Source: ESPA; published by: Exhibit City News staff
The Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) announced that an executive at the Greater Raleigh CVB was recognized with a prestigious national award along with other industry professionals at its annual conference.
Dennis Edwards, who is president and CEO at Greater Raleigh CVB/Visit Raleigh, was honored with the Executive Excellence Award at ESPA’s annual conference in Kansas City, Missouri, which was held January 21-23. The event incorporated carefully planned safety measures, including a mask mandate and an attendee requirement to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.
“Dennis understands that keeping business is as important as booking business,” said Paola Bowman, CMP, CMM, ESPA president and destination services manager at the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau in Arlington, Texas. “His background in sales has given him a different perspective, one that truly supports event services in the industry.”
The event services professional is often the unsung hero of the events industry, working with clients to make their events come to life, ensure guest satisfaction and repeat business.
During the pandemic, Edwards decided to keep his event services team intact, while other Destination Management Organization (DMO)s across the country laid off or furloughed their services team, losing decades of events expertise in the process. He kept all full-time employees in place, including the services team, because he knew when events returned, it would be crucial to have invaluable experience to help meeting planners achieve events success.
Julie Brakenbury, who is ESPA’s outgoing president and retired director of services at Visit Raleigh, nominated Edwards for the prestigious industry award.
“Denny came up through the CVB/DMO world from the sales side,” Brakenbury said. “I believe that helped him to understand how important it was and is to not only to book business but to service it well. This led him to support a DMO culture where services mattered. At Visit Raleigh, Destination Services has a role on the senior leadership team, is active in building the goals, business plan and budget. He is focused and hard working—but balanced. No matter how busy he is, he always has time to consider a point or respond to a question or assist where needed. He is equally at ease on a podium, in a city council meeting, lobbying in D.C., working a tradeshow . . . it doesn’t matter, he is able to take it all in stride and instills great confidence as a result.”
After working for almost 14 years with him at Visit Raleigh, Brakenbury said Edwards is a real advocate for continuous education and career development: “He encouraged me to not just join ESPA but be active. Denny was and is a true believer in the value of ESPA membership.”
Each year at the annual conference, ESPA recognizes an executive for his or her commitment and dedication to the profession of event services and to giving key support and leadership to members of their services team.
ESPA also recognized several award-winners at its 2022 annual conference.
Meeting Professional of the Year
John Rozum, director of Ag & Utility Exhibitions and Events (Utility Expos Show Director) at Association of Equipment Manufacturers based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, won ESPA’s Meeting Professional of the Year award for leading the first major trade show in Louisville since the pandemic.
Leadership in Service (Inspiration in Service) Award
Lacy Lange, director of Convention Services & Events at Visit Fort Worth, won ESPA’s Leadership in Service (Inspiration in Service) award at the 2022 annual conference.
Leadership in Service Award (Planner Partner)
Aaron Verhei, event manager at Kansas City Convention Center – Bartle Hall, won the Leadership in Service (Planner Partnership) award at this year’s annual ESPA conference.
ESPA Member Awards
During the 2022 annual conference, ESPA also presented awards to two members.
- Michelle Moon, CTE, CPCE, CTA, CMP, senior director of Destination Experience and Special Events, Visit San Antonio, was selected as Member of the Year for member engagement through the year.
- Jamie Huckleberry, director of Destination Services, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, was given the President’s Award for her ongoing contribution to the association.