Strategic Thinkers

The mission of the Strategic Thinkers is to serve as BestCities’ marketplace co-creation partner, providing counsel on trends and operational experiences to help guide the future direction of the Alliance. One of the fundamental values of BestCities is our commitment to results-driven partnerships so we have recruited key association and meeting executives to not only share their experience, unique insights and knowledge but to also become international Brand Ambassadors for BestCities.

Martin Boyle profile image

Martin Boyle


Martin has a wealth of experience and a strategic vision that has been shaped over decades of working across a number of countries in the business and professional events and meetings industry. After university and a successful run as a restauranteur, he launched a corporate event management start-up in Canada in the late 1990's. At the same time, he launched a digital marketing company connecting event attendees to corporate and charity sponsors' on-line presence (pre-Facebook and twitter!), which he then sold in 2004. For the past 19 years, he has focussed his attention and built his knowledge and experience of corporate and association conference business as part of an international convention centre team, then as a Professional Conference Organiser (PCO) and 6 years as the Director of Europe for the partner and government-funded Convention Bureau of Sydney, Australia.

Since at the helm of IAPCO, Martin developed a new 5-year strategic plan, alongside the IAPCO Council and has been instrumental in driving the Association’s international engagement and strategic partnerships whilst ensuring organisational sustainability throughout the recent global pandemic.

Martin is a strong believer that business and professional events can drive positive and holistic change for the betterment of societies.

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Elluria Breytenbach

Managing Director, Kabloom Digital Marketing Agency

Elluria's career has been focused on B2B marketing from the outset after obtaining her degree in Public Relations and Marketing, working in several countries and regions. Her commitment to fostering growth and positive change in the world has led her to focus on events, conferences, and associations, where she has provided strategic advice and delivered revenue results to clients for over 20 years.

As a co-founder of Kabloom, Elluria channelled her passion into creating a specialised agency that focuses on driving attendance and engagement to help organizations succeed in the new digital age. With hundreds of clients across various sectors such as medical, sustainability and financial, Elluria's team consistently exceeds goals and continually optimise results by staying at the forefront of the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape.

Elluria's dedication to partnership and progress has helped Kabloom establish itself as a trusted partner for associations and event organizers around the world.

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Mya Burns

Associate Director, Conferences, International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer

Mya Burns is Associate Director, Conferences at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Along with her team, Mya produces conferences and meetings globally dedicated to the eradication of all forms of lung cancer and raising the bar for patient care.

Mya has more than 20 years of experience planning and executing in-person and virtual conferences for a variety of professional membership associations. Outside of work, Mya enjoys spending time with her family, playing tennis and enjoying all that the Colorado outdoors has to offer.

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Tracy Bury

Deputy CEO, World Physiotherapy

Tracy Bury is deputy chief executive officer at World Physiotherapy. After qualifying as a physiotherapist she has been an association executive for over 25 years at a national and international level. Her responsibilities include strategic planning, delivering the world physiotherapy congress, education strategy, policy and communities of practice. With a Masters in Health Science, a book published on evidence based practice, membership of research committees and advisory groups, 17 years as an associate journal editor, several peer-reviewed articles and thought leadership pieces, as well as numerous speaking and moderating invitations, she understands what it means to be an association professional member, as well as member-centric association executive. A creative, agile and innovative leader who leads teams that deliver, she was recognised as one of the women leading and advancing associations for International Women’s Day 2021.

Tracy is also immediate past President (2020-2022) of the Associations & Conference Forum (AC Forum), a global organisation of European and International associations advancing association and conference leadership.

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Eduardo Chaillo

Global General Manager LATAM, Maritz Global Events

Eduardo is the Global General Manager for Latin America at Maritz Global Events, he also owns the consultancy company Global Meetings and Tourism Specialists LLC, serving as bridge builder between the Mexico-Latin American industry members and the Global Meetings communities.

Chaillo worked for 12 years at the Mexico Tourism Board as Executive Director for the Meetings Industry in Washington, D.C, Chicago, and Mexico City. He started his tourism career as Secretary of Tourism in the State of Zacatecas, Mexico.

Chaillo has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Mexico Institute of Technology (ITAM). He got his EIC’s global Certification as a Meeting Professional (CMP) in 2004, MPI’s CMM in 2006, CASE (Certified Association Sales Executive) and DES (Digital Event Strategist) from PCMA in 2013/2020, and his CITP (Certified Incentive Travel Professional) from SITE in 2020.

Eduardo served for 6 years in the ICCA Board of Directors; and in the PCMA’s Board of Trustees. He occupied the international representative seat for the CMP Board of Directors and was the 2022 chair of APEX Commission within the EIC. Currently he is a member of the Grupo Hotelero Santa Fe (public company) and COCAL (Latin American Meeting Industry Association) boards of directors.

Eduardo was given the JMIC’s Profile and Power Award, SITE’s Kevin Forde Spirit Award, and he was inducted to the CIC´s Hall of Leaders 2013 class. Finally, he was recognized with the PCMA Visionary Award for his Lifetime Achievement in 2019.

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Remi Deve

Chief Editor, Boardroom Magazine

A specialized journalist in the association management field, Remi has been active in the meetings industry for more than 15 years. Together with Cecile Koch, he launched Boardroom in 2017, a niche publication specialized in association management and events. Boardroom covers a wide spectrum of issues of interest to associations based globally and is specifically targeting association executives, secretaries, planners, etc., who are looking to improve themselves and their organizations professionally.

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Ben Goedegebuure

Enterprise Vice President, Global and Industry Presence, Maritz Global Events

Ben leads Maritz’ Global and Industry Presence efforts. He represents Maritz Global Events with specific responsibility for Europe, the Middle East and Africa and its overall global coordination. Furthermore, he has executive responsibility for the Maritz Global Events’ Sustainability efforts. He provides counsel and supports global strategic solutions for clients, and contributes to the company’s business development, industry presence and thought leadership efforts. His long-standing career has been in international association management, meeting planning and conference management, industry professionalization and skills development as well as convention center management. He is a well-respected international speaker and involved in several global industry associations and initiatives. His longstanding commitment to the Business Events sector and global collaboration was recognized in 2021 with the PCMA Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Veemal Gungadin

CEO, Gevme Inc

Veemal Gungadin is the founder & CEO of Gevme, a modern omnichannel event platform, having its HQ in Singapore. Veemal Gungadin graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2003 with a Bachelor in Computing.

At Gevme, Veemal drives the product vision and strategy. Gevme today powers thousands of organisations, running hundreds of thousands of events yearly in various formats to better connect people. Veemal has grown Gevme into a trusted platform and community of #eventprofs.

Veemal sits on the Board of Directors & Trustees at PCMA, the world’s largest, most respected and most recognised network of business events strategists. Veemal is also the VP of Digital & Innovation at SACEOS, where he helps drive national level initiatives in Singapore to help enterprises and individuals in the events industry digitally transform to be future ready.

Veemal invests in and advises several startups in EventTech, MarTech and Fintech.

Veemal also volunteers his time on social causes such as the Migrant Workers issues, working with the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre in Singapore.

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Caroline Johnson, CMP

Senior Manager, Conference Strategy & Services, IEEE Signal Processing Society

Caroline has more than 15 years of experience in the international conference industry, working for IEEE, the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. Caroline credits her early career in conference registration and event planning in providing her with her focus the importance of customer experience and detailed strategic planning. Caroline is currently the Senior Manager for the of IEEE Signal Processing Society’s conference portfolio, overseeing and steering over 15 conferences and events across the globe each year. She has extensive experience managing cross-functional teams and demonstrated success in growing conferences through strategic leadership, new product offerings, and building strong partnerships.

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Lyn Hogan

Executive Director, The Econometric Society

Lyn A. Hogan is the Executive Director of the Econometric Society (the Society), an international association of the world’s top economists and econometricians. The Society is a 501c3 non-profit organization based in the United States in New Haven, Connecticut and hosted by Yale University. Lyn oversees operations of the organization including its 10 annual international meetings and six schools and its World Congress that takes place once every five years. The Society works in all regions of the world, publishes three renowned academic journals, and boasts a membership of 7,000+ members around the world.

Prior to assuming her position at the Society, Lyn worked primarily in Washington, D.C. in a variety of nonprofit and government positions including a stint working in the Clinton Administration on domestic policy issues.

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Adam Kirkham

Associate Director, Partnerships, World Congress of Science and Factual Producers and Hot Docs

Adam leads partnership activities and destination planning for the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers. The association gathers stakeholders with a vested interest in sharing complex ideas with mass audiences by leveraging storytelling expertise for maximum engagement. The community includes content creators and producers, editorial decision makers, distributors and funders across broadcasting, streaming, digital gaming, podcasting and social media channels. It also includes the science communicators, scientists and researchers who are critical partners in telling stories based on the latest research and that inform and connect to as wide a spectrum of viewers as possible. Building bridges between these two very distinct fields of expertise – media and science - is a pillar of the WCSFP.

Hot Docs is a Canadian charity and world-leading documentary organization who act as core conference organizer for the annual WCSFP Conference. For Hot Docs, Adam also helped establish several key initiatives including The Canadian Storytellers Project, a 5-year tent pole granting and professional development program for underrepresented voices supported by Netflix; and the launch of Canada’s first international Podcast Festival which continues to operate with participation from influential sector leaders like Apple, Amazon, Spotify and more.

From 2013-2017 Adam led sponsorships for the annual conference of Canada's trade association for independent content producers, the CMPA. He volunteers with the B/A ArtsVest Program supporting small arts organizations across all disciplines and has been a grant reviewer for groups like Documentary Organization of Canada, and Ontario Arts Council’s Recommender Grants.

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Natasha Richards

Director of Impact & Industry Relations, IMEX Group

As Director of Impact & Industry Relations, Natasha leads a newly created business unit to oversee our industry partnerships, advocacy and advancement and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy.

This includes initiatives and charitable endeavours that the IMEX Group either drives or supports. Recognising the collective impact IMEX makes and that lies at the very heart of our altruistic “mission to unite and advance the meetings industry”.

In particular, Natasha plays a key part in business events industry advocacy efforts on behalf of the IMEX Group including the prestigious IMEX Policy Forum. In this capacity she is responsible for bringing together national and city policy makers, association leaders, destination innovators and industry thought-leaders together to discuss and influence the future direction of business events related to policy making and strategic destination management.

She serves as a JMIC Iceberg Ambassador playing an essential role in promoting a collective approach to industry advocacy and is passionate advocate of the value of meetings and business events as an economic driver and agent of innovation and change.

Natasha also currently serves on the Events Industry Council Equity Task Force, Destinations International Global Leadership and Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committees and Partner Advisory Council.

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Jeremias Rodriguez, CMP, CMM, DES profile image

Jeremias Rodriguez, CMP, CMM, DES

Director, Congress and Meetings, World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH)

Jeremias Rodriguez is a seasoned Meeting Planner Executive with over 20 years’ experience in leading, planning and executing Virtual and In-person Events, domestically and internationally, across a variety of businesses including Associations, PCOs and DMCs.

Jeremias leads the Congress and Meetings department at the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH) where he provides organization-wide leadership, strategic guidance and direction relating to the effective planning and execution of WFH events, in-person and virtual, as well as other educational and informational meetings world-wide.
Previous to the WFH, Jeremias worked at the International Airports Association where he ran the Events department and he had previously held various management roles at leading Canadian, US and Mexican PCOs and DMCs including Tropical Incentives, Terramar Destinations, Amstar-Apple Vacations and Altima Concept.

