The Room Block

Jen Salerno

By sharing our stories we can find better solutions. Join us in The Room Block to hear conversations with compelling professionals from the world of events and hospitality. Guests share unique perspectives on their journeys, inspirations, and challenges so you can gain insight into different facets of the industry. Hosted by Jen Salerno, who has spent the last 20 years working in various positions from hotels to housing bureaus, learning along the way that the more we understand each other, the more we can achieve together.

Welcome to The Room Block
Trailer 5 min 14 sec

All Episodes

When you want to increase engagement or foster connections at your company or event, where do you turn? Thom Singer, otherwise known as “The Conference Catalyst” is all about community, collaboration, and connection. As the host of several podcasts and a celebrated keynote speaker and event emcee, Thom has a passion for connection and a strong awareness of the power of meetings & events and all who make them happen. Join me in The Room Block to hear how networking led Thom to his dream career, why he values this industry as much as he does, and the value an emcee can bring to your event. Thom Singer is an advisor to executives, a speaker and content creator. After a successful career in sales and marketing, he became a growth leadership speaker in 2009. A decade later he has brought his high energy presentations and action-oriented content to over 950 audiences. Thom knows that as the speaker or master of ceremonies he has a responsibility to set the tone for a strong conference attendee experience. Known as “The Conference Catalyst” he creates an atmosphere of fun and interaction that lasts beyond his presentation. In this role he does not simply speak and leave, but is engaged with the participants before, during, and after the conference. Thom earned his Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) in 2014 and is committed to the business of meetings.  He is the author of 12 books and is the host of two podcasts, “Making Waves at C-Level”  and “The Digital Enterprise Society Podcast”.  On these shows he has interviewed over 550 business leaders and others with a focus on discovering how the most successful people get farther across the gap between potential and results. He and his wife make their home in Austin, Texas and are the parents of two highly-spirited daughters. Website:  

Dec 8

37 min 37 sec

It’s safe to say that the world has changed quite a bit over the last 20 months and some of us may be a bit rusty when it comes to showing our appreciation for those who make our lives easier and provide quality, dependable service. No need to worry; today's timely episode will help make your holidays a bit brighter so you can stress less. I am pleased to welcome Nancy O’Brien, Founder & CEO of The Magnetic Truth back to The Room Block to chat through her 2021 Guide to Holiday Tipping. Nancy advises how to express gratitude to those we do business with on a regular basis, and also offers guidance on how to best support our hospitality community for those of us traveling over the next few months. Happy tipping! Sign up to receive the 2021 Guide to Holiday Tipping here. Nancy O’Brien is an Executive Coach, Keynote Speaker and the CEO & Founder of The Magnetic Truth Advisory, LLC, a personal performance advisory dedicated to assisting clients in successfully navigating corporate and social landscapes with the necessary skills and confidence to achieve personal and professional goals. Clients master subtle, yet critical interpersonal skills by enhancing soft skills that hit hard on the bottom line. The Advisory serves a clientele including colleges students, professional athletes, newly minted MBA’s, mid-level managers, C-Suite executives and corporate sales forces focused on achieving more and distinguishing themselves from the competition. Prior to founding The Magnetic Truth Advisory, LLC, Ms. O’Brien enjoyed an award-winning career in sales and marketing with over 25 years of experience in hospitality, destination marketing and consumer brands/B2B including senior sales and leadership roles at Garrett Brands, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Choose Chicago and Tishman Hotel Corporation.  Ms. O’Brien is a multi-year recipient of Starwood Hotels & Resorts prestigious Sales Executive of the Year award, and Executive Leadership Award. Throughout her career she has cultivated strong client relationships, mentored countless individuals, and created meaningful connections while driving significant results. A native of Chicago, Ms. O’Brien holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from DePaul University and a license to instruct intercultural etiquette and protocol from the renown Protocol School of Washington. Additionally, Ms. O’Brien is a member of the Driehaus College of Business School of Hospitality Leadership Council, Vistage International Trusted Advisor Group, Greater Chicago Food Depository volunteer and former member of the United Way Women United. Ms. O’Brien and her husband, Ken Widelka, reside in Chicago and enjoy traveling, cooking, cycling, hiking, and spending time with their two sons.

Nov 24

31 min 53 sec

After more than 2 decades working in the hospitality and events industry, Deanna Nwosu chose to step out on her own during the pandemic. Today, she is Founder and Event Strategist at Deanna Camille, which assists organizations with all aspects of virtual and in-person events. What makes somebody take the uncertain step of becoming a solopreneur during such an uncertain time for the events industry? Deanna has the answers, and they all come down to a deep trust in, and knowledge of, yourself. If you're somebody who loves being challenged, takes immense pride in your work, and isn't afraid to bet on yourself then Deanna Nwosu is somebody you should know. A perfect storm led to the creation of Deanna Camille; let this episode show you that planting even the tiniest of seeds can eventually yield the most fruitful results.  Deanna Nwosu is a hostess at heart. This led to her career in event planning which allows her to coordinate countless opportunities to connect with clients, vendors and stakeholders across all social strata. With more than 20 years of customer service related work, taking care of clients, members and attendees is second-nature and the driving force behind her work. A CMP since 2017, and a DES recipient, Deanna is also an active member of Meeting Professionals International, serving on the RISE Awards committee globally, and the Director of Marketing for the Ohio chapter.  In 2020 she launched offering event industry strategy, public speaking and emcee services. As a mom of two girls and born and bred Ohio girl, Deanna is always dreaming of a beach vacation. Follow Deanna on Instagram @deannacamille20 Listen to the Experience Junkies Podcast

Nov 17

37 min 38 sec

Many people who work in the events industry may be prone to stress and burnout, but Will Curran is not one of them. As Founder and Chief Event Einstein of Endless Events, Will seems to have found the antidote: do what you love and what you're good at. Will loves the career and life that he’s designed so much that he almost makes it sound easy to produce in-person, virtual, and hybrid events for a portfolio of over 1,000 customers. While I know that's not the case, I have a feeling this episode will show you that there are truly endless possibilities to living the life you desire. During his stay in The Room Block I asked Will why people love him and his company so much, how he became “THE guy” in the event tech space, and what he learned from starting Endless Events when he was just 17 years old.  You’ll hear from Will that one of his specialties is taking things that seem complex or even impossible and demystifying them, and realize that he has used that skill to create a life of true happiness. Will Curran has been named one of the most influential people in the meeting & events industry, one of the 40 under 40 event industry leaders, 35 entrepreneurs under the age of 35, and Inc Magazine’s Coolest College Start-up all before graduating college. Will has been producing in-person and virtual events since high school when he started his first company and has now worked in the production of large event clients such as Emerald City Comicon, Anheuser-Busch, Warner Brothers, Morton Salt & Uber. His team’s mission is to simplify the event planning process by creating the equation for an event’s perfect solution. They also relentlessly seek to be the name in customer service in the events industry. From event logistics to business development to technical production, Will Curran has a diverse background in growing events and companies to the next level. Where to find Will: Twitter: @itswillcurran Instagram: @itswillcurran Facebook: LinkedIn: Where to find Endless Events: Twitter: @helloendless Instagram: @helloendless Facebook: LinkedIn:

Nov 10

37 min 36 sec

The events and hospitality industry is a leader when it comes to resilency and creativity.  It's easy to see why, being made up of idea generators, people connectors, deep thinkers and solution seekers. My first guest of the new season embodies all of these things and as a result, has made a lasting impact on the strength of the industry. David Kliman, founder and president of The Kliman Group has been serving the industry in this capacity for almost 2 decades, but his legacy of holding space for hospitality and events extends beyond that. From hotelier and event planner to meeting facilitator and connector, hear about where David started in the industry, how building relationships and making connections catipulted his career, and what led him to be the epitome of servant leadership as co-founder of the Events Industry Council APEX COVID Business Recovery Task Force.  David Kliman, CMM is founder and President of The Kliman Group, which specializes in creating and facilitating think tanks and performing in depth research and training for tourism industry organizations. The Kliman Group’s clients include numerous destination marketing organizations, convention centers and hotel companies. In 2020, David co-founded the Events Industry Council APEX COVID Business Recovery Task Force and also currently serves on the MPI Foundation Global Board of Trustees. David has served as International Chairman of MPI (Meeting Professionals International) and on the White House Council of Travel and Tourism.  He’s been awarded MPI’s International Planner of the Year and was named Top 25 Influencer of the Meeting Industry by Northstar Meetings Group for 2020.  

