February 2015  

NACE Austin Board of Directors

Thank you to our 2014 Board of Directors!



Please welcome our 2015 Board of Directors!


2015 Board Members

Deborah Ayala, Embassy Suites Austin Central

Vice President
Blanca Cerda, The Raddison Hotel & Suites Austin

Michelle Morris-Cuellar, The Wedding Guide

Past President
Michele Edison, Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau

Event Professional
Sara Dodd, Game Plan Entertainment

Program Co-Chairs
Laura Page, CERP, Marquee Event Group & Alison Herschap, Premiere Events

Membership Co-Chairs
Lisa Parkes, The Renaissance Hotel & Katie Billingsly, Complete Music Video & Photo

Hospitality Chair
Alfred Engstrand, Alfred's Catering

Fundraiser Chair
Brianne Mouton, CPCE, BMWE

Community Service Chair
Jyll Vertuno, CPCE, Congregation Agudas Achim

Communications Chair
Amber Groce, River Place Country Club

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President's Report

WHY NACE?  I started attending NACE events many years ago when I was new to Catering and Events industry.    I enjoyed the comradery with fellow catering professionals, which gave me a break from the heavy work load and trying to learn new tricks without a teacher.    Back in those days we did not have the Internet so you were on your own to find new ideas.  I found each NACE meeting provided me a unique and different theme each month and the educational component of the meeting was,  not only very intriguing, but it also provided new ideas, which helped me create more sophisticated events for my clients.   So after many years of benefiting from the many wonderful NACE educational programs, I finally decided to join the Austin Chapter to give back to the organization that had been a spring board for my career.  They say you get out of NACE what you put in to it,  so I decided  to join the leadership team as the Hospitality Chair.   From there I was elected to the Vice President position and  in 2013 became the President of the Austin Chapter.   So if you are feeling the blahs in your career….start giving back and you will see a resurge of energy in your career.    That is why I am a member of NACE Austin.  

This past January I attended the NACE Leadership Summit with two of our chapter leaders.  We discussed NACE as an organization and why it is important to our industry. You can't put a dollar amount on the value of a NACE membership. You have access (and special pricing) to national educational events like Experience! and webinars covering various topics. You also have a local network of professionals to use as resources and referrals.

We are the leaders of our industry, which means it's up to us to set the bar high with creative catering ideas, high standards of business practices and a collaborative team environment. This year, NACE Austin has some great opportunities for you to engage in the Austin events community. Our March meeting is Up in the Air, a discussion on Austin’s changing skyline and how it will affect business. In April, get ready for some wine! Texas’ Sommelier of the Year Joelle Cousins will educate us on your not-so-typical wine pairings. The May meeting brings us member Michele Schwartz, who will be discussing Jewish Weddings at Agudas Achim. We are also celebrating our 15th anniversary of our ever-so-popular fundraiser Eat The Heat, which will be held on August 13th at Shoal Crossing Event Center.

So I ask you “Why” be a member of NACE Austin?  Well, join me and 60-70 other very talented Catering and Event Professionals as we experience community together. 

NACE truly is THE place to be in our industry and I’m honored to lead you as President of the Austin Chapter again this year!

Deborah Ayala

NACE Austin Chapter President

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The call for awards has officially been announced! Visit this link to view the catergories. Here is a list of the awards and descriptions:

Catering and Events Industry Awards

Catered Event of the Year

Recognizes outstanding planning and execution for on-premise and off-premise catered events. 
Event Production of the Year
Recognizes outstanding achievement in the overall event planning and production of an event by on and off-premise caterers, event planners, facility venue managers, and institutions producing such events as parties, banquets, award ceremonies, fundraisers, festivals, sporting events, conventions, and expositions.
Planner of the Year
Recognizes wedding and event planners for outstanding achievement in the overall planning and production of events and whose contributions and involvement have made a significant impact on the catering and events industry. This award is based on a planner’s overall work in 2014, not solely on one event.
Table Presentation of the Year
Recognizes outstanding design and décor for an event table, including but not limited to guest, buffet, or conceptual tables. A conceptual table would be considered a “best of show” display piece where several elements of a table theme would be included to showcase all products; for example, those tables as seen at bridal shows and industry table-top competitions.
Team Event of the Year
Recognizes outstanding achievement in team effort to execute the event planning and production of a catered event by a group of caterers, event planners, facility venue managers, institutions, production companies, special event designers,décor providers, entertainment companies, and other vendors producing such events as parties, banquets, award ceremonies, festivals, sporting events, and expositions.
Wedding of the Year
Recognizes outstanding planning and execution for wedding events, including ceremony and reception.


Interested in submitting a nomination for an award? Make sure to do so by the early deadline of March 31, 2015 for the $95 entry fee or the final deadline of April 15, 2015 for the $115 entry fee.


Congratulations again to last year's winners!

2014 Winners
Mary Baird-Wilcock, CSEP (The Simplifiers) - Best Table Presentation of the Year (Budget $75 per table)
Morris Goen, DMCP (Goen South) - Table Presentation of the Year, Budget $75-200
Laura Page, CERP – President’s List 2014
Julie Diaz, CPCE – CPCE Certification

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Event Professional Spotlight

 “Passing the Torch” By Delores Crum

 “I'm getting more towards that point where I'm ready to kind of pass the torch on and see the next generation succeed behind me.” Angela Ruggiero, Olympic Medalist and three-time World Champion (U. S. Women’s Hockey National Team)


Twelve years is a long time to do anything consistently. After opening Premiere (as Austin Party Central) in November 2000 I joined the NACE Board in the Spring of 2002. Over these last 12 years, I believe I’ve held every Board position, with the exception of President, at one time or another. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all of you with whom I’ve been privileged to serve throughout my NACE Austin board “career.” You’ve so generously shared your knowledge and insights, and have made invaluable contributions to my personal and professional growth and to Premiere’s success in the industry. Thank you, especially for every referral and every tidbit of useful information.  

For the past two years, I’ve served as the Event Professional Representative on our Board. This important role is the liaison between the Catering Community (Hotel, Restaurant and Off Premise catering professionals) and those of us who support the catering and events industry (florists, photographers, entertainers, rental purveyors and others). This year, Sara Dodd, who, with her husband Michael, own and operate Game Plan Entertainment (how’s that for a fun job!), will represent the Event Professional Community on the NACE Austin Board.

It’s now my duty, and my honor, to pass the torch. I look forward to seeing the “next generation” of NACE leadership succeed behind me. Sara, and all of the 2015 chapter leaders, is poised and ready to take the award-winning NACE Austin Chapter to the next level. They will need the support and active participation from each and all of us to achieve all that we are capable of in the areas of leadership, programming and education, fundraising, charitable giving and membership growth and retention. You can give back to your industry and experience personal and professional growth by doing your part. You’ll gain far more from your NACE experience as an involved and contributing member. Resolve now to attend every meeting possible, and bring a guest when you can, to make this the best NACE-Austin year ever. You’ll be glad you did! 


Interested in being featured in the Event Professional Spotlight? Contact Sara Dodd at 


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Cause of the Quarter

Our cause of the quarter for Q1 2015 isThe Smile Never Fades. This organization raises money to help those who need it most, when they need it most. They also help provide funds for support groups – large and small, national and local – such as the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Austin.

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Eat the Heat

Thank you to everyone that attended our 2014 Annual Eat the Heat event and to all of our gracious sponsors! Stay tuned for 2015 dates!

 Click Here or Visit Our Facebook Page for Photos


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Experience Conference

Thank you Baltimore, see you in Scottsdale!
Stay tuned to the Nace National website for the online photo gallery and our recap video.

The Nace Experience Conference and Expo is an annual industry conference produced by the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE). The event features three days of educational sessions developed by thought leaders in catering and events.

Words of wisdom from past Experience attendees:

Experience! 2013 Conference by Laura Page, CERP

There are always ways to improve upon, enhance or re recognize the importance of good customer service skills.  I learned that, me, being better organized = a better experience for my clients.  It’s all about relationship building (vs. using the word “Vendor” use the word “Business Partner”), good time management and effective communication.  Get to know your client and be timely responding to customer inquiries.  Find out what is intrinsic to your client and don’t be afraid to propose the “dream”  to them, don’t ever assume your client can’t afford it.  Your challenge may be how to make it happen within their budget because you can’t give it away.

There were also good tips on PR and promoting your company.  Your website is the 1st face of you.  It’s good to have FAQ’s on there (answers to frequently asked questions such as what the process is to book you, any minimums, what territory you service, deposits required , etc. – address anything that gets asked over and over again) or possibly even feature a live chat section.  Testimonials can be helpful, your website should be emotional to relay the experience of doing business with you.  Which strikes an interesting question as you review your own company’s information , “Would you do Business with You”?  This was actually a session title and topic at conference - really gets you thinking doesn’t it…

Experience! 2013 Conference by Brianne Mouton, CPCE

Attending my fifth conference, it is always exciting to see what the host city has planned, hear and see what new trends are emerging and collaborate with industry partners across our sister chapters and Chicago did not let me down! Any party is not hot without some theme intertwined throughout the event: from our opening reception "The Devil in a White City" to walking into the Emerald City for opening breakfast and keynote one could find all sorts of ideas to bring home (check out our chapter facebook page for some great pictures of the event).

One breakout in particular that I want to highlight was called "Setting the Table to Better Serve Same-Sex Couples" presented by Kathryn Hamm of It was interesting to listen to the speaker and that by working and being open to new traditions and options that couples are adopting/doing that it will actually help us all be better at planning weddings for all types of couples,  not just same sex marriages. Below are a few of my take-a-ways.

1. Education Yourself: follow experts, watch headlines, attend conferences. Couples are looking for professionals, they want someone to help them bring their dream/vision to light, yet couples are lot more savvy these days. Be knowledgeable about the rights in the state you work in and the legal side of things (or at least know someone you can send couples too).

2. Should you choose to work with same-sex couples, update your website and marketing to include words such as "couples", "fiance" or "partners" and not specifically "bride" or "groom". All about first impression and your image/brand.

3. Expand Your Network: Make sure you talk with your business partners as well to see how they feel about working with same-sex couples. It is not about being right or wrong but having a team that is willing to serve the couple on their special day. Another item that was pointed out was to even take it a step further and talk to your employees about the event you are planning to work on (can't control peoples opinions and don't want your staff walking out minutes before an event starts).

4. Couples these days are straying from the traditions of our parents and grandparents and are even creating new ones. We are seeing a lot of "brides-men" and "groom-women" in bridal parties and one can't always assume that in a picture with a bride, her bridesmaids and then a man in a tux , that the man is the groom, rather a part of the bridal party or that a group of men with a women in a tux jacket and black shirt is a same sex marriage. Sometimes it is not even about the couple that is getting married but rather about a family member or close friend that will be attending with their partner and it is imporant to the couple that they feel welcomed.

5. Don't Assume, Ask and Innovate, be knowledgeable about military weddings traditions, be mindful of the CHOSEN & BILOGICAL family members of your couple, be a leader!

The LGBT community is a group that still ranges from those who have lived closested lives to those who have not, those who have supportive family members and those who do what if thinking differently about reaching and serving same-sex couples hels you better serve ALL couples?

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On the Calendar

Save the date for these upcoming NACE meetings!

Tuesday, March 3rd 6-8pm

Up In The Air at Waller Ballroom


Tuesday, April 7th 6:30-8:30pm

Unusual Wine Pairings at The Thinkery

Wine Pairings


Tuesday, May 5th 6:30-8:30pm

Jewish Events presented by Michelle Schwartz at Agudas Achim

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