People News: Fern, CEIR, MGM, Philadelphia CVB and More Make Hires

March 4, 2019
Jim Kelley

See who’s making big strides in their career this month. Have more people news to share? Send it to to be included in our next story.

Jim Kelley has joined Fern, a national marketing support and trade show services provider, as vice president of marketing and industry relations. His career has spanned roles with exposition service contractors, convention centers and hotels, and he was most recently with Production Resource Group. In his new position, Kelley will lead strategy for Fern and NexxtShow’s industry events, as well as be part of its sales leadership team.

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research has appointed Senior Research Director Nancy Drapeau to CEIR vice president of research. In addition to conducting trend studies and building the research agenda each year, her duties have expanded to include more public speaking, webinar facilitation and press interviews. She’ll also play a more active role in CEIR Index and CEIR Census initiatives. Drapeau has been with CEIR since 2011.

MGM Resorts International announced two major leadership changes effective March 1. Corey Sanders transitioned from chief operating officer to chief financial officer, leading the strategic financial transformation that is part of MGM 2020; and Bill Hornbuckle stepped in as chief operating officer in addition to his current role of president, overseeing operations at all enterprise properties.

Elliot Ferguson

U.S. Travel Association announced the election of Elliott L. Ferguson II, president and CEO of Destination DC, as its new national chair on Feb. 21. He has served on the board for seven years and succeeds Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts.

Justine McVaney, senior vice president of event planning and operations for National Association of Broadcasters, has been selected as 2019 chairperson for The International Association of Exhibitions and Events Major American Trade Show Organizer Council. She is joined by three new MATSO Council members: Lenay Gore, senior director of meetings and trade shows for American Public Transportation Association; Tiffany Hale, expo event manager for National FFA Organization; and John Rozum, ag events and show director for Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

After resigning her position as vice president of Lightfair International in February, Rochelle Richardson has joined AVIXA, the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association, as senior vice president of expositions and events. She’ll lead strategy and operations for the annual North American InfoComm show, in addition to all North American conferences and events.

Dan Darby will join Lightfair International as senior vice president, effective March 11. In his new role, he’ll lead exhibitor and sponsorship sales, show development and design, and event production and conference programming. He has more than three decades of experience in the trade show industry, most recently as vice president of marketing at Informa North America.

Visit Pittsburgh has a new executive vice president. Jerad Bachar, who had previously worked with the city’s CVB from 2004-08, most recently worked as executive director of the economic development board for the country of Bahrain before beginning his new role stateside in January. At Visit Pittsburgh, he will oversee convention sales, destination services, partnership development, research and Sports Pittsburgh.

Kavin Schieferdecker will join Philadelphia CVB as senior vice president of conventions this month, where he’ll lead the convention sales and services team in selling the city as well as Pennsylvania Convention Center to groups. He was most recently director of sales and marketing with Hilton Anatole in Dallas.

The Special Event Company in Raleigh, North Carolina, has promoted creative director Hunter Gray to the role of chief strategy officer and creative director. He’s been with the company since 2010, where he oversees all of its clients’ live production needs.

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has expanded its team at its Paris headquarters. Malgorzata Kozlowska has joined as event and project coordinator, focusing on supporting and managing UFI events around the world. Frankie Edwards is now marketing and communications coordinator, working primarily to support Global Exhibition Day initiatives.

Keith Bunch has been promoted to the newly created position of vice president for Custom Registration, Inc. in Arlington, Texas. In his role, he will be responsible for spearheading the company’s new software platform and helping with operations. He has 10 years of experience in operations and project management.

Alexandria, Virginia-based marketing agency CSG Creative has added five new team members this year. Boney Pandya is associate director of digital; Jess Schafer is director of strategic accounts; Elle Lawrence is account specialist; Madeline Gillin is account executive; and Lara Lee is digital designer. The company’s mission is to help associations, trade show organizers, corporations and event promoters build their brands, think strategically, grow audiences and get results.

Liz Harper

Liz Harper is now director of account management for Rockway Exhibits + Events in Orlando, which builds custom trade show booths. With more than 20 years of professional experience, Harper will be responsible for developing and implementing new account strategies, as well as directly managing the account management team.

Visit Baltimore has two new hires. Rebecca Ramsey is regional director of sales for the Midwest; she will assist in the booking of convention sales business for the city, focusing on generating new citywide business and managing all aspects of the sales process. Previously, she worked with Visit Charlotte and the Greater Madison CVB in sales roles. Trish McClean is now director of brand marketing, responsible for campaigns positioning Baltimore as a world-class meetings and leisure destination. She was previously with local creative agency Planit.

The Oklahoma City CVB has welcomed three new team members during a time of strong growth in the city’s tourism market. Lindsay Vidrine is the new vice president of destination marketing; Meg Cathey is communications coordinator; and Kellie Meyers is convention services and housing manager.

Global full-service provider for live events GES announced two leadership changes last week. Jay Altizer, North America president, will expand his role to include responsibility for GES events, marketing, onPeak (GES’ event accommodations company) and ON Services (GES’ audiovisual company). Additionally, Jason Popp has been promoted to president of GES EMEA from his previous role as GES executive vice president of international, which he has held since 2011.

jay  popp

Severine Dubarry-Bardon is now chief strategy officer and Driss Tazi is director of mergers and acquisitions for Comexposium, a Paris-based event organizer that hosts more than 135 B2B and B2B events globally. Both will work closely with the company president and CEO to achieve company objectives.

RainFocus, an events marketing platform based in Utah, hired Michael Olson as chief financial officer following a $40 million investment. He will specialize in aligning financial and business metrics to support business strategies.

Bastian Mingers will be the new global head for wine and spirits and director of ProWein at Messe Dusseldorf in Germany, effective April 1. He will take over from Marius Berlemann, who will become general manager of Messe Dusseldorf Shanghai Ltd. Mingers previously worked with ProWein as senior project manager from 2011-15.

Andy Conklin

Andy Conklin began his new role as executive vice president with Cincinnati USA CVB on March 4. With 25 years of experience in hotel and destination management, Conklin will focus on building sales, developing strategic partner relationships, and creating new incentive and cross-selling efforts for Cincinnati. Also at the CVB, Jason Dunn has been named group vice president of diversity sales and inclusion, leading a new department responsible for key initiatives related to diversity and inclusion.

Heather Holst-Knudsen has been appointed head of sales for North America for London-based attendee acquisition software company Gleanin. She is the first executive to join the sales team outside of Europe and will be attending events such as Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum, Attendee Acquisition Roundtable, SISO Leadership Conference and IAEE’s Expo! Expo! to meet exhibition organizers.

Simon Mellor will be new managing director of Messe Frankfurt Middle East, Messe Frankfurt’s Dubai subsidiary. He will take over from Ahmed Pauwels, who is leaving the company. Mellor was most recently managing partner at Oak Tree Event Consultants.

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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