Nov 3

36 min 29 sec

Life can so easily feel like an endless stream of tasks. We get so caught up in all of the things we have to or should do, that we ignore or feel guilty about the things we actually want to do. In this episode, I share what I learned by stepping away from my vast "have to-do" list, instead spending the summer checking off my "want to-dos." If you find it challenging to indulge in the things you really want to do over the things feel you have to, consider this episode a permission slip to revamp your to-do list. You may be surprised how much more you'll be able to accomplish in the end. This episode is brought to you by JTS Connect, offering host, emcee, and moderation services for live or virtual events, as well as podcast hosting and consultation.  Want to connect your customers or audience with ideas to inspire action? Learn more about JTS Connect here!  Referenced in episode: Digital Event Strategist (DES) Certification The Wise Pineapple Juicy Tidbits Jen Salerno Connecting the Dots between Events and the Rest of the Hospitality Industry with Jen Salerno GMC PCMA IDE Lunch & Learn – Double Check your Digital Accessibility Judi Holler This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

Oct 27

13 min 40 sec

Almost a year into the development of the PCMA Greater Midwest Chapter's Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (IDE) Task Force I sit down with founding members, Yolanda Simmons-Battle, Jatare Barrett and Alli Shebek to talk about how and why it was formed, the type of programming it provides, its future goals and what they have learned. We also reflect on some of the other significant events and anniversaries that are important to discuss when exploring IDE efforts. Our history may be in the past, but it created the foundation that we stand on today and that foundation is in need of some major repairs. Tune in to learn how you can begin, what role we all need to play and why it's so important to continuously seek new information. Yolanda Simmons Battle is a born and raised Chi-town girl as the only child to wonderful parents. She was raised to desire to learn more, to love people and enjoy life that more abundantly. She is married and the proud mother of three children. Yolanda holds a B.A in Psychology from Roosevelt University, currently working on her M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and is a Certified Meeting Professional. As her role as a Senior Meeting Manager, she also serves as the Chair of the Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Task Force of GMC PCMA, the Chair of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee at AHIMA, and a licensed Minister at Purposed Christian Church, under Rev. LeAundre and Prophetess Patricia Hill, Pastors. Yolanda is an eternal learner, an avid reader, and a consummate seeker of justice. Jatare Barrett is a certified meeting professional with more than 15 years of international and domestic event and meeting management experience. She was invited to join the GMC PCMA Inclusion, Diversity and Equity task force, which was the first task force for PCMA in 2020. Passionate about learning more about the topic, she has recently completed the University of South Florida MUMA Inclusion Diversity and Equity certification program. She has co-created two inclusion, diversity and equity workshops with GMC PCMA within the last six months as well as served as a panelist for a Choose Chicago staff IDE workshop. Alli Shebek, DMCP, is a Senior Experience Designer with PRA Events in Chicago, a leading business events management firm. She first got involved with PCMA after being selected as one of the "20 in Their Twenties" Class of 2018, and has been an engaged member since then. Alli currently serves as Marketing Co-Chair for the PCMA GMC Chapter, as well as a member of the IDE Task Force. She is also actively involved in MPI, serving as Director of Marketing for the Chicago Area Chapter. Alli is passionate about voting rights and access to free and fair elections, and volunteers with Vote Save America and MoveOn to serve this passion. When she isn't designing events, creating marketing campaigns, or engaging with voters, Alli can be found enjoying live music at concerts or relaxing near Lake Michigan with her dog, Roo.

Jun 30

1 hr 11 min

Can the art of hospitality be taught? According to Zana Usher, Founder and CEO of Zana DeVine Hospitality, it can, as long as you have the heart for hospitality. Zana is a hospitality expert and coach who was born into the industry and now lives to serve those who serve in it. If you manage a restaurant, hotel, or a team within one, this episode will show you how investing in a hospitality coach can be just what you need to start a positive cycle of service, satisfaction and sales. If you are an employee, let Zana’s passion for people and enthusiasm for opportunity show you what is possible when you commit your heart to hospitality. Founder and CEO Žana Usher, originally from Berlin Germany, had the privilege of being born into a amazing hospitality family. Her father was acclaimed chef and her mother was the head of a housekeeping department at a medium sized hotel. This is where her passion and true love for the world of hospitality began and while abroad gave her the incentive to earn a bachelors in Hospitality and a masters degree in Hotel Management. ​Žana has 25 years of knowledge and expertise in the hospitality industry around the world working with stellar brand names, such as Hilton, Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Fig & Olive, to name a few. Fluent in four languages, Žana is thrilled to offer services in German and English. Žana DeVine Hospitality (formally ZD Hospitality) is a premium global training and coaching provider specializing in serving the hospitality industry. We are dedicated to equipping, inspiring and assembling excellent hospitality teams.  Founded on the principle that hospitality is about providing at all times outstanding guest service and cultivating a healthy, productive and warm work environment for its staff and managers.  At any given time, guests enter your  restaurant, hotel, casino, resort or country club, wanting to feel recognized for choosing your establishment, appreciated for being there and catered to their individual needs.  Žana will ensure your team, services and process are exceptionally healthy and ready to give your guest the superior experience they deserve! This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

Jun 23

36 min 8 sec

It's challenging to be on the opening team of a new hotel under normal circumstances; even more so under our "new normal." Mark McLaughlin, Director of Business Development at the brand new Sable at Navy Pier Chicago, and Sarah Becker, Complex Director of Sales at the also brand-new Hilton Garden Inn and Canopy by Hilton Chicago Central Loop join me in The Room Block to chat about how their hotel sales journeys have led them to their exciting new roles as sales leaders starting from scratch. Listen in to learn about your new favorite hotel hangouts in Chicago, and to catch up with two veteran hotel sales professionals who are using their skills and passions to build new hotels, and rebuild our industry. Mark McLaughlin is originally from the Philadelphia area with his first job out of Penn State with DoubleTree National Sales, back when DoubleTree was its own company prior to the Hilton acquisition. Most of his career has been spent in downtown Chicago with the opening of theWit Chicago, A DoubleTree by Hilton in 2009 where he spent the next 11+ years. Mark recently joined the team of Sable at Navy Pier in February 2021 to open Chicago’s newest hotel on the horizon and Navy Pier’s first and only hotel as well as Hilton’s 100th Curio Hotel. Interestingly both theWit and Sable were designed by the award winning architect, Jackie Koo, who also designed one of Sable’s amazing outlets, Offshore Rooftop & Bar, the world’s largest rooftop bar in the Guinness Book of World Records! Sarah Becker has been in the hospitality industry for the past 19 years; the majority of her time has been spent in the downtown Chicago market in a sales and marketing capacity. Her experience spans over 10 different brands and across all segments of sales and events. She joined Aimbridge Hospitality this past April as the Complex Director of Sales for the new Hilton Garden Inn and Canopy by Hilton Chicago Central Loop. Both Hotels are scheduled to open late this summer. Sarah is an active member of the Chicago Chapter of the Global Business Travel Association and enjoys spending time with her family, adventuring, photography, anything DIY, traveling and the art of fundraising. In the words of Conrad Hilton, she too believes, “To accomplish big things, I am convinced you must first dream big dreams”.

