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How Boston’s Meeting Industry Leaders are Getting Things Done

By Bojura Angelova

Last week, PCMA New England hosted a Fireside Chat featuring Joyce Leveston, General Manager of the of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA), and Martha Sheridan, President & CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau (GBCVB). The discussion was held in honor of International Women’s Day and revolved around Smiley faceleadership, work-life balance, mentorship, dealing with change, and many other hot topics (for a full summary of the conversation, head over to Boston USA’s blog).

Martha and Joyce also talked about how they plan to work together to support conventions coming to Boston and bring more business to the city.

Sheridan officially stepped in as the President & CEO of the GBCVB only eight and a half weeks ago and the partnership between the Bureau and the Convention Center Authority seems to be stronger than ever. Joyce Leveston announced that she now sits on the CVB’s Board – something that is happening for the first time in the history of the MCCA. She expressed her enthusiasm to work with Martha: “So many people respect her in this industry and I feel so blessed and proud to know that she’s my partner.“

Martha confirmed that there have been a number of positive changes – her team is now regularly meeting with the executive team at the MCCA and, for the first time in many years, they are even presenting in front of the MCCA’s Board of Directors.

In speaking of her plans for the future of the GBCVB and Boston, Sheridan said that in the first place she would like to embrace her new team and make sure they are all “rowing in the same direction as one unit.” She also plans to focus her efforts on showcasing Boston’s uniqueness and the hidden gems of each neighborhood. She is committed to truly elevating these assets and making them easy for visitors to locate and enjoy, essentially making it easy for them to “live like a local”.

Towards the end of the conversation, Joyce went into detail about the things she loves about Boston: “I personally love it because of the water - I can take a ferry to work! I love it because when it’s warm, I can walk if I wanted to. There are many options in terms of transportation. I also like history and Boston is the birthplace of America.”

And, as if to prove how steeped in history Boston truly is, she told the following anecdote: ”I attended a board meeting at the Omni Parker House hotel. It is a beautiful hotel and I was astonished to find out that President Kennedy made the decision to run for president at a table in the room that I was sitting in.”

Both leaders talked about their commitment to diversity and inclusion and their plans to show the world how diverse Boston actually is. “I would have never accepted the opportunity to come here [to Boston] if I didn’t believe the MCCA was dedicated to improving the level of diversity and representation. And, not just within the organization, but in Boston as a whole.”, said Joyce Leveston. “When I moved to Boston, I was amazed by the level of diversity I encountered! It saddens me to think that people don’t know about it.”

On the same note, Martha recalled the hiring process for her new Executive Vice President, Aaron Jones: “I was not satisfied with the pool of candidates I was given initially. We were using a search firm and they were doing all they could to find a diverse pool for candidates, but it just wasn’t coming together. I can’t settle down before I feel I have really exhausted every option. I ended up calling an old friend of mine in Rhode Island and he gave me four amazing candidates - Aaron came out of that pool.” She confirmed that the process took longer, but she felt she made a great choice: “I want to continue down that path and just hire the best people that we could possibly find.”

When it comes to Boston’s pursuit to demonstrate its dedication to racial equality and inclusion, the city scored an important win as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced this past Monday that it will be hosting its 2020 convention in Boston. The association says the city hosted one of its earliest conferences in 1911 and its Boston branch is “one of the strongest in the nation.”

“This is a real testament to Boston’s commitment to achieving racial equity for all and becoming a place that is more inclusive of everyone,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, according to the Boston Globe. “I look forward to working with our partners to make this event an incredible success, and invite all of our city to join me in letting our country’s top leaders on issues of race, equity and justice know how welcome they will be in Boston.”