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
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.