her expert knowledge of event production to clients with attention to detail and a positive approach they expect and deserve.


8:30-10:30 a.m. Board meeting
10:30-11:00 a.m. New member orientation 
11:00-1:30 p.m. Education program
1:45-2:45 p.m. Education committee meeting 


 Networking Opportunity! 

Are you looking for a way to get the most out of your networking opportunity? Sign up to be a table host when registering (available as an add on). For just $15, you'll lead the table discussion, be acknowledged as a host, and provide marketing materials and giveaways to your tablemates! 

Thank you to our sponsors:






FEBRUARY 16, 2017


LOCATION: 2223 N. Westshore Blvd
Tampa, FL 33607

Please join us on Thursday, February 16th at TAMPA INTERNATIONAL PLAZA

Come relax with a draft in our outdoor seating area, chat with our friendly staff at the bar, or enjoy an intimate conversation and a glass of wine in our lounge. On weekends, you can also catch the cool sounds of live, local music.

There's something for every beer lover at Taps. Imports, craft beers and micro-brews. Ales, lagers, stouts, and ciders. With over 25 beer brands on tap and 350 in bottles, there’s always something new to discover at Taps. The adventurous can tackle our Beer Club Challenge. Successfully try 200 specific beers from our lineup and we'll reward you with fame and free beer.

Taps Bar & Lounge is your perfect choice for outstanding wine by the glass or by the bottle as well. California whites, French reds, German blushes and everything in between are represented in our collection of 100 varieties of great domestic and international wines. Plus, our fully stocked bar features top liquor brands, along with an irresistible specialty drink menu.

But a visit to Taps Bar & Lounge isn't complete without indulging in our exceptional food. Our lunch and dinner menus can best be described as American Tapas, featuring appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and desserts. Our selections include global and regional classics as well as signature chef-inspired creations. 

 Thank you to TAPS for being a Sponsor for this event! 






Just $99 for MPI members/$149 for non-members!

Elevating Events with Meetings Academy, featuring:
-A full day of education with a minimum of three CMP Continuing Education Credits
-Hosted Buyer Program Opportunity 
-An Interactive CSR activity
-High Level Speakers including Keynote
-Countless Opportunities for Networking
-A Hands-on Experience of Clearwater Beach’s newest hotel featuring 22,000 square feet of meeting space, including over 10,000 square feet ballroom


Breakout Session Speakers include: 

Joshua Grimes, Esq.


Morning Session Topic: Cutting Edge Economy: Meeting the Legal Challenges

Room Block Poaching, “Suitcasing”; Guns in Meetings – Just some of the latest challenges facing the meetings industry.  With hotel occupancy up and demand for quality meeting facilities at a premium, market forces now favor hotels and other suppliers – a dramatic change from just a few years ago. Yet meeting planners face the same cost sensitivity and accountability demands that became primary consideration in recent years.

Join hospitality attorney Josh Grimes and experienced planners and suppliers in an interactive and thought-provoking review of the year’s hottest issues. Learn how to address these issues and more:

  • Threats caused by “room poaching” – unauthorized housing agencies contacting your guests;
  •  Re-evaluation room blocks given alternative booking channels and discounted rates outside your blocks;
  • New guns laws allowing open-carry and concealed weapons in your meetings;
  •  Planning for new governmental laws and policies that raise boycott concerns from your attendees;
  • Challenges of unauthorized suppliers “Suitcasing” an event and undercutting valuable exhibitors and sponsorships;
  • Zika, Ebola, terrorism, and other threats that may keep attendees away from your meeting;
  • Protecting guests’ personal information on computer networks and in cyberspace;
  • RFID technology pro’s and con’s;
  • Controlling social media comments on your event, your attendees and guests to prevent disparagement, false rumors, and leaks of confidential information.


Come ready to think about your most important legal issues today, and to brainstorm with colleagues about the best solutions.

