MPINCC & you made history in 2016-2017.

Today, June 30, 2017, marks my final day as President of the history-making, record-setting, off-the-charts-amazing MPI Northern California Chapter, and the final day of this 2016-2017 program year, an epic year to Rise and Shine and Educate, Engage, IGNITE!

‘Tis the highest honour to serve as the 37th President of this United State of MPINCC, the world’s largest Chapter of the world’s largest association of meeting, event, and hospitality professionals.  Because you are the firework.  You are my why.  And we are family.

This journey began with a boom (literally, with confetti cannons) at the Sparkle & Shine Annual Gala on June 2, 2016.  As incoming President, I challenged you to define your why, to determine your ROI, and then to join up, get up, suit up, and show up.  And you did. You answered the call with your excitement, your enthusiasm, your energy.

Together we elevated the experience for our members and potential members. Together we led the world in education quality and satisfaction with top-tier speakers such as Randi Zuckerberg, Laura Schwartz, Michael Dominguez, CHSE, Kevin Iwamoto, GTP, GLP, Audrea Hooper, CMP, and more, including all the top-notch speakers at the Annual Conference & Expo (ACE). Together we strategized and showcased ACE anew in its 29th year, designing the first-ever Strategic Meeting Management Plan, developing the first-ever Emergency Plan, and delivering the first-ever seated luncheon keynote for everyone – attendees, exhibitors, students, faculty, staff. Together we gave back via a Community Involvement action or drive every month. Together we achieved global recognition of excellence with an historic three nominations and two wins in the MPI RISE 2017 Awards on June 20, 2017, at the World Education Congress in Las Vegas:

* Finalist for Industry Leadership – Matthew Schermerhorn, CMP, HMCC, our ACE Chair 2016-2017 and President 2010-2011
* Award for Marketplace Excellence – Annual Conference & Expo – accepted by Immediate Past President 2016-2017 Joey Nevin
* Award for Educational Programming – CMP University – accepted by myself

Read more about the RISE Awards at:
Watch the MPINCC ACE video at:

Together we made history. Through the power of igniting your light, of letting it shine. Through the power of committing, of inspiring, of making a difference. Through the power of the unity of community.

And now, with heart aglow in gratitude for each and every one of you, I thank you all once again and hand the gavel to our 38th President, Lucy Giovando Watts, CMP, CMM.  Tomorrow July 1, 2017, President Lucy leads the Chapter forward to Innovate. Together.

Sparkle on, like the stars you are.

Marilee A. Sonneman, CMP, DMCP
Founder, Spotlight Sojourns
President 2016-2017, MPI Northern California Chapter

MPI World Education Congress RISE 2017 Awards – MPINCC Family | Photo © Orange Photography










Learn more about Meeting Professionals International, HERE.
Learn more about MPI Northern California Chapter, HERE.
Follow MPI Northern California Chapter on Facebook.

Memory of the Heart: MPINCC Gala 2017 Super Stars.

La reconnaissance est la mémoire du coeur / Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” (Jean Massieu)

Meeting Professionals International Northern California Chapter (MPINCC) Annual Gala & Silent Auction at the Hotel Nikko San Francisco on 06.06.17, was a night to Celebrate. Together. the achievements of the 2016-2017 program year, a year of firsts and records to Educate, Engage, IGNITE the world’s largest Chapter of the world’s largest industry association of meeting, event, and hospitality professionals.  With resounding gratitude, MPINCC President 2016-2017 Marilee Sonneman, CMP, DMCP, recognizes the superstars who worked relentlessly to Rise and Shine to produce, promote, and present a smashingly successful soireé:

2016-2017 Leadership
* Gala Chair Patrick McMichael, CSEP
* Gala Co-Chair Carina Hessmer
* Gala Chair Christa Mekki, CMP
* Awards & Recognition Chair Dorothea Carroll-Elumba
* Awards & Recognition Co-Chair Sean Kirklen, CMP
* Director of Special Events Paula Zimmer, CMP
* VP of Finance Lucinda Mendoza, CMP
* VP of Membership Stewart Hall and the entire Board of Directors
* Executive Director Lori Kinsey, CMP, and team

2016-2017 Gala Committee Members
* Gala Production and On-Site Producer – Neil Adams
* Gala Marketing – Patricia Gums
* Auction Liaison – Lauren Hall, CMP
* Gala F&B – Elaine Herman
* Gala Production – Scott Hutchins
* Gala Marketing Lead – Robert Leyva
* Gala Marketing – Melanie Lucero
* Gala PowerPoint – Kathleen Maier, CMP
* President’s Reception – Brigid Neff

2016-2017 Auctions Committee Members
* Yarin Itzkovitz
* Anne Marie Mourhess
* Yen Nguyen, CMP

Photo © Scott Slocum












Jean Massieu quoted by Edward Latham, Famous Sayings and Their Authors: A Collection of Historical Sayings, 1906, page 132.
Learn more about MPINCC (and check out the photo albums).
Learn more about MPI.

Thanks & ever thanks: MPINCC ACE 2017 All Stars.

“I can no answer make, but thanks, and thanks, and evermore thanks.” (William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)

Heralding heartfelt gratitude for many months and countless hours dedicated and devoted to design and deliver the Meeting Professionals International Northern California Chapter (MPINCC) 29th Annual Conference & Expo (ACE) on 03.09.17, MPINCC President Marilee Sonneman, CMP, DMCP, is honoured to acknowledge the following illustrious individuals who answered the call to serve:

2016-2017 Leadership
* ACE Chair Matthew Schermerhorn, CMP, HMCC, Past President and MPI RISE 2017 Industry Leadership finalist
* ACE Co-Chair and Chief of Staff Ryan Carroll
* ACE Education Chair Dana Marshall, CMP, CMM, HMCC, Past President
* ACE Education Co-Chair Gigi Gleason, CMP
* Director of ACE Lisa Burkett, CMP, CMM, HMCC
* VP of Finance Lucinda Mendoza, CMP, and the entire Board of Directors
* Executive Director Lori Kinsey, CMP, and team

2016-2017 Committee Members
* ACE Reception Crystal Bocanegra
* ACE Program Management – Lead Joel Costa, CMP, MBA, Past President
* ACE Volunteer Coordination – Lead Denice Davis
* Innovation Alley – Lead + Volunteer Coordination Michael J. Gordon
* ACE Volunteer Coordination Priscilla K. Lee
* ACE Emergency Plan Julie Lindsay (and Robert Mirakaj, Security)
* ACE Emergency Plan Darci M. Motta, CMP, CITE
* ACE Marketing & Promotion – Lead Jessika Neufeld, CMP
* ACE Emergency Plan – Lead Danielle Restaino, CMP
* ACE Reception – Lead Jay Roman
* ACE Education Renee Goetz

Thanks, and thanks, and evermore thanks, to these and many others who worked tirelessly to Rise and Shine and to Educate, Engage, IGNITE the 1,200+ exhibitors, 550+ exhibitors, 24 speakers and faculty, 75+ students, and staff at MPINCC ACE 2017. Thanks, and thanks, and evermore thanks to those who make a difference for our community, our industry, our world.

Photo © Orange Photography

Peace, love, joy.

“We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels. We shall see the sky sparking with diamonds.” (Anton Chekhov, Uncle Vanya)

Reflecting on the journey of 2016 — literal, of course, but also emotional, spiritual, personal, professional. And the “transformative experience” of one long good-bye, a final farewell.  Grateful and thankful for: Blessings and bruises. Triumphs and tumults. Happiness and heartache.

May peace, love, and joy prevail in 2017 — and happiness, too, but happiness can be ephemeral and fleeting, whereas joy is deep and lasting.

Per aspera ad astra.

Photo © Spotlight Sojourns

Lead the way: MPINCC Leadership Team.

The full 2016-2017  Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Northern California Chapter (MPINCC) leadership team gathered for Chair/Co-Chair 101 training at the Hotel Nikko San Francisco on 06.23.16.  President Marilee Sonneman, CMP, DMCP, President-Elect Lucy Giovando Watts, CMP, CMM, Director of Leadership Development Elisa Sandoval, CMP, HMCC, and Executive Director Lori Kinsey, CMP, delivered education and insight to Committee Chairs and Co-Chairs on how to recruit, manage, and motivate Committee members, and how to run the business of the world’s largest Chapter of the world’s largest association of meeting, event, and hospitality professionals.  Chairs and Co-Chairs then met with their Directors and Vice Presidents to plan and to strategize.  The ballroom buzzed with questions, comments, and engagement galore.  Following the training session, the buzz continued at a cocktail reception on the Nikko’s 25th floor.  Panoramic City views complemented the posh ambience, epicurean hors d’oeuvres, and animated conversation.

