People News: SEMA, Fern, Interprefy and More Appoint New Leaders, Expand Teams

February 7, 2022

A slew of promotions, as well as new hires and some executive retirements, continue as the trade show industry forges ahead toward recovery. Check out all the recent appointments and transitions happening at event-related organizations throughout the U.S. and beyond.


After more than three decades of service, Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) President and CEO Chris Kersting has retired.

Kersting joined SEMA in 1996 to lead the organization’s Washington, D.C, office as vice president of legislative and technical affairs, later taking the helm as SEMA’s CEO in 2002 and leading the association through two decades of growth. Milestones include launching the SEMA Data Co-op, the SEMA Garage and Emissions Lab, SEMA Ignited, the PRI acquisition and the SEMA Garage in Detroit, and developing the SEMA Show.

Beginning Feb. 1, Kersting will transition into an advisory role through July 2022. SEMA executives Bill Miller, senior vice president of operations, and Mike Spagnola, vice president of OEM and product development programs, will serve as interim co-CEOs.


National general service contractor Fern has made the following personnel changes: 

Steve Larsen has been promoted from regional general manager to COO, reporting to company CEO Aaron Bludworth. According to company officials, the promotion comes as Larsen had been successfully performing many of the COO duties temporarily throughout the pandemic.  

Neil McMullin’s current role as senior vice president of shared services has expanded to include leadership of Fern’s exhibitor sales and solutions team. This expanded role will allow McMullin to guide the exhibitor experience while developing new products and solutions. 

At the branch level, Chris Meecha has been appointed general manager of the Louisville branch, responsible for managing many key accounts, while Zach Schlag has been appointed general manager of the Atlanta branch. 

Robin Mullins has assumed the newly created role of director, national support services. He will work closely with the account service and operations teams to improve production processes.


Zurich, Switzerland-based Interprefy, a leading provider of managed remote simultaneous interpretation technology and services, has tapped COO and board member Oddmund Braaten as its new CEO. Having led Interprefy’s commercial and operational success for five years, his appointment brings continuity and the necessary skills to lead the company on its mission of future growth and success in 2022 and beyond. 

Outgoing CEO Annett Polaszewski-Plath resigned from her role in January. 

Cybertech USA 

Cybertech USA, the joint venture of Cybertech Global and Comexposium, has hired Jason Stookey as event director–Americas, responsible for spearheading the U.S. division of its global tech events portfolio.

Bringing nearly 25 years of events experience in both the associations and the for-profit sectors, Stookey most recently served as vice president, partner development at the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) and has held senior positions at National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Hanley Wood and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). 

New Orleans & Company 

Prominent national tourism executive and long-time industry leader J. Stephen Perry, president and CEO of New Orleans & Company, has announced his retirement effective Dec. 31, 2022. 

Perry took the helm of New Orleans & Company, formerly known as the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), in August 2002, leading the city’s $10 billion tourism industry through crises including Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill, Hurricane Ida and the current COVID pandemic. He led the renaming and rebranding of the CVB to New Orleans & Company and created and implemented a unique and successful private sector funding model, among many achievements.

Walt J. Leger III, attorney, former state legislator and New Orleans & Company’s executive vice president and general counsel, has been tapped as the CVB’s president-elect and Perry’s successor, effective Jan. 1, 2023. 


Global event technology and production services leader Encore has appointed Amanda Armstrong senior vice president, brand and community engagement, responsible for overseeing the company’s industry relations, thought leadership, communications and brand functions within its marketing team. 

Armstrong most recently served as assistant vice president for Enterprise Holdings, Inc., the global parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo and National Car Rental, where she managed the event planning department and oversaw all aspects of the company’s meetings, including the sourcing, planning and operation of all national and licensee meetings worldwide. 

Visit Anaheim 

Visit Anaheim has expanded its sales team with the recent hiring of three new meeting sales managers, increasing the organization’s meeting sales team to five. They include:

  • Isaac Gutierrez, meeting sales manager, Northwest region. Based in Northern California, Gutierrez boasts a long history of success with Marriott, selling luxury brand and convention hotels, and also has experience selling smaller boutique hotels in Sonoma and Monterey, Calif. Early in his career, he spent four years at the Anaheim Marriott, making him knowledgeable about the destination.
  • Quincy Smith, meeting sales manager, Midwest region. Smith has a long history of success with the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley CVB and has also sold convention and luxury hotels. Based in Chicago, he will help drive meetings business from the Midwest market to Anaheim and Orange County.
  • Sue Stemley, meeting sales manager, Eastern region. Based in Washington, D.C., Stemley brings a wealth of experience selling San Diego Marriott hotels for the past 20 years to her new role at the CVB. 

