Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Meetings

2015 CSM of the Year Awards

by Andrea Doyle | February 02, 2015

They're lifesavers. They're meeting experts. They're a planner's best friend on site. They're convention service managers (CSMs). For the last 37 years, Successful Meetings, in conjunction with the Event Service Professionals Association, has honored the top CSMs at hotels, convention and visitors bureaus, and convention centers. Here is a look at this year's three CSM of the Year honorees.

Joe O'Donnell, CMP
Associate Director of Event Management,
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

It's amazing how quickly Joe went from being a total stranger to a member of our team," says Jessica Schade Tamasi, manager of conferences and exhibits for Metal Powder Industries, based in Princeton, NJ. "It was evident he had reviewed the contracted space and walked into our first planning meeting having read everything that had been previously sent in preparation of the meeting. He was ready to go. He's one of those people who you know loves what he does and you know as his client he's there for you 100 percent."

O'Donnell has been with the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort for more than 12 years. These properties were built with meetings in mind, boasting over 329,000 square feet of flexible indoor meeting space with 110,500 square feet of convention/exhibit space. The hotels are currently getting the largest makeover in their history. A multi-phase, $125 million redesign is underway that will transform every guest room in the 758-room Swan Hotel and the 1,509-room Dolphin Hotel -- and will keep O'Donnell busy.

"It really is a special place and the success of our events is a result of the dedication and passion that flows from the heart of the house and throughout the entire cast," says O'Donnell. "Much of what we do in events on a daily basis seems to include major accomplishments, if not miracles, but somehow at the end of the day it's hard to put in to words what was accomplished."

One personal accomplishment that has also left him at a loss for words was climbing Mt. Fuji. "Doing it without getting divorced was also an accomplishment, because I came up with the worst plan: starting the trek after having 24 hours with no sleep," he jokes.

In fact, it is his planning and foresight that impresses the groups with which he works. "He's always thinking of how we could potentially do something a little better or more efficiently. I know he works for the hotel but he also became such an important part of our team. He walks the delicate line of being a company employee and having a razor-sharp focus on you, your meeting, and your bottom line too," explains Tamasi. "He knew my program by heart, he knew my VIPs by sight, he was always a step ahead on our potential hot-button issues, and he was there at every meal and special event we had. He is the perfect zen to any meeting planner's frenzy."
Universal Access