These leaders inspire with their commitment, dedication, and enthusiasm. The 2016-2017 Chair/Co-Chair roster includes both first-time and returning leaders, plus a record number of Past Presidents who answered the call back to service:  Jody Brandes, CMP, CMM (2014-2015), Dana Marshall, CMP, CMM, HMCC (2011-2012), Matthew Schermerhorn, CMP, HMCC (2010-2011), Jim Skiba, CIS, CMP, CTA (2004-2005), Molly Walsh, CMP (2008-2009), and Thom Ward (1996-1997).

Come Educate, Engage, IGNITE! with these 50+ leaders and hundreds of industry colleagues at MPINCC’s Professional Education Program at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square on 08.18.16.  As the kick-off to the 2016-2017 program year, this exceptional program includes the annual Committee tradeshow, networking reception, Chapter engagement, two terrific educational workshops, and a featured luncheon with keynote speaker Randi Zuckerberg, CEO of Zuckerberg Media, tech mogul, social media superstar.

Photo © Orange Photography

Photo © Orange Photography




Sparkle and shine.

Meeting Professionals International Northern California Chapter (MPINCC) celebrated the record-setting 2015-2016 program year with “Sparkle and Shine: A Formal Affair” Annual Gala and Silent Auction.  Over 300 industry leaders attended the sold-out soirée at the landmark Merchants Exchange Club and Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco on 06.02.16.

The 2015-2016 Gala team, led by Gala Chair Laura Tyson, Co-Chair Hillary Barlesi, CMP, Director of Special Events Samah Menoufy, and VP of Finance Owen Rundall, outdid themselves with a shimmering, glimmering ambience.

Mistress of Ceremonies / Past President Dana Marshall, CMP, CMM, resplendent in Tadashi Shoji, welcomed the audience of industry luminaries.  MPINCC President 2015-2016 Joey Nevin recapped the stats of the year on MPINCC: Your Practice Field, and rewarded the Annual Awards.  Acclaim and applause to the volunteer All-Stars, including:
•  Tomorrow’s Leader:  Nikki Brainerd
•  Chair of the Year:  Alaina Hee
•  Board Member of the Year:  Lucy Giovando Watts, CMP, CMM
•  Meeting Professional of the Year:  Susan Piel, CMP
•  President’s Award:  James GreggLori Kinsey, CMP
•  Hall of Fame:  Matthew Schermerhorn, CMP, HMCC

After cheering the award winners, the audience cheered on the Golden State Warriors to victory in Game One of the NBA Finals.

Newly inducted into the Hall of Fame and elegantly attired in black tie, Past President Schermerhorn administered the oath of office to the incoming 2016-2016 Board of Directors, and then introduced Marilee Sonneman, CMP, DMCP, for her inaugural speech.  President Sonneman challenged the audience to “join up, get up, suit up, and show up.  And together we will — Educate, Engage, Ignite!”  Confetti cannons with custom metallic streamers from entertainment sponsor Entire Productions concluded the inaugural speech with fabulous flair.

View video of the inaugural speech, HERE

MPINCC 2016-2017 Board of Directors 06.02.16

Photo courtesy of Samah Menoufy.











Back Row (L-R):  Lucinda Mendoza, CMP, Kathleen Maier, CMP, Paula Zimmer, CMP, Michael Trillo, CTA, Linda Lingenfelter, CHME, Lucy Giovando Watts, CMP, CMM, Samah Menoufy, Gary Murakami, CTC, GTP, GLP, CMP, CMM, Elisa Sandoval, CMP, HMCC.
Front Row:  Chelsea Marshburn, CMP, Marilee Sonneman, CMP, DMCP, Joey Nevin, Lori Kinsey, CMP.
Not Pictured:  Lisa Burkett, CMP, CMM, HMCC, Brian Bouchelle.

Learn all about MPINCC, HERE

Your practice field.

Meeting Professionals International Northern California Chapter (MPINCC) President 2015-2016 Joey Nevin of AT&T Park (go, Giants!) fielded an all-star team on MPINCC: Your Practice Field. Inspiration highlighted the 2015-2016 program year, with the powerful message of keynote speakers at three Professional Education Programs continuing to resonate long after the applause:

* Dave Dravecky – Major League Baseball Pitching Great and former San Francisco Giant (pictured below with the entire 2015-2016 Board) – “The Worth of a Man” 08.19.15 – Dravecky’s career as a Major League left-handed pitcher ended agonizingly when his cancer-ridden left arm snapped in Giants v Montreal. The riveting account of his journey to redemption and recovery with faith and fortitude held the audience spell-bound.  “It’s not what you do that matters most, it’s who you are.”
Find encouragement with Jan and Dave Dravecky at Endurance, HERE.

