People News: Clarion Events, Music City Center, Diversified Communications and More Tap New Leadership, Appoint New Team Members

July 26, 2021

Mirroring the red-hot U.S. job market, the trade show and events industry is continuing to experience an influx of new hires and promotions as it works to get back to normal. Check out who’s moving up the ladder at a host of organizations across the events spectrum:

Clarion Events 

Clarion Events has appointed 20-year trade show industry veteran Rita Ugianskis-Fishman as vice president of its Food & Beverage Group show portfolio, which includes the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo; Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show; International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York; three iterations of Healthy Food Expo; four Coffee Fest events and The NGA Show.  

She most recently served as senior vice president and general manager for the ASI Show, has held leadership positions at Reed Exhibitions and Informa, is a founding member of the North American chapter of Women in Exhibitions and has served on the Board of SISO. 

Music City Center

Nashville’s Music City Center has appointed two new executive staff members: Robert Rice as director of human resources and Heather Jensen as director of communications. Rice previously served as a human resources leader and advisor for Ghertner & Company. Jensen previously served as community relations officer, web content coordinator and multimedia product manager for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. 

Diversified Communications 

International media company Diversified Communications has promoted Whit Mitchell to CFO. Mitchell joined Diversified in 2013 and has served as corporate vice president of finance since 2018. 

Louisville Tourism 

Thirty-five-year hospitality industry veteran Cleo Battle has officially taken the helm of Louisville Tourism as its president and CEO after previously serving as the CVB’s COO for two years and before that, as executive vice president. Additionally, Doug Bennett has assumed his new position of executive vice president, bringing more than 30 years of industry experience to the role, including serving as the CVB’s senior vice president of convention development since 2015.


Virtual and hybrid events platform provider Hubilo Technologies Inc recently appointed six new leadership team members. These highly experienced professionals include Cathy Song Novelli, senior vice president, marketing and communications; Greg Volm, senior vice president, sales and success; Anita Menon, senior vice president, talent and culture; Abhishek Jain, vice president, finance; Sudip Mitra, senior vice president, engineering; and Shailesh Hegde, head of product. 

Toy Foundation 

Pamela Mastrota has joined The Toy Foundation as executive director. Most recently, Mastrota served as COO for Make-A-Wish Metro New York Western New York, and prior to that, as president and CEO for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Long Island Chapter.


Leading venue hospitality partner, Centerplate, a Sodexo company, has tapped Sufi Karaien as the new executive chef for the San Diego Convention Center (SDCC). He previously served as SDCC’s senior executive sous chef. 


Experiential marketing company ProGlobalEvents recently welcomed Rob Dunn as its new senior business development manager. An experienced sales and business development professional, he previously worked as an account executive at SpotOn and streamlineevents., inc.

International Market Centers 

International Market Centers (IMC) has announced a series of promotions in its event sales and operations division.  

Bob Schuler was promoted to senior vice president, event sales and operations, a role that adds trade show operations in High Point and Las Vegas to his existing responsibilities of overseeing and accelerating business for the Atlanta Convention Center at AmericasMart. 

Jennifer Muna was promoted to vice president, event sales and operations. In addition to sales and operation of The Expo at World Market Center Las Vegas, she is responsible for trade show, food and beverage and amenity operations management during the High Point and Las Vegas Markets. 

Joel Weston was promoted to manager, trade show operations, assuming responsibility for executing trade show operations and assisting with amenities and food and beverage operations at IMC’s 17 High Point properties.

Additionally, Amanda Merritt was appointed IMC public relations manager, responsible for PR efforts at AmericasMart, Las Vegas Design Center, Atlanta Apparel and LightFair.


Global engagement and marketing agency MCI has promoted Oscar Cerezales to the position of chief strategy officer. He has worked for the company for almost 15 years across Europe and the Asia-Pacific and Latin American regions.   

Mobile Growth Association 

Mobile Growth Association (MGA) is undergoing changes within its leadership team. After 14 years, MGA Founder and President Dave Westin will transition to chair of the advisory board and strategic speaker outreach, while MGA Co-Founder Jen Laloup has taken the helm as CEO and chairwoman. 