Aria Technology Solutions 

Aria Technology Solutions LLC has appointed award-winning seasoned sales leader Vishal Goyal as Chief Revenue Officer. Bringing extensive experience in the live event and audiovisual rental industries to his new role, he will oversee Aria’s revenue-generation strategy and execution, including the introduction of new and innovative technology rentals, brand strategy and integrated digital marketing. 

Goyal began his professional career in sales and marketing in the pharmaceutical industry, later advancing to executive-level roles within the live events industry. 


Chloe Richardson has joined feedback platform and full-service research agency Explori as vice president of senior corporate relations, responsible for corporate event and exhibit programs, and helping clients demonstrate event ROI and impact through measuring, comparing and benchmarking customer event metrics. 

Prior to joining Explori, Richardson was the master of ceremonies and content at GDS Group and before that, ran her own business, Acier Events. 

MBB-Consulting Group

Former UFI managing director Paul Woodward has joined the MBB-Consulting Group, provider of international management consultancy and educational services for B2B sectors including trade shows, financial institutions, private equity firms, trade associations and governmental bodies. He brings more than 35 years of exhibition industry experience to his senior-level role, including more than 20 years as a consultant and advisor.

Woodward worked in senior positions with Miller Freeman in Asia until 2000, when he founded Business Strategies Group in Hong Kong, of which he remains chairman. Since stepping down from his UFI role in 2015, he has also advised companies around the world as chairman of Paul Woodward Advisory.

Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau has appointed Alissa Steele as marketing manager, responsible for developing and executing marketing activities in support of sales and branding initiatives for the PHLCVB and its partners. Before joining the organization, she served as advertising specialist for the Philadelphia Phillies and advertising coordinator at Rivers Casino Philadelphia.

Production Transport 

Production Transport, provider of event transport services across the U.S. and Canada, has expanded its leadership team with three new appointments. 

After a 10-year absence, Jenni Sanders has rejoined the company as vice president of business development. Heading up the Chicago office, she will work closely with CEO Richard Einhorn in the growth and marketing of the company. Sanders originally worked with Production Transport from 2001-2011 as senior sales manager for the Midwest region. She most recently served as managing director of All Events Transportation.

Phil Weld, who has been with the company since 2016, has been promoted from director of operations to vice president of operations and technology. Based in Los Angeles, he will continue to lead the operations team, as well as develop and grow state-of-the-art technology services to enhance the client shuttle experience.

Ron Alvarez has returned to the company as vice president of human resources after five years away. He is responsible for implementing training, onboarding new hires and developing policies and regulations from the Las Vegas headquarter office, and will also be an integral part of the operations department. For the past three years, Weld served as director of operations for Hello! Las Vegas.

Event Tech Live 

London, U.K.-based Event Tech Live has welcomed Shane Lewis as global exhibition sales manager, working across the London Event Tech Live show and the new ETL Vegas, set to premier in June. Based in London, Lewis previously served as business development manager with VenuIQ, as a senior commercial executive with Montgomery Group and as a senior sales executive at Reed Exhibitions.

Tradeshow Logic 

Full-service show management and event solutions company Tradeshow Logic has expanded its exhibit sales and sponsorship team with two new national sales and engagement managers. 

Bringing more than two decades of meetings experience, primarily in the exhibit space, to her new role as national account manager, Christine Carchia will assume responsibilities for exhibitor sales and engagement at the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) ANESTHESIOLOGY Annual Meeting and ADVANCE: The Anesthesiology Business Event. 

She has held sales, management and operations roles at the California Water Environment Association (CWEA), the Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau and the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, among others. 

As national sales manager, 25-year industry veteran Karen Romano will work primarily to support the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) team and the American Hospital Association (AHA) team. She has served in business development and sales roles at GES, the Orange County Convention Center, Hanley Wood Exhibitions and dmg, where she conceptualized and led the development of a private networking event platform targeting Fortune 500 CMOs.  

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.