2017 Live Event Awards Judging Committee
David Sonntag, President & CEO
Decibel Management, Alexandria, Virginia
David has extensive experience creating, planning, and producing live events. David launched Decibel Management in 2007 in order to follow his passion for live events, experiential marketing, meetings, and conferences.
David manages a number of long-term clients and event properties. He has been an integral part of the National Book Festival since 2003 and for the past six years, David has served as event producer for the Festival. David was also selected as one of the producers for the 69th Annual Horatio Alger Awards Ceremony, held in Washington, DC in 2016. This included working with the Association on numerous events including the Induction Ceremony with Justice Clarence Thomas in the Supreme Court; the Induction Celebration at the Mellon Auditorium; lunch meetings in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the Department of State; and the main awards dinner at DAR Constitution Hall. David was tapped again in 2017 for the 70th Annual Awards. David has also been a US multi-year producer for the National Small Business Week Awards for the US Small Business Administration.
Prior to forming Decibel Management, David oversaw events as a Vice President at the public relations firm FleishmanHillard, where he gained valuable experience on message development and delivery. David has also managed a number of mobile tours, including the DoubleTree by Hilton Cookie CAREavan and Little Things tours; the Crystal Light WaterWay Challenge; Say Boo! to the Flu tour for Clorox; and the Voices of Civil Rights Tour for AARP. Other clients have included Vice President Dick Cheney, First Lady Laura Bush, Governor Chris Christie, AARP, Texas Education Agency and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association. David’s events have won numerous awards, including six Silver Anvils and two PR Week Awards. The reporting during the Voices of Civil Rights bus tour won a Peabody Award.
Richard Black, Chief Marketing Officer, North America
Momentum Worldwide, New York, New York
Celeste Blanton, Account Executive
Global Experience Specialists (GES) Events, Irving, Texas
I help create epic experiences in the B2B and B2C market place on both a domestic and international level. We develop a full range of strategic solutions for clients with creative ideas and innovations to build the companies brand and enhance face-to-face marketing needs. A University of Alabama grad, I started in the live event world in 2014 and am always looking for the next exciting trend.
Melinda Curley, Founder and Executive Producer
Cloverlea Entertainment LLC, Edgewater, Maryland
Melinda brings extensive experience to her work which spans dramatic and live genres in the corporate, not-for-profit, public and private sectors. She’s known for her high touch style and integrating all program elements so they work in tandem and build into a meaningful message.
Suzanne Darmory, Executive Creative Director
Zeta Global, New York, New York
Suzanne has over 20 years of international, award-winning experience and is Executive Creative Director at Zeta (formerly Acxiom Impact) where she is responsible for: setting the overall creative strategy, advising clients on creative best practices, leading business development for the agency, strengthening the creative offering, and managing creative P&L. She has spent most of her career at agencies in New York (Arnold, Deutsch, Grey, JWT, Moxie, mcgarrybowen, Ogilvy, R/GA) and three years in London (Bates UK, Euro RSCG, Imagination, Ogilvy & Mather).
Saraida De Marchena Kaluche, President & CEO
Markatel, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
President of Markatel, a corporate communications, PR & events Management Company, seminars, congresses and conventions, nationally and internationally, founded in 1999. Strategist, Consultant, Communicator, Lecturer and Trainer in Communication and Oratory. She is a highly experienced professional, both in the Dominican Republic and international markets (United States, Latin America and Europe), with 32 years of practice in communications and wide recognition as a consultant and strategist. During her professional career she has handled PR and communication to more than 300 national and multinational brands, in different sectors of industry and economy. In her role of communicator she has held various positions, including news anchor, panel programs, opinion, variety magazine, special event broadcasts, international correspondent and TV producer. Master of ceremonies for more than 30 years. During her career she has earned a solid reputation and great recognition in Dominican society, earning several awards and distinctions. In 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2015, 2016 she was selected by the prestigious Revista Mercado amongst the top "Successful and Power 50 Women Entrepreneurs of Dominican Republic". In 2007, the international publication Summa® named her one of the top 75 entrepreneurs and executives of Latin America and the Caribbean. Honored in 2008 by the Latin American Federation of Schools of Communication / University of Seville and The European Institute for Communication and Development in Spain with the award to “Excellency in Public Relations, 2008”. Winner of "Best Latin America Entrepreneur 2011", in the 8th. Annual Awards of the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, being the first and only Dominican in receiving this award. In 2012 she was once again selected by the prestigious Summa Magazine as one of the 50 Women in Command in the Region, in her special edition of "Mujeres al Mando".
Natalia Diaz-Payton, Marketing Specialist
Forte Payment Systems, Allen, Texas
Natalia Diaz-Payton is an award winning content marketer and event producer with a passion for branding and live events. Her adaptability has enabled her to work in various fields including film, education, finance, sports and live entertainment. She has worked in tandem with some of the biggest event producers including Clear Channel, STAPLES Center, Los Angeles Clippers (NBA), LA Galaxy (MLS) and the Los Angeles Kings (NHL).
