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Submitted by:
Jade Howard

Public Relations Major
Kennesaw State University
Member since: 2018

Carla Carroll
Director of Global Sales
Salamander Hotels & Resorts
Member since: 2015








July 2018 Sponsor Spotlight

Thank you to our sponsors. In-kind donations from:

  • Vinny Verelli, Emcee
  • GTS Entertainment Group, Jazz Band








Vinny Verelli

The Goomba Guru of Negativity Management


Everyone says it, so it must be true, “People learn more and retain more when they’re having fun.” That’s why Vinny created The Bada Bing Philosophy, his simple and highly customized approach to negativity management.  One maxim, 2 steps, and 3 simple tools. The maxim, “If you’re not having fun you’re doing it wrong” is not only the corner stone of Vinny’s keynote, it’s a way of life. 


You might think you recognize funny keynote speaker Vinny Verelli from an episode of “Cops” but the truth is… he’s really character actor Jon Schwartz, an award winning speaker with over 40 years of professional performing experience. Jon toured prisons with his production of Samuel Becket’s Waiting For Godot and has performed mime at Carnegie Hall. He has worked with Tennessee Williams and sailed the seas as cruise director and entertainer.


For 20 years, Jon and wife Ginny King produced themed entertainment for corporate and special events in the Atlanta area winning wining eight 8 Allie Awards. He is a past president of the Georgia Chapter of the National Speakers Association and a two-time Chapter Member of the Year. In 2011, he received the Kay Herman Legacy Award for his dedication to the chapter; and in 2014, he received the NSA National President’s Award for Distinguished Service.  Although Jon did not appear on an episode of “Cops,” he did appear on an episode of “World’s Wildest Police Videos.”


Click here to learn more about Humorous Customized Keynotes and Hilarious Conference Summaries


GTS Entertainment Group, is a full service entertainment company that’s been making events for over 25 years. GTS works within the style, size, and budget needs of your event to make sure it's the best and most fun event possible. 


Todd Sparks, President of GTS Entertainment, claims: “Bios are boring, if you’re famous, everybody already knows and if you’re not, nobody cares!” Boy, does Todd have a great story. He is a singer/songwriter; and in 2010, he and Tom Hoots started a song for Southwest Airlines to celebrate a new route to Panama City, Florida. The airport is Northwest Florida Beaches (ECP). They recorded the song and sent it to Southwest Airlines. The company liked it and invited his band, The Shrimpboat Cowboys, to play for the airport grand opening. The song is entitled: “Southwest Take Me There.”


Todd, the company, and his spirited band reside in the Florida Panhandle. GTS has a plethora of happy customers. They provide entertainment and talent of all shapes and sizes – bands, performers, comedians, DJs, karaoke, and even unique teambuilding activities.


If you’re looking for something different, GTS has you covered. Click here to learn more about working with GTS Entertainment 

June 2018 Sponsor Spotlight


We are thrilled to recognize two dedicated members and their companies as sponsors of the upcoming 2018 Phoenix Awards. 

  • Steve Bales, Bold Catering & Design
  • Carla Carroll, Salamander Hotels & Resorts 

Steve Bales
Creative Director
Bold Catering & Design
Member since: 2010








 Bold Catering & Design leads the way beyond catered events to a full-service, personalized restaurant event experience. At Bold, exceptional is the standard. As a thank you for taking part in the upcoming 2018 Phoenix Awards, we would like to acknowledge Bold Catering & Design as a generous sponsor. Bold specializes in providing exclusive dining experiences, unique venues, and remarkable designs that work together to make every aspect of an event memorable.

“Bold Events is a full-service event décor company,” says Creative Director, Steve Bales. “We travel all over the East Coast designing and creating imaginative experiences for all types of events from corporate galas to receptions, hospitality tents, sporting events, and over-the-top parties.” Steve has worked with Bold since 2004 and is responsible for the formation of the company’s Design and Décor division. He has been a force in the special events industry for over 30 years.

Bales stays motivated by the constant presence of new ideas, challenges, and opportunities that provide an outlet for creativity… and his efforts have not gone unnoticed. He has won over 20 Allie Awards over the span of his career, and this past year, Biz Bash magazine named him one of the top 40 Event Designers in America.

