Meet the Team

At Conference Innovators our greatest asset is our team; we are fortunate to have gathered an extraordinary group of people who consistently make us proud. Hailing from all backgrounds and with vast knowledge and experience, your project will be managed by one of our fantastic Event Managers, supported by our accounting and administration teams, the registration department and the rest of the highly experienced team.

The CI Team are experts in working together to make your event a success; friendly, level-headed, creative, with a positive attitude and high standard of customer service, they are there to assist in any way they can.

Tracey Thomas

Tracey's mantra is "how hard can it be to organise a get together", and it is this tongue-in-cheek philosophy that forms the base for Tracey's management style; after all nothing is impossible! Secretly a coaster at heart, Tracey has extensive hospitality management and hotel development experience in both Australasia and further abroad and is a fountain of wisdom when it comes to thinking outside the box and creating new experiences and event masterpieces. The question is not why, it is why not!

Tracey contributes a wealth of knowledge to the organisation, including an off-beat sense of humour and refreshingly direct and honest approach. He has been a strong contributor to the New Zealand tourism industry for many years, taking an active role in the Convention Bureau and other industry organisations. Sociable and approachable, Tracey has been head of the CI family for more years than he cares to count and was delighted to give his long-standing co-director, Megan O'Brien, a bit more freedom by taking over captaincy of the CI ship.

Boasting extensive networks and expertise, Tracey specialises in putting together winning international conference bids and understands the capabilities (or lack thereof) of destinations, operators and venues throughout Australasia. A connoisseur of client service, with a commitment to fulfilling client's wishes and 'big picture thinking', Tracey is the kind of guy you want overseeing your project.

Rachel Cook
Director and Auckland Manager

As CI Director and Manager of our Auckland operation, not only is Rachel passionate about delivering a quality product, she is also passionate about leading a quality team. One of our most experienced Event Managers, Rachel has seen all kinds of events; big and small, domestic and international, straight-forward and highly complex.

Her extensive background in the hotel, venue and travel industries throughout Australasia provided an excellent platform for her to further pursue her enjoyment of conference and incentive work. Rachel's attention to detail and client service focus is second to none; she will put together an incredible event and leave you wondering how every little detail was taken care of with such ease.

Megan Crum
Event Guru 
Along with Peach Melba, Pavlova, Crowded House and Phar Lap, the lines are blurred when it comes to deciding if Megan is more authentic Kiwi or Australian made. In 1990 – armed with a Business Degree from the University of Queensland - she left the Bondi beach scene, and took up residence in Christchurch, NZ. She spent four years weaving her event magic and wowing the corporate and conference clientele at Rydges Hotel (formerly Noah's) and then at Christchurch Convention Centre. Then, in true 'Aussie grit meets Kiwi ingenuity' style, she sold her Mazda 323 and ploughed the meagre funds into a new business venture; Conference Innovators (CI).

From humble beginnings – the Mazda was a little banged up – CI, under Megan's guidance and direction has grown in size and reputation to establish itself as one of NZ's premier conference businesses. Megan has personally overseen hundreds of events, involving thousands of participants and millions of dollars. She is on a first name basis with many of the key players in the corporate, exhibition, event, tourism and government world and is a font of all knowledge for the people and the places that define the conference industry here and in Australia.

After 17 years honing her skills and contacts at CI, Megan has passed the reins over to her friend and fellow director Tracey Thomas, but this Aussie digger is tenacious, loyal and committed and has no intention of dropping off the conference radar, opting to hang on in at CI in an advisory capacity and exploit her passion for people, parties and event planning, whilst pursuing other interests.
Christchurch Event Team  
Anna Burns
Event Manager
Anna is the holder of an industry tool kit derived from a busy and varied involvement in hospitality, education, professional development and conferencing. Whilst at the College of Education and University of Canterbury facilitated professional development and events for both teaching and business communities. This role evolved to encompass academic/scientific conference coordination and project management as part of the UC Conference Office team.

Flexible, a 'jacqueline of all trades' she relishes a challenge, mastering and sharing skills, providing exceptional customer service and working as part of a dynamic team. A proponent of lifelong learning she likes to make good of opportunities and enjoys European history, theatre, travel, entertaining, creative cooking and long spells on/by the ocean.
Mandy Train
Event Manager

Mandy has been in the industry for over 20 years and has been responsible for the delivery of many conferences, off shore incentives, group travel, awards dinners and trade shows for a diverse range of clients ranging from 6 – 1,600 people. She has a 'let's get the job done' attitude and enjoys the hands on approach, being involved in the entire process - from brainstorming in the initial planning stages to delivery of a stunning end result.

Client accolades generally include the following qualities:  efficient, approachable, professional, knowledgeable, fun, honest and hardworking.

Anna McWhirter
Event Manager
Smart, hardworking and with a Bachelor of Commerce in hand and a background in hospitality, Anna brought more than just a pretty face to the CI team. Wonderfully polished, with a friendly, can do attitude, not only is Anna an exceptional organiser, she is also great fun to work with!  She relishes the challenges, new skills and opportunities that each event brings and has quickly become an expert problem solver and valued member of the CI family.