 Afternoon Session Topic: The Sharing Economy: Meeting the Legal Challenges

The sharing economy-including Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, and food sharing experiences – is increasingly an integral part of meetings and events.  These innovations present legal challenges that identified and addressed to minimize risk to event organizers and attendees. This interactive and thought-provoking discussion will cover the risks and rewards of the sharing economy, and provide information that both planners and suppliers can use to safely incorporate these innovations into their events.


Susan Arts, CMP


 Session Topic: Don’t “Phreak Out”…It’s Only Pharma

 The world of pharmaceutical and medical device meetings is complicated and ever-changing.  As a supplier, you may think your clients are speaking another language…HCPs, PhRMA Code, Open Payments, AdvaMed, EFPIA…what does it all mean?

 Come and find out how the rules, regulations and guidelines impact pharmaceutical and medical device companies, the meetings they host/sponsor, and how you can help them stay in compliance with internal guidelines and governmental reporting policies.   

 Additional breakout speakers and topics announced soon!


Interested in attending the conference for FREE? Planners can attend Meetings Academy 2017 for FREE through the Hosted Buyer program!



 Save the Soap!

Ever wondered what you can do with all the travel sized soaps and toiletries we all collect through our travels? We have your answer! For our CSR opportunity at Meetings Academy, we’re going to provide these items to a local charity, S.T.A.N.O. (Supporting Troops Area Wide Nationally and Overseas). We appreciate your support to Save the Soap!


Conference Schedule at a Glance:
Hosted Buyer Program
General Registration & Networking                                        
Welcome & Keynote Speaker 
Morning Educational Breakout Sessions
Networking Lunch              
Afternoon Educational Breakout Sessions
Roundtable Discussions


Thank you to our Venue Sponsor:

 Thank you to our Sponsors!














Please save the following dates


for our upcoming MPITBA Education Programs in 2017!


Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Wednesday, November 8, 2017

  Please check our Chapter website here often for further event details.






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Sponsorship & Partnership Opportunities

Get your company name out there while connecting with your fellow MPI Tampa Bay Area members! Sponsor an event or advertise on our website!  

We have a number of opportunities that will fit any budget and objective. Just reach out to Stephanie Montini, Director of Sponsorship at steph.montini@gmail.com. Follow this link to our Cash Sponsorship and Advertising Packet:




New Table Host Opportunity for Educational Luncheons! 

Are you looking for a way to get the most out of your networking opportunity? Sign up to be a Table Host when registering for Educational Luncheons! For a minimal fee, you will get: 

  • Company name displayed at host table
  •  Lead the "getting to know you" table discussion
  •  Acknowledgement at event as a host
  •  Ability to set out marketing materials and giveaways


Table Hosts get the MOST! Questions, please contact Amanda Clark, Table Host Chair at: amandaclark.mpi@gmail.com


Special thank you to our MPITBA Education Committee Meeting Venue Sponsor for the 2016-2017 Year! We are so grateful for our strategic partners like you!



Special thank you to our 2017-2018 Board Transition Meeting Venue Sponsor.  We appreicaite your generosity and partnership! 

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Committee and Other News




By Kristina Mitchell, Sales Manager 
Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel


MPI gives away scholarships to members for select industry conferences. You can apply for scholarships for IMEX and MPIWEC. For more information and applications, check it out here: http://www.mpiweb.org/foundation/grants-and-scholarships

You can purchase industry tools, books and study materials and more on the MPI Global Website. Check it out here:http://www.mpiweb.org/Store



Our vision and mission as a member-centric organization are focused on building those personal and business connections for you, connecting you to knowledge and ideas, relationships, and marketplaces. It’s about supporting each other, and helping each other to BUY MPI. 

The Connections Campaign is a celebration of those successful connections! We have LOTS of fun and exciting prizes coming to 2017. Be ready to win some and submit those connections today. Submit here

Questions/Comments? Contact Michelle Cobb at michelle@sensory5.com

A prize each month will be given to 1 Connections Winner at each education program

February- Jackson's Bistro Gift Card

April Meetings Academy- iFLY Tampa Experience Gift Card

May- Flemings Steakhouse Gift Card



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