After all of his success, Bales claims that his favorite part of his work is helping others start their own journey in the event industry.

Carla Carroll
Director of Global Sales
Salamander Hotels & Resorts
Member since: 2015









Carla Carroll represents Salamander Hotels & Resorts – a Platinum Sponsor for the upcoming 2018 Phoenix Awards. One of her favorite things about working for the company is the people because “it feels like family.”

Salamander Hotels & Resorts is a privately owned and operated company based in Middleburg, VA, just outside Washington, D.C. Founded by entrepreneur Sheila Johnson in 2005, the company has a luxury portfolio featuring two distinct collections. The Signature Collection includes the stunning Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, a 340-acre equestrian-inspired property near Washington, D.C.; The Henderson, a 170-room grand beach resort in Destin, FL; NOPSI New Orleans, a new 217-room luxury historic hotel re-imagined in the city’s Central Business District; and Hotel Bennett, a 179-room luxury hotel in Charleston, SC, opening in 2018. The Golf Collection includes the famed Innisbrook Resort in Tampa Bay, which hosts an annual PGA TOUR on its Copperhead Course; the elegant Reunion Resort in Orlando, which includes Signature Course designs from Nicklaus, Palmer and Watson; and the recently renovated oceanfront Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, FL, home to layouts by Nicklaus and Watson. All Salamander properties are members of Preferred Hotels & Resorts.

Carla serves as the Brand Ambassador and Director of Global Sales for the Southeast Region, based here in Atlanta, Georgia. She joined the company in 2017 and states her favorite things about working for the company are the people, “it feels like family. “Everyone knows Sheila Johnson, CEO, and has such a love and respect for her. Sheila’s reputation carries over into the love and personal touches she puts into her work along with the remarkable hotel and resort collection. It has truly been an honor and pleasure to work with such an amazing team of hospitality professionals.”


May 2018 Sponsor Spotlight

Pamela Shepherd
Sales Director
Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board
Member since: 2001










This month we are thrilled to recognize the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board as the Diamond Sponsor for the upcoming 2018 Phoenix Awards, City of Stars. LA is a captivating city full of dreamers, diversity, and destinations. Los Angeles received 48.3 million visitors last year, setting a new tourism milestone for the seventh succeeding year.


 “LA is going through a renaissance with thousands of new hotel rooms opening in historic and architecturally diverse buildings throughout downtown,” says Sales Director Pamela Shepherd. “With new stadiums, state of the art museums, and the 2028 Olympics, LA is positioned to be one of the world’s most exciting cities.”


 Shepherd has been utilizing her talents and expertise for the Hospitality industry since 1990, with her job experience ranging from Sales Manager to President and CEO. Throughout the years she has been affiliated with several organizations that helped contribute to her success as well.


 Shepherd has served as the President of HSMAI Georgia, PCMA Southeast, and is the current President of SITE. She has accomplished all of this while also remaining a prominent member of MPI Georgia since 1997.


 She has served on numerous committees for MPI Georgia as a member and a chair. She has also held a position on the MPI Georgia Board of Directors as the Vice President of Membership. Shepherd is a recipient of the President’s Award and the notable Hall of Fame/Lifetime Achievement Award.

 Shepherd is a huge supporter of MPI Georgia and credits the organization with building her career while also surrounding her with a lifelong career family.



We are excited to recognize the W Atlanta - Midtown as the venue hosting the 2018 Phoenix Awards, City of Stars. The hotel building is a sturdy, yet sleek architectural masterpiece with an elegant black and white design that is sure to catch the eyes of onlookers. The inside of the hotel sets the vibe of a trendy and sophisticated establishment; the perfect backdrop to celebrate our “Stars” at this year’s formal annual Awards Gala.

 The W Atlanta - Midtown offers a variety of amenities ranging from the uniquely decorated hotel rooms, soothing Bliss Spa, and 24-hour FIT gym, to the delicious TRACE restaurant and nightclub.\

 The hotel is also equipped to handle any guest events with 30,000 square feet of convenient venue space. They have multiple rooms available for occasions varying from industry meetings to glamorous weddings and everything in between.

