Country Club leaders, along with team members, learn the technical skills required for career success, often overlooking the importance of conversation and rapport building skills. The ability to talk easily with anyone is a learned skill, not a personality trait. Join Debra Fine for her fast paced, informative, interactive program focused on building member and guest relationships. Together we will laugh, learn and leave with tools to develop and cultivate outstanding conversation skills and business networking techniques, build rapport and enhance visibility. Learn how to turn every conversation into an opportunity for success.

A longtime member of the National Speakers Association and the Global Speakers Federation, Fine presents programs to hundreds of audiences around the world that include CMAA 2016, CMAA 2017 and CMAA 2019 (Club Managers Association of America), Charlotte Country Club, Van Cleef and Arpels, Hyatt Hotels, Delta Airlines and Google. A regular Huffington Post blogger Fine’s recent media appearances include The Today Show, The Toronto Sun, NPR Morning Edition, Fox Business News and CNN. Fine is the author of bestselling book The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills—and Leave a Positive Impression (Hachette), translated and published in two dozen countries across the globe.

NOEL WIXSOM – CCTech Partners

Noel Wixsom has been advising private country clubs on technology strategy for more than 20 years, starting in 1991, when he founded Winterlink, a San Francisco IT consultancy firm. In 1995, Winterlink built out a data center and became a full-scale Internet Service Provider (ISP). In 2000, Mr. Wixsom sold the company to a NASDAQ-based Business Local Exchange Carrier (BLEC).

Subsequently, Mr. Wixsom created Country Club Technology Partners (CC Tech), specifically to focus on writing Technology Plans for private clubs. Since 2007, CC Tech has worked with clubs of all sizes, including some of the largest clubs in the United States, assisting them on both short- and long-term technology strategy.

Mr. Wixsom has spent the past 20+ years building and designing networks. He believes that technology is a wide band, and works with IP security camera systems, IP phones, public Wi-Fi, meshed Wi-Fi, tablets, mobile apps, member portals, energy reduction, time keeping, cyber security, physical security, building connectivity, and a host of other related areas vital to keeping a club’s technology platform performing at its optimum.


27 years ago, Robert entered the hospitality field with a genuine desire to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives; both the people he serves and those he leads. Robert sees himself as a community builder within the club industry. His proficiency lies in his vision for positive change and embracing the trends of the future. Robert enjoys the challenge of assisting his boards, team and membership in embracing and guiding them through evolutionary change.

Hired as General Manager/Chief Operating Officer of Medinah Country Club in 2015, Robert is a strong collaborator and team builder, and has worked to strengthen and empower the Medinah brand. Prior to Medinah Country Club, Robert most recently was the General Manager of The American Club in Hong Kong, a 3000-member club founded in 1925. Robert holds a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Cal Poly Pomona and an MBA from Georgia State University. When not working, Robert enjoys writing and is a regular contributor to Boardroom Magazine, Club Director and Private Club Advisor. He has been a guest on multiple podcasts and has presented at CMAA World Conference and multiple CMAA Chapters across the country. Robert is also a passionate Street Photographer who travels the globe documenting the human condition.


As co-head of CRA’s leadership practice, Robin Abramson provides coaching and counsel to senior leaders primarily on Wall Street and in financial services firms. She specializes in helping others build their own leadership credibility and develop their relationships in an authentic, compelling, and practical way. Her recent clients include senior leaders from Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Debevoise & Plimpton, Bank of America, Tory Burch, Fidelity, and Kiawah Island Resort, among others.

In addition to her individual counseling work, Robin developed a highly effective peer dialogue/coaching program for emerging leaders who have recently assumed or are being groomed for expanded roles. Since its inception over ten years ago, the program has been replicated with a high degree of success preparing and transitioning groups of leaders across Wall Street.

Robin is a guest lecturer at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, and graduated from Columbia University with an M.A. in Organizational Psychology. She received her B.A. in Political Science and Communication from Syracuse University.

A native of Buffalo, New York, she remains a loyal Bills and Sabres fan. Robin now splits her time between New York City and Berwyn, Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband and two children.


