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
Just when it seems like Las Vegas can’t get any bigger, brighter or more exciting for groups, MGM Resorts raises the bar again. The company continues to invest and innovate across its portfolio of Las Vegas resorts, with new attractions and upgraded experiences for attendees of all interests.  Remodeled Guest Rooms MGM Grand is the largest single hotel in the world with over 5,000 guest rooms and an 850,000-square-foot conference center. It is home to the newly remodeled MGM Grand Studio Tower—700 reimagined guest rooms with a fun mid-century vibe. Nearby, the iconic New York-New York Las Vegas Hotel & Casino recently completed a $63M redesign and remodel of its 1,830 guest rooms and 155 suites. Down the street, Bellagio Las Vegas is sporting renovated rooms in the Spa Tower with sunrise-inspired decor and luxurious soaking tubs in Premier King rooms after a $110-million transformation. Reinvented Luxury Experiences The Luxury Meetings District, made up of Bellagio Las Vegas, ARIA Resort & Casino, Vdara Hotel & Spa, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Park MGM and NoMad Las Vegas, is now more connected than ever before. A new interior walkway opened this October for a seamless attendee experience – connecting Vdara, Bellagio, and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, guests can now walk from Park MGM to Bellagio in around 15 minutes. New on the scene in the Luxury Meetings District is Cathedrale at ARIA, TAO Group’s upscale establishment specializing in exquisite French-Mediterranean cuisine offering elevated private dining experiences that opened in May. Heralded by World’s Best 50 Restaurants, GQ and VOGUE, LPM at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is opening this fall and will deliver its signature spontaneity and imaginative celebration of France’s Mediterranean cuisine, art, and culture to the unique luxury resort in impeccable fashion.  A “New Wave  for Mandalay Bay A new wave of enhancements and experiences has arrived at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, including Flanker Kitchen + Sports Bar, an 8,445-square-foot restaurant that opened this June, perfect for pre- and post-game eats and drinks. Event planner’s favorite, Chef Michael Mina’s StripSteak, received a full renovation and now includes one of the largest private dining rooms on The Strip. Retro by Voltaggio debuts a one-year residency with a fun take on pop culture of the 80s and 90s with classic American dishes. An exciting addition planned for 2024 is Swingers, a 40,000-square-foot oasis of street food, miniature golf and art at Mandalay Bay. Most exciting for meeting planners, the 2.1 million-square-foot Mandalay Bay Convention Center  is undergoing a complete refresh, with lightened space, added eye-catching art, and improved technology infrastructure for even more flexible space. Energy-efficient digital signage now leads the way with faster internet speeds and new AV options. From renovated guest rooms and meeting spaces to celebrated dining options and dedicated teams, MGM Resorts is dedicated to delivering exceptional and innovative meeting experiences.