"Focus on making a contribution rather than on making a career."

-Brian Stovall, Allen Event Center

"The view is always better from the high road."

-Paul Turner, CFE, AT&T Stadium

"Fancy carpet and trendy art do not bring customers back ... a great experience does!"

-Bryan Chatterton, Sacramento Convention Center

"Another day in paradise."

-Allen Johnson, Orlando Venues

Enhanced patron experiences + loyal partners + enthusiastic employees = Stronger Business”

-Steve Hevern, Sydney Entertainment Centre

“The show is not confirmed until the artist goes on stage and stays.”

-Michael Marion, CFE, Verizon Arena

“It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn't matter who gets the credit.”

-Eric D. Hart, CFE, Tampa Sports Authority

“What you allow is what will continue.”

-Stephanie Curran, Spokane Convention Center and INB Performing Arts Center

“Never try to teach a pig to fly.  You’re wasting your time and you’re annoying the pig.”

-John Rhamstine, CFE, Seven Venues

“High-performance teams succeed through leadership, communication and balance of purpose.”

-Mark Gnatovic, SearchWide

“Our Benchmark is to provide Excellent Quality and Service by retention of staff.”

-Joe Floreano, CFE, Rochester Riverside Convention Center

“The customer experience is at the heart of everything we do.”

-Brian Morris, CFE, Melbourne & Olympic Parks

“Success is not permanent and failure is not fatal so get the hell out there and just TRY!”

-Karen Totaro, CFE, Atlantic City Convention Center

“You are who you surround yourself with…hire wisely.”

-Karen Totaro, CFE, Atlantic City Convention Center

“You can do anything as long as you have the right people, a great plan and the right equipment.”

-Paul Cramer, CFE, Classic Center

You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

-Kim Bedier, CFE (via Dr. Seuss), City of Tacoma Public Assembly Facilities

“When faced with a choice, do what would make your mother proud.”

-Kevin Mattingly, Phoenix Convention Center & Venues

Region 5 - Program/Schedule

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Opening Keynote
Wednesday, 9 AM - 10:15 AM

Julio Melara

Julio Melara is passionate about helping people and organizations seize their full potential! He wears many hats in his personal and professional life; he’s overcome many obstacles since childhood- and on the other side of those complexities, Julio has discovered the simplicity that most people yearn for. Julio is a lifelong entrepreneur, publisher and author and in those roles and has developed many leadership skills critical for his success, but it’s been said by the people he’s touched that his willingness to serve those –who serve others–may in fact be his most admirable quality.

Natural Disasters & Weather Phenomenon 
Wednesday, 10:30 AM – 12 AM

The last calendar year has provided many challenges for areas throughout our region: floods in Louisiana, fires in Tennessee and tornadoes in Mississppi, just to name a few.  Join us for a panel featuring your industry colleagues and disaster prevention specialists to discuss what impact these events had on their venues and communities.

Doug Thornton

Executive Vice President at SMG

J. Douglas “Doug” Thornton, a former Shreveport oilman and ex-college quarterback at McNeese State in Lake Charles, today continues to lead the come-from-behind rebuilding of the Louisiana Superdome, four years after Hurricane Katrina.

Michael Day

General Manager of Raising Cane's River Center, Baton Rouge, LA,

Michael Day is a highly successful and respected Facility, Entertainment, and Corporate Office Executive with more than 20 years experience running large, complex, and successful hospitality and entertainment operations. From being on-air and on-stage talent, being VP of a large fleet of luxury cruise vessels, to running a large city owned entertainment and convention complex dealing with the Nation's top Agents and Promoters, Michael has done it all. His coaching and mentoring of his staff and his passion and energy for building and running successful events have made Michael Day a stand out in the industry.

Colonel (Retired) E. Pat Santos

Former Deputy Director of Emergency Management within the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness
Colonel (Retired) E. Pat Santos joined the Louisiana Army National Guard in June 1979. In December 1981, he was commissioned a Distinguished Military Graduate from the ROTC program at the University of New Orleans. As a member of the famed 1-141st Field Artillery Battalion, he served in various command and staff positions and was activated for Desert Storm in 1990 with the 256th Combat Brigade. While serving in the State Headquarters he was the lead project officer launching the first Louisiana State Partnership Programs with the countries of Uzbekistan and Belize. In August 1999, he was assigned as the Director of Military Support where he and his staff developed critical emergency plans and procedures while managing the military response and state assistance efforts for numerous state emergencies and special events.

Ken Graham

Senior Meteorologist at the NWS

Senior Meteorologist at the NWS

Max Fenn

Max Fenn serves as Protective Security Advisor for the US Dept. of Homeland Security, Office of Infrastructure Protection, based in Jackson, MS. He supports state homeland security efforts and contributes to the development of the national risk picture by assisting with the identification, assessment, monitoring, and minimizing of risk to critical assets at the local level. He has over 20 years of federal service, to include the US Department of Justice, specializing in anti-terrorism and security programs.