Jun 16

58 min 40 sec

It’s been so exciting getting back out into the world and seeing people live in person again, but it’s also prompted insecurities about the next step in my career and why I’m still not where I want to be! For those of you who are giving entrepreneurship a go or have ever thought about doing so, this episode may feel like a cautionary tale, or a guiding light. But no matter where you are on your journey, the most important thing to remember is to just...keep...going. Referenced in episode: HospitalityMD Judi Holler This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

Jun 9

14 min 9 sec

Do you feel confident about the return to live events? Whether a hotelier, event planner, or event attendee, each of us carries some risk and responsibility as we begin to travel and meet in person once again. Join me for an exclusive first look at the successful conclusion of an actual live program, planned by Ashley Lawson, Vice President of Business Partnerships and co-owner of Achieve Incentives & Meetings, and hosted by Manuel Lara, Sales Manager at UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya. Ashley and Manuel walk us through the ins and outs and the highs and lows of planning and executing a live event at this stage of the pandemic. This episode is jam-packed with valuable tips and teaches us what to anticipate and expect to ensure your event's safety and success. Demonstrating strong values of partnership and leadership, Ashley and Manuel have the same goals: to deliver an unforgettable experience for their client and help foster our industry's recovery, learning together as they go. Ashley Lawson is the Vice President of Business Partnerships and a co-owner of Achieve Incentives & Meetings,  a meetings and travel incentive planning firm based in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a third generation planner, and learned her ABC’s by alphabetizing flight itineraries in the family business. Ashley loves crafting meaningful travel incentives that connect and transform people in powerful ways.  This year, Ashley is focused on being a “Safe Travel Ambassador.” She is visiting a new “incentive friendly” destination each month to learn about and highlight their COVID protocols and tips on hosting events in those destinations. Her hope is that by providing education and resources to the planning community, we can be better equipped to usher in the new era of safe, engaging events. Ashley also serves as President of SITE Midwest. Follow Ashley's adventures and learn more on Instagram at @ashleyroseontheroad and @achieve_incentives. Manuel Lara is a Sales Manager at the 5-diamond UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya and has been working in the hospitality business for 12 years. He loves it and has learned everything he knows about hospitality from AIC Hotel Group. He especially enjoys working on the MICE segment of tourism, watching companies motivate their employees or hold meetings to improve the company's growth. It is particularly exciting when his clients' reach their goals with events held at UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya! Manuel and UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya can be found on Instagram at @manuel_lara83 and @unico2087, respectively.  

Jun 2

1 hr 9 min

We all know that a superior experience is what drives customer loyalty. But what does that experience look like, and how is it implemented? Today I am joined in the Courtesy Block by customer loyalty expert Robert Reitknecht, who will walk us through some of the must-haves when designing your guest experience strategy. You may be surprised to learn that before you can start earning the loyalty of your customers, you must first earn the loyalty of somebody else. About Robert Reitknecht: A veteran customer loyalty professional and guest experience expert for over two decades, Robert has provided service-focused insights to a number of Fortune 100/500 companies. He has worked primarily in the hospitality and guest relations verticals, crafting cultures of excellence by spearheading quality standard initiatives, process improvements and hands-on training and development programs. Learn more about Robert here. This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

May 26

29 min 52 sec

So, what's your story?  In this episode I am joined by Regitse Rosenvinge of Room22.Agency and Isabella Owen of Owen Consulting who share their hospitality stories and marketing solutions with us. Both women specialize in helping hotels find their unique stories, as well as teach them how to infuse their stories into marketing and daily operations in an effort to attract, and retain, customers. Whether a person, a place or an object, there's a story waiting to be told and an audience waiting to hear it. If you don't know it, or know how to tell it, this episode is for you! Regitse Rosenvinge is a passionate hospitality professional with more than 10 years of experience in the field, and founder of Room22.Agency, a content and branding agency specializing in independent hotels and restaurants. She's the Author of the e-book "Storytelling for Hotels" as well as the hotel- and hospitality blog, This year, she was named one of the world's leading hospitality influencers. Isabella Owen founded Owen Consulting in Frankfurt in 2017 after 15 years in leading Sales & Marketing jobs. As a specialist for the Asian market and inspiring management consultant focusing on Strategic Consulting and Sales & Marketing, she provides forward-looking incentive for hotels and businesses of all sizes. Her success lies in professionalism, passion and dedication, as well as devoutness for her work and brilliant knowledge of Sales & Marketing – most notably in the hospitality sector. As a Taiwanese-born German, she unifies the characteristics of both worlds in her work ethic: German efficiency paired with Asian business sense and the essence of true hospitality. Her forward-thinking nature, constant search for new solutions and sure feeling for trends of the future contribute to her enthusiasm and are an expression of her loyalty. Her motto: Everyone who takes on responsibility needs conviction, passion and enthusiasm to drive and inspire them. Isabella Owen lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and two children. She is currently advising numerous medium-sized businesses and hotels across Europe and Asia.

May 19

40 min 20 sec

We're constantly inundated with a wide variety of information, and choices about where to consume it all. Do we really want more options, or to be responsible for creating yet more content? Perhaps the better question is, how important is it to form lasting connections and enhance engagement with guests, customers, attendees, or exhibitors? We already know we have too many choices, so how can we encourage them to choose our hotel, product, or event? In this episode, you'll hear some reasons why the very medium you are consuming right now can be a key contributor to this crucial choice. This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

May 12

18 min 1 sec

We've had so many conversations about the opportunities for diversity, equality and inclusion that exist within our industry but how many of those have resulted in actionable takeaways? Carrie Abernathy and Derrick Johnson, events industry leaders and co-hosts of the virtual talk show, Events: From Black to White, are ready to enact change. They join me in The Room Block to discuss the required evolution of the events industry, specific ideas to get us there, and why now is the time. Are you ready to change the world? Whatever your position in this industry may be, every one of has a chance to move the needle and our collective actions will make a difference. Carrie Abernathy, CMP, CEM, CSEP, is co-Founder of the Association for Women in Events. She is currently the Lead Meeting Planner for the Industry Engagement team at Altria Group Distribution Company. Additionally, Carries runs the blog “A Woman with Drive” that ties in her love of all things golf and leadership together. For 15 years, Carrie has enjoyed working in the meetings/ events world and connecting with others. Carrie has also served on several advisory councils and committees that include: PCMA’s Emerging Leaders Committee, Cleveland CVB Advisory Board, Team San Jose Advisory Council, Reno-Tahoe Advisory Board, Salt Lake City Advisory Council, Monterey Advisory Board, Destination Hotels Advisory Council, Green Meetings Industry Council Foundation (Chair- 2014/2015).  She has received several industry accolades and was named Collaborate Magazine's "40 under 40" industry planners to watch. She was also named Smart Meetings Magazine’s Top 50 Smart Women of 2017 and inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2019.  That year, she was named Successful Meetings Magazine’s “Top 25 Most Influential” in the meetings industry as well.  Carrie has been a finalist for the prestigious “Meeting Planner of the Year” honor for PCMA. Carrie currently lives in Virginia with her min pin Ginger and you’ll often find her golfing or playing tennis in the summer with her nephews, and skiing in the winter. Learn more about Carrie at Derrick Johnson, DES, CMP is a skilled association executive with over 15 years of driving global business development and creative strategy. As a transformational leader, he has coached and optimized the contributions of over 30 cross-functional teams and hundreds of people, developing sustainable roadmaps for organizational growth. As a millennial with a passion for leveraging technology to navigate disruption, Derrick provides a solid, yet unique, perspective into the domain of change management and the future of associations. Derrick serves as Director of Event Strategy and Development and Chief Diversity Officer for Talley Management Group, as an independent consultant, sits on three global association boards of directors (PCMA, LGBT MPA, and LGBA) and contributes thought leadership as a public speaker on the future of associations and businesses, continuous professional development, and the evolution of technology. In Derrick’s free time, he captains a flag football team part of the DC Gay Flag Football League. Watch past and upcoming episodes of Events: From Black to White at