Located in the heart of Midtown Atlanta, the W hotel is positioned in the center of some of the most desirable scenery Georgia has to offer.  Go for a walk in Piedmont Park, ride a bike along the Atlanta BeltLine, or take in the sights at the Botanical Garden, the city has so much beauty to offer and the W hotel does a magnificent job of demonstrating the significance of Atlanta to its visitors.  


Submitted by:
Megan Perks, CMP, CMM
Independent Planner
Palm House Group
Member since: 2003

January 2018 Sponsor Spotlight

Matt Clouser
Active Production & Design
Member since: 2006








Our goal is always to provide our clients the best possible service, while building positive, lasting relationships.

Active Production and Design is a full-service Audio/Visual/Production Company with a national reach, but our roots are here in Georgia, so we are thrilled to be involved with the MPI Georgia Chapter.

Active has been an MPI Georgia member for over 15 years and throughout that time we have attended and sponsored as many events as we possibly can. We believe in giving back to an industry that has embraced us as warmly as the Atlanta event industry has. In fact, one of our favorite recent events that we produced was the 2017 MPI Phoenix Awards. We loved collaborating with the MPI team and creating a truly "HOT" event with projection mapped flames, specialty acts, incredible audio, and a top-tier production crew. We have had the privilege to work with the majority of the planners that are members of MPI, whether that be through their individual business, destination management service, catering/décor services, or broader company affiliations.

Active Production and Design will be celebrating a big company milestone this year with 25 years of Audio Visual Service.

Starting as a small, one-man operation out of the back of a Jeep and growing to an A/V industry leader would not be possible without the support of MPI, its' members, and affiliates. It is truly an honor and privilege to be involved with this remarkable group.


November 2017 Sponsor Spotlight

Derek Harrell
National Sales Manager
Caesars Entertainment
Member since: 2013








This month we are excited to recognize Derek Harrell, National Sales Manager, with Caesars Entertainment. Derek started in the hospitality industry with his first college job at a Ramada Inn in Tallahassee, Florida. Little did he know that working as a banquet server would shape the 20-year career he continues to enjoy today.

Derek has been in Atlanta for many years working the gambit of different hospitality roles. From front desk to housekeeping, Drury Inn to Marriott; Derek has worked for a lot of local properties. Most know Derek from his years with Marriott. He spent many of them at the Evergreen Marriott Resort in Stone Mountain, as well as the beautiful Atlanta Marriott Gateway Hotel at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. That’s enough about his past, what has Derek been up to lately?

For the past five years Derek has been a part of the largest gaming company in the world –Caesars Entertainment. He is responsible for representing Caesar Entertainment’s Las Vegas and the Atlantic City properties for groups with 200+ rooms for clients based in Georgia and South Carolina. Derek loves what he does. Although he does not gamble, he truly enjoys working in the gaming-hospitality industry… Never a dull day.

Derek was recently married to his beautiful wife, Allison. They have three wonderful children:  Preston (10), Talia (5), and Logan (3 months). Derek enjoys traveling and recently had a week-long trip in Paris. The Harrell family enjoys spending time with family and friends, and making the most of each weekend. Derek is into all types of sci-fi from Doctor Who to Star Trek. He absolutely loves watching old westerns, classic noir films, and any movie that comes on The Movie Channel (TMC)… his favorite cable station.


October 2017 Sponsor Spotlight

Beth Brown
Director of Sales
Awesome Alpharetta
Member since: 2000









Alpharetta. Meetings by Design.

Alpharetta is designed for right-sized events with over 23 upscale, modern hotels boasting more than 3,000 guest rooms and a multitude of meeting spaces that perfectly accommodate from 10 to 2,500 attendees. Currently, Alpharetta’s largest event space is just over 10,000 square feet.

The Alpharetta Conference Center will arrive at Alpharetta’s Avalon in January 2018 with over 44,000 square feet of flexible event space for retreats, conferences, and meetings. Attendees will experience genuine, resort-style hospitality infused throughout the beautiful, cosmopolitan community of Avalon with chic shopping, chef-driven dining, and wonderful entertainment just steps from the hotel and conference center.

