Meet the Industry Experts
and Nationally-Known Speakers!


WEDNESDAY, NOV. 1


Jim

Jim Brody is the president for Sense of Place, a company dedicated to helping destination marketing organizations and travel industry experts navigate the digital landscape. He brings with him more than 20 years of experience working with travel industry members all over the world, first in broadcast and then in the digital marketing environment. Previously, Jim developed one of the first travel content websites ever created VisitNewEngland.com, founded the family travel effort at Kaboose.com, and established and managed the DMO programs for TripAdvisor, Oyster.com and Travelzoo. Jim’s uniquely global experiences, his keen understanding of how DMO’s work to grow the travel industry, his expertise in the areas of digital marketing, content marketing and reputation management all make him an expert on digital content and the travel industry.


PaulPaul Bittner is a partner and vice chair of IceMiller's labor and employment group. He has been practicing law since 1993 with an emphasis on labor and employment law and has extensive experience representing employers. Paul has represented both public and private sector employers in union negotiations, labor arbitrations, unfair labor practice proceedings, representation elections and other related matters in front of the National Labor Relations Board and state agencies. He regularly counsels employers on union relations and union avoidance, Title VII, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) , Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other wage and hour laws, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Paul has also defended employers in various employment law claims pursuant to employment practice liability insurance policies.


Heather PollockHeather Pollock is a proud Akronite from Highland Square who's spent most of her adult life trying to give back to the city that's given her so much. As an M.C., voice talent, former radio personality and educator, she manages to spend time with the amazing folks that keep Akron moving forward and make it so special. Heather is the M.C. for this year's RUBY Awards!


Bill

Bill Geist is the chief instigator at DMOproz known also as Zeitgeist Consulting, a firm specializing in strategic planning, governance, marketing and legislative issues for convention and visitor bureaus, travel-focused chambers of commerce, economic development organizations and communities. Bill is the author of the acclaimed Destination Leadership for Boards and a contributor to Fundamentals in Destination Marketing. He has provided consulting services to more than 200 destination marketing organizations since 1995 and is a popular speaker on marketing, trends and customer service across North America. 


Tami Brown Updated

Tami Brown is the general manager of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium – the first Marinescape Eco Aquarium designed and built in North America. The Aquarium has drawn more than a million guests since it opened and employs 20 full-time and 41 part-time team members. Brown has spent her career promoting and operating attractions in Northeast Ohio, ranging from the Western Reserve Historical Society to the Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland International Film Festival. Prior to joining the Aquarium, she was vice president of marketing at Positively Cleveland, the non-profit organization dedicated to driving economic vitality for the region through tourism. In addition, Brown sits on the board of the Ohio Travel Association, the Center for Community Solutions, Heights Arts and Flats Forward.


Gailmarie FortGailmarie has served as vice president of outreach and communications at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens since 2010, where she oversees development, marketing and education. One of three senior leaders at this National Historic Landmark, she recently oversaw a successful $6 million capital campaign to help restore and sustain the 101-year-old historic house museum for a second century. Her work has helped to substantially increase Stan Hywet’s regional and national profile, earning the estate top accolades nationwide by readers of USA Today and decision-makers of the American Bus Association among others. Gailmarie has also been instrumental in developing and expanding collaborations with community organizations and leaders, helping to ensure the ongoing presence, sustainability and impact of this important community asset.


Tina Knotts Updated

As the current chamber and tourism director for the Union County CVB, Tina Knotts has 25 years of sales, marketing, hospitality, volunteer management and customer service expertise. She is a graduate of OTLA and has completed several leadership programs. Her experience, creativity and attention to detail has grown membership, increased revenue and built a thriving brand for both Champaign and Union counties. Tina's leadership has proven beneficial to various committees, boards and campaigns, such as the Union County Covered Bridge Festival, the Champaign County Hot Air Balloon Festival, and the Champaign County Barn Quilt Tour. In the private sector, Tina identified market trends and sourced products as the Senior Buyer for a $12 million mail-order catalog company. Tina strongly believes that warm hospitality and small details really do matter. 


Gregg MervisGregg Mervis is an active member and advocate of the travel industry. After 14 years of employment with the Quaker Hilton, Gregg left his position as director of sales in 1995 to become director of sales for the Akron/Summit CVB and the John S. Knight Center. He was promoted to vice president of the Bureau and Center in 1996 and became vice president and chief operating officer in 2008. In 2012, Gregg was named president and chief executive officer; he is responsible for the management and oversight of the organization’s three business units. Gregg is a member of various national industry organizations, including Destinations International and International Association of Assembly Managers and National Association of Consumer Shows. His involvement to foster the visitor economy at the state level includes Ohio Travel Association (Past President), Ohio Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus and Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association. He currently serves on the board of directors for the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby, Downtown Akron Partnership and ArtsNow, where he is also board president.


Wendy FinalWendy Zucal, director of the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, has more than 22 years of experience running museums. She has helped to get the Depot classified as a National Historic Landmark status. Wendy also helped to raise $5 million to restore the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum. Currently overseeing three major capital projects, Wendy has a wide range of experience in managing collaborative projects.


Tim Baumgardner

Tim Baumgardner has more than 25 years of experience in the traditional, digital and integrated marketing space. Having worked on the brand side with Meijer and Coca-Cola and on the agency side with Promotional Media Management and MLive Media Group, Tim is able to craft marketing strategies that deliver ROI affecting the bottom line. While at Meijer, Tim pioneered social media policy for the 200-plus store retailer, including determining brand standards for engagement, crafting employee social media guidelines, and outlining crisis protocols. Tim has continued his focus on social media innovating with paid newsfeed ads, Facebook Live videos, polls and contests, 360-degree photos and more. 


Kami Kennedy

Kami Kennedy is a sales and marketing professional with more than 19 years of in-depth experience in broadcast and digital media industries. Kami has managed multi-million dollar budget initiatives and achieved market leader status in mid-major and major markets during her years in radio and digital advertising. Kami currently works with tourism clients both in Michigan and nationally.


Jeff LeitchJeff Leitch is an expert in advertising, experienced in media, and passionate about marketing. He has more than 16 years in the industry across creative, cable, radio, sales, management, digital and more. Jeff is led by a mission to connect marketing dollars invested to the cash register ringing. He is an analytical visionary that loves a great spreadsheet as much as a craft beer and acoustic guitar. 


THURSDAY, NOV. 2


Jane

Jane Howard spent 12 years as chief people officer at Joie de Vivre Hospitality. During her tenure JdV grew from 300 to 3000 employees and $250M in sales and became the second largest boutique hotel company in the country, experiencing employee turnover half of industry averages. Jane founded her consultancy, Culture Effect, in January 2012 to help organizations leverage corporate culture for greater performance. Her specialties are culture assessment and executive coaching and thought partnering for culture change, team building and retreat facilitation. She is an experienced conflict coaching and conflict resolution and management specialist in both for-profit and not-for-profit environments. Jane has a BA in Journalism from San Diego State University and a Masters in Business from JFK University. 


MelindaWhen not traveling the state or working to promote travel in Ohio, Melinda Huntley is usually found on a yoga mat. She started yoga four years ago and found the practice gave her balance in and out of the studio. Seeing and experiencing the transformational power of yoga, she began teaching to help others. She completed her RYT-200 yoga teacher certification in August. PAI Yoga & Fitness in Dublin and Gahanna is her home studio.