People News: Maritz, VisitDallas, Smyle and More Tap New Executives, Welcome Team Members

January 3, 2022

As 2022 begins, new hires and promotions continue to take place throughout the corporate events industry. Check out who’s moving in and moving up at event-related organizations throughout the U.S.—and across the pond.


Professional services company Maritz has recently made some recent executive leadership changes. Following nearly 25 years of leading the company as CEO and chairman, Steve Maritz is transitioning into an executive chairman role, responsible for overseeing high-level functions, including finance, legal and board-related issues.

David Peckinpaugh, who for 11 years has served as president of Maritz Global Events—one of Maritz Holdings’ core business units—will take over day-to-day management of Maritz Holdings as president and CEO, effective Jan. 1. In his new role, Peckinpaugh will be responsible for guiding overall business and go-to-market strategy, evolving the company’s collective vision and fostering the company’s people-focused culture. He will additionally focus on ensuring performance and operational excellence across the Maritz enterprise.   


VisitDallas has appointed marketing and hospitality industry veteran Jennifer Walker as its new senior vice president and chief marketing officer. She officially joined the organization in November and is responsible for directing the planning, development and comprehensive execution of VisitDallas’ marketing, branding and communications strategies.

Bringing almost three decades of extensive marketing and hospitality industry experience to her new role, Walker joins VisitDallas from full-service digital marketing agency AVB Marketing in Sacramento, Calif. Prior to AVB, she served as director of brand advertising at Visit California for two years and vice president of marketing and strategy for Visit Santa Barbara for two years. Prior to her tenure in California, Walker served as the director of marketing communications for Visit Austin for almost eight years and previously worked for multiple advertising agencies.


London, U.K.-based creative agency Smyle has expanded its Directors’ Group leadership team with three senior management promotions and the appointment of a new group chair. 

Head of Creative Emma Gardner is now executive design director, head of people. Gardner has been with Smyle for six years and has worked across some of the company’s most notable work to date, as well as most of the agency’s clients.

Charlotte Key has been promoted to people experience director and client development. Responsible for day-to-day people operations, she joined the agency in 2016. A qualified chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), she has gained experience at national and international organizations, working in sectors such as the NHS, professional services, creative and media. 

Director James Howitt also joins the Directors’ Group with the same job title. Howitt joined the agency over two years ago, spearheading the client development effort, and now assumes responsibility for the client experience division, including a number of expert relationship leads and managers. He has experience in the B2C and B2B sectors, where he has built experiences for brands including Diageo, Adidas and HSBC.

Following an extensive search, Paul Woolley, former global president and COO of the Omnicom network grouping CPM International, has been appointed chair of the Smyle Group board. He brings extensive knowledge and experience of working within the media, creative, digital, content and live industries, with extensive working knowledge of the international agency ecosystem.


Entertainment and live events production solutions provider Production Resource Group (PRG) has appointed Stephan Paridaen as CEO, effective Jan. 3. Paridaen currently holds the role of president and COO at PRG, leading its operations in EMEA and APAC since 2010. Simultaneously, PRG Founder, Chairman and CEO Jeremiah J. (Jere) Harris will transition into executive chairman and chief creative officer roles. 

As president and COO, Paridaen led PRG’s growth in the EMEA region, establishing the company as a major presence in the region’s entertainment and event production industries. Recent achievements include the development of new markets, such as esports; a network of digital and virtual production facilities across EMEA and APAC; and a significant expansion in the Middle East. Prior to PRG, he served as president of media and entertainment at visual technology and systems provider Barco.

As executive chairman and CCO, Harris will work with and support Paridaen and the leadership team on continued excellence in key areas including customer experience, technology and the mentoring and development of top industry talent. A legendary and award-winning figure in entertainment and event production, Harris founded PRG in 1995 and has overseen its growth into a global presence with 62 offices in 28 countries. 

Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau 

Twenty-year hospitality industry veteran Nik Pereira has joined the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) as vice president of sales, responsible for leading the convention sales team in achieving meeting and convention booking goals and collaborating with the Pennsylvania Convention Center to ensure alignment of strategy and processes. Pereira most recently served as director of sales for The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia, where he oversaw group, transient and catering sales, and prior to that, worked as area director of sales and marketing for Hersha Hospitality Management.

As the CVB’s new partnership specialist, Brian Lafferty will engage closely with partners to ensure high levels of retention and guarantee they have a full understanding of their benefits, value and practical use to meet their business needs. Before joining the organization, Lafferty served as higher education program manager for HarQen and associate director of alumni programs at Saint Joseph’s University.

Michelle Davis has been appointed digital media specialist, a role in which she will maintain the organization’s main and related websites, supporting benchmark analytics and goals, in addition to managing email communication and production. Davis previously served as senior email marketing specialist for CleanChoice Energy and marketing project coordinator for NutraNext.

Main Light

Entertainment technology equipment provider Main Light, LLC has hired Patrick Bellino as an inside sales representative, responsible for working with both rental and sales clients as well as interfacing with the shop to ensure smooth client order fulfillment. Bellino is working from Main Light East in Wilmington, Del., reporting directly to Main Light Rental Manager Rick McKinney. Bellino previously worked as a rental representative with stage lighting company Christie Lites in New York, where he focused on the Broadway theater market and as an account executive with 4Wall Entertainment. Prior to his time in sales and rentals, Bellino worked as a freelance technician.

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