May 5

59 min 7 sec

For a hotel sales and event management software company to not only survive, but thrive over the past year, it has to have a pretty unique value proposition, as well as a visionary leader. Today in The Courtesy Block I am joined by Bob Graham, CEO of Event Temple, where we talk about his journey co-founding and growing Event Temple in a sea of more established hotel management systems, and why they stood out as a success story in 2020. Listen in to find out what attributes have made a difference for Event Temple as a company and Bob as a leader, and how an entrepreneurial mindset driven by curiosity and values help to create success, happiness and opportunity for all involved. About Bob Graham: Bob Graham, Event Temple’s CEO, is a visionary and natural leader. His mission is to help people with great character thrive so they can make a positive difference in the world. Bob is passionate about the future of hotel sales and what that's going to look like in this era of industry recovery. Bob is driven by his curiosity for life and leads his team with integrity and purpose. In his spare time you can find Bob playing the Spanish guitar, playing foosball with the team, or going on a worldly adventure. About Event Temple: Imagine someone on your sales team won the lottery and quit today, what would you do? Would you know where to start with their leads or bookings or would you be lost? You don’t want to be caught in the dark. That’s the power of Event Temple’s award winning Sales CRM and Event Management Software. The platform was designed to keep you and your sales team all on the same page no matter where you are in the world. Built around four main pillars: ease of use, best in class integrations, industry leading support and robust reports, Event Temple is ideal for hotel groups and hotels (with or without meeting space) looking to win more business while managing the entire sales process, from prospecting to closing business, all in one platform. To learn more about Event Temple visit: This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

Apr 28

39 min 10 sec

What does it take to handle two demanding jobs, especially when both jobs can require long hours, nights, weekends, and stress? There’s no way around it, being a working mother in the events and hospitality industry is tough. In this episode, I am joined by Jessica Schoefernacker, Director of Sales and Marketing from the Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile, and Jen Manthei, an independent meeting & event consultant - both mothers of young children. They weigh in on the good, the bad, the highs and lows, and what exactly it takes to be able to do it all. Spoiler alert - you can’t, and that’s okay! Whether you are looking for specific strategies or simply some words of encouragement, this episode is here to help.    

Apr 21

1 hr 1 min

Conventional wisdom tells us that forward momentum and continuous movement is a good thing - and it is, as long as you're on the right path. How can you be sure? A full year after the pandemic forced me to take a hiatus from working a traditional job within the events industry, I share my thoughts about what I've learned from this unexpected change of course in this week's episode of The Courtesy Block. Gain a new perspective on loss, learn what it actually means to live in harmony, and see what's possible when you try on something new for size - even when you're convinced it won't fit. This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

Apr 14

17 min 8 sec

Do you or your company have what it takes to become, ICONIC? Join me for an engaging and fun conversation with Calvin Stovall, Chief Experience Officer and Iconicity Enthusiast for ICONIC Presentations, and John Avola, a digital marketing leader with 15 years of experience and currently Digital Marketing Principle at FedEx. After a 25-year career in hospitality, Calvin took what he learned about some of the stand-out brands he worked for and created a practical and systematic technique called The ICONIC Framework™ to help organizations achieve and maintain iconic status in the eyes of their customers. In addition to presenting The ICONIC Framework to audiences via speaking engagements and workshops, Calvin and John discuss the essential components to creating staying power and how to build a lasting emotional connection with customers on their podcast, The ICONIC Mindset. In this episode, they share the highlights of The ICONIC Framework, provide expert insight on how to attract and keep customers, and offer predictions on what it's going to take to stay ICONIC in 2021 and beyond. Calvin Stovall is the Chief Experience Officer and Iconicity Enthusiast for ICONIC Presentations, LLC. Calvin specializes in delivering high-energy, customized keynote presentations for organizations that desire to reach or maintain ICONIC status. Calvin focuses on delivering the perfect blend of business concepts, story-telling and music themes to bring home an impactful message that touches both the heads and hearts of his audiences. Armed with more than 25 years of experience in the hospitality and non-profit services industries, Calvin’s audiences learn real-life, hands-on practical customer experience and leadership principles which can be easily applied to business challenges today. Calvin designed a practical and systematic technique called The ICONIC Framework™ to help organizations achieve and maintain iconic status in the eyes of their customers. Calvin is also host of The ICONIC Mindset podcast where he and his co-host John Avola share the secrets behind what it takes to make your business, idea or movement iconic. The pinnacle of Calvin’s hospitality career was his promotion to vice president of brand marketing with Hilton Worldwide where he was responsible for the marketing and public relations efforts for more than 150 Homewood Suites by Hilton hotels. While under his leadership, Homewood Suites by Hilton was voted best in class by numerous consumer advocacy publications, including Consumer Reports and recognized four times by J.D. Power and Associates for its unwavering commitment to customer service quality. John Avola is a digital marketing expert and entrepreneur with experience across three business sectors: corporate, nonprofit and sole proprietorship. His resume includes starting his own business as well as working for some of the world's most ICONIC brands including Universal Orlando, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and FedEx. As the co-host of The ICONIC Mindset, John leverages his experience to reveal the secrets behind what it takes to make your idea, business or movement ICONIC. Throughout his career, John has successfully developed, planned and executed digital marketing campaigns to drive brand awareness, engagement and revenue. Some of his most successful initiatives include managing earned, paid and owned media for national campaigns, launching consumer-centric promotions and developing integrated marketing technology strategies that connect customer experiences. John has a Masters of Business Administration with a concentration in marketing, graduating Summa Cum Laude. He graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Advertising and Public Relations. In his spare time, you can find John collaborating with like-minded people and giving back to the community. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids, training for marathons and cheering on his favorite sports teams.  

Apr 7

1 hr 5 min

Do you ever notice how some people seem to attract success? Chances are, they’ve been taught the rules of etiquette and business protocol, and have picked up the soft skills that allow them to seamlessly guide and influence others. In this episode, I am joined in the Courtesy Block by Nancy O’Brien, who after an award-winning career in hospitality and destination marketing founded The Magnetic Truth Advisory, where she is dedicated to teaching her clients the confidence-building skills that are necessary to achieve personal and professional goals. Nancy shares how her 25 years of working in sales and leadership roles for some of the biggest names in hospitality taught her the skills that continually propelled her onward and upward. She also shares some helpful hints that we can all use as we learn to not only adapt, but thrive in our “new normal.” Nancy O’Brien is an Executive Coach, Keynote Speaker and the CEO & Founder of The Magnetic Truth Advisory, LLC, a personal performance advisory dedicated to assisting clients in successfully navigating corporate and social landscapes with the necessary skills and confidence to achieve personal and professional goals. Clients master subtle, yet critical interpersonal skills by enhancing soft skills that hit hard on the bottom line. The Advisory serves a clientele including colleges students, professional athletes, newly minted MBA’s, mid-level managers, C-Suite executives and corporate sales forces focused on achieving more and distinguishing themselves from the competition. Prior to founding The Magnetic Truth Advisory, LLC, Ms. O’Brien enjoyed an award-winning career in sales and marketing with over 25 years of experience in hospitality, destination marketing and consumer brands/B2B including senior sales and leadership roles at Garrett Brands, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Choose Chicago and Tishman Hotel Corporation.  Ms. O’Brien is a multi-year recipient of Starwood Hotels & Resorts prestigious Sales Executive of the Year award, and Executive Leadership Award. Throughout her career she has cultivated strong client relationships, mentored countless individuals, and created meaningful connections while driving significant results. A native of Chicago, Ms. O’Brien holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from DePaul University and a license to instruct intercultural etiquette and protocol from the renown Protocol School of Washington. Additionally, Ms. O’Brien is a member of the Driehaus College of Business School of Hospitality Leadership Council, Vistage International Trusted Advisor Group, Greater Chicago Food Depository volunteer and former member of the United Way Women United. Ms. O’Brien and her husband, Ken Widelka, reside in Chicago and enjoy traveling, cooking, cycling, hiking, and spending time with their two sons.

