Sign up for the Marketer QuickLook Newsletter
SMPS Headquarters
625 North Washington Street
Suite 302 Alexandria, VA 22314-1936
previous.svgnext.svgback to top.svg

Empowering the Leaders of
The Next Era of SMPS

By Danielle Gray, MBA


In the heart of Washington DC, from April 17-19, the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) hosted its highly anticipated Chapter Leadership Symposium (CLS). This annual event brought together incoming 58 chapter leaders from coast to coast providing them with the inspiration and tools necessary to lead their chapters effectively in the upcoming term. With a lineup of distinguished speakers and a series of engaging sessions, the symposium aimed to prepare chapter leaders for the diverse challenges they will face, from governance and finance to membership and marketing.
Leader to Leader Panel
Wisdom from the Board
The symposium kicked off with the Leader to Leader Panel, a highlight of the event featuring an engaging discussion with the SMPS Board of Directors. Each board member brought a wealth of experience in chapter leadership, offering invaluable insights to the attendees. The panel was expertly moderated by conference committee chairs, Keelin Cox, CPSM, and Valerie Puchades, FSMPS, CPSM. Through a series of thought-provoking questions, Keelin and Valerie asked about the personal experiences and leadership philosophies of the board members, setting a tone of openness and learning for the rest of the conference.
Harmonizing Leadership
The Melody of Success in Team Dynamics
One of the standout sessions was “Harmonizing Leadership: The Melody of Success in Team Dynamics,” led by Maisha Christian. Drawing parallels between the key components of musical harmony—melody, rhythm, dynamics, and collaboration—Maisha provided a fresh perspective on team leadership. Attendees were encouraged to think of their teams as orchestras, where each member plays a unique role, and the leader’s job is to ensure that all parts work together harmoniously. The attendees were also encouraged to sing Mary Little Lamb. Yes, sing. From singing Mary Had a Little Lamb to discussing Billy Joel, this special session was inspired the 2024 CLS class name: The SyMPhonicS.
Leading with Love
Creating Empowered Cultures
Craig Galati, FAIA, FSMPS, CPSM, led another powerful session titled “Leading with Love.” Craig’s session focused on the importance of compassion in leadership and how it can transform workplace dynamics. He provided attendees with tools to assess their ability to lead with love, highlighting how an empowered culture can significantly boost both individual and group performance. Craig’s insights were eye-opening, revealing the profound impact that empathy and understanding can have on leadership effectiveness.
Managing Critical Conversations
Tools for Success
Mary Abbajay’s session on “Managing Critical Conversations” was a dynamic and interactive experience. Mary emphasized the necessity for chapter leaders to master the art of facilitating meetings and conversations that result in shared priorities, goals, and group synergy. Her session provided attendees with practical facilitation and communication skills, essential for navigating the diverse opinions and personalities within their chapters. The interactive exercises empowered leaders to approach difficult conversations with confidence and competence.
DEI: The Human Experience in Business
Creating a Sustainable Future Through Equity & Inclusion
Mindy Gulati led a compelling session on “DEI: Creating a Sustainable Future Through Equity & Inclusion.” In today’s increasingly diverse world, Mindy highlighted the critical importance of equity and inclusion efforts within organizations. She discussed the benefits of modern, inclusive leadership and provided strategies for building more diverse and dynamic networks. Mindy’s session underscored the need for creating environments where all members can thrive and their talents are fully realized. Her insights were invaluable for leaders looking to foster a culture of inclusivity within their chapters.
Reflections and Future Aspirations
CLS Committee co-Chair, Valerie Puchades, FSMPS, CPSM reflected on her own experience as a chapter leader, “Before I was a chapter leader, my network was regional, but after serving as chapter president, I could reach out to someone in my network around the country.” With 58 chapters represented in one room at CLS, the chapter leaders were encouraged to stay connected with one another.

As the symposium came to a close, attendees left feeling inspired and equipped with new strategies and perspectives to bring back to their chapters. The blend of practical sessions and inspirational talks provided a well-rounded experience, ensuring that each participant could find something of value to apply in their leadership journey.

Reflecting on the event, it was clear that the SMPS Chapter Leadership Symposium succeeded in its mission to prepare the next generation of SMPS chapter leaders. The combination of expert insights, interactive sessions, and networking opportunities created a fertile ground for learning and growth. As these leaders return to their respective chapters, they carry with them not only new tools and knowledge but also a renewed sense of purpose and community.

In the words of CLS Committee co-Chair, Keelin Cox, CPSM “I hope the Presidents-Elect leave CLS feeling appreciated and supported, and that they have gained valuable new tools to effectively lead their chapters.” This sentiment encapsulates the essence of the symposium—empowering leaders to inspire and guide their chapters toward success.
Incoming Chapter Presidents
SMPS Alabama
Ashley Thompson
SMPS Alaska
Katy Kless
SMPS Arizona
Jamie Schindeldecker
SMPS Ozarks
Bliss Bratton
SMPS Inland Empire
Leilani Doherty
SMPS Los Angeles
Saundra Price
SMPS Orange County
Dawn Antonucci
SMPS Sacramento
April Willoughby
SMPS San Diego
Marty Glaske, MBA, CMIT
SMPS San Francisco
Hildegard Dodd
SMPS Colorado
Mae Ann Saas
SMPS Connecticut
Laura Berdebes
SMPS Central Florida
Kalia Graham
SMPS North Florida
Erika Boyle
SMPS South Florida
Melissa J. Bailes
SMPS Tampa Bay
Michelle Casale
SMPS Atlanta
Angel Jones
SMPS Hawaii
Dominique Perry
SMPS Idaho
Katie Gwinn
SMPS Chicago
Noula Frigelis
SMPS Indiana
Beth Ann Etting
SMPS Wichita
Samantha Henning
SMPS Kentucky
Emily Browning
SMPS Southeast Louisiana
Jennifer Hanson
SMPS Northern New England
Maureen Duffy
SMPS Maryland
Jason Dittrich
SMPS Washington, DC
Suzanne Swistak
SMPS Boston
Britt-Anya Bursell
SMPS Southeast Michigan
Debra K. Osuch
SMPS West Michigan (developing)
Allison Cummings
SMPS Twin Cities
Michele Ode, CPSM
SMPS Kansas City
Laura Sanford
SMPS Louis
Julia Pluff
SMPS Nebraska
Lisa Schiele
SMPS New Mexico
Ronak Bhakta
SMPS Las Vegas
John Ritz
SMPS New York
Erika Moshkovich, CPSM
SMPS Upstate New York
Kelly Reinhardt
SMPS Charlotte
Jill Davis
SMPS Research Triangle
Victoria Edwards
SMPS Columbus
Meghan Allsop
SMPS Greater Cincinnati
Jason Weier
SMPS Northeast Ohio
Jillian Van Wagnen
SMPS Oklahoma
Karly Kaiser
SMPS Oregon
Nicole Haman
SMPS Central Pennsylvania
Dan Confer
SMPS Philadelphia
Laura B. Frein, CPSM
SMPS Pittsburgh
Tyler Niedzwicki
SMPS Palmetto
Elizabeth Dees
SMPS Nashville
Lauren Long
SMPS Austin
Brittany Hendrickson
SMPS Houston
Laketa Morris
SMPS North Texas
Matthew Stephenson
SMPS San Antonio
Garrett McCullough
RoLynne Hendricks
SMPS Virginia
Jennifer Ahmad
SMPS Wisconsin
Mara Manchek
SMPS Seattle
Bill Michie
SMPS Ontario
Meagan DeCarlo
Danielle Gray, MBA, is the Director, Content and Knowledge Resources at SMPS HQ, where she is responsible for driving strategic content and learning initiatives. Her goal is to empower A/E/C marketing and business development leaders to foster growth and excellence in the industry. A SMPS member since 2017, Danielle speaks to chapters and regional conferences about content and authenticity.
Connect with Danielle on