Dallas Market Center 

Home décor and lighting industry veteran Patty Price has joined Dallas Market Center as vice president of leasing for the lighting industry. She will be responsible for the leasing strategy and merchandising of the venue’s 1 million-square-foot lighting marketplace, including showrooms in the Trade Mart and the bi-annual Lightovation trade show. Previously, Price served as executive vice president with Arteriors Home, where she was responsible for sales teams, agency relations, showrooms and trade shows.

AMR International 

Global strategy consultancy AMR International has appointed Michael Mandl as principal for its events ecosystem and technology practice. Based in New York, he will lead the company’s U.S. operations. For more than 15 years, Mandl has held numerous senior executive positions with both Reed Exhibitions and Informa, most recently serving as COO for Reed’s Brazil and Mexico divisions.

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau 

The Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) has promoted 18-year hospitality veteran Charlene Lopez to vice president, sales. Lopez joined ACVB in June 2012 as a sales manager of national accounts and was promoted to director, citywide sales in October 2019. She has also held sales roles with Omni Hotel at CNN Center, Hyatt Regency Atlanta and Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa. 

Convention Data Services    

Event registration, business intelligence and lead capture provider Convention Data Services, a Freeman company, recently appointed two new Washington D.C. area-based team members. 

Thirty-year event tech industry veteran Ian Twentey was named vice president, business development. He most recently served as vice president of sales at CompuSystems and has worked at event technology companies including Experient, Turnout Now and Core-apps.

Twenty-year event industry expert Alex Young has been tapped to lead the company’s event services team. He was most recently director of registration at Informa Markets and worked at Experient in both project and account management roles.  


Spectra, provider of venue management to the Owensboro Convention Center, recently welcomed two new sales managers to its Owensboro team: Jacob Whitfill, who previously worked with Spectra in its food and beverage department, and Megan Howard, who cut her teeth in the events industry working for country clubs and wedding and event planning companies.

Events Industry Council 

The Events Industry Council has appointed Augustine (Gus) Chijioke as director of certification and education. Chijioke most recently served as director of membership and certification at Capital Association Management.

IMS Technology Services 

Event staging and systems integration solutions company IMS Technology Services has hired live events video veteran and engineer Dave Wilbur as its new director of video. Over the course of more than two decades, he has worked on a countless array of events including large product launches, conferences, permanent video installations and other high-profile events in the high tech, financial and pharmaceutical industries.   


AVIXA, the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association, producer of InfoComm, has appointed AV/IT Engineer Frank Padikkala, Kairos Solution Architect at Panasonic, to serve as chairperson of the AVIXA Diversity Council. In this role, he will work to advance diversity and inclusion within the global AV community via national and international outreach efforts. 

CenterPoint Marketing  

Full-service brand experience agency CenterPoint Marketing has hired Bruce Powell as senior account manager. Powell brings more than 25 years of experience in the trade show and event industry as well as expertise in the exhibit rental space to his new role.  

Licensing International  

Licensing International recently appointed seven manufacturing, retail, licensor and agency executives to its board of directors. Elected by the Licensing International membership to serve a three-year term, they include Dean Allen, chief merchandising officer, Mad Engine Apparel; Veronica Hart, executive vice president, global franchise planning, ViacomCBS Consumer Products; Steven Heller, founder, The Brand Liaison; Holly Rawlinson, general manager, business development, Spirit Halloween & Spencer Gifts; Milin Shah, senior vice president and general counsel, Isaac Morris & CultureFly; Malaika Underwood, senior vice president, licensing, OneTeam Partners, and Maarten Weck, executive vice president and managing director, WildBrain CPLG.   

Main Light

Industry-leading entertainment technology equipment provider Main Light has appointed Dave Pretz as asset manager. He will be responsible for inventory oversight and new equipment purchasing at Main Light, East in Wilmington, Del., and the soon-to-open Main Light, West in Las Vegas.

With 25 years of experience in the entertainment technology industry, Pretz has worked across the various market segments of concert touring, corporate trade shows, special events and broadcast. Prior to joining Main Light, he served as the cross rental manager at 4Wall Entertainment.

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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.