2018 Industry Experts and Nationally-Known Speakers
Matthew MacLaren, Esq., Director of TourismOhio, is focused on growing Ohio’s $44 billion tourism industry by increasing its 219 million annual visits. He is responsible for implementation of the TourismOhio strategic plan, leadership of the TourismOhio staff, increasing industry partnerships, and building visibility of the Ohio. Find It Here. brand.
Prior to TourismOhio, MacLaren was Senior Vice President of Membership for the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). While at the AHLA, he helped grow membership to an all-time high of over 25,000 lodging properties representing over 3 million hotel rooms in the United States. Prior to AHLA, he served as President and CEO of the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association which reached record membership levels and won several awards under his leadership.
MacLaren is a graduate of Capital University Law School as well as The Ohio State University where he studied political science and business.
Founder and EVP, Paramore Digital
Hannah Paramore is an entrepreneur, international speaker, digital marketing expert, and the Founder of Paramore Digital in Nashville, Tennessee. Paramore works with a variety of organizations throughout the country including a concentration in tourism in Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia. The company is an active member of the Southeast Tourism Society and US Travel Association, the US Global Leadership Council, the International Council of Museums, a member of the Nashville Future 50 Hall of Fame and is on the Honor Roll for the Inc 5000, having made the list for five straight years.
Paramore has been featured numerous times in national press including Fast Company, Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, Success Magazine and The New York Times. She is active in her community. She serves on the Board of Directors for Synovus Bank, The YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee and the Metro Transit Authority. Paramore’s passions include golf, travel, the YWCA, The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, and more golf.
Customer Service Keynote Speaker, Consultant, and Author
Dennis Snow’s customer service abilities were honed over 20 years with the Walt Disney World Company. There, he developed his passion for service excellence and the experience he brings to the worldwide speaking and consulting he does today. Snow launched a division of the Disney Institute responsible for consulting with some of the world’s largest companies including ExxonMobil, AT&T, General Motors and Coca Cola. During this time, he presented to audiences in diverse locations around the world, such as South Africa, Australia, Mexico, England and Argentina. This division quickly became the fastest growing venture of the Disney Institute and experienced repeat business of nearly 100%.
Today, Snow is a full-time speaker, trainer and consultant who helps organizations achieve goals related to customer service, employee development and leadership. Some of his clients include American Express, Johns Hopkins Medicine, ExxonMobil, and Nationwide. His articles appear in a number of industry publications and he is a featured guest “expert” on customer service, on several business news-talk radio shows. He is the author of the book, "Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service", which has been used in organizations around the world as a blueprint for organizational excellence. His newest book has just been released, titled, “Lessons From the Mouse: A Guide for Applying Disney World’s Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life.”
Vice President of Business Development, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission
Mike Mulhall is the Vice President of Business Development for Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. In this role, he oversees the organization’s marketing and communications, partner alliances and is responsible for bidding on future events to be held in Cleveland.
Prior to his current role, Mulhall served as Vice President of Partnerships for Destination Cleveland and was part of the leadership for the sales team at both the Cleveland Indians and Six Flags. He lives in Mentor with his wife Deb and has four children.
Director, Insights and Data at O+B|P
James O'Brien is Director, Insights and Data at O+B | P leading research efforts which inform strategy and customer experience. He focuses on associations, tourism, higher education and finance with 20+ years of experience across public affairs, B2B and B2C brands. O'Brien founded his own agency and worked on over 200 political and issue campaigns. He is a marketing instructor at the Extreme Institute by Nelly. O'Brien, his wife Laura and three children have a true passion for travel completing over 250 non-rev trips in under two years. Every morning his children still demand a free breakfast buffet at their hotel-like home in St. Louis, MO.
Coordinator, Great Miami Riverway
Elizabeth Connor serves as the coordinator for the Great Miami Riverway, a 99-mile destination marketing campaign in southwest Ohio. Connor holds her Masters of Arts Management from Carnegie Mellon University (and yes, she is a Pittsburgh sports fan). She has won statewide tourism and digital marketing awards and has been recognized for her digital marketing in national competitions. Connor is a graduate of the Ohio Tourism Leadership Academy and most recently, she launched the Great Miami Riverway “Hidden Gems” podcast highlighting national discussions through local conversations.
Marketing Manager, Greater Columbus Sports Commission
Jenn Cartmille has a passion for enhancing an organization's mission and supporting their goals through a thoughtful approach to marketing. Her current role at the Greater Columbus Sports Commission provides the opportunity to execute the organization’s business plan and establish brand-elevating and client-relevant marketing strategies. A professional with more than six years of experience, Cartmille oversees the Sports Commission’s digital and brand assets, content marketing and designs marketing plans for events such as the 2016 NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship and the 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four, both resulting in strong attendance numbers and a positive image impact on Columbus as a sports destination.
A graduate of The Ohio State University, Cartmille received her B.A. in Strategic Communication in 2011 and her master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) from West Virginia University in 2017. Outside the office, you will find her exploring Columbus with her 10-pound dog, Gunner.
Director, Digital Strategy at Ripple Effect Interactive
John Daters is Director of Digital Strategy at Ripple Effect Interactive. He’s an industry expert, speaker and travel advocate with nearly 15 years of digital marketing experience, including six years with Colorado.com, the official tourism website for the State of Colorado. In addition, he helped resurrect the online presence of Cleveland Metroparks through a park, zoo and golf website - his work for which garnered the park system multiple industry awards. Daters has also been a professional blogger in South America and authored three travel and trivia books about Colorado. He currently lives in Lakewood, Ohio with his wife and two children.
General Manager, Heaven Hill Distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Jeff Crowe joined Heaven Hill in August 2013 as the General Manager of Heaven Hill Distillery Visitor Experiences for the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, a multi-million dollar artisanal distillery and tourism experience that celebrates the legacy of Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first commercial distiller and the Bourbon Heritage Center, a visitor experience focusing on the history and heritage of Bourbon in Kentucky. Prior to his employment with Heaven Hill, he served for 13 years as the President and CEO of Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association; a 49-county development group. He is also the former Executive Director of Estill Development Alliance, a community, industrial and economic group.
Director of Marketing & Communications, Lake Erie Shores & Islands
Bryan Edwards is the Director of Marketing & Communications for Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands. As director, Edwards oversees the development and execution of the bureau’s public relations, social media, creative, and advertising strategies. A member of the Shores & Islands team since 2015, Edwards has more than 25 years of experience in the travel and tourism industry. He is also a board member for the Ohio Travel Association.
Executive Director, Greater Columbus Sports Commission
Linda Logan has been executive director of the GCSC since its inception in June 2002. Prior to the GCSC, she was the director of sports marketing for the Greater Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau for five years. Before joining the GCCVB, Logan was the director of sales and services at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. An Ohio native, Logan spent the previous ten years in Kansas City, Missouri working for the Kansas City Convention Center, the Big Eight Conference, the Kemper Arena and the Kansas City Comets of the Major Indoor Soccer League. She is a past chair of the board of the National Association of Sports Commissions.
Director of Sports Enterprises, Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Ben Huffman is the Director of Sports Enterprises for the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau, and has been with the bureau since 2006. Since joining the sports marketing department – known as Warren County Sports – Huffman has overseen growth in sports-related hotel room night bookings, hosted events, and created events. Before joining the WCCVB, Huffman worked as an Assistant Director of the Alumni Association at Miami University, with specific responsibility for the Alumni Chapter Program, coordinating events with more than 45 alumni chapters throughout the nation. Huffman earned the designation of Certified Sports Event Executive in 2010. He lives with his wife and four children in Cincinnati.
President, Lake Erie Shores & Islands
Fletcher is in his third year as President of Lake Erie Shores & Islands, a destination marketing partnership between the Erie and Ottawa County Ohio Visitors Bureaus. Prior to this he was Executive Director of the Ottawa County Visitors Bureau beginning that position in 2005. Other professional experience includes Director of the Greater Licking County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Marketing & Communications Director for The Wilds, Promotion Director for a Cleveland area newspaper and a Toledo Radio Announcer.
Originally from Painesville, Ohio,Fletcher is a graduate of Bowling Green State University where he majored in Radio/TV/Film and Journalism. He is a graduate of Leadership Ottawa County, Past President of the Ohio Travel Association, Past President of the Ohio Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus, member of the Ohio Sea Grant Advisory Board, member of the Erie County Economic Development Corporation Board, a member of the Healthy Water Ohio Steering Committee and Advisor to the Lake Erie Foundation.
