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Get to Know Our November Planner Panelists & Moderator

Panel Discussion:  Where is the Hospitality Industry Headed?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Ballroom


Planner Panelists:

Akshar Patel: Senior Director of Conventions – Asia American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA)
Akshar Patel is the senior director of conventions at AAHOA where he is responsible for the planning and executive of the AAHOA Convention and Trade Show, the largest gathering of hotel owners and vendors in the country. The 2019 convention in San Diego, Calif. drew over 8,100 attendees and is the largest event in the association’s 30-year history.

Prior to his role directing the convention and trade show, Akshar served as AAHOA’s senior director of events where he oversaw the planning and management of nearly 200 events consisting of regional meetings, Townhalls, and education workshops on an annual basis.

Before joining AAHOA in 2015, Akshar worked in events management including a leadership role at the historic Intercontinental The Willard Washington D.C. He currently serves as an advisory board member on the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, the Fort Worth Customer Advisory Board, and Shepard Exposition Services. In 2019, Connect Association Magazine named Akshar one of its 40 Under 40 events industry professionals. Akshar holds a degree in marketing from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.   Akshar lives in Atlanta, Ga. with his family.

Kirsten Olean, CAE: Director of Meetings – Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Kirsten Olean, CAE, is Director of Meetings at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a position she assumed in August. As director, Kirsten provides strategic leadership for the North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference and other meetings and events of the Foundation. She provides oversight and direction to a team that includes program management, logistics, exhibit operations, registration and housing. She previously served as Director of Meetings at the American Society for Microbiology and the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Known as a visionary business event strategist and a change maker, Kirsten is the 2016 recipient of PCMA’s prestigious Meeting Professional of the Year Award. At ASM, she was responsible for merging the society’s two large annual meetings into one meeting, ASM Microbe, a journey documented by PCMA’s Convene magazine in a year-long series of articles.

Kirsten has extensive volunteer service to PCMA, including serving as President of the Capital Chapter (2013) and Chair of the national Achievement Awards and Recognition Committee (2014). She began serving on the PCMA Board of Directors in January 2015 and is currently the Secretary/Treasurer. She will serve as Chair-Elect in 2020. Truly passionate about the industry and PCMA, Kirsten became a member of the PCMA Foundation’s Legacy Society in 2015.
Kirsten received a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish from Bucknell University.

Phelps Hope, CMP: Senior Vice President, Meetings & Expositions – Kellen Company
Phelps Hope, Senior Vice President, Meetings & Expositions for the Kellen Company, has over 30 years of meetings, events and tradeshow management experience. He is responsible for the management of the meetings and expositions division of the Kellen Company.
Phelps has held key positions both in Australia and the United States with Marriott, Sheraton, Hilton and Loews Hotels, developing an in-depth understanding of business meetings and events. Prior to joining the team at Kellen, he founded both Aspen Productions, a meetings management and production company known for exceptional service, and Absolutely Atlanta, an Atlanta-based DMC, in 1993.

Phelps is familiar with every nuance of the meetings, tradeshow and events production process, and puts the highest priority upon the delivery of unique creative solutions that exceed client expectations. He holds the Certified Meetings Professional (CMP) designation, an indication of both his experience level in the meetings industry and his dedication to excellence.

He is an active member of the Georgia Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (GaMPI), a two term past-president of the Professional Convention Managers Association (PCMA)-Southeast Chapter, a two term past-President of Skal International-Atlanta (Skal), a past member of the Board of the National Committee for the USA of Skal International, an executives-level hospitality and travel industry organization, and most recently served on the national Board of PCMA (2015 – 2018). Phelps was awarded the Global Meetings Executive of the Year for 2014 by PCMA at IMEX Frankfurt in recognition for his efforts and contributions to the global meetings community, and was selected as the Event Designer of the Year by PCMA in 2018 for his work with the Girl Scouts of the USA and their National Conventions in 2014 and 2017.

Nancy Touhill: Director of Meetings & Events – Wireless Infrastructure Association
Nancy Touhill joined the Wireless Infrastructure Association in June of 2008 as the association’s Manager of Marketing & Sales and now serves as WIA’s Director of Meetings and Events. Her primary responsibilities include the planning and implementation of association events including Connectivity Expo, Smart Cities Week, WIA Awards and several others. Prior to joining WIA, Nancy held marketing positions at The Martin Agency, The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and Thinkdesign and Communications. Nancy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and a Master of Science degree from Virginia Commonwealth University.


David McAuley: Director, Washington, D.C. Area Office – Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau
David McAuley, Director, Washington, D.C. Area Office of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau is a rare Atlanta native (born on Peachtree Street no less!) and a 30-year veteran of the city’s hospitality industry, 23 of which have been with the Atlanta CVB.  In his role he leads the ACVB’s strategic presence in the association-rich marketplace of Washington, D.C., working primarily with major trade associations and professional societies on their largest annual meetings, exhibitions and large-scale events.  McAuley developed the bureau’s signature annual sales event, Update Atlanta, into the recognized leader in effective and entertaining destination marketing it is known for today, helping to cement Atlanta’s reputation as a top-tier location for major events.  In his spare time, David is a wanna-be game show host and is always up for trading a good trivia question or brain teaser.

Lisa Kraus gardnerGet to Know Our November Planner Panelists & Moderator