Brian Dressel, President
M1 Interactive, Inc., Chicago, Illinois
Brian Dressel is the President and Creative Director of M1 Interactive. With almost 25 years of experience in producing and directing large scale multimedia displays, Brian formed M1 Interactive in 2005 with a passion for interactive storytelling with a story-first approach to technological implementations. He specializes in user experience design and narrative development for immersive environments, user needs analysis, creative direction, interactive branding strategies, technology frameworks & platform specification.
Katherine Goldman, Creative Director/Writer/Brand Marketer
Miami Ad School, New York, New York
Katherine Goldman is a multi-media creative director, running The Very Thing. At Jack Morton Worldwide in New York she led strategy development and creative application for major clients including Verizon, IBM, UPS, Pitney Bowes, The Wall Street Journal, Goldman Sachs, CA Technologies, Panasonic and Xerox.
Mark Howell, President
Mark Joseph Creative Development Group, San Diego, California
With over twenty-two years of experience in theme park entertainment, special events, corporate theater, film/Television and headline entertainment, Mark Howell’s footprints are all over the entertainment industry. From an early career with the Walt Disney Company, Mark went on to help develop and manage projects for NBC Universal both domestically and internationally including the installation and opening of two major theme parks, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Japan, Osaka. Currently, Mark is the President of Mark Joseph Creative, an award-winning, full-service event entertainment company and creative production firm that delivers extraordinary experiences for clients around the world. Mark is an award winning producer, most recently for his work creating and producing the San Diego Zoo Centennial Celebration. This spectacular production has been nominated for 5 awards and winning the Special Event Gala Award for Best Entertainment Theatrical Production.
Brittany Irby, Client Solutions Manager
FreemanXP, Dallas, Texas
Brittany has been producing corporate events and exhibit builds for the past 7 years. During her career, she has worked in several positions throughout the tradeshow industry including Exhibitor Services, CRM Administration and Account Management for Corporate Clients (both exhibits and events). Brittany has had the opportunity to work on numerous large tradeshows across the US in various cities and venues for corporate clients. Brittany has worked alongside different departments including operations and project management to ensure flawless execution.
Stacey Kerans, Senior Vice President, Brand Marketing
Ketchum Public Relations, Washington, D.C.
Stacey Kerans is a Senior Vice President at Ketchum. She has 20 years of award-winning integrated marketing communications experience and specializes in brand reputation management, experiential live event marketing, and media relations. Previously, she worked in the Press Office of the Sundance Film Festival where she managed red carpet premiere events.
Claudia Koehler, Corporate Vice President
VOK DAMS Events & Live-Marketing, Buffalo, New York
Claudia joined VOK DAMS in 2008 – today she is successfully orchestrating the day-to-day business of the VOK DAMS group – with offices in the U.S.A., Germany, France, Spain, Middle East and China. Before joining VOK DAMS Claudia was in the telecommunications industry and PCO business.
Jesse Meyer, Event Strategist
Nth Degree, Wake Forest, North Carolina
Jesse has spent over 15 years in the event-management industry and serves as senior
strategist and advisor providing account direction for technology clients. He develops and leads the execution of account and strategic planning for large-scale programs and works closely with client and project management teams to ensure all work is delivered on brand, on time, and on budget. Clients include RSA Conference, Qualcomm, Intel, Pegasystems, HubSpot, Deluxe, CoreOS.
Amy Olson, Fashion Show & Event Producer
There’s no such thing as a second first impression. Amy Olson has used that motto for some time and she knows it holds true to any live event, show production or photo shoot. Part of what she does best is taking herself out of the equation. It’s about the clients vision, the designers dream, the way the guest feels when she walks through the door, and most importantly, what the end result looks like. Amy’s 18 year career brings the proper styling, the perfect back drop, the right lighting, and the best team to any project. Amy has over 3,000 productions under her belt from large scale fashion shows, to photo shoots, to live tv appearances. Some of her clients and past experience includes the Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, and The View. Designer fashion shows including Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Carolina Herrera, and Yves St. Laurent. Currently Amy is styling for a global footwear company that takes her all over the world shooting their various campaigns. Amy is a founding board member of the Chicago Fashion Incubator that mentors emerging Chicago based designers, and is also a board member of the Mayor’s Fashion Council of Chicago founded by former Mayor Richard Daley in 2007.
Avis Richards, CEO/Founder
Birds Nest Foundation/Productions, New York, New York
David Saef, EVP, Strategy & MarketWorks
Global Experience Specialists (GES), Hodgkins, Illinois
David leads MarketWorks, a strategy and marketing advisory service helping event organizers and marketers drive attendance, engagement, and returns. Clients include Pfizer, Penton, Solar Energy Trade Shows, California Dental Association and Procter & Gamble.
Kim Sheeter, Writer/Creative Director
Freelance, Ormond Beach, Florida
Kim Sheeter has served as writer and creative director for Disney Event Productions, Disney Institute, and production companies responsible for million dollar-plus events.. She develops theatrical elements, live presentations, and video and has been involved in every aspect of production.
Steve Sellery, CEO & Founder
Iconic Media Group, Inc., Greenville, North Carolina
Steve Sellery has pioneered several highly acclaimed live events and award-winning branded entertainment platforms—engaging audiences around the world. His thought leadership is credited with creating iconically-driven content for live and broadcast audiences, while developing brand strategies and integrated marketing partnerships throughout the sports, hospitality and entertainment industries.