Best Buddies Support

Conference Event Management donation to Best Buddies

Michelle DeClerck, president, shows Conference Event Management’s support to Blake Campbell, Best Buddies Iowa Executive Director, at their annual convention. Dylan DeClerck, event consultant, (right) has been an active supporter of Best Buddies for years and was pleased to join in the presentation

Entrepreneur Spotlight – Michelle DeClerck, Conference Event Management

This post originally appeared as an article in the IA SourceLink September Newsletter. 

This month’s Entrepreneur Spotlight is a must read for every entrepreneur that is considering taking the jump into starting their own business. Michelle DeClerck was working for ING (VOYA) as the director of meeting management in the early 2000’s and as her role began to get restructured, she knew two things.

  1. She wanted to continue providing value-oriented event solutions.

  2. She wanted to stay in Central Iowa.

So she immediately began consulting for many of ING’s independent channels and under her newly formed Conference Event Management. “Wherever in the world groups gather, Conference Event Management can help get them there,” says DeClerck.

Conference Event Management is an Iowa woman-owned business enterprise and leading provider of unique, world-class event, conference, incentive travel, meeting experiences, reward strategies, hotel & cruise site selection and contracting, individual Travel MyWay® travel bookings, and national speaker’s circuit bookings.

We’ll get to some good entrepreneur-focused questions later, but with this month’s IASourceLink focus on trade shows and conferences, I definitely wanted DeClerck’s insight on solving common issues she has seen with clients. “We find that internal staff try to be all things to their internal clients when they don’t have the time, the resources, or the expertise to achieve their event goals.  By reaching out to experts such as ourselves, we’re happy to share our best practices with them to help them design their events and put them in hero status,” she explains.

There is also financial risk to consider when handling events. She continues, “Companies often allow the wrong people to sign hotel / cruise contracts within their companies and while they may sign one to two contracts a year, they open themselves up to financial risk or they leave many opportunities on the table.” Working with experts to handle these situations can reduce a company’s risk. Not to mention that experts, like those at Conference Event Management, have a much better handle on important event planning aspects such as venue management. As DeClerck says, “Not all hotels are the same.”

She also says Conference Event Management also finds many clients don’t know why they are hosting an event, “We want to help them strategize on the objectives and what a homerun looks like before we’ll accept the business to ensure all stakeholders are pleased with the end results.”

Then we got into the entrepreneur-focused questions. As someone who tends to overanalyze and want to wait for the perfect moment, I love her answer for the last question!

Favorite part of owning your own company.

The ability to think outside the box and know that no red tape has to exist. We are able to react on a moment’s notice without worrying about a higher authority putting barriers in our way to helping our clients achieve their success stories.

Most challenging part of owning your own company.

Finding talent that has the skillset that we would find most desirable is always a challenge in any company, and especially in an industry that has so many demands like ours. We look for experts with international travel and foreign currencies, numerous destinations, dealing with risk management, and always being alert and reactive to today’s trending situations such as terrorist acts, the Zika Virus and more. We will never be able to have an event plan that goes without incident, we must be able to be nimble and appropriately react in any situation.

Most useful resource.

We build websites for our clients to help them educate and register their guests. Recalling that we didn’t use these in the early years and the inefficiencies that caused, makes me take for granted the role technology plays in our everyday planning processes and how truly efficient this access to various levels of data allows us to be.

Most useful Iowa resource.

As an active board member for National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO – Iowa), I lean on my fellow members to network with, to learn of new resources, and come up to solutions to our business challenges.

What advice would you give to an entrepreneur wanting to turn their idea into a business?

There will probably never be a perfect time to start your own business. If someone has an idea and the passion to get a business off the ground, then that’s the time to get started. Create your vision, solicit feedback from other business owners and then engage business consultants to create a plan to help you avoid costly mistakes.  A short-term plan, paired with an ultimate strategic vision, can be enough to get your business off the ground and on the road to success—sooner rather than later.

And last but certainly not least.

Where can people go to learn more about you and Conference Event Management?

Email or visit

CEM President, Michele DeClerck, Honored as Clive Citizen of the Year

The DeClerck Family to be honored as Clive Citizens of the Year (as featured in the Clive Online Newsletter 2-10-16)


The DeClerck Family accepted the Clive Citizen of the Year award on Tuesday, February 16 at the Clive Chamber Annual Dinner

On Tuesday February 16, the Clive Lions along with the Clive Chamber of Commerce will be honoring The DeClerck Family as the Clive 2015 Citizens of the Year at the Clive Chamber’s Annual Celebration. The Annual Celebration will be held at NCMIC Group, 14001 University Avenue in Clive. The Celebration will start at 5:30pm, with dinner served at 6:45 pm. The program will follow dinner and will include the presentation of the Clive Citizen of the Year award to The DeClerck Family.

The DeClerck Family has called Clive home since the late 80s. Immediately Jaime and Michelle became involved in the community, joining the Clive Jaycees and running Clive After Five. They participated in many wonderful charity projects in their numerous years as Clive Jaycees. In 2004 Michelle started her business, Conference Event Management in Clive. In 2011, she was named Iowa NAWBO woman business owner of the year.

Growing up in a house of charity, the DeClerck children quickly learned to give back themselves and their son, Dylan designed and built the garden entry walls at their church in Clive through Dylan’s Eagle Scout project which the family still maintains to this day. At the age of 16, Dylan founded Opportunity on Deck, which provides low income students in the Des Moines area the opportunities to participate in organized sports. Since its creation it has served over 536 families. The entire DeClerck family is involved in the set up and facilitation of the sporting events. Leah, Dylan’s sister, spends most of her time playing ball with the girls and working the registration table. Jaime and Michelle serve on the Board of Directors. For all his hard work Dylan and Opportunity on Deck have won numerous awards, from top student at Drake University to most recently, Iowa’s Philanthropy Student of the Year. The quality of life in Clive is enhanced by the actions of people like The DeClerck Family and their actions represent the behaviors the Clive Lions Club seeks for this award.

The Clive Citizen of the Year recognition was initiated in 1979 by the Clive Community Development Association. This year’s nomination process yielded several nominations and the selection committee consisted of representatives from the Clive Lions Club.

Tickets to the Annual Celebration are $50/person and those interested can RSVP by February 12 online at  For more information on Clive Citizen of the Year please contact Clive Mayor and Clive Lion, Scott Cirksena at or 515-223-6220.

Iowa Hospitality Donation Network: How a simple idea to help others turned into a statewide initiative

By: Rio Maxwell, Marketing & Events Intern, Conference Event Management

“Growing up during a time when food issues and paying the bills were a challenge for my family, I was bothered by the fact that we did not have a local, collective effort to address the growing need among those who could use these products that would otherwise be thrown out. I knew there had to be a way to repurpose, recycle, or reuse these products and where better to start the effort than in Iowa where we rank seventh in the nation for volunteerism,” – Michelle DeClerck, President, CEM

In March 2015, CEM president, Michelle DeClerck, approached me with an idea. To my surprise, it had nothing to do with marketing, nor events, it was focused solely on helping others in our community.  As a college student, I was not only intrigued, but also inspired. Not many interns get assigned a project that has the potential to make a hotel visitssignificant impact on the lives of others.  Michelle told me she was interested in starting an initiative for donating leftover items from hotels and event venues around West Des Moines to non-profits around Central Iowa.

As a frequent traveler, from years in the hospitality industry, Michelle noticed unused toiletries going to waste, leftover banquet food being tossed, and other goods and furniture being discarded in hotels and event venues. After a meeting with an area hospitality leader, who operates five hotels in West Des Moines, she decided that the CEM Outreach Team should do something about all of these leftover items.  Over the period of seven months, with other hospitality leaders in Iowa, we took this idea and turned it into the Iowa Hospitality Donation Network, and in the first week of donating, over 100 gallons of toiletries along with over 10 boxes of sheets, pillows, and towels were delivered to the homeless. Specifically, the IHDN has partnered with the Central Iowa Shelter and Services, the homeless shelter in downtown Des Moines that supports over 2,000 homeless men and women in Iowa annually.

Why, you might ask, would all of these items be thrown away instead of being donated?  The main reason is logistics. After meeting with about 20 hotel general managers around Des Moines, we learned that most hotels discard certain items because it’s costly and time consuming for hotels to donate those items. To our surprise, several hotels had an extensive amount of donation items in inventory, and they were excited to hear about the opportunity to donate those items at little effort and no cost to them.

Hotel employees simply do not have time to drive to a non-profit and drop off goods; it is much easier for them to just throw away items. The goal of IHDN, therefore, is to connect non-profits with hotels and other event venues to allow for a simple donation process.  To accomplish this, I created a welcome kit to distribute to hotels to gain their participation. I provided them steps for housekeepers and hotel management, a chart to track donations, labels for donation boxes, and a list of organizations in Central Iowa that offer free pick-up service as well as places where hotel items, such as toiletries, linens, pillows, towels, etc. could be donated.  If you are interested in an in-depth process of how we started the IHDN, please view our most recent blog, How to: Start Your Own Hospitality Donation Network.

Currently, the Iowa Hospitality Donation Network has over 10 hotel members and is growing. CEM Marketing Coordinator, Mandy McWherter, and I presented the IHDN to the Iowa Lodging Association in September. Just days after our presentation to board members, the Iowa Hospitality Donation Network was endorsed by the Iowa Lodging Association (ILA) with over 100 hotel members. The ILA board members learned this win-win scenario allows hotels and event venues to not only help the community, but to decrease trash hauling expenses. From a simple idea to a statewide initiative, the Iowa Hospitality Donation Network now has the potential to help hundreds or even thousands of Iowans in need. One of IHDN’s leaders, Abid Talic, Vice President of the Iowa Lodging Association, said during a meeting, “If you have an opportunity to help others, you should,” and that is exactly what CEM and other IHDN members are doing.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Iowa Hospitality Donation Network or would like to be involved, please contact Rio Maxwell at or visit us on Facebook,


West Des Moines, IA: Conference Event Management is pleased to announce a hospitality donation initiative to help those in need in our local community. The Iowa Hotel Donation Network involves hotels working together to donate excess food, leftover personal care items, and discarded housewares to non-profit organizations around Central Iowa. This initiative is aimed at supporting low income and homeless individuals.

CEM President, Michelle DeClerck, is a leader in the community and in her church promoting programs for alleviating homelessness and hunger. DeClerck founded the Iowa Hotel Donation Network to create a collective voice among local hotels. Often times, hotels discard items that could be reused or recycled, including toiletries, sheets, towels, furnishings, small appliances, and food. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the hospitality industry in North America throws away about one million bars of soap every day. Items like this could be donated to improve the lives and health of less-fortunate people.

The Iowa Hotel Donation Network held its inaugural meeting for hotel general managers in West Des Moines last week. The goal of this meeting was to start the discussion among the hotels surrounding CEM’s headquarters in West Des Moines, IA. DeClerck, along with leaders from Double Tree, Holiday Inn & Suites, Sleep Inn, Hotel Renovo, Fairfield Inn & Spring Hill Suites, Wildwood Lodge and the Iowa Lodging Association, came up with strategies for donating that can be used throughout Central Iowa, and eventually throughout the state.

From left to right, Krysia Hannam – Heart of America Group Cheryl Math – Heart of America Group, Michelle DeClerck – Conference Event Management, Mark Herron – Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel, Abid Talic – Fairfield Inn & Suites, Spring Hill Suites West Des Moines.

From left to right, Krysia Hannam – Heart of America Group, Cheryl Math – Heart of America Group, Michelle DeClerck – Conference Event Management, Mark Herron – Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel, Abid Talic – Fairfield Inn and Suites, Spring Hill Suites West Des Moines.

“There is no better place to start the discussion than right here in our local community. With Iowa ranking as the 7th most charitable state, I’m convinced an effort dealing with food rescue and the donation of personal care and houseware items will quickly make an impact. As our team travels the world and we see the effect volunteer programs make in some of the world’s poorest areas, we recognized there is an opportunity in our own community to make a difference,” stated DeClerck.

Hotels have numerous reasons to get involved with donation programs besides corporate responsibility. Benefits such as decreased trash hauling expenses are mutually beneficial for both hotels and the environment. For example, as hotels upgrade and renovate the disposal of mattresses is becoming progressively more expensive due to the fact that landfills are charging based on weight for large quantities. The Iowa Hotel Donation Network exists to find solutions for logistics of moving these products from the hotels to charities that can distribute to those in need, such as shelters and organizations that help people transition to independent living.

Hotels interested in becoming involved may contact Rio Maxwell at for additional information or to receive a listing of known charities that accept donations.

Conference Event Management (CEM) offers complimentary hotel and cruise contracting and creates Return on Experience (ROE) – custom meeting and event solutions that drive sales, improve productivity, and retain top talent through attendee engagement. With complete transparency and saving client’s time and money, CEM manages the details while clients manage the business.

Trends and Insight from the 2014 Meeting Professionals International (MPI) World Education Congress

RachelBy Rachel Schmidt, Events Coordinator

As new members of Meeting Planners International (MPI), and first time attendees of the World Education Congress, Mollie Ross, CEM Event Planner, and I weren’t sure what to expect as we drove to Minneapolis. However, we soon realized that we were in for a great learning experience as we arrived at the opening night reception. Mill City Museum was the venue for the evening’s festivities. Even with the rain, the views overlooking the Mississippi River were incredible. The WEC planning committee did a fabulous job showcasing all that Minneapolis has to offer planners and events, including top decorators, caterers, and entertainers, as well as unique ideas like appetizers creatively displayed in picture frames that we can incorporate into client events anywhere across the globe.

appetizer framesThe conference offered a wide array of educational sessions, designed to build upon our skills as meeting planners. The central theme of the conference was demonstrating how meetings and events make an impact, and all that can be achieved when people come together. In one of my favorite sessions, the speaker discussed how to develop valuable meetings and events, and the six elements to incorporate in event design. Two elements that really stuck with me were novelty and simplicity. As planners, we strive to create unique and memorable experiences for our attendees, and through every step of the planning process we must ask ourselves this simple question – what is the one thing we want the attendees to get out the meeting or incentive trip? By remaining focused on our client’s goals, we can ensure an impactful event for the attendees and make sure all of our client’s objectives are met.

We had the opportunity to hear from keynote speakers that you might not typically expect to see at a meeting planners’ conference, including Deepak Chopra, one of the best-known figures in the holistic-health movement, and Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) with Steve Jobs.  These individuals, while speaking on their own areas of expertise, drove home the fact that meetings and events affect all industries. They emphasized that ideas and innovation happen when people come together.  At CEM, we can help locate qualified, high profile speakers for our clients’ events that tie in perfectly to the event message.

The conference overall served as a great opportunity to collaborate with our peers, strategize new ways to motivate event attendees, and build loyalty within our clients’ companies. Here are three highlights we found useful:

1) Novelty will stick with your attendees. Strive to make at least one element of your event unique compared to what your attendees have experienced before.

2) When networking, have a goal going into the event. Whether it’s to collect three business cards or meet two new people in your industry; having a purpose will make it a productive use of your time.

3) When menu planning for your event, showcase the local culture whenever possible; in menu selections, marketing, entertainment, and decor. Ask your vendors from the area for names of local favorite restaurants and venues for unique dine arounds and off-site activities.

Credentials: Conference Event Management (CEM) is a woman-owned business enterprise and leading provider of unique, world-class event, conference, incentive travel, meeting experiences, reward strategies, hotel and cruise site selection and contracting, individual Travel MyWay® bookings, and national speaker’s bureau bookings. Rachel Schmidt, Event Coordinator, assists event planners with the details of creating memorable events for CEM’s clients. Rachel also supports CEM by building registration websites for clients and with event close-outs to ensure the financial aspects of programs are well managed. She can be reached at  

On the Rise



CEM is proud to celebrate Rachel Schmidt’s one year anniversary with the company. Over the course of the past year, Rachel was promoted from Marketing Assistant to the role of Event Coordinator. In her new position, Rachel assists event planners with the details of creating memorable events for CEM’s clients. Rachel also supports CEM by building registration websites for clients and with event close-outs to ensure the financial aspects of programs are well managed. Please join us in congratulating Rachel on her growth within the company and for reaching this significant milestone.

CEM Open House a Huge Success!

Thanks to all who helped us celebrate our CEM Open House that kicked off our 10-year anniversary year! What a fun afternoon we had with our clients, friends, and CEM fans. We couldn’t be here today without your support!

CEM Owner & President, Michelle DeClerck, cuts the CEM purple ribbon at April 2013 Open House in West Des Moines.

CEM Owner & President, Michelle DeClerck, cuts the CEM purple ribbon at the April 2013 Open House in West Des Moines.

As a special bonus to our event, we held a CEM door prize giveaway including a round-trip airline ticket donated by Omega World Travel, a Hyatt hotel stay, a specialty cruise gift bag, world-famous Las Vegas Tootie Pies gift certificate, and several copies of business-savvy read, Admired: 21 Ways to Double Your Value, by best-selling authors Mark C. Thompson and Bonita S. Thompson.

Our prize winner’s are Kristin from Nobbies Party Superstore, Claudia from Middendorf, Cody from New York Life, Bobbi S. and Barb B. Congratulations, CEM prize-winners! We were so glad to see you at the open house!

But that’s not all – We know that not all of our friends could make it to the event so we’re hosting a second online drawing for our Facebook page fans. This Wednesday and Thursday we’ll announce two more prize winners from our online drawing. So check us out on Facebook at

Special thanks to those who made our event so wonderful including:

  • Mayor Steve Gaer, West Des Moines
  • Mayor Scott Cirksena, Clive
  • Karen Devine, Celebrity Cruise Partner of the Year 2011 & 2012
  • Ed Cegielski & Omega World Travel
  • The Clive Chamber of Commerce
  • Hyatt Hotels
  • Angela Cox-Weston
  • Naomi by Iced at Cache Bake Shoppe
  • Flora Schmidt
  • Tari Colby, Artistic Concepts
Thank You Banner
Thank you all for your contributions! The event wouldn’t have been the same without your help!