* Jon Kedrowski, PhD – Alpinist, Ski Mountaineer, Everest Summiter – “Climb Your Own Everest” 01.12.16 – Highly accomplished yet humble, Kedrowski shared his tales of record-setting adventures on mountaintops.  The audience was completely quiet as Kedrowski described being in Everest base camp during the Nepal earthquake, avalanche, and aftermath.  “Sometimes in life, you have to do something outrageous to get noticed, to get where you’re going.  And there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”
Support the Sherpa Foundation, HERE.

* Patricia Suflita Wilson – CEO of Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area and the woman behind SFBatkid and Batkid Begins – “Getting ‘Rich’ in a Non-Profit Career” 05.17.16 – Inspiration over ambition, meaning over money, such is the coin of the non-profit realm. To hear, “This is the best day of my life” from a WishKid motivates Wilson, a hero to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families (and hey, Julia Roberts is playing Wilson in the upcoming film).  Wilson’s story of how SFBatkid became a City-wide event then a global phenomenon and a documentary Batkid Begins, captivated the audience .  Wilson’s three lessons hold true for non-profits and for-profits alike:  deputize volunteers, don’t delegate; manage sponsorshipsensure relevancy and mutual benefit; apply the power of social mediaengage and not just broadcast.
Make more wishes come true with Make-A-Wish, HERE.

These speakers.  This president.  These volunteers.  True inspiration.  True leadership.  True Giants.

Thanks to Joey “the Onion” Nevin, the MPINCC 2015-2016 Board, and all the superhero Committee Chairs/Co-Chairs, and Committee members for a truly impressive, influential, and impactful 2015-2016 program year.

Photo © Orange Photography

Photo © Orange Photography











Back row (L-R): Owen Rundall, Brian Bouchelle, Lucy Giovando Watts, CMP, CMM, Lucinda Mendoza, CMP, Samah Menoufy, Stewart Hall, Gary Murakami, CTC, GTP, GLP, CMP, CMM, Kelvin Nanney
Front Row (L-R): Linda Lingenfelter, CHME, Lori Kinsey, CMP, Marilee Sonneman, CMP, DMCP, Dave Dravecky, Joey Nevin, Jody Brandes, CMP, CMM, Zorianna Smith, CMP, DMCP

Photo © Orange Photography

Photo © Orange Photography










Learn more about MPINCC and its programs, HERE
Get involved! Volunteer for an MPINCC Committee, HERE
Join Meeting Professionals International, HERE

Embrace the journey.

“There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. Only the one I create for myself.” (Madam C.J. Walker)

The journey continues as Spotlight Sojourns completes the transformation to strategic consulting from Spotlight Events full-service event and destination management company (DMC).  To quote our founder Marilee Sonneman, CMP, DMCP, “Find your purpose.  Follow your passion.  Forge your path.”  We embrace the journey, and the opportunity to “shine the spotlight” ever brighter on clients’ success.

Strolling through San Francisco’s Union Square recently, we glimpsed inspiration on a wall, and Paul quickly snapped a shot.  The quote is from legendary Madam C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove, 1867-1919), African-American entrepreneur, beauty innovator, self-made millionaire, activist, and philanthropist.  The premium hair-care line Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture, launched by her great-great granddaughter, is carried by SEPHORA.

Madam C.J. Walker’s words and her story resonate for us, and perhaps for you, too.

Photo © Paul Enrico Kostadimas

Photo © Paul Enrico Kostadimas









CSR: Incentives for all ages.

The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence Northern California Chapter (SITENCC) signature CSR Education program provided a memorable, meaningful incentive experience at ultra-exclusive Calistoga Ranch, an Auberge resort in the Napa Valley, on October 29, 2015.

“Incentive for All Ages: Bright Ideas & Best Practices for Fabulous Family-Friendly Incentives” presented excellent insight from expert panelists Laura Bell Way, CMP, CMM, of Autodesk, Inc., Brian Bouchelle of Disney Destinations, Beth Lindsley Elwood of MSC Cruises, facilitated by SITENCC’s VP of Education Christa Mekki of Magnetic Magnificent Events and LegalShield.