Mar 31

50 min 25 sec

It takes a lot of heart to work in the hospitality industry. Yet, this concept is not always embodied across all who work in it and as a result, something is bound to suffer; guest satisfaction, survey scores, even your employees. In this episode I am joined by co-founders and managing partners of HospitalityMD, Kyle Allison and Greg Fregoso. Kyle and Greg believe that whether you are working in the C-suite or the front office, "Hospitality is Everyone's Business." We explore their mission, what inspires, drives and rewards them, and how they use the power of storytelling to build empathetic communities and hospitable atmospheres. About Kyle Allison: As a founding member of HospitalityMD, Kyle develops and leads the company’s operations through innovative initiatives. As a self-proclaimed “relationalist,” Kyle drives long-term results by establishing and maintaining relationships with thoughtful industry leaders. He recognizes the power of storytelling, listening to the stories of his guests and colleagues to create a personalized environment for his team to thrive. Kyle’s hospitality story began when he was just six years old and transformed his home into a “hotel.” Even as a child he understood the power of good service, and offered housekeeping and in-room dining options for his parents to enjoy. Since then, he’s taken that can-do spirit and turned it into a career spanning nine hotels in four states, working in hotels ranging from 209 to 1,190 rooms. The idea that “Hospitality is Everyone’s Business” doesn’t stop at the revolving door. Kyle hosts the HospitalityMD podcast, where he interviews hospitable people from all over the world working all sorts of jobs. He is leading the revolution in hotel management, building a community of like minded people who believe the need for good hospitality is universal. About Greg Fregoso: Greg is a founding member of HospitalityMD, and his role with the company is versatile. His wheelhouse includes consultation, training, task force ideation, and business and content strategy. A true team architect, Greg has a long track record of building high-performing hospitality families. His experience as a team leader in both successful and struggling properties has led him to believe that a happy hospitality team makes for a happy guest experience. Greg’s 13-year career includes management roles in full-time and task force capacities at six hotels ranging from 209 to 860 rooms in two states. Most recently he led the Rooms Division in a renowned Downtown Chicago boutique hotel, located at the busiest intersection in the city. As a key voice in HospitalityMD’s mission, Greg is eager to revitalize the hotel industry with his team-building ingenuity. HospitalityMD exists to reform how progressive hospitality is approached. With nearly 20 years of combined experience in hotel operations management, HospitalityMD leads with an insider’s eye to revolutionize the industry. HospitalityMD offers Hotel Management and Receivership services, Hospitality Consulting, and Hotel Task Force. Filled with anecdotes from the front desk and beyond, the HospitalityMD podcast started as a hobby for co-founders Kyle and Greg. It has since evolved into an engaging space to discuss the driving forces behind the industry’s most hospitable people.

Mar 24

1 hr 2 min

No matter what your day job may be, we all negotiate for a living.  In this Courtesy Block episode, I review some basic negotiation skills as well as show you how to apply them to your personal life to ensure the spirit of partnership stays alive in all of your relationships - including the one you have with yourself. Learn why maintaining a win-win mindset is an effective strategy when dealing with those close to us and how negotiation skills can help guide you through difficult conversations.  This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

Mar 17

18 min 52 sec

There is great power in experiencing significant moments with others. Liz Lathan and Nicole Osibodu of Haute Dokimazo understand this power and have harnessed it, packaged it, and regularly deliver it to companies who want to enhance the way they connect with each other, as well as their customers. By creating magical shared experiences that break down walls and stimulate conversation (even virtually!), Liz and Nicole show you how to build genuine connections that lead to profitable relationships. Their main requirement? It has to be fun.  Liz Lathan, CMP has devoted her career to engaging people face-to-face (and virtually) for collaboration, ideation and experimentation. She is obsessed with applying modern marketing principles to a segment of the marketing industry that has historically been an afterthought — live events. Dedicated to bridging the gap between sales and marketing, Liz’s experience has encompassed leading event marketing strategy teams from Fortune 500 companies such as National Instruments, Dell and IBM, to consulting with nonprofit associations and small to medium businesses on how to optimize their events within broader marketing programs. She’s created events from 10-person C-level hospitality experiences up to 40,000-person multi-venue conferences. Liz was nominated for the 2018 Event Marketer B2B Dream Team and was awarded 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year from Smart Meetings. In addition to her role as Chief Executive Officer of Haute Dokimazo, Liz is also partner and Chief Experience Officer of Haute Companies. Connect with Liz at Nicole Osibodu’s zeal for genuine human-to-human connection, building strong communities and brand partnerships is the heart and soul of Haute Dokimazo. Her fearless pursuit of meaningful business relationships that can be a change for good is one of the reasons she was voted one of Smart Meetings’ Event Planners of the Year in 2019. Her past experience has included working in marketing, sales and business development, and as an event designer for many different organizations. Among Nicole’s memorable experiences were working on a special event for Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions; Christmas at the White House 2011; and for Comer Children's Hospital of Chicago, as well as working as general manager and director of special events under "Top Chef: New Orleans" finalist Chef Carlos Gaytan. She’s taught business event planning at San Diego State University and was also the founder and president of Operation Morale, supporting wounded troops and their families. In addition to her role as President of Haute Dokimazo, Nicole is also a partner and Chief Customer Officer of Haute Companies. Connect with Nicole at Haute Dokimazo creates rousing shared experiences anchored in conversation that drive genuine connections. The award-winning company facilitates high-energy roundtable sessions, community think tanks, and strategic planning sessions for businesses and nonprofits both large and small. Their clients have included Fortune 500 list regulars Dell, Adobe and Google. The company’s unusual name combines “Haute” (pronounced “hot” by the founders but defined as the French word meaning “high” or “quality”) — with ‘Dokimazo’ (a Greek word, pronounced dok-im-ad’-zo). Co-founder Liz Lathan states, “Dokimazo means trying to prove something is genuine — our conferences focus deeply on genuine connections and genuine learning.” Learn more at

Mar 10

53 min 48 sec

Are you making any critical mistakes in your daily interactions with others? Strong customer service and communication skills can earn you and your business loyal guests and clients, as well as respect. On the other hand, weak skills in this area can cost you everything. I am joined by Nancy Friedman, who is founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, diagnosing problems and prescribing solutions for companies of all types and sizes. In addition to offering a multitude of training programs, Nancy is also the author of 9 books covering communications, sales, and customer service. She has worked with the hospitality industry over the years sharing tips, ideas, skills and techniques that stand the test of time, creating service rock stars who garner 5-star ratings. Nancy Friedman, the Telephone Doctor, is one of America’s most sought after speakers on sales, customer service and communication skills. In between the humor, laughter and fun are well-oiled tools that have been proven to help thousands of companies. Nancy received the Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame Award from the St. Louis Small Business Monthly as well as being selected as one of meeting planner’s favorite speakers by Meetings & Convention Magazine. Nancy has appeared on Oprah, Fox News, CNN and every morning show on all networks and brings a wealth of information to help your business. You can connect with Nancy at or visit for more information. Telephone Doctor, Inc., an international customer service training company, provides onsite programs for conferences and meetings as well as their popular customer service learning platform ( for small and big businesses alike. Nancy and her staff of 21 have helped over 30,000 organizations improve the Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSat) and Net Promoter Score (NPS) of their Customer Service Reps, Help Desk Staff, Call Center Agents, Tech Support Staff and other team members. This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