Wednesday, 12 PM - 1:30 PM
Creole, of Course

Creole, of Course is a multi-sensory, multi-media culinary and historical jazz "dinner theater" show to celebrate New Orleans' tricentennial.  The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center partnered with Centerplate and local author Morgan Molthrop to create the program with the goal of attracting local and visiting groups and enhancing local presence.

Brandon Felder

Executive for 
Centerplate at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

A New Orleans born chef who received his Bachelor of Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of Virginia College in Birmingham, Alabama, is a highly regarded, award winning hef recognized for his superlative culinary and management talents. Numerous awards attest to hef Felder’s expertise. Among them: Best Chefs of Louisiana – 2016, 2015, 2014, NOWFE Gold Medal in Poultry and Meat – 2016 Gambit’s Emerging Chefs Challenge, 1st Place Finish, Cultural Intern Scholarship at Commander’s Palace.
He has garnered the attention of local and national media with feature stories highlighting his extensive credentials in magazines like New Orleans Top of the Town (2014), American Cuisine,New Orleans Vol. 8, and a Food Network segment called “Eating American with Anthony Anderson.”

Morgan Molthrop

Entrepreneur & writer, Molthrop is New Orleans' leading historical "color analyst" & a frequent lecturer for corporate & cultural visitors. He is author of ARTIST SPACES (UL Press 2014), a book that highlights the career & process of photographer Tina Freeman. The book won an Indieforward Book of the Year Award and the Eric Hoffer Book Award.
Molthrop wrote ANDREW JACKSON'S PLAYBOOK: 15 STRATEGIES for SUCCESS, the first book to be serialized on Facebook. He wrote & photographed LOVE: NEW ORLEANS documenting a contextual art project about LOVE signs placed about town during a crime wave.
He lived in Manhattan for 13 years & worked on Wall Street as a consultant to Disney. He attended NY Law at night & taught the first class in SEC disclosure at NYU. In 1999 he became VP of a major telecom.

Wednesday, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Home Grown: Creating and Producing Your own Events

A panel of venue operators and festival producers will share with you best practices for generating ideas, sourcing sponsors and revenue opportunities and the tips & tricks to executing successful in-house and home-grown events!

Dottie Belletto

President & CEO (New Orleans Convention Company)

Dottie Belletto is founder and president of New Orleans Convention Company, Inc. (NOCCI) for almost 30 years and CEO of sister company, Prime Productions, Inc. for the past 26 years. Dottie is an entrepreneur whose ideas, innovations and expertise have been embraced and admired in the hospitality industry. Dottie’s professional and eclectic client list includes some of the state’s most prominent government and corporate leaders and well-known entertainers. Her creative vision and purpose is producing one-of-a-kind events tailored for specific clients and groups. Dottie provides creative and strategic direction as well as staff training and development to NOCCI. As a hands-on producer, she guides the creation and production of all programs and events.

Matt McDonnell

Executive Director (MS Coast Coliseum & Convention Center)

McDonnell started in the entertainment facility business while in school at Alabama and continued with a brief stint at the Mobile Civic Center.
He came to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center as assistant executive director in 1986.


Tim Hemphill

VP Sales & Marketing (MCCNO)

Vice president of sales and marketing for the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. In this capacity, Hemphill is charged with strategic planning and oversight of the sales, marketing and communications initiatives for the Center. A Certified Destination Marketing Executive, Hemphill has served over 35 years in the meeting, convention and travel industry that included the involvement with various types of destinations and the design and management of several public meeting facilities. He oversaw one of the largest CVB budgets in the country and received numerous awards for excellence in sales, marketing and public relations.

Marci Schramm

French Quarter Festival Executive Director

French Quarter Festivals Inc. named Marci Schramm executive director in January 2008. She served as Executive Director of the New Orleans Opera and also held the position of Marketing and Public Relations Director for opera companies such as Michigan Opera Theatre (Detroit, MI), Opera Pacific (Orange County, CA) and the New Orleans Opera. Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Schramm was a key organizer of ‘A Night for New Orleans’ gala benefit concert starring Placido Domingo. The concert took place at the New Orleans Arena and gained national attention as the first major cultural event for the city following the storm. Schramm is a veteran at producing large-scale events, including a Three Tenors concert at Detroit’s historic Tiger Stadium and Andrea Bocelli’s North American opera debut in 2000.

Diane Lyons

President & Owner, ACCENT-DMC

Diane is passionate about happiness and works diligently to please her clients by making each event vision a reality. Using her creative talents, resources and expertise, she excels in producing top-notch, worry-free events for clients and their guests to enjoy. A native New Orleanian, Diane brings her vast knowledge of the local culture, food and music to every event and is able to seamlessly merge new trends with long-standing traditions. Throughout her impressive 30-year career, she and the ACCENT-DMC team have won numerous awards. Diane actively supports several nonprofit organizations, including FestiGals, a celebration for women she created in 2011. She has been recognized twice as a “Top Woman in Business” by New Orleans City Business magazine and was the recipient of the inaugural HandCraft Heroes Award for her contributions to women with cancer.

Wednesday, 3 PM – 4 PM
A Talk with J. Stephen Perry

J. Stephen Perry

 President/CEO of New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Under Stephen Perry’s direction, the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, or CVB, has routinely been ranked as one of the top five CVBs in America and won multiple national awards for excellence in sales, marketing, public relations, branding, customer service and corporate relations. The New Orleans CVB is one of the largest economic development corporations in Louisiana closing nearly $2 billion a year in executed sales and carries responsibility for brand management, marketing and sales valued at $5-7 billion in visitor spending annually in New Orleans. Perry also manages offices in four American cities and five foreign countries. 

Thursday, 11:15 AM - 12:15 AM
Branding Your Client Services to Create Lasting Memories

Ebony Hattix

Assistant Director of Ticketing, BancorpSouth Arena

Ebony Hattix is a graduate of the University of Mississippi (Oxford). She is the Assistant Director of Ticketing at the BancorpSouth Arena and Conference Center for the past five years. From building the shows to engaging with the guests, it has been an amazing experience that continues daily. Ebony oversees the Preferred Seating Program, assists the Ticketing Director with all Box Office duties, and created Customer Focus training for the BancorpSouth Arena. Hattix has graduated from IAVM Venue Management School (2015-16) where she served as a Class Representative in Year 2. Ebony takes the time to give back to the community through volunteering and is often referred to as the Arena’s “Social Director”.

Kelli Zohar-Davis

SPICE Training Manager, (MCCNO)
Kelli Zohar-Davis has an extensive background in the food service industry and is a Certified Corporate Trainer. She most recently served as the Director of Training for Sonic Restaurants, where she oversaw employee education in forty-three franchised locations in Southwest Louisiana. She also developed training programs as the Learning Manager for Chili’s in Houston, TX, and was a Training Operations Consultant and Incentives Manager for McDonald’s USA, where she provided employee guidance on McDonald’s operating standards, management tools and systems to maximize restaurant performance.

Thursday, 12:30 AM - 2 PM
Lunch: Meetings Mean Business

This luncheon will recognize Meetings Means Business Day with like events in over 30 countries showcasing the real power of meetings, events, conventions, exhibitions and more.  You will be joined by the leadership of the local hospitality and be addressed by a nationally known speaker.

Don Freeman

Chairman of Freeman and former chairman of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau and on the board of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce

Chairman of Freeman and former chairman of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau and on the board of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce. 

Thursday, 2 PM – 3:30
Hitting Close to Home: Complex Challenges for Region 5 Venues

A hybrid of presentation and town-hall style discussion of those most current topics in our region, from bathroom politics, to conceal & carry laws and drones.  Hear from industry experts and engage in dialogue with your peers on how to manage through today's most complex challenges.

Barret Kendrick

founder and instructor of Bearco Training Specialties and board member of the Louisiana Shooting Association.

As founder and full-time instructor, Barret Kendrick has dedicated himself and company to provide realistic defensive training to those interested in self-defense and armed professionals. Throughout his region and nationally, he works with hundreds of students annually in defensive shooting, force-on-force training and state certifications. Barret also works as a staff instructor with I.C.E. Training and as a contributor for the Personal Defense Network. Barret is an elected board member of the Louisiana Shooting Association where his focus is firearm related legislation here in Louisiana. Barret carries numerous instructor-level certifications for defensive shooting, range operations and safety, LE range/shoothouse operations, and scenario-based force-on-force training.

Thursday, 3:45 PM – 4:45 PM
Closing Keynote: New Orleans and the Tricentennial

Mark Romig

President & CEO of The New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation

A native of New Orleans, Mark is the President/CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC), the city’s official leisure travel promotion agency responsible for enhancing the local economy and the tourism industry through effective marketing and promotional programs. He is also currently serving as volunteer President/CEO of the 2018 NOLA Foundation, the support arm for the City’s 2018 Tricentennial Commission.

Thursday, 6 PM - 8 PM
IAVM Region 5 Closing Reception at the National WWII Museum

Becky Mackie

Vice President for Operations & Chief Financial Officer of The National WWII Museum.

Vice President for Operations & Chief Financial Officer of The National WWII Museum.
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