Deborah Sexton, who has served for more than 12 years as presi- dent and chief executive officer of
the Professional Convention Management
Association (PCMA), will hand the baton
over to current PCMA chief operating officer
Sherrif Karamat after the annual Convening
Leaders event in Nashville this month.
Although the move took many in the industry by surprise, it has been in the works
since last September, when Sexton shared her
decision with PCMA’s board of directors.
The board then voted unanimously to approve Karamat as the new CEO, effective Jan.
19, 2018. A Toronto resident, Karamat will
relocate to Chicago for the new role.
After a successful 2017 Convening Leaders
in Austin, Sexton started to think about her
exit. With the fact that PCMA’s new strategic
plan looks at least 10 years into the future,
the timing was perfect, she said.
“I sat back and realized I was not willing
to give 10 years, and possibly not even five,
“When I came in, I undertook a complete
reorg, a complete reenvisioning, and I have
spent more than 12 years driving that vision.”
Add to that the fact that the organization
has never been in a better financial position,
and the stage was set for her exit. “You don’t
think about the future when you are down.
You do that when you are up,” she said.
Karamat is a natural successor, Sexton
added. “Sherrif and I have worked side by
side for a long time, and he has been a major
part of the process. There is no need to bring
someone up to speed, as he has been in the
trenches all along and will do a phenomenal
job,” she said. “Successful organizations cre-
ate solid succession plans and then execute
them. That’s what we have done.”
Asked to list her proudest accomplishment
during her tenure with PCMA, Sexton fo-
cused the spotlight on her team.
“They are the ones who do the majority
of the work. It’s the team that’s here that has
allowed PCMA to become the progressive,
innovative organization it is.”
Other accomplishments she cited are re-
storing financial success to the organization
as well as the partnership program she creat-
ed. Karamat plans to bring a global perspec-
tive to his new role, and to focus on PCMA’s
“I believe business events can play a bigger role in society to help bring economic
prosperity to communities across the world,”
Sexton will remain in an advisory role with
PCMA through March. She plans to launch
DLS and Associates, a consultancy to share
her experience with others. Not only is DLS
her initials, but it is also the tagline of her
new venture: “Designing Lasting Solutions.”
“It’s wonderful to see an organization
go through a well-thought-out and or-
derly succession plan like this. If you look at
Deborah’s almost 13 years at the helm and
the amount of time Deborah and Sherrif have
worked together and have been involved in
PCMA’s new strategic plan, it makes sense
for everyone involved.”
The organization’s new strategic plan
requires at least a 10-year commitment,
said Peckinpaugh, so it made logical sense
for Sexton to relinquish the role of CEO to
Karamat after 2018’s Convening Leaders.
— Andrea Doyle
CORRECTION: In the November 2017 Stella
Awards supplement, Rosen Shingle Creek was
misidentified as having free Wi-Fi throughout
the property. Rosen Shingle Creek offers free
Wi-Fi in guest rooms and public areas only.
After more than 12 years at the helm, the industry veteran is stepping down
Deborah Sexton Explains Why
She’s Leaving PCMA