Mar 3

39 min 30 sec

What do boutique hotels, big box convention hotels, resort properties and vacation rentals ALL have to do in order to thrive? Wil Slickers, host of Slick Talk: The Hospitality Podcast, and Adam Knight, host of The Proven Principles Podcast and Principal at Knowing Hospitality share their expertise on the world of property management, from a one-room vacation rental to a branded city center hotel. With a focus on strategic operations yet a heart for hospitality, Wil and Adam are creating content and companies dedicated to giving back to an industry that has given so much to them. Wil Slickers started working for a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel in Spokane, Washington and shortly realized his passion for people and hospitality was his dream life and career! Wil played many roles in the hotel of over 700 rooms, and after a few years there, he moved to the Oregon Coast to manage a small collection of independent properties and restaurants while starting a podcast. Now, with a high demand for content, tools, and resources for anything involving hospitality, as well as a Hospitality & Revenue Management Certification through Cornell University, Wil has dedicated his time to individual and big name operators in the vacation rental and boutique hotel segments of hospitality while still growing the show and industry network globally. You can find Slick Talk: The Hospitality Podcast and learn more about Wil by visiting Adam Knight is the Creator and Host of The Proven Principles Podcast and Principal at Knowing Hospitality, a full service hotel management company that operates hotels on behalf of owners and lenders. He brings 25 years experience across luxury brands and independent companies.  A hospitality veteran and operations expert, he has lived and worked all over North America and the Caribbean. He loves the left brain/right brain dichotomy of the hospitality industry. One minute you’re diving into a P&L, the next you’re tasting the new seasonal menu in the restaurant. His passion lies in understanding how things work and making them better, be it small service experiences or large-scale project management. You can listen to The Proven Principles Podcast at and learn more about Adam and Knowing Hospitality at

Feb 24

1 hr 3 min

In today's world, authenticity seems to be more valued than ever before. However, it's one thing to speak your truth and another to live it, especially when our private lives are becoming increasingly public. This Courtesy Block episode explores a few ways that I've discovered the additional responsibility, but also the reward, that comes with having your own platform, and speaking out. This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

Feb 17

16 min 5 sec

What is stopping you from turning your dreams into reality? Whether you need tactical advice on how to set and achieve goals, or simply permission to honor your vision of who you are and what you want in the first place, Judi Holler and Courtney Stanley are here to help. As former meeting industry professionals, Judi and Courtney transformed their side-hustle into the main event and are showing others what it takes to do the same. Join me for a true power hour where Judi and Courtney offer ideas on how to inspire courage through action, alternative ways to look at and deal with anxiety, and explain why setting goals and establishing intentional daily habits are the foundation to building the life of your dreams.  Judi Holler owns a creative company that uses humor to help people live braver lives, protect their mental health, and build high-performance habits that last. Her work takes the experimental principles of the improv theatre and helps you apply them to the unscripted stage of everyday life. These ideas will teach you that while you’ll never be “fearless” … you can get really good at …FEARING FEAR LESS! Judi is a professionally trained improviser and alumni of Second City’s Conservatory in Chicago and she uses her training every day to smash self-doubt and experiment with fear. Judi’s book, Fear Is My Homeboy, became an instant bestseller on Amazon, and was endorsed by the inspiring Mel Robbins calling it …. “relatable, relevant and most importantly ACTIONABLE!” Additionally, Judi is the creator of the Fear Boss Community, The Vibe and Thrive goal-focused planner, and her top-rated podcast “Yes, And” which are all on a mission to help you fear LESS so you can DO more. You can find Judi on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @judiholler and Linkedin at Learn more by visiting Courtney Stanley of Courtney Stanley Consulting, LLC is recognized globally as an award-winning changemaker, keynote speaker and event emcee, and acclaimed creator of the women-inspired podcast, Dare to Interrupt. With a background in experience design, leadership studies and business hospitality, Courtney helps ambitious professionals from all walks of life lean fiercely into the power of leading with empathy, advocating for themselves and others, and seizing “silver lining” opportunities to grow personally and professionally. Courtney is the youngest member to have ever been elected to Meeting Professionals International's (MPI) International Board of Directors. She is the recipient of Smart Meetings' 2020 Women in Events Entrepreneur Award, Meetings Today's 2019 & 2020 Trendsetter Award, MeetingsNet’s 2019 Changemaker Award, the Association for Women in Events (AWE) 2018 Disruptor Award, the 2015 MPI Chairman’s Award and 2011 MPI RISE Award, named Collaborate and Connect Magazine’s 40 under 40 in 2011, and is recognized as one of the event industry’s most impactful change-makers. Courtney serves on the Events Industry Sexual Harassment Task Force, MPI's Women's Advisory Board, is a Meetings Mean Business Ambassador and is the co-founder of the award-winning movement, #MeetingsToo.  You can find Courtney on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @courtneyonstage and Linkedin at Learn more by visiting

Feb 10

1 hr 17 min

In a recent article listing the top 30 most stressful jobs in the world, the events and hospitality industry had the honor of securing 4 different positions. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was an organization dedicated to cultivating better mental health and wellbeing in events, and for the professionals who work within the industry? Lucky for us, help is on the way! Rachael Riggs returns to the The Room Block, not only to share what she has been up to in her position of WellBeing Leader at Maritz Global Events, but also as the first US Ambassador for EventWell, a UK based organization launching in North America on March 3, 2021. Rachael Riggs is the WellBeing Leader at Maritz Global Events, as well as the North American President and Board of Trustee for EventWell. Rachael is a 25+ year career veteran in the event industry who is passionate about integrating wellbeing into the event experience. Having spent time on both the planner and supplier side of the event industry, Rachael landed her ultimate job experience just prior to the pandemic as the WellBeing Leader for Maritz Global Events. Connect with Rachael at EventWell, based in the UK, is the event industry’s trailblazing and official not for profit social enterprise and charitable organization dedicated to campaigning, educating and supporting better mental health and wellbeing in events. EventWell is launching in North America on March 3, 2021! Learn more at This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

Feb 3

20 min 53 sec

Can you or your company claim a purpose that inspires the people working with and for you? It takes a visionary leader to fuel this kind of passion, and a little Swiss hospitality doesn't hurt either. Philippe Clarinval and Rob Brandenberg are Hotel General Managers and friends who share the mentality required to infuse their teams with a dedication to service excellence, even during a pandemic. Listen in as Philippe and Rob chat about managing vs. leading, positivity vs. hope, and why it's so important to strike a balance between the transactional and the transformative. Philippe Clarinval is the General Manager at Carlton Hotel St. Moritz. Following completion of his MBA degree in hotel management, Philippe worked around the world. After holding several management positions in Europe, the USA and Asia, he then served as Resident Manager of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts in Indonesia and Malaysia. Following that appointment, he spent seven years as Managing Director of the five-star Omnia Mountain Lodge luxury hotel in Zermatt, which he transformed into one of Switzerland's leading hotels. Philippe is a multilingual Swiss-Belgian citizen, a member of the European Hotel Managers Association, and a current Doctoral Candidate at the University of Liverpool. He has also obtained certificates in Executive Leadership and Higher Education Teaching from the University of Oxford and Harvard University, respectively. Connect with Philippe at Learn more about the Carlton Hotel St. Moritz at Rob Brandenberg is the General Manager at the Pan Pacific Seattle. Prior to this, he held positions such as the Director of Food & Beverage, Director of Operations and Hotel Manager in locations including Atlanta, San Francisco, San Diego, Jakarta and Bangkok. Rob has worked for several luxury hotel brands like St. Regis, Peninsula, Luxury Collection, Ritz-Carlton, Regent and Le Méridien. The start of his over two-decade long hotel career started as a pastry chef back in Zurich, Switzerland, where he was also born. Going through a formal culinary training in a Grand Hotel in his hometown, his path let to New York City where he started his first assistant management role with the Peninsula Hotel Group. After stints in the Manhattan Restaurant scene, he returned to the world of hotels for good to pursue his dream of becoming a General Manager. Connect with Rob at Learn more about the Pan Pacific Seattle at

Jan 27

1 hr 9 min

Can a virtual event be transformative? If you attended PCMA Convening Leaders 2021, you might say so. In this Courtesy Block episode, I recap the highlights and my main takeaways from this year's event, including the importance of having a strong host or moderator. It may be one of the elements that helps take an engaged attendee to an event evangelist. Learn more at This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

Jan 20

17 min 17 sec

How do you want to remember this critical time in our history? Business events industry veterans and co-hosts of the TRAVELING Podcast, Dan Sherman and Ryan Barth want to be part of the story. By being some of the voices that bring our industry's biggest issues and opportunities into the forefront, Dan and Ryan are helping to create a narrative - not just for the events industry, but for themselves as well. Listen in to find out how their friendship has been the backdrop to taking risks and setting trends, all in the name of moving our industry forward. Dan Sherman is Vice President, Business Development at Freeman, Founder & Contributor at HIP Network, and Co-Host at Traveling Podcast. With over 19 years of industry experience, Sherman has successfully supported hundreds of North America’s top events, which include Major League Baseball, U.S. Department of State, Specialty Food Association, American Chemical Society, U.S. Green Building Council, Indianapolis 500, Heisman Trophy Weekend and many more. Over the years, he has been recognized as a Top Intermediary Partner for Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International and Omni Hotels & Resorts. In addition, Sherman was honored with the prestigious 2014 Conrad Hilton “Be Big” Award Winner as well as the Connect Meetings 40 Under 40 Award. Sherman has also launched and managed some of the industry’s most forward-thinking services and brands, including the development and sale of three successful companies: ShowScore (acquired in 2017), Sherman Hospitality (acquired in 2016) and Legacy Sustainability Management (acquired in 2012) in addition to HIP Network, Sessions in the City and ConveneGreen. A passionate industry advocate within the group business and hospitality sector, Sherman also holds professional memberships in ASAE, PCMA, and IAEE. Connect with Dan Sherman at  Ryan Barth, CMP is a 15-year veteran of the meeting and event industry currently serving as Digital Sales Manager, Virtual Events for Freeman. Ryan works exclusively on Freeman's virtual event platform, OnlineEventPro, assisting clients with their online event portfolio. Prior to his current role, Ryan worked as a National Sales Manager for Visit Indy, Co-Founder of the Hospitality Industry Professionals (HIP) Network and as a Global Account Executive for ConferenceDirect. Ryan is a certified meeting professional (CMP) and has volunteered for CVB Reps as Board Chairman and as a board member for the Association of Meeting Professionals (AMPS). He was awarded in the inaugural class of PCMA's "30 under 30 Future Industry Leader" in 2014. Ryan graduated from Indiana University and resides in Indianapolis, Indiana. Connect with Ryan Barth at You can find the TRAVELING Podcast at or any major podcast platform.

Jan 13

51 min 29 sec

What does esports have to do with the events industry? As it turns out, quite a bit. Mega event organizer and esports subject matter expert Rebecca De Freitas joins me to talk about how event organizers can power up their planning game by leveling up their esports XP. Rebecca shares how her love of video games combined with her events industry experience gives her a unique perspective on the strong potential of an esports-infused future. Find out how the esports culture caters to the next generation of meeting attendees, and what you can do now to start engaging with your younger audiences in new and meaningful ways. Rebecca de Freitas MPS, DES is a mega event organizer and esport SME. Through her career, she has worked with clients such as Partnership for a Healthier America, ESPN and The Commission on Presidential Debates. Her May 2020 master's thesis "Gen Z + Esports: Digitizing the Live Event Brand" from Georgetown University's Global Hospitality Leadership program has been accepted in IFITT's program. Rebecca is based in the Washington, DC area.  Connect with Rebecca de Freitas at or visit This is The Courtesy Block, a chip off The Room Block podcast.

Jan 6

34 min

2020 was a year for the history books, and I was lucky enough to have some of the very best teachers in the form of my incredible guests. So what did I learn? Join me as I count down the Top 10 lessons from this year's guests. Relive some of the quotes that best illustrate some ideas that are worth taking from 2020 into 2021.

Dec 2020

20 min 29 sec

Thinking of getting certified as a Digital Event Strategist (DES)? Amanda Duski, CMP, DES, Associate Director, Conference Services at the Alzheimer's Association and Kari Messenger, CMP, DES, Senior Manager, Meetings at the Association Management Center lead us through their career journeys, pre-COVID to DES-certified. Join us for a candid conversation about the chain of events that led each of these women to seek out the DES certification, what to know about the course and test, and Amanda and Kari's thoughts on who should get DES-certified, and why. To learn more about obtaining your DES certification, please visit Amanda Duski, CMP, DES is the Associate Director, Conference Services at the Alzheimer's Association where she executes in-person and digital events for their home office as well as nationwide chapters. She completed the ECPAT-USA human trafficking course and became a Business Events Protector this past spring. You can connect with Amanda at Kari Messenger, CMP, DES has been serving Association Management Center (AMC) and their clients for five years, and in the association industry since 2010. In 2019 Kari was elected to serve on the Board for Association for Women in Events (AWE), where she can spread her passion of women helping other women grow and inspire each other in the events community. Kari was a recipient of the Connect 40 under 40 award in 2019 and 2020 Association Forum Forty Under 40. You can connect with Kari at

Dec 2020

53 min 55 sec

What's your next move when faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge? Joann Chmura, Director of Client Services for Simpson Healthcare and Ephraim Yarmak, Founder of #1000Hires both believe that the answer is to help another in need. Join me as Joann and Ephraim share how what could have been their darkest hours were brightened by the actions they took helping and connecting with their communities. With an acute understanding of the pain and suffering that so many job seekers are facing right now, Joann and Ephraim empathize with and encourage listeners who may find themselves or their loved ones in such a position. This conversation showcases humanity at its best, and will leave you feeling hopeful knowing that help is out there. About Joann Chmura CMM, CIS, HMCC: With 20+ years of experience as a Meeting and Event Project Management Professional, Joann is an expert relationship builder and a cost effective time manager. In addition to being an invaluable team member, she has won awards for her work on the Human Trafficking Steering Committee and Task Force with Maritz Global Events. Prior to that, she was the sole proprietor of Strategic Meetings and Events, LLC, a full-service meeting planning company. About Ephraim Yarmak: Ephraim founded #1000Hires in May 2020. Their goal is to empower people in their job search and create leaders that pay it forward. The #1000hires project aims to get at least 1,000 people impacted by COVID layoffs back on their feet, using bite-sized video interviews for recruiters and prospective employers to get a glimpse of their stories.