General Manager, Cedar Point
Jason McClure is the Vice President & General Manager of Cedar Point with the responsibility to make people happy by inspiring fun and creating moments like no other for Cedar Point’s more than 3 million guests. He began his career with Cedar Fair in 2000 at Carowinds in Charlotte, NC. He worked at Kings Island in Mason, OH and Dorney Park in Allentown, PA, prior to arriving at Cedar Point in 2014.
Originally from West Virginia, McClure graduated from Marshall University and started his career at Ernst & Young in Charleston, WV. He met his wife Kim while at Marshall, and they currently live in Sandusky, OH. They have two children age 24 and 22.
Creative Director, thunder::tech
Craig Israel manages our Creative Department, leads creative strategy for the agency and oversees creative output—including campaign development, graphic design, advertising, messaging and branding. He also oversees thirtysix::thirtyfive studios, thunder::tech’s in-house video and animation production house. With nearly 20 years of experience in Cleveland/Akron marketing agencies, Israel brings a depth of knowledge to the table, including copywriting, art direction, video direction and the elusive skill of telling clients no and having them feel good about it.
Communications Department Manager, thunder::tech
Madison Letizia manages the Communications Department and its services. She is dedicated to helping companies connect with customers by integrating social media, email marketing, search engine marketing and other forms of communications into their overall marketing efforts. Letizia works to create comprehensive communications strategies and execute campaigns with measurable benchmarks. In addition, her team is responsible for the continued education and training of clients regarding best practices for both personal and professional use.
General Manager, Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Tamera (Tami) Lash Brown thinks she is the luckiest person because she has spent her career working with attractions in the museum and tourism industries. This non-profit professional has proven expertise in strategic planning and implementation, management of board and staff, project management and the development and execution of effective integrated marketing and fund raising communications. She particularly enjoys building collaborations for effective mutual benefit and mentoring new leaders in the non-profit museum environment. As General Manager of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, the only independent aquarium in the state of Ohio, Brown spends most of her time setting the vision, overall direction and operational standards for the Aquarium.
Vice President of Marketing & Brand Management, Akron/Summit County CVB
Jim Mahon is the Vice President of Marketing & Brand Management for the Akron/Summit CVB where he manages the marketing and communication functions of the CVB, John S. Knight Center, Greystone Hall and Sports Alliance of Greater Akron. Mahon serves/has served on the boards and committees of several professional organizations, including: Ohio Society of Association Executives, Society of Government Meeting Professionals, Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area, Downtown Akron Partnership and ArtsNow. He was elected in 2015 to the Board of Directors of the Ohio Travel Association and then assumed the office of Secretary in 2016; he will serve as the President of Ohio Travel Association in 2020. His work has been recognized by the Ohio Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus, Ohio Travel Association and Ohio Society of Association Executives.
Executive Director, Ohio Travel Association
Melinda Huntley is the executive director of the Ohio Travel Association. She started her professional travel career in public relations at Cedar Point, then led the visitors bureau in Ottawa County before tackling sustainable tourism opportunities as Tourism Director for Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant College Program. She is a recipient of the Paul Sherlock Award, the highest honor bestowed to an Ohio tourism professional, and has received recognition from Hospitality and Sales Marketing International, American Library Association, the National Association of Environmental Professionals, Firelands Audubon and others. Huntley is an avid yogi and a certified yoga teacher. She enjoys bricks-and-mortar bookstores, hiking and biking, coffee shops, live theatre, photography, kayaking and traveling the nooks and crannies of Ohio.
General Manager, Best Western Plus West Akron Inn & Suites
When Pooja Desai started her professional career, she thought that she had her career goals figured out. She started off with her passion and focus in Architecture, where she achieved her degree. Desai quickly found that she could utilize her passion for architecture in a lot of other areas of her life, including a career in hospitality. Her hospitality journey began with conversions, renovations, and expansions, but after every conversion/renovation & expansion came the transition into operations. Desai realized that she had a real knack for working with and training people, and even if she didn't view herself as an operational team leader, the rest o the team certainly did. Along with working with her team as a General Manager, she really enjoys beinging effciency back to hotel operations for the hotels she has had the pleasure working with. The culture she has tried to create is always one of open communication, mutual respect, and ongoing development for continued success.