The hands-on CSR activity of making blankets benefitted local low-income seniors via Molly’s Angels of the Napa Valley.   All raffle proceeds supported victims of the recent Wine Country fires via the American Red Cross of the California Northwest.
Calistoga Ranch’s James Beard Foundation award-winning Executive Chef Bryan Moscatello custom-designed a superb seasonal three-course luncheon.  Luncheon was served on the serene, sun-soaked Lakehouse Patio. Ah-mmm-azing!

The SITENCC Board thanks speakers Ms. Bell, Mr. Bouchelle, and Ms. Elwood.

The SITENCC Board thanks program sponsor See Monterey, venue sponsor Calistoga Ranch, AV sponsor Amazing Lighting and AV. plus raffle donors Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Carmel Valley Ranch and Ventana Inn & Spa.

This event marks the last Chapter Education program of my two-term presidential tenure. I have been, and continue to be, honoured to serve our members, our community, and our industry; and to serve with a dedicated, dynamic Board (‪a.k.a. Team Awesome). I am additionally honoured to introduce the next individual to lead our ever-growing and always-mighty Chapter: Hilary Ebright, currently our VP of Finance and now our President-Elect 2015.

– Marilee Sonneman, CMP, DMCP, SITENCC President 2014 and 2014, first published by SITENCC October 30, 2015, reprinted with permission.

SITENCC © 10.29.15 Making Blankets

Photo © Marilee Sonneman


Engage with SITENCC on Facebook,  Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Join the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence, HERE.
Support Molly’s Angels of the Napa Valley, HERE.
Support the American Red Cross of the California Northwest, HERE.
Visit Calistoga Ranch, HERE.
See Monterey, HERE.

Glitz, glamour and stars.

Meeting Professionals International Northern California Chapter (MPINCC) wrapped the 2014-2015 year with “An Evening of Glitz, Glamour and Stars” Annual Gala and Silent Auction in San Francisco on 06.04.15.

Under the direction of Gala Chair Laura Tyson, Co-Chair Thomas Murphy, Director of Special Events Zorianna Smith, CMP, DMCP, the sold-out event at the beautiful Bently Reserve reviewed the remarkable year to reThink;  raised a record-setting amount at the Auction thanks to Auctions Chair Nancy Hoffman, Co-Chair Jerry Diaz, CMP, and Director of Fundraising/Sponsorship Owen Rundall; and reveled in the Golden State Warriors winning the first game of their NBA Championship.

Mistress of Ceremonies Molly Walsh, CMP, welcomed the audience of industry celebrities.  MPINCC 2014-2015 President Jody Brandes, CMP, celebrated the achievements and presented the Annual Awards.  Acclaim and applause to the honorees including:
*  Tomorrow’s Leader:  Ryan Carroll
*  Chair of the Year:  Marykay Lui
*  Board Member of the Year:  Lucinda Mendoza, CMP
*  Meeting Professional of the Year:  Dawn Klippel
*  President’s Award:  Dana Drury, Dana Marshall, CMP, CMM, Diane Schneiderman, CMP, MBA, CAE
*  Hall of Fame:  Thom Ward

Retired MPINCC Executive Director Diane Schneiderman, CMP, MBA, CAE, inducted the 2015-2016 Board of Directors (with our founder Marilee as President-Elect).  Incoming President Joey Nevin electrified the audience with his vision of MPINCC…Your Practice Field.

MPINCC 2015-2016 Board of Directors

Photo © Orange Photography

Expressing President Nevin’s theme, the 2015-2016 program year opens on 08.19.15 with keynote speaker Dave Dravecky, Major League Baseball pitching great and former San Francisco Giant.  Join us to hear Dravecky’s inspiring story and find “that our worth is not in what we do, but in who we are.”

Back Row (L-R):  Samah Menoufy, Brian Bouchelle, Owen Rundall, Joey Nevin, Mark McMinn, CMP, CTA, Gary Murakami, CTC, GTP, GLP, CMP, Marykay Lui.
Front Row (L-R):  Linda Lingenfelter, CHME, Lucinda Mendoza, CMP, Marilee Sonneman, CMP, DMCP, Jody Brandes, CMP, Zorianna Smith, CMP, DMCP, Lori Kinsey, CMP.
Not pictured:  Stewart Hall.
Learn all about MPINCC, HERE.
Information and registration for the 08.19.15 Professional Education Program, HERE.