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IAEE Spotlight on 2023 Chapter Merit Award Winner Sarah Kokernot, CEM, CMP

Sarah Kokernot, CEM, CMP
Members of IAEE’s Central Texas Chapter refer to Sarah Kokernot as a saving grace for stepping into her leadership role with enthusiasm and determination. Learn how this Chapter Merit Award Winner infuses new and fresh ideas to the chapter’s initiatives while earning admiration and respect from her colleagues.

By Mary Tucker, Sr. Communications & Content Manager

animated image of 2023 IAEE Chapter Merit Award Winner Sarah Kokernot

Sarah Kokernot, CEM, CMP has been hailed “a standard and saving grace” of the Central Texas Chapter since COVID. Chapter colleagues praised her for her leadership, drive and determination since 2020. With the large turnover in the industry and the chapter, she made calls, held meeting after meeting and recruited individuals to volunteer for leadership in the chapter.

Sarah has led by example with passion and dedication for IAEE, attending every call for the chapter and leading chapter meetings and social events.  Chapter colleagues praise her ideas as new, innovative and a welcome freshness to the chapter.

Sarah’s dedication to quality deliverables for chapter members earned her the IAEE Chapter Merit Award last year, for which she was recognized this past December during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Dallas, Texas (watch Sarah’s acceptance speech here). Here, Sarah shares with IAEE her love for bringing shows to life and how being involved in her local chapter has bolstered her knowledge and connections within the industry.

fun facts about Sarah


What drew you the exhibitions and events industry, and what do you enjoy most about working in this field?

Sarah: I started working in hotels during and after college and ended up in the accounting department. At that time a friend told me a trade show in San Antonio was hiring a part-time person to invoice exhibitors. I got the job and quickly switched over to the trade show management side. I fell in love with it. I love working on something all year and watching it come to life, I loved building relationships with my exhibitors, drawing floor plans, and riding my yellow cart around the show managing the floor. 

You are obviously a big believer in continuing education, as you maintain both your CEM and CMP designations. What have you found most beneficial about earning your designations and what would your advice be to someone considering going for their CEM?

Sarah: The world is constantly changing, and we can always learn new things. Continuing education is so important; you never want to be left doing the same thing. The classes I have taken along the way give me the tools to do my job, but not only the things I have learned, also the people I have met along the way. When you are getting your CEM you take multiple classes with the same people, to this day we still run into each other at industry events. When you have the CEM and you know people, it opens doors for you in this industry.

Your colleagues applaud your ability to think “outside the box” when creating chapter activities that engage members. Where do you find inspiration for your ideas and what do you find members want most from their chapter?

Sarah: Everyone’s schedule is so busy and with so many people working from home you have to think what is going to get them out of their house and, in some cases, even to drive to another city. We have found that behind the scenes tours and networking events are our highest attended events.  

Why do you enjoy being involved in chapter leadership and what would you tell someone considering being more involved with their chapter?

Sarah: It is a great way to get to know people in the industry and make a difference in your community. Get involved, your chapter needs you! The more people that get involved, the less work it is on each individual, and the more people there are to get to know and build your network.

The Call for Nominations for this year’s IAEE Awards is now open! Check out all of the award categories here and be sure to submit your nominations by 31 August!

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