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Bella Shahsuvaryan

Changemaker, Global Destination Sustainability Movement

As a Changemaker at Global Destination Sustainability Movement, Bella supports destinations around the world to develop more regenerative tourism and events. Based in Barcelona, Spain, and speaking English, Spanish, and French, Bella is a Relationship Manager for a variety of European destinations participating in the GDS-Index. She provides direct support for benchmarking assessments (which measure destinations sustainability performance) as well as advising clients on sustainability programmes and operational practices year-round.

Prior to joining GDS-Movement, Bella owned a travel agency providing hospitality services in Armenia and Georgia. She has also lived in Beijing for 2 years, an indispensable experience that helped her develop intercultural communication and interpersonal skills. Bella has a Master’s degree in Destination Management and holds a Professional Certificate in Sustainable Tourism issued by GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council).

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Steven Small

Director of Events – Routes, Informa

Steven is responsible for creating meeting places for airlines, airports and destinations to plan and negotiate future air services. As a powerful driver in global connectivity – over half of the world’s new air services have been negotiated at Routes events.

With over 20 years’ experience in economic development and tourism, Steven’s previous roles included Head of Tourism for Liverpool and over 8 years as Head of Business Tourism at Manchester - bidding for major sport, cultural and business events for the city. Steven has also managed a variety of strategic projects including funding packages for Manchester Central – Manchester’s main convention venue, and the National Football Museum, as well as developing a grant scheme to help support regional airport’s route development strategies.

When not traveling the world to identify new event destinations for Routes, Steven spends most of his time supporting Everton Football Club, ferrying his two boys to various sporting and social activities, or walking with his wife in the beautiful countryside of North of England (especially when there’s a pub at the end of the walk).

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Florent Thévenin

Founder & CEO, Digital Networking for Thought-Leaders (DN4TL) + Blockchain North

Florent “Flo” Thévenin is a European born and raised multilingual entrepreneur, content producer, social media influencer, speaker and advisor, who has run thought-leadership projects and interviewed almost 2,000 leaders on 4 continents (Europe, Africa, Asia & North America).

In Canada since 2012, he produced 3 high-level publications and 3 conferences, co-created, and built an influential network across all major industries and segments, including energy, finance, health, agriculture, tech, academia, the not-for-profit sector and government.

In 2021, Flo launched Digital Networking for Thought-Leaders (DN4TL) to leverage his passion for business development, his extensive real-life networking experience and expansive connections, and his affinity with technology to help Canadian and international leaders and connect online and grow their social media influence.

In 2022, he launched Blockchain North, a new media channel that aims to inform, educate and inspire people about the blockchain revolution, for which he has already interviewed nearly 40 Canadian and global industry leaders.

An avid communicator, Flo also built a significant social media following on Linkedin and Twitter, where he regularly engages his close to 100K followers on everything from the economy, tech, social media, blockchain and current events.

Flo has a BA in Business Administration from the international Hotelschool The Hague (Netherlands). He speaks English, French and Dutch fluently, German and Spanish moderately.

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Shannon M. Watson, CMP, CAE, DES profile image

Shannon M. Watson, CMP, CAE, DES

Director, Meetings & Events, Rotary International

Prior to joining Rotary in March 2015, Shannon was responsible for all conception, strategy, planning and implementation of SEIA's events. Shannon has worked in hospitality for 20 years, in restaurants, hotels and catering businesses. She worked for the Association of Fundraising Professionals from 1998-2007, and recently left the Solar Energy Industries Association as its Director of Meetings & Education to join the staff of Rotary International as Director, Meetings & Events. She served as membership co-chair of the Association of Meeting Professionals in 2003-2004 and served as chair of the Meetings and Expositions Council for the American Society of Association Executives from 2006-2007.

Education and Certifications: B.A. in English and Speech Communications from the University of Richmond, Richmond, VA. Graduated with Highest Honors from the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY. Certified Meeting Professional since 2000, Certified Association Executive since 2010, Digital Event Strategist since 2020.

Fun Fact: Shannon’s professional background includes paying gigs as: pastry chef, poker tournament director, costume designer, and actor.

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