Away from the office Anna enjoys playing netball, water skiing, cooking and socialising.
Terri Lowsley
Event Manager
Terri started with CI in 2009 straight out of University; this is when Terri's passion for the events industry conceptualised and she knew she had found her vocation. Terri relishes the opportunity to work with clients in creating memorable experiences. Always focused on delivering a flawless event; whether it be complex or simple, she quite literally takes care of everything and does so with ease and charm.  If you are fortunate enough to be working alongside Terri, count yourself as blessed (we certainly do)!
Charlotte Sloane
Event Manager 
Charlotte first worked for CI in 2012 and returned to the fold in January 2015. She graduated from Canterbury University in 2009 armed with a Bachelor of Commerce in Management and Marketing. Charlotte has a varied background in international removals, hospitality and the property industry. She is renowned for having great attention to detail and having a hard working nature.  After spending two years living in London and experiencing all that Europe has to offer she has come back to Christchurch to make her mark. Charlotte's passion for travel and experiencing new things means that there is always another adventure in the pipeline.
Auckland Event Team  
Sarah Patterson
Event Manager
With a flair for multi tasking, passion for people and talent for ensuring events run smoothly from start to finish, Sarah is your ultimate events professional! Her eye for detail and determination to exceed expectations all with a smile on her face ensures her clients are delivered high quality events.
Naomi Smith
Event Coordinator

Naomi completed a Bachelor of Management Studies Degree at The University of Waikato, New Zealand where she majored in Marketing and Public Relations.

Naomi has a very strong administration background. Previously working in the property industry as a Marketing Executive and EA to the Corporate Leasing Team and Retail Team for New Zealand's largest full service Real Estate Company. The combined number of senior agents Naomi supported was twelve, including the number one commercial agent in New Zealand.

Within the CI team Naomi is responsible for contributing to the smooth running of conferences to ensure that the customer experience exceeds their expectations. The role she has with the company requires her to maintain a high level of organisation, planning and communication skills, which Naomi has, in abundance. Naomi maintains the high standards she sets herself. She is highly motivated, determined and works confidently to achieve her targets. She is a very thoughtful and considerate person, who makes friends easily and put those around her at ease in a refreshing and selfless way. Naomi is an excellent team player and is always willing to step in and help out whenever needed.

Away from the office Naomi enjoys boxing, wakeboarding, skiing, cooking and socialising.

Support Services  
Joy Mehlhopt
Registration Services Manager
Joy initially joined CI as an Event Manager but now takes care of our ever-busy registration department, ensuring our delegates receive fantastic customer service when registering to attend one of our myriad of conferences.  Managing the conference accommodation options is a large part of her day to day role.

Joy's role requires her to be 'flexible' and 'accommodating' of both her Conference Innovator clients and their delegates.

To maintain her 'flexibility' she works out at a pilates fitness studio and is a great proponent of this style of exercise for health and well-being.  To exercise her brain she has taken up the ancient Chinese game of Mahjong and is learning the art with a group of friends who meet and play once a week.  Joy also spends a lot of quality time in her new garden. The garden is very often used for outdoor entertaining as she and her partner love to share it with family and friends.

Emma Redfern
Registration Coordinator
Emma's background is like a patchwork quilt; varied and creative and made with much love and great talent. A connoisseur of art and travel, she has her fingers in many creative pursuits; from a textile business sold throughout New Zealand to making and selling handmade vintage cards to "keep her busy in the evenings" (as though she isn't busy enough when you consider she has two boys to chase after).

When she is not filling the office with her warm personality she enjoys travel, reading, hanging out with friends, second hand shopping, and art.
Sally Dickson
MoE Administrator

Sally's role involves wearing many hats, from managing special projects, administration and assisting with new business procurement, to keeping track of our ever-transient Director, Tracey Thomas. As a member of the CI family since 2006, Sally is experienced in all facets of the CI operations – having been an event manager, PA, ops manager and acting finance manager.  She is known to many of CI's regular clients and continues to help out on-site at conferences and events.  Her skills bring together close to twenty years of event and project management experience, along with business management know-how, having worked and part-owned a travel agency that specialised in incentive group travel.

Keen on the great outdoors and sports, Sally is also an avid traveller to unique destinations (often with her bike or skiis in her luggage).

Finance Team  

Suzanne Stuart
Finance Manager


As Finance Manager, Suzanne is responsible for accurate and efficient financial planning and management.  She has a passion for financial excellence and information, with a strong finance background gained from working for a major hotel chain for over twenty years.

Suzanne is the finance contact for conference and event clients from setting up new accounts through to the preparation of the final analysis ready for audit.

Away from the office Suzanne is putting the final touches onto her new home and enjoys hill walks and cycling – in particular the annual Forest Estate Graperide in Blenheim!

Helen Li
Conference Accountant

Helen completed a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration, majoring in Accounting and is a key component of our successful financial team.

Helen supports the Finance Manager and the CI team with the daily operations of financial management and providing all manner of accounting expertise. Helen is extremely passionate about her position in such a lively team environment and she enjoys the challenges her job provides her.

During her leisure time, Helen likes being active. Yoga and aerobics keep her refreshed and energized to face any upcoming challenges. She also enjoys travelling, believing it broadens cultural knowledge and enriches her life.



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