The 2021 RISE Awards: An In Depth Look At Who They Are

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The 2021 RISE Awards: An In Depth Look At Who They Are

By Cassie Poss, CMP | May 21, 2021

The RISE Awards have always featured incredible and inspiring examples of leadership, influence, and innovation. This year was no exception. The committee received the highest number of nominations ever and ultimately 67 applications were reviewed and scored. The stories told through these applications were awe-inspiring, emotional, unique in nature, and diverse. With the meeting and events industry continuing to power through the pandemic, these aforementioned aspects were even more on display but so were resilience, strength, and honestly, true grit.

The committee really dove into each application carefully and thoroughly and applied the criteria of each award during review. Additionally, the pandemic has had such a great impact on us all this past year. We have all been challenged to recreate, re-examine, and in some ways, re-define and advocate for this industry we know and love. Because of this, the committee would have been remiss to not take this into account during the process. With such incredible applications, the committee’s already difficult job became that much more challenging.

However, simultaneously, we were able to really see that the heart and soul of the meeting industry, which is leadership, community and service to others, is still very much intact and is alive and well! As the Chair of this year’s committee, it was an honor and privilege for me to be part of this process. The recipients of this year’s awards truly embody the spirit of the RISE Awards and the different categories represented. But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s take a little closer look at each recipient, their contributions, and what made them stand out

Young Professional Achievement 

This award recognizes an individual 40 years of age or younger with five or less years of professional experience in the meeting and event industry that has made outstanding contributions to MPI and/or the meeting and event industry.

Zaman Ishaad, CED,CMP, DES has shown incredible influence and transferability across many spectrums! He has helped found the Student Engagement Task Force with his local chapter to create partnerships/mentoring opportunities and a job/volunteer database, assisted in restructuring his chapter’s sponsorships model during the pandemic to spark new relationships and revenue streams and has maintained strong engagement on a global level with Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking (MPAHT). He has written and contributed to several articles on the subject and through research, listening, and talking with professionals, he has been able to provide tools and tips for front-line staff and others to help identify the presence of this issue to truly make a difference.   

Member of the Year 

This award is given to an exceptional MPI member who through volunteer efforts has made outstanding grassroots contributions and demonstrated unparalleled commitment to the advancement of a chapter, club, community, or region.

Kate Copland, CMM, CMP, CED, DES has continually showed leadership throughout her MPI career in a variety of ways from the chapter level to MPI global and then also from an industry standpoint. She is a past-president of her home chapter MPI Connecticut River Valley, is a current MPI chapter facilitator, and been involved in several committees globally. She is assisting in standardizing the training for board orientation being used for all chapters as part of the Chapter Advisor Council. She personally created the board agenda training for her chapter, which includes instruction on what it means to be a non-profit board member and which is now available on the Chapter Resources page as an example to all chapters.  This year during the pandemic, Kate spoke with the current President about the difficulties the chapter was facing, including several vacated board positions. She took it upon herself to create a subcommittee of previous chapter leaders from the past years to brainstorm on how to better move forward in this tough time. She also headed up a mid-year nomination committee in December in an attempt to fill the chapter slate.

As a chapter facilitator for (5) different chapters, she reformatted and centered her retreats around the commencement speech “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace. Instead of just working through strategy and statistics and what all was wrong, instead, her facilitating focused on how could we as leaders choose what we can control, how to adapt, and how to approach this unique time. She has really pushed crisis leadership – Empowering people to make good decisions quickly. The chapters she works with are all weathering the storm and some were even nominated for RISE Awards.

Meeting Industry Leadership 

This award honors those rare individuals who by visionary hard work and creative insight have positively changed the global meeting and event industry. It recognizes sustained commitment and substantial contributions to the meeting and event community.

Greg Elam has a career that has spanned over 50 years in the meeting industry! He has had numerous contributions to the industry both locally and globally within that time and been an incredible advocate first to help ensure that meetings and events was recognized as an industry and then to foster and support its growth. He was a founding member of the MPI D/FW chapter and served as chapter president in 1980. From a global perspective, he has served on numerous MPI Global committees, has been part of the International Board of Directors and was also was in charge of the first national conference for MPI in 1979.

He has presented at conferences and workshops locally, nationally and internationally on the value of meetings and how meeting planners can showcase not only the value of meetings but the values they personally bring to the table for the company’s bottom line. He has been a featured speaker for MPI and other professional organizations including PCMA and PRSA. Greg has mentored countless current and past leaders of the industry and MPI both locally and nationally and has advocated and supported diversity and inclusion within the industry throughout his career. MPI would not be the organization we see today without Greg and his many contributions.

