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
Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact