People News: Aventri, Informa, Orange County Convention Center and More

January 13, 2020

The new year already appears to be a busy one for the trade show industry, with many new hires and promotion announcements this month. Check out the latest.

Venue News

Orange County Convention Center in Orlando will be led by Mark Tester, selected by Mayor Jerry L. Demings as the center’s new executive director. Tester was most recently director of Austin (Texas) Convention Center. Also at OCCC, Eric Blanc, Sr. is now assistant director of sales. He brings more than 25 years of experience in event management and convention center sales to his new role.

Eric Blanc

Spectra, the providers of venue management and food services and hospitality for Atlantic City Convention Center in New Jersey, named Ronnie Burt as vice president of sales and marketing in December. He will spearhead the efforts of a newly created sales department for short-term sales. Most recently, he was president and CEO of Visit KC.

Michael Biwer is the new vice president of guest events at Messe Frankfurt Venue GmbH in Germany. He assumed his new position this month, taking over for Johann Thoma, who stepped down. 

Sahara Las Vegas resort and casino named Christopher Bond its new vice president of sales this month. He brings more than 20 years of industry experience, including senior roles across the Las Vegas Strip, to his new position.

Exhibition News

Informa Markets Asia has appointed Margaret Ma Connolly president — Asia, Informa Markets for 2020. She joined UBM in 2008, which combined with Informa in 2018, and was appointed CEO of Asia in July 2018. She succeeds Jimé Essink, who retired at the end of 2019.

Global B2B media group Tarsus (the parent company of TSNN) appointed Barış Onay to its senior management team in the role of chief commercial officer, a newly created position. He will focus on driving growth across the group, shaping commercial strategy and developing new infrastructure.


Abex Exhibits, a company that designs and manufactures portable exhibits, announced four new hires this month. David Gebow is now creative director and exhibit designer; Adrian Sawyer returns to the company as vice president of design and engineering after a hiatus; Matthew Kelly will lead Abex’s sales teams for and; and Nancy Vernon is senior account executive and merging her company, Rental Advantage, with Abex.

Corrado Peraboni was named CEO and director of Italian Exhibition Group, a leader in Italy for the organization of international trade fair events. His new position was effective Jan. 1.

Ibrahim Joueidi was appointed to GES’ corporate sales team, heading sales for the government, leisure and tourism sector.

CVB News

Cincinnati USA CVB added Jackie Taggart-Boyd to its sales team as national sales manager with the diversity sales and inclusion department last month. She will work closely with Group Vice President of Diversity Sales and Inclusion Jason Dunn to bring more diverse convention business to the city.

Jackie Taggert-Boyd

The Greater Raleigh CVB, Visit Raleigh, expanded its meetings and convention sales team by two: Marc Dooner is now national sales manager, focusing on the Northeastern market; and Kathryn Hollomon is now sales manager, working with planners from the Carolinas using meeting space outside the Raleigh Convention Center.

Visit Dallas has two people announcements. Courtney McConnell was named regional director of sales for the Northeast pharmaceutical and Mid-Atlantic markets, while Jessica Ross has joined as sales manager for meetings of 10-400 rooms on peak from the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic U.S.

Visit Baltimore announced the addition of two new sales directors to its leadership staff in December. Elizabeth Ryan will serve as the organization's first editorial director, leading integrated content creation while serving as managing editor of Visit Baltimore’s published guides. J’aime Drayton is now director of government and community affairs as well as executive director of the Visit Baltimore Education & Training Foundation.


Association News

Phil Kelling, president and CEO of American Rental Association Insurance, has announced his retirement, effective Feb. 29. John Kennedy, current ARA Insurance CFO, will assume the role following Kelling’s departure.

National Grocer Association, which represents the independent supermarket industry, has five new staff announcements. Sarah Long is now manager of member services; Eric Payne was promoted to communications manager; Brenda Rowe is executive assistant to NGA president and CEO; Michelle Tiller is senior vice president of finance and administration; and Mary Whitehead is manager of marketing and digital content.

Show News

Ashley Sprengnether has been named associate show director for CEDIA Expo, a leading event for the intelligently built environment that is owned and operated by Emerald Expositions. The next CEDIA Expo will take place in Denver in September.

Event Tech News

Jim Sharpe

Jim Sharpe was appointed CEO of meeting and event technology software provider Aventri. Prior to joining the company, he spent six years as GM and managing director at Gerson Lehrman Group. In addition, Oni Chukwu has been elevated to executive chairman for Aventri after leading the company as CEO for the past six years.

San Francisco-based event automation platform Certain promoted James Huddleston to vice president of marketing. He previously served as senior director of product marketing for the company for the past three years.



More People News

Jonathan Misiewicz was named vice president of national accounts for Connections Housing, a full-service sourcing, housing and event management company based in Suwanee, Georgia. He was most recently with Rosen Hotels & Resorts in Orlando.

Atlanta-based event planning and design firm WM Events added Jillian Multari as business development specialist this month. With a degree in public relations and fashion, she has held roles at various event production companies as well as Rivertown Lodge in Hudson, N.Y.

Milwaukee-based face-to-face marketing company Derse announced the appointment of Eric Preston to president, effective Jan. 1. He was previously the company’s senior vice president and has been with the company for 11 years.


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Partner Voices
HERE, hosting responsible meetings and caring for our communities are top priorities. Through its 'Focused on What Matters: Embracing Humanity and Protecting the Planet' philosophy, MGM Resorts commits to creating a more sustainable future, while striving to make an impact in the lives of employees, guests, and the communities in which it operates. Water Stewardship Efforts MGM Resorts understands the importance of using water efficiently, especially in the desert destination of Las Vegas. Conserving water has always been part of the mission, but MGM Resorts has expanded its ambition into water stewardship. In 2022, MGM Resorts President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle signed the CEO Water Mandate—a UN Global Compact initiative mobilizing business leaders to advance water stewardship. MGM Resorts International was the first gaming company to take this important step. MGM Resorts replaced 200,000 square feet of real grass with drought-tolerant landscaping in Las Vegas. MGM Resorts pledges to reduce water withdrawal intensity by 33% by 2025 and by 35% by 2030. From 2007-2021, use of more than 5.6 billion gallons of water was avoided because of conservation efforts. Caring for One Another MGM Resorts’ Food Donations Program collects and preserves unserved food from conventions held at MGM Resorts properties, then safely donates to food insecure people in the community. Since the program’s launch in 2016, more than 3.7 million meals toward a 2025 goal of 5 million meals have been donated into the community. Donations include: Unserved perishable prepared foods from events Perishable unprepared food from MGM Resorts’ kitchens Nonperishable food items from minibars and warehouses The collaboration with Southern Nevada’s primary food bank, Three Square, has developed the infrastructure needed to safely collect, transport, and store food from MGM Resorts properties in Las Vegas, reducing food waste while serving the community. Fostering Diversity and Inclusion To MGM Resorts, a diverse and talented workforce is essential to success. By cultivating innovative strategies that consider multiple perspectives and viewpoints, the company creates an inclusive workplace culture that benefits its employees and community. MGM Resorts takes pride in being a welcoming home for veterans, individuals with disabilities, people from diverse backgrounds, LGBTQ+ community members, and more. This commitment to inclusion is reflected in the company's recruitment and hiring practices and its social responsibility initiatives. From the workplace to the community, MGM Resorts' commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion remains unwavering, and its efforts continue to create a more equitable and sustainable world for all. MGM Resorts understands its responsibility to contribute to the social and economic progress of the communities in which it operates. HERE, we embrace humanity.