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2023 IAEE Award Recipients

The IAEE Awards Program is designed to recognize IAEE members who have made outstanding contributions to the exhibitions and events industry. Congratulations to the 2023 IAEE Award recipients!

Pinnacle Award
Larry Arnaudet
Executive Director
Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA)

Larry Arnaudet entered the exhibitions and events industry in 1970 with Manncraft Exhibitors Services in New Orleans, and proceeded to become an instrumental force in advancing the industry. His visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to promoting education, disseminating knowledge and introducing innovative techniques have had a profound impact on the industry’s growth and professionalism.

A notable contribution among his many achievements is his inception, creation and implementation of the ESCA Badge program. This groundbreaking program, aimed at enhancing security measures for the entire industry, has played a vital role in safeguarding attendees, exhibitors and staff at events. Under his guidance, the ESCA Badge program has become a widely recognized industry standard, reflecting his dedication to perpetuating the highest ideals of trust and professionalism in the field.

Larry is an IAEE charter associate member and has been active with various industry associations, leaving an indelible mark on the industry through his genuine passion and commitment to building lasting relationships.

Watch Larry’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023:


Bob Dallmeyer Educator of the Year Award
Donna Johnson, CEM-AP, CMP
Vice President, Operations, Strategic Events, Meetings and Incentives

As CEM Faculty, Donna Johnson, CEM, CMP has been praised for her dedication to her students’ success and her ability to foster a positive learning environment that has made her a beloved mentor and teacher. Her teaching style, which emphasizes project management and creative thinking, receives high praise from CEM students. In addition to her teaching achievements, Donna’s leadership as the 2023 CEM Commission Chair has been highly commendable as she consistently thinks outside the box to deliver innovative ideas. She also contributes to the Education Committee, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to continuing education.

Watch Donna’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023:


Chapter Merit Award
Ray Baum
Director, Business Development
The Expo Group

Ray Baum has served on the IAEE Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter Board of Directors since January 2019. His combined attitude and willingness to further the industry have been crucