By Kari Messenger, GMC Awards Committee Member
The Spirit Award recognizes an active chapter member (professional or supplier) who does not reside and/or have a physical office in the greater Chicago area.
Joni Opperman has been part of the Hilton family for more than 20 years. She started her career like many in this industry; she fell into it. While majoring in pre-med at University of Texas, she began working at the local Embassy Suites manning the front desk. Joni took this job on as she always loved being sociable and like any college student, she wanted some spending cash. Before that, Joni got her first taste of the hospitality industry during her first job at the age of 15 working at a country club in Houston, TX. Little did she know, these experiences would set her on a lifelong journey to her current career.
This year Joni will receive the Greater Midwest Chapter PCMA Spirit Award. Joni will be making history as she is only the second person to receive this award as its inauguration as an award was in 2019. “Connection is key!” Joni said when talking about the difference PCMA has made in her career. “Being a part of PCMA has helped me form relationships with planners and suppliers alike by participating in an organization we all care about. The education is top notch and I often catch myself applying my ‘take always’ from what I learned into everyday situations.”
Joni has been an active member of PCMA since 2008 and has served on several committees, currently the Professional Development team. “Industry awards are so impactful,” Joni said, “while we are all volunteering for something we are passionate about, you do not expect such recognition, but it is an amazing feeling to be receiving this award.”
As COVID-19 affected everyone this year especially in the hospitality industry, Joni was no different. “This past yearhas been my time to reset,” said Joni. “Before COVID hit I was traveling three to four days per week, roughly three weeks out of the month. This time has taught me to slow down and how to work differently. But it also let me see how much I really love traveling and how much I miss it! Like all of us, I am not sure when traveling will be in full swing again, but I can’t wait to see our industry back in full swing SOON.”
Fire Round of Questions with Joni
Kari: Who is your celebrity look alike?
Joni: Amy Adams!
Kari: What is your walk-up song?
Joni: Katy Perry “Roar.”
Kari: You got the eye of the tiger.
Kari: What would you do if you won the lottery?
Joni: I would want to stay working but also live internationally for six months out of the year.
Kari: Where would you live?
Joni: Two months in Italy, two in Spain, two in Portugal.
Kari: What is your least favorite word? Mine for one in 2020 is ‘Pivot.’
Joni: Pivot for sure but the phase I am sick of hearing is the ‘new normal.’
Kari: What is something no one (or very few people) know about you?
Joni: That I was a pre-med major! That one usually surprises most people in our industry. Also, that I have lived all over the USA; Arizona, California, Texas, and Ohio to name a few.
Kari: What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
Joni: Moving to Columbus, Ohio!! When I moved to Columbus my boss was the only person I knew. Flash forward, I met and married a local Buckeye, put down roots and am so glad to call this city home.
Kari: What was the first concert you attended?
Joni: New Kids on the Block!
Kari: You got the right stuff.
Joni Opperman is the Director of Sales of Association Groups with Hilton. She manages 70 accounts ensuring large conventions and meetings are placed within Hilton-branded properties. Joni resides in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Jason, son Brantley, and lab Cash. You would never know she is not a resident of Chicago, truly earning her spirit award of always being active and known in the Chicagoland market.