Shanna Bright is the founder of Bright Life Media and Private Clubs Online. Shanna began her career in private clubs as the Member Relations Director at the City Club Los Angeles. Shanna has enjoyed the privilege of speaking at conferences with CMAA, PCMA and ACCP and with several CMAA Chapters across the nation. In May, she was privileged to deliver her Member Communication Workshop at the 13th Asian Club Managers Conference in Hong Kong. She thrives on helping you tackle challenges in Member Relations, Member Communication and Member Retention. Shanna has provided consultation, education and training to dozens of clubs in the U.S. and in 2019, internationally. Through workshops, webinars and programs, Private Clubs Online empowers you – private club professionals – to drive revenue and retain members through strategic member communication.


Brian Sheehan is a Professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He teaches courses in advertising, advertising management, advertising strategy, and digital advertising.  Prior to his switch to academia in 2008, Brian spent 25 years with Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising. After 5 years in S&S’s New York office, he spent the next 11 years overseas, working in S&S Hong Kong, and as CEO of S&S Japan, and S&S Australia. He then spent 9 years as Chairman and CEO of Team One Advertising in Los Angeles (a division of Saatchi & Saatchi).  Brian has worked with many top national and international brands, including Toyota, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Hilton, British Airways, IKEA, TIME, News Corporation, Bayer, DuPont, Sara Lee, Kodak, Ritz-Carlton, Castrol and Hewlett-Packard.

In 2010 Brian published his first book Basics: Online Marketing. In 2011 he published his second book Basics: Marketing Management. In 2013, he published his third book Loveworks: How the World’s Best Marketers Make Emotional Connections to Win in the Marketplace. In 2018, he co-authored the advertising text Hey Alexa, What is Advertising?  Brian publishes regularly in both Advertising Age and Adweek. He has also published in a number of peer-reviewed advertising journals.  Brian has an undergraduate degree in Economics from the College of the Holy Cross, and a graduate degree in History Education from Loyola Marymount University.

DAN FARRELL, CCM – GSI Executive Search

Dan brings over 25 years of senior management experience as general manager / COO of several Platinum Level Clubs. Most recently, Dan successfully led the 95th PGA Championship as the host manager at Oak Hill Country Club. Dan’s leadership helped make the Championship one of the most successful in the tournament’s history.

In addition to his club industry experience, Dan has served CMAA as a national committee member and chapter board member. During his career he has served as the Executive Career Services (ECS) chairman for both the Metropolitan Club Managers Association and the Connecticut Club Managers Association, assisting over 100 clubs in fine-tuning their governance models and filling senior management positions. Dan also supports nationally recognized hospitality programs as an advisory board member, mentor and guest speaker.


Kate Patay, CPCE, is the Chief Strategy Officer of Patay Consulting, a firm designed to help businesses and individuals discover and amplify their authentic brand and image. She is an international speaker & consultant, SEPA Advisor, SEARCH Foundation Director and Lecturer at The International School of Hospitality in Las Vegas.

Kate has been a recognized industry professional and influencer for over 20 years in many facets of special events, and has served on and advised the boards of numerous associations and organizations. She currently speaks for and coaches some of the top leaders and companies in the hospitality industry and beyond, while mentoring countless individuals, inspiring upcoming leaders and advocating for numerous charitable causes.

In 2015 she was honored with the coveted Pacesetter Award from the Events Industry Council (formerly the CIC) and an Esprit Award from ILEA for her work in the Green Sector of Events. In 2016 she received the Event Solutions Spotlight Award for Innovation and Special Events Magazine named her as one of the Top 20 Under 40. Smart Meetings named her as one of the Top Meeting Professionals of 2017 and a Leading Inspiring Woman in 2018, as well as being awarded the Top 20 Powerful Women Achievement by the Northern Nevada Business Weekly and Top 20 Trendsetter by Meetings Today.


Alan Achatz is a former club manager who now operates his own business assisting clubs and other operations with health and safety issues. He started working in the private club industry as a dishwasher and worked in every department on his way up the managerial ladder.

In 1997, Alan became an OSHA General Industry Outreach Trainer. In this capacity, he offers education sessions for managers, the executive staff and all line employees. He takes the seemingly dry topic of OSHA and energetically & enthusiastically presents the various facets pertaining to clubs. He infuses his presentations with real club situations. Presentations range from hour long club education sessions to full and multi-day safety programs.  Alan authored the CMAA Premier Club Services (PCS) OSHA Program and has contributed articles and information to Club Management Magazine, Private Club Advisor, Board Room magazine, Club Management Perspectives and CMAA’s PCS At Your Service. He also conducts simulated OSHA site tours to identify regulatory shortcomings and provide compliance assistance.