TSNN Unveils 2021 TSNN DEI and Women’s Leadership Awards; Innovation and Show Pro Finalists

October 24, 2021

The 2021 TSNN Awards, on tap Dec. 1-2 at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., will honor an incredible group of people and trade shows for leadership, innovation, courage and stepping out of the box during challenging times.

Diversified Communications’ President Mary Larkin and Mad Event Management President/Founder Martha Donato have both made extraordinary efforts to not only raise the profile of, but also support women in the trade show and events industry.

As a result, TSNN is excited to announce that they will both receive the 2021 Women’s Leadership Award.

“Alongside Martha, we are delighted to receive this award for several reasons.  I am passionate about helping other women increase their visibility, advocate for themselves and know they have a voice and the support from other women in the industry as they move forward in their careers,” Larkin said.

She added, “It is important that we continue to work to improve the number of women who rise through the ranks in our industry, so newcomers have role models as well as mentors and advocates as they navigate their careers.  I couldn’t be happier than to receive this award with Martha who has been the person who kept many women together during the pandemic and has been a lifeline to many in our industry.”

Larkin is the immediate past chair of UFI, the Global Association for the Exhibition Industry, and was the organization’s first female chair. She serves on many industry Boards, including the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) where she is currently serving a Secretary and Treasurer and is a Board member of the Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance and as Past President of the Board of Directors for the Center for Grieving Children in Portland, Maine.


"It's such an honor to receive this award from TSNN. To be able to share it with my friend, Mary Larkin, is a wonderful way to underscore the importance and significance of the award itself,” Martha said.

She added, “We have both championed women's leadership in the exhibitions industry, each of us in our own vision of what is needed at this time, and always in complementary ways. It's a reminder of the African proverb - If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

In January of 2021, Donato co-founded and became the President of the International Women in Exhibitions Network North America Chapter. Women in Exhibitions Network was launched in 2018 with the aim of supporting the continued professional development of women working in exhibitions and providing opportunities for them to meet and network.

Donato also spearheaded a weekly Zoom meeting for women in the trade show industry that offered invaluable support to those that took part.

Along with these two amazing leaders, TSNN will be honoring Ray Rhodes, Global Director Inclusion, Diversity for RX Global, as the 2021 TSNN DEI Leadership Award honoree.

After several years of intensive engagement with Inclusion and Diversity programs, including launching and leading RXUS Pride, the first Employee Resource Group (ERG) to be introduced at RX, Rhodes was appointed the Global Director of Inclusion and Diversity for the business in April 2021.

Rhodes has launched a number of important initiatives across RX, including forming the RX Global Inclusion Council, an I&D advisory board comprised of RX colleagues from 19 countries, representing many cultures and diversity dimensions. He and his team deliver programs that promote unconscious bias awareness, team psychological safety, equality allyship and inclusive leadership.


“It’s a great honor to be awarded the inaugural TSNN DEI Leadership Award. I am so fortunate to work in an industry that I love, and for an organization that shares my passion for making a positive impact on society, our colleagues, and our customers through our unique contributions as a business,” Rhodes said.

He added, “ This award is recognition that we have started on the journey, a journey that a community of over 140 RX’ers worldwide have volunteered to be a part of, so that together we will drive our culture of inclusion and belonging, internally and externally  I want to thank our CEO, Hugh Jones, and the entire RX Executive Leadership Team for their unwavering support and sponsorship – genuinely showing that you have to lead from the front in order to make a difference. I can’t wait to come back and share our progress in the coming months.”





The 2021 TSNN Awards will be honoring the following individual trade show professionals for outstanding leadership:


Todd Moritz                Opus Agency  

Martha Donato           Mad Event Management

Andria Gibbon             NATDA

Michelle Swayze         Informa Markets        

Lydia Janow                Informa/Aviation Week        

Dorothy Belshaw          World Market Center

Gene O'Neill                North American Veterinary Community

Manolita Moore         North American Veterinary Community


The 2021 TSNN Awards will be honoring shows that have really shone bright. Here are the finalists for the following awards:


Best Use of Technology

SAP TechEd 2020


The International Surface Event (TISE)

Brave, Courageous, Adaptable

World of Concrete


Nightclub and Bar Show

Veterinary Meeting & Expo (VMX) 2021

Pathfinder Award


Offprice Show


Created a Community

MRO Americas/Community Forum


Channel Partners Conference & Expo

Savvy Marketing Campaign

ISSA Show North America - Virtual Experience

The Utility Expo

Trailblazer Award

Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo

Thrive Energy Conference

Dallas Market Center June 2021 Markets

All of the honorees, winners and finalists above will be celebrated at the 2021 TSNN Awards – for more information please visit www.T-awards.com

For information on sponsoring, contact John Rice – jrice@tsnn.com or Arlene Shows ashows@tarsusus.com.

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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.