The city has a multitude of activities to keep event attendees busy during their downtime. Five shopping districts with 250+ shops paired with over 10 music and entertainment venues are ideal for evening free time. There is something to please everyone’s palate with over 200 chef-inspired dining options and four cooking schools. Nearly every week in Alpharetta lends itself to extraordinary events and festivals filling the downtown streets with laughter and lively energy in the beautiful Georgia weather.

Alpharetta was voted 7th Friendliest Town by Forbesone of the Safest Cities in Georgia by Safewise and Best Atlanta Suburb by Movoto. The Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau staff sets the bar high with the level of service, complimentary planning resources, and individualized consultation for meeting planners who are considering Alpharetta as their event destination.

The Alpharetta CVB team understands how important it is to build a hands-on relationship with each client to understand their needs and ensure a successful event experience.  Click here to visit Awesome Alpharetta or contact Beth Brown to start planning your next event in Alpharetta. 


September 2017 Sponsor Spotlight


Envision your future meeting in the destination that continues to set the trend. Experience Atlanta’s vibrant neighborhoods, award-winning dining scene, must-visit attractions and remarkable meeting venues.

[Discover Atlanta]  

Over the next four years, Atlanta will see more than $3 billion in new development. An integral part of the city’s evolution is the GWCCA 2020 Vision.

The world’s largest LEED certified convention center is expanding, transforming the No.1 convention, sports and entertainment destination in the world. What does that mean for you? Everything you need for your meeting will happen on a much more compact campus. The new developments include:

• Multi-use expansion hall at GWCC creates 1M+ GSF of contiguous exhibit space (nearly 1.5M GSF overall)

• New retractable-roof stadium, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Home to Super Bowl L111)

• New on-campus headquarter hotel

• $27 million re-envisioning of Centennial Olympic Park

[See Video


August 2017 Sponsor Spotlight

Mike Michel
InFounder and President
PInline Meetings & Site Selection
Member since: 1995

This month we recognize InLine Meetings & Site Selection led by Mike Michel, former MPI GA President, serving 2014-15. Mike started his hospitality career in 1989. After 13 years in the hotel business, he branched out on his own in 2005. Mike and his team are long-term, strategic partners with their clients. They pride themselves on making each meeting experience amazing for their clients; and providing excellent customer service, while riding the cutting-edge of our industry.  

But let’s talk about Mike – the man behind the mission.

Mike is a valued member of many hospitality organizations here in Atlanta. If you want to have a fun, valuable, and memorable networking opportunity, be sure to track him down at an event and sit at his table… his energy is contagious. Some of Mike’s honors and awards include:

·        President - MPI Georgia Chapter 2014-2015

·        President - PCMA 2009

·        Director - MPI Georgia Chapter

·        Director - PCMA

·        Sponsorship Winner - PCMA

·        Shining Star Award Sponsor - MPI Georgia Chapter

    ... just to name a few.

Mike is a family man and has been busy this summer enjoying the outdoors with his wife and two kids. They enjoy playing tennis, going to the lake to boat, and just hanging out outside in the backyard. Mike was introduced the Atlanta chapter 2000. He has also been a member of St. Louis, Missouri, and Austin, Texas, chapters. When asked about his most memorable chapter event, Mike recalls when he was the Director of Sales at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead and they hosted the Phoenix Awards in 2003. “It was my first Phoenix Awards and it was the wildest event ever. It changed the way we did the Phoenix Awards moving forward.”


Submitted by:
Tim Barrett, CMP
Director, Meeting & Program Operations
Destination South Meetings + Events
Vice President, Communications - MPI Georgia
Member since: 2014




June 2017 Sponsor Spotlight

  Barnsley Resort
Adairsville, Georgia

Your contact:
Ginny Izydore 

In December, the 2016-17 mid-year MPI Georgia Board of Directors’ planning retreat was generously hosted by Barnsley Resort.

The present-day Barnsely Resort hosts the ruins of Woodlands, an Italianate villa built in the 1840s by Godfrey Barnsley for his wife, Julia. Unfortunately, Julia passed away before the home was completed and before the next several decades of historical events occurred including the Civil War. The War wasn’t the only time blood was shed on the property, though. During the Depression, two descendants engaged in a gun battle over the management of the estate blood stains still visible in the resort’s museum.

Today, Barnsley Resort welcomes leisure travelers, wedding parties, and groups to this growing property just 60 miles outside Atlanta. Currently under construction, the Inn at Barnsley Resort will add 55 new rooms and suites to the existing 90 guest rooms and suites among the 36 free-standing cottages. Georgian Hall is anticipated to open in early 2018 and will bring the resort’s total indoor meeting space to 16,000 square feet. This new space will feature a ballroom accommodating up to 500 guests.

It’s been said, “teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Uncommon results can be found in uncommon ways at Barnsley Resort. With more than 3,000 acres to play with, the resort prides itself on providing unique teambuilding activities within a natural setting. A popular option is Rodeo Roundup, where cowboys guide teams through a series of western-themed challenges like roping competitions, horseshoe pitching, BB shooting, archery rodeo clown relay, and more.

Barnsley Resort offers activities for all guests to enjoy. There’s an 18-hole Jim Fazio-designed golf course, paintball field, walking trails, restaurants, and the opportunity to unwind at The Spa at Barnsley Resort. 

May 2017 Sponsor Spotlight

    Photosynthesis Studio

Your MPI Georgia Contact:
Devon McKenna
Owner & Lead Behind-Camera Dancer
Member since 2017

This month we share our appreciation with our annual photography sponsor – Photosynthesis Studio.

Devon McKenna was “that” kid. The kid who would wander off from her parents because she saw something she wanted to take a picture of. As the daughter of an art major, many summers were spent in studios where she learned she couldn’t draw “to save my life.” She found herself to be a talented writer but lacked the passion. In her second year at the University of Georgia, she took a photojournalism elective and fell in love. For her, it was the perfect combination of the storytelling that drew her to journalism and the art side that frustrated her with paper and pencil.

McKenna started Photosynthesis Studio in 2004 upon graduating with a photojournalism degree from UGA. Seeking employment as a newspaper photographer, she made ends meet with numerous freelancing jobs ranging from residential interiors to headshots and weddings. Finding her niche, she immersed herself with several photography companies picking up those tricks of the trade one doesn’t utilize in photojournalism like lighting and posing. Then, as so many experienced, the economy tanked.

“I got heavily into weddings, because people were still getting married,” she said, “but I really missed shooting events.”

A year ago, Devon had the opportunity to sign on as MPI Georgia’s annual photography sponsor and she feels it’s been a great first year. She loves working with industry professionals who appreciate good photography and understands the importance this documentation offers.

Devon described her involvement with MPI Georgia as a bit of a “coming home” experience. She feels that shooting events brings out her photojournalism roots and loves delivering a beautiful photo out of any subject opportunity. “How many times can you photograph a speaker at a podium,” she jokingly asked. She continued by saying “I like the challenge of making it more than it was.”   

A badge of honor for McKenna and Photosynthesis Studio is the fact that she has been chosen repeatedly over big Los Angeles and New York City-based studios for photography services. She has a client that has sent her on four different jobs to photograph private schools for their rebranding and marketing. Ask her about Gwyneth Paltrow the next time you see her.

When asked her advice for planners in our chapter as it relates to hiring a photographer, McKenna advises to get to know copyright laws. “It’s all very confusing, even to photographers” she said. “I don’t think there’s enough education on who gets the photos and how – legally – you can share them.” She encourages an open dialogue with the planner and end client as it relates to proper usage and attempts to cover that in her proposal process so that everyone’s goals can be met.

Devon recognizes the efforts of the planner and vendor partners in creating a special event. “Once the event is over,” she said, “the only thing left to show for all the hard work is the photography.”    

April 2017 Sponsor Spotlight

Active Production and Design
AV Production Services since 1993

Your MPI Georgia Contact:

Matt Clouser 
President and CEO, Member Since: 2006


This month we share our appreciation with one of our long-time sponsors – Active Production and Design.

Active Production and Design Inc. has been providing professional services for corporate, special, social, and fashion events across the nation since 1993. As a full-service AV company specializing in every aspect of the audio/visual field, they take pride in owning and stocking a multimillion dollar inventory of the most technologically advanced equipment. Their expertise is in event production and technical execution in industries across the board. This dedication leads to unsurpassed client satisfaction and customer service is guaranteed with every interaction with the Active Team allowing them to be preferred and exclusive AV provider for hotels, museums, and event venues around the country.

Active Production and Design believes they are not just AV specialists and designers, but AV Production consultants with a team that will guide you every step of the way, ensuring that you understand what capabilities and technologies your event requires.

Social Media platforms, effective communications, and cutting edge presentations are now, more than ever, the most important aspect of delivering your company's message. Technology is leading the way of today’s economy. Your organizations growth and ability to remain ahead of its competitors relies on your ability to discover new technologies and utilize them to form that emotional bond with your clients and employees.

You can always count on Active to not only get the job done, but get it right, in a professional, timely and cost effective manner.


Submitted by:
Jude Creamer
Manager, Global Accounts
Member since: October 2016

March 2017 Sponsor Spotlight


Jekyll Island Bringing Home the Gold  

Congratulations to Maria Weiss and her Meeting/Events team at the Jekyll Island Authority – top winner at the Southeast Festivals and Events Association (SFEA) Kaleidoscope Awards Ceremony in Lexington, KY last month. They won gold for both Best Festival in the Southeast and Best Poster, beating out more than 115 entries from 20 organizations for the top prize. 


The Kaleidoscope Awards, named to reflect the many different elements and facets within festivals and events, recognize the best and the brightest for their outstanding contribution to the events industry. The Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival will celebrate its 12th year September 15-18, 2017. More than 45,000 visitors enjoyed live music, a Craft Brew Fest, unique experience pavilions, curated art, and craft vendors. 


Jekyll Island, a small barrier island on Georgia’s coast, is dedicated to maintaining the delicate balance between nature and humankind through conservation, education, and preservation. Surrounded by salt marshes, expansive oceanfront, and one of the last accessible, intact ancient maritime forests, it is a peaceful coastal habitat situated within the Golden Isles. From 20 miles of bike paths to historic cottages, the island is a place of discovery and exploration for the people of Georgia and beyond. 


We invite you to join us in celebrating the magnificence of Jekyll Island. Click here to learn about the Turtle Crawl in May and other upcoming events this spring and summer. 

Submitted by:
Tim Barrett, CMP
Director, Meeting & Program Operations
Destination South Meetings + Events
Vice President, Communications - MPI Georgia
Member since: 2014



 January 2017 Sponsor Spotlight

Danny Bacher
Topper Worldwide Trasportation
Director, Membership - MPI Georgia
Member since: 2014


This month we share our appreciation with one of our Annual Sponsors – Topper Worldwide

Topper Worldwide is a family-owned and operated chauffeured transportation business founded in 1986 and headquartered in Atlanta. They pride themselves on their level of service, commitment to safety, and technology offerings, and are eager to show you this difference.

For meeting and event planners, they offer a dedicated project manager throughout the event to verify flights and provide accurate and timely trip manifests including a live link that will show the most up-to-date information. Calls into their office are answered by a live person around-the-clock; and are recorded for quality as well as an opportunity to train. Additional services include shuttle service assistance with a wide variety of vehicles. Their dedicated team can assist with planning and routing as well as providing your organization with a potential revenue stream through the use of vehicle wrapping which sponsors love.

The professionally trained Topper Worldwide chauffeurs receive ongoing instruction in all aspects of safety and you can rest assured they are fully licensed and insured. The company offers $5 million in liability insurance for their fleet of the latest model vehicles. When it comes time to settle the bill, Topper protects you with compliant credit card encryption. 

Having embraced the technology available, Topper Worldwide offers seamless communication with their clients through their desired method with online, text, and email services available. Each vehicle is equipped with GPS tracking to ensure their on-time performance of 99.7%.

Topper also offers several green initiatives that are attractive to clients. In addition to their hybrid and electric vehicles, they boast an energy conscious office. Warehouse energy costs were reduced by over 95% due to transparent roof panels and their office flooring is made of 100% recycled material. Not to mention their organic vegetable garden tended by employees and vehicles which are washed with captured rainwater.

Topper Worldwide has grown to become one of the world’s premier chauffeured transportation providers. They are large enough to accommodate groups for any type of private or corporate events, but small enough to provide the boutique feelings that they have become synonymous with. Find out for yourself by visiting their website.

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