Marketplace Excellence 

This award recognizes an MPI chapter for providing exceptional business exchange for members. Chapters will have demonstrated innovation and creativity in the development, planning, and delivery of effective business-to-business opportunities for members.

Greater New York Chapter created a half-day virtual expo that combined with their annual awards ceremony. The inaugural program was called MPIGNY Education & Expo (EdX) and The Genies. This was in the height of the pandemic and as we all know, New York was one of the cities at the very heart of it all. Their leadership rallied and partnered with The Shubert Organization, American’s oldest professional theatre company, to produce and broadcast an entire event live from Broadway in the middle of Times Square.

Their programs included quality education breakout sessions such as a playbook on virtual events and a virtual networking session allowing not only the regular business opportunities but also incorporating the value of event production and the vital workers/other industries that are involved. They created sponsored virtual exhibit booths for additional business opportunities and were still able to host their chapter awards, honoring the incredible work and chapter service in the past year. Thanks to sponsorships and creative thinking, the entire event was complimentary to all attendees.

Membership Achievement 

This award recognizes an MPI chapter, club, or student club for achievement in membership growth, engagement, and retention. Chapters and clubs must demonstrate the impact of their campaigns, programming, overall membership numbers, and involvement in chapter/club activities and/or improvement in retention.

The MPI Italia committed to growing their chapter and elevating its position by creating special teams/committees devoted to growing membership, partnership, leveraging education, and strengthening relationships with other associations across the country to further elevate MPI and the value of the meeting and events industry. This approach began 3 years ago and has really paid off for their chapter in a variety of ways. They have used their volunteer force to help spread the word and value of MPI beyond geographical barriers. During the pandemic, they maintained these relationships and further looked at their programs to ensure that they continue to provide relevant education. This approach has allowed them, in the middle of the pandemic, to increase their chapter membership by 42 members while also increasing student membership to 25 students.

Innovative Educational Programming 

This award recognizes an MPI chapter, club, or student club for achievement in advancing the education and professional development of its members through innovative programming.

During the pandemic, The Caribe Mexicano Chapter rose to the challenge to ensure that relevant content was available to their members. They completely overhauled their education plan and event calendar in 10 days! They reduced costs by leveraging partnerships with speakers and vendors and even were able to bring in a partner to completely produce their webinars free of charge. Thanks to these relationships, they were able to offer all educational content at no-charge to not only their members but also others affected within the industry.

They reached out to new speakers to ensure content was relevant and marketed the new content to members and other meeting industry contacts.  Their first webinar had over 320 participants! Over the course of the next several months, through their partnerships with other organizations, they maintained incredible reach and were even were able to offer content in multiple languages. With travel being limited during the pandemic, the chapter also decided to host a WEC watch party in Nov 2020. This allowed 35 members and non-members of their chapter to be able to participate in the educational programming for a small participation fee while also joining together to network and to maintain a sense of community.   

Industry Advocate 

This award recognizes an MPI chapter, club, or student club for their achievements in promoting and advancing the meeting and event industry. Chapters and clubs must demonstrate their education efforts regarding the impact of the meeting and event industry, promotion and participation in Global Meetings Industry Day, or strategic use and implementation of tools and resources provided by the Meetings Mean Business Coalition.

Italy was the first nation in Europe hit by the pandemic and thus, the MPI Italia Chapter and its members were the first to be confronted with the nationwide lockdown. The chapter banded together and incorporated other associations and clubs to create “ItaliaLive,” a group to present, advocate and protect the interests of the meeting and events industry. They prepared documents and specific statistics from MPI, GMID, and Meetings Mean Business to educate the government on the industry and how it fuels economic growth for the country.

They organized a peaceful and well-structured protest in front of the Italian Parliament, requesting to permanently open dialog with government on the importance of the meeting industry. Due to these efforts, the group has been invited to sit in discussions with the Economic Ministry to continue to advocate for the industry. They have also worked over the last 3 years to advocate and create a professional certification called the Meeting and Event Manager. Just this past year, the certification was approved.  It fosters sharing best practices and provides an opportunity for continued education, professional recognition and identity to meeting and event planners within their own country and beyond.

Again, congratulations to all of the recipients of these awards and the incredible work that has been done in probably one of the most challenging times we as an industry have ever seen. We RISE with MPI!



Cassie Poss
Cassie Poss, CMP

Event strategist educating sporting event organizers on the value and solutions Fort Worth brings to enhance their event. A team player and active learner with leadership experience and the ability to anticipate and mitigate issues early to execute any task at hand.