People News: ASM Global, Grip, Little Rock CVB and More Appoint New Leadership, Make Hires

April 15, 2021

As hope returns to the event industry in the form of smaller trade shows and conventions beginning to resume, event-related organizations are making new hires, promoting team members and creating new positions as they prepare to expand their business. Take a look:

Worldwide venue management and services company ASM Global has appointed live events and leisure industry veteran Ron Bension as its president and CEO. Bension brings more than four decades of experience to his new role, including at Live Nation as president of House of Blues Entertainment, as well as president and CEO roles across public and private companies such as, GameWorks, MCA Recreation Group and Universal Studios Hollywood.

“[Bension] is precisely the type of executive we seek to lead our businesses,” said Kosty Gilis, managing director at Onex and ASM board member. “His extensive history of managing enterprises that create superb experiences for customers and visitors will be an enormous asset to the company. In addition, his demonstrated strategic thinking and execution capabilities are a perfect fit for the next phase of ASM’s growth as we exit the pandemic.” 

AI-powered virtual, hybrid and live event engagement platform Grip has beefed up its leadership team with three newly created senior positions. Geraint Owen joins the company as its CFO, following six years at Questback, where he served as finance director for the U.S. and U.K. In his new role, Owen will use his knowledge of the U.S. market to support Grip in expanding its overseas presence. 

Graham Forsyth, former marketing director at Khoros for EMEA and ANZ, has been appointed head of marketing at Grip, where his in-depth knowledge of AI engagement software will help the company establish its position as a leading market engagement platform while building international awareness.  

Abby Matthews has been tapped as Grip’s head of people. Her previous roles at DREST, Contino and GitLab supported significant team growth across the dev-ops and technology markets both in the U.K. and internationally.  

Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau has hired 10-year CVB veteran Adam Berrios as its new director of sales. Working alongside the vice president of sales and services, Berrios is responsible for leading the CVB’s local, regional and national efforts to bring meetings and conventions to the Arkansas capitol.

In his new role, Berrios will promote the destination for conventions, meetings, business events and related tourism activities; collaborate with the bureau’s sales team to develop customer engagement strategies and key partnership opportunities; work with internal LRCVB teams to implement effective marketing strategies; maintain close working relationships with area hotels and facilities to develop cooperative programs to promote the city for events, and analyze potential business opportunities.

Prior to joining the LRCVB, Berrios served as senior sales manager with VisitGreenvilleSC and the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau in Georgia.

Reed Exhibitions has named digital transformation expert Gaby Appleton global chief digital product officer. In this newly created role, Appleton will work across RX’s worldwide business that spans 22 countries and more than 400 events. She will be responsible for the company’s digital strategy and execution and will also lead its digital community. Appleton will report to COO Brian Brittain and Chief Commercial Officer Richard Mortimore.

Previously, Appleton worked as product director for the U.K.’s NHS Test and Trace, where she led the NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app and assisted with building various other digital products to support the fight against coronavirus.   

Prior to that, she worked as managing director of researcher products at Elsevier, where she was responsible for the ScienceDirect and Mendeley global products, and as Elsevier’s global director of strategy working on the digital transformation of their research and health businesses. 

Destinations International has hired seasoned travel and tourism industry professional Kim Bach as its sales and services manager, responsible for implementing business partner and membership initiatives.

Most recently, Bach served as partner manager for the Adventure Travel Trade Association, where she led strategic projects and managed partners in North America, Oceania, Asia as well as Gear and Media accounts. 

Previous to that role, she worked as a program manager for a high-end expedition travel company where she was responsible for global travel logistics and operations for over 35 maritime and overland programs. She also worked in strategic positions at Visit Seattle.  

London-based global events company Montgomery Group has hired Zoe Wooster as portfolio marketing manager of its design and build division, which includes the FIT Show & Visit Glass and W Exhibition & Elements trade shows. 

Wooster brings 15 years of experience in live events across the built environment sector with a particular focus on sustainability. She joins the company from Futurebuild, where she spent three years as marketing manager, following roles working with events including CIH Exhibition, Homes, RESI Conference and Awards and The Property Awards. 

Global, full-service association and event management company IMN Solutions has promoted Melissa Tighe as executive vice president and CFO, and Lauren Moore as vice president of sales and marketing.

Tighe will lead IMN’s account management team as well as oversee revenue management and client engagement. She joined the company in 2017 as vice president, client development following leadership positions at Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Washington, D.C. and New York. 

Moore will be responsible for establishing and coordinating marketing and sales strategies, plans, programs, and functions for IMN and its clients, as well as overseeing the company’s virtual and hybrid event management services. She joined IMN in 2016 as senior account director, following more than seven years at Hyatt Corporation 

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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.