Dec 2020

52 min 13 sec

The sales and revenue management departments of a hotel are dependent on each other to achieve success, yet, the more they agree with each other the less successful the hotel will be. Jeff Borman, Founder & Chief of travelINNsights and Steve Pierce, Director of Sales & Marketing from the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA examine the delicate and at times misunderstood relationship between sales and revenue management, how they win or lose together (including at Fantasy Football) and what each department is up against as we move through the pandemic. About Jeff Borman: With over 20 years of hospitality management, Jeff has a wide range of experiences from early beginnings in hotel operations, reservations sales and marketing.  The majority of the last 20 years has been leading Revenue Management for Marriott and Hilton, with specific expertise in analytics, pricing science and inventory management.  He has held roles across all hotel kinds- from limited service and extended stay to full service, boutique and luxury.  Those roles have spanned from regional leadership in the US and Asia to global headquarters roles in Bethesda and McLean.  For 3 years, he lead the eCommerce strategy and analysis department in charge of OTA, GDS and 3rd party vendor valuations and negotiation strategies.  He then joined Park Hotels & Resorts in the Asset Management team. Most recently, he founded the tourism and hospitality advisory travelINNsights ( a consulting company serving hotel owners and investors. They also publish hospitality research and the economics of the travel industry for the general public. When not helping the travel industry as an employee, Jeff is supporting it as a customer having hiked, dined and mingled with locals in over 70 countries and 42 States.  When grounded at his home in Alexandria Virginia, he can usually be found in the kitchen (preferably the outdoor one) or rummaging through the wine cellar proudly trying to recall recently acquired sommelier skills. About Steve Pierce: Steve grew up on Long Island, NY and now lives in Fairfax, VA with his wife Nicole and their two kids, Rebecca and Owen. He has been in the hotel industry for 30 years starting on the restaurant side and operations. He has had the pleasure of working for Marriott International for the last 22 years in Revenue Management, Corporate HQ, Sales and Marketing, and is currently the DOSM at Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA ( In his time-off, he enjoys watching baseball and co-authored a book on his favorite team – “off to see the Yankees.”

Nov 2020

53 min 42 sec

Understanding and embracing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is a necessity in our personal and professional lives. Join me for a conversation with three event-industry leaders who have taken an active role in DEI advocacy and education, as they share how they got involved, and more importantly, why. Discover why empathy is so key to having a productive conversation that can push us forward. Shameka Jennings is the Director of Meetings & Partnership Development for the National Coalition of STD Directors, and is part of ASAE’s 2020-2022 Diversity Executive Leadership Program Class. Gus Martinez is a Diversity Consultant and Founder of GSM Consulting, LLC, and has 17 years of experience in the tourism and non-profit sector working in sales, marketing, diversity, and operations. Anthony Molino is Director of Hotel Sales with Choose Chicago, and Immediate Past President of the MPI Potomac Chapter, which received the 2020 MPI RISE Award for Industry Advocate.

Nov 2020

1 hr 3 min

Are you starting to plan, or thinking about traveling to a live event in the near future? Desi Whitney, SVP of Sourcing Operations & Industry Relations for HPN Global and co-founder of Emergency Concierge International and John Ayo, Chief Balancing Officer of Travel Balance share the life experiences that taught them how to prepare for the safest and healthiest outcome, as well as the passion behind their purpose. Desi Whitney is a multi-faceted leader in the industry. She brings almost 20 years of experience to her current role as SVP of Sourcing Operations & Industry Relations for HPN Global. In addition, Desi is co-founder of Emergency Concierge International, an All-Hazards Emergency Planning company dedicated to supporting safer meetings. In this role, she focuses on bridging the gap between emergency planning and meeting planning. At home she is proud to be called wife, mother, and dog mom and enjoys spending time with family, nature, and drinking wine. John Ayo is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, wellness expert, sales specialist and author. He was a successful sales rep that survived in the super stressful technology sector for 19 years, then moved into sales training and meeting planning internationally for 12 years. His book, "Travel Balance" helps people stay energized and balanced while traveling. He has spoken to thousands of people in 26 countries sharing his secrets to staying sane and healthy in a crazy world.

Oct 2020

49 min 31 sec

Colleen Brzozowski, 2020 President of SITE Chicago and Rachael Riggs, 2020 President of the Greater Midwest Chapter of PCMA discuss the numerous challenges and unexpected rewards of being in a volunteer leadership role during a global pandemic. Their experiences with these organizations, both past and present, demonstrate the value of staying connected to and serving a community. Colleen Brzozowski, CIS, is the 2020 President of SITE Chicago (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence - Chicago Chapter). She is a 25+ year veteran of the hospitality industry and spent the majority of her career in hotels/resorts. She had recently moved into national sales for a domestic DMC group before her position was permanently laid off due to the pandemic. You can connect with Colleen at Rachael Riggs is the 2020 PCMA - Greater Midwest Chapter President & Maritz Global Events - WellBeing Leader. Rachael is a 25+ year career veteran in the event industry who is passionate about integrating wellbeing into the event experience. Having spent time on both the planner and supplier side of the event industry, Rachael landed her ultimate job experience just prior to the pandemic as the WellBeing Leader for Maritz Global Events. You can connect with Rachael at About PCMA ( PCMA has 7,000 members and an audience of 50,000 across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. With 17 chapters and activities in 30 countries, PCMA members are business event strategists from corporations, associations, non-profits and all of the varied suppliers in the event industry. The Greater Midwest Chapter is comprised of  9 states with over 1200 members. About SITE ( The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) is the only Business Events association dedicated exclusively to the global incentive travel industry. SITE has 2500+ members in 90 countries with 29 local chapters.

Oct 2020

53 min 10 sec

Through their stories, Pam Nutting, Director of Strategic Sourcing with Maritz Global Events and Rick Nelson, Sr. Director, Worldwide Accounts with Hilton illustrate various examples of how the support they give and receive perpetuates a cycle resulting in growth and success. We examine the relationships and strategies that are important today and will continue to be, as we move into our industry's recovery.

Sep 2020

52 min 23 sec

Hear from entrepreneurs Dahlia El Gazzar of the DAHLIA+Agency and Keri Kelly of SoulMining, Inc. as they discuss the introspection, honesty, and courage it takes to start living a more authentic life on your own terms. They share how a combination of marketable superpowers and the undying support of the events industry helped each of them take a life-changing leap of faith. To reach Dahlia El Gazzar: To reach Keri Kelly:

Sep 2020

55 min 16 sec

Take a deep dive into the world of event accommodations with "work spouses" Richard Albrecht, Director of Client Relations and Suzanne Stigers, Sr. Hotel Industry Relations Manager, both from onPeak. They tell a tale of the inevitable changes that we encounter throughout our careers, personally and professionally, and the lasting bonds that form among team members who navigate both highs and lows together. More information about Connect for Community can be found at

Aug 2020

56 min 23 sec

Rose Horcher, Vice President of Client Services with Choose Chicago, and Dan Traver, Business Development VP with Freeman share the traits that have earned them the trust and friendship of their clients. Join me for a heartwarming conversation with two individuals who exemplify the spirit of the events and hospitality industry and understand the power in staying positive.

Aug 2020

59 min 21 sec

Travel from coast to coast with me as I chat with Kevin Boland, Hotel Manager at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA and Rick Ueno, General Manager of the W South Beach in Miami, FL. Kevin and Rick walk us through their careers from start to present, sharing what motivated them to get to where they are today, as well as potential obstacles they leaned how to overcome.

Aug 2020

1 hr

Learn about me, your host Jen Salerno, why The Room Block was created, and what you can expect by listening in.

Aug 2020

5 min 14 sec