California’s Team San Jose recently named Karolyn Kirchgesler as its new CEO. Kirchgesler joins the team with more than 25 years of industry experience, including most recently as president and CEO of Visit Saint Paul in Minnesota. When she starts in late September, she will be in charge of leading sales, marketing, communications and operations for the organization.
We spoke with Kirchgesler as well as Michael Mulcahy, Team San Jose’s board chair, and Meghan Horrigan, director of public affairs and communications, about what the appointment means for the CVB and the launch of the city’s convention center expansion project.
Prevue: As the new CEO of Team San Jose, what plans do you have for the organization and the city in terms of what it can offer meetings?
Karolyn Kirchgesler: I think that my strength is really in the field of sales and marketing. We have so many great things to sell with the newly renovated convention center. We have some really unique venues like the recently renovated San Jose Civic, and it’s a great walkable city. Team San Jose as an organization is already on really solid ground, so I’m looking at coming in and moving it to the next level.
Are there things that you think can be improved? If so, what is your plan in doing so?
I will say that during the interview process I had the opportunity to get out and really see San Jose through the eyes of a visitor. That’s where I really fell in love with the city. I want to look at plans for attracting leisure travel and make sure that we’re not missing any opportunities to bring in more business.
In terms of meetings, I think one of my major focuses will be working with the board and the staff to ensure a successful launch of the newly expanded and renovated convention center with an emphasis on leveraging it for future business opportunities. I think we have such a great product to offer meeting planners. One of the things is that we’re really a one-stop shop. We have the opportunity to control the customer experience from the very beginning of the booking process all the way through the conclusion of the event, and I think that is a tremendous thing to be able to offer clients.
With the convention center opening getting closer, what are you most excited for San Jose in terms of meetings?
I think just the ability to bring in larger events that we didn’t have the capacity for before. I toured the facility during my interview process and it’s such a phenomenal building.
What can meeting planners expect in terms of innovative features at the new convention center?
Michael Mulcahy: All along the process has been what we can do to make this building stand out from the technology standpoint. We have a client advisory board that’s very active and we take their feedback seriously. What’s most important for them is connectivity. It’s not just the convention center’s responsibility. It’s a citywide responsibility. What’s most important and what we’re dialing into is that when someone arrives in San Jose, they need to be connected from the moment they arrive until the moment they get back on that plane, and that connection needs to be seamless.
Meghan Horrigan: In the early stages of the design, our advisory board provided phenomenal feedback in terms of what was trending in the meetings industry. The top three trends were technology, ensuring that the new and renovated spaces were able to accommodate networking, and that the look and feel of the expansion is much more of a place where people want to be and is an extension of our downtown. Throughout the new facility, we’ve provided those unique opportunities to accommodate networking. An example is The Hub, which is a new lobby lounge that provides an opportunity for attendees to talk about what they’re learning.