People News: UFI, EIC, eventcore, Louisville Tourism and More Welcome New Leaders, Board Members and Staff

February 9, 2021

A slew of new hires and promotions at event-related organizations are a positive sign of growing confidence in the resurgence of the trade shows and events industry this year. Check them out:  

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has tapped Marie-Laure Bellon to serve as its next COO, effective March 1. She will work out of the organization’s Paris headquarters.

Bellon is currently the CEO and general manager of French exhibition organizer Eurovet, a trade show organizer for lingerie and swimwear, and a subsidiary of Comexposium and the French Knitting and Lingerie Federation. 

She has held various senior executive positions over the years at Eurovet, including the strategic positioning and restructuring of the business, launching new activities in Asia and the U.S. and leading the organization’s overall international development. Her career also includes leadership positions in management and business development for Reed Expositions France.

Bellon succeeds current UFI COO Sonia Thomas, who will leave the association in late March to launch her own business. 

Global B2B media group, Tarsus, has appointed Joe Zhou as CEO of Tarsus China. He will take the helm on March 1, replacing John Liu, who is leaving Tarsus after three years. Zhou will spearhead Tarsus Group’s growth strategy in China, working closely with Tarsus Asia CEO Nino Gruettke. 

Zhou joins Tarsus from Reed Sinopharm, where he served CFO and deputy managing director. In his time there, he successfully launched new events and doubled the number of shows run across China. 

“[Joe’s] blend of professional experience combined with a personal approach is exactly what is needed in the most exciting region in the events industry,” Gruettke said. “I’d also like to wish John the very best in his future endeavors — he has been instrumental in our growth in China and led the business through the challenges of 2020, successfully re-opening our shows in the wake of the pandemic.”

IAEE Executive Vice President and COO Cathy Breden has been selected as the 2021 chair elect of the Events Industry Council. In this role, she will also serve as treasurer and will move forward as EIC Chair in 2022. 

Breden has served on the EIC board of directors since 2017 as well as chair of the 2016-2017 research committee and on the 2010 CMP board. She is also the CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR). 

Breden is a frequent presenter at ] events on topics including exhibition industry trends and the power of exhibitions in face-to-face marketing, in addition to serving as adjunct faculty at Dallas Community College District-Richland College.

Reed Exhibitions has appointed Richard Prentice as sales analytics manager of its new global group sales analytics team, effective Feb. 1. He reports to Julian Barker, group strategy director.

In this role, Prentice will lead a new team of specialists to support the company’s face-to-face business and the rapidly increasing use of digital products by leveraging sales and marketing data analytics to create value and efficiency for Reed customers.

With diverse consulting and experience translating data into strategic insights to drive performance, Prentice joins from PwC, where he most recently led a sales and marketing team.

Leading registration company eventcore has hired 16-year event industry sales and leadership veteran Chris Emerson as its vice president of sales and marketing. 

Emerson gained expertise driving enterprise sales, as well as growing and leading high-performance sales teams at organizations including Certain, Inc., Lanyon Solutions and Cvent, where he served most recently as regional director of enterprise solutions.

Emerson’s responsibilities will include sales team leadership, accelerating eventcore’s revenue by expanding the company’s presence in new verticals and geographies, development of new channel partnerships and contributing to the company’s marketing and business strategies. 

Louisville Tourism has selected Dan Kyle as its information technology manager, a new position in which he will be responsible for the support, maintenance and enhancement of the CVB’s technology infrastructure. He began his new position on Jan. 19 following the retirement of IT Director Randy James on Dec. 31. Mark Perry, the CVB’s director of technology, is also assuming some of the duties formerly held by James.

Kyle previously served as the systems administrator for Experience Grand Rapids in Michigan.

The San Francisco Travel Association has named 30-year hospitality industry veteran Nicole Rogers as its executive vice president and chief sales officer, effective March 1. Rogers comes to the organization after two decades at Marriott International, where she held positions including on-property director of sales and marketing (Marriott Union Square, Marriott Marquis and Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf), area sales leader, market account leader and account sales leader/regional director — U.S. and Canada.

In her new role, Rogers will oversee all convention division activities, including the development and implementation of sales strategies, citywide group business optimization, long-range sales and marketing of the city and county of San Francisco’s major convention facilities including Moscone Center. 

Event strategy, marketing and design agency, 360 Live Media, has promoted 20-year event planning veteran Beth Surmont to vice president of event business strategy. She previously served as the company’s design director of experience design. 

In her new position, Surmont is helping organizations reimagine and reinvent their events and trade shows for a post-COVID, omnichannel environment to strategically advance the their mission and bottom line.   

Visit Plano recently welcomed two new staff members: Steve Yearwood as association and SMERF sales manager, and Olivia Woodward as event services coordinator.

Yearwood, who joined Visit Plano in January, is responsible for booking SMERF and association conventions, meetings, events and securing hotel room nights in Plano. He comes to Visit Plano from Aimbridge Hospitality, where he served as group sales manager. 

Woodward joined Visit Plano in November 2020. Besides managing all logistics, arrangements and services for Visit Plano clients once they have been booked by its sales team, she also assists meeting planners in coordinating events in targeted market segments including corporate, association, government, sports and SMERF. Woodward most recently served as dual event specialist with Marriott International in Richardson, Texas. 

Event software company Ungerboeck has hired Casey Jessmon as its chief information security officer. Jessmon brings more than 10 years of experience in operational information security to his new position, including serving as business information security officer at Equifax Workforce Solutions. 

At Ungerboeck, Jessmon will be involved in evaluating and recommending the latest tools and technologies to ensure that the company is proactive and well-prepared in its approach to security, as well as interfacing with customers to discuss security processes, protocols and certifications. 

The Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau’s board of directors has chosen 30-year restaurant industry veteran Kris Reinhard to be its 2021 chair. Reinhard is a partner in Fifth Group Restaurants and serves as general manager of Bold, Fifth Group’s Catering and Design Division. 

Reinhard started working in Atlanta’s hospitality community in 1993 and joined ACVB’s board in 2007. He has chaired ACVB’s membership committee since 2010 and began serving on the organization’s executive committee in 2012.   

“His leadership will help drive our hospitality community’s continued recovery in the months to come,” said William Pate, ACVB president and CEO.

The board of directors of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism recently selected Beth Gendler as the CVB’s future president and CEO upon the retirement of Herb Malone in late 2021. For the immediate future, Gendler is serving as COO, a role to which she was appointed on Dec. 1. She currently leads the organization’s sales/meetings and sports commission efforts.

Gendler will become GSOBT’s second president and CEO in the organization’s 27-year history. She has been on staff with the Alabama CVB for 18 years, beginning as director of sales and being promoted to vice president of sales in 2011, where she has led all efforts for the meetings/convention and sports commission segments. 

As GSOBT’s longtime leader, Herb Malone helped create the official tourism marketing organization for Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and the Fort Morgan peninsula in 1993. Under his leadership, the destination has seen steady increases in lodging tax revenues and became one of the top southeastern beach destinations.

Have any People News to share? Reach out to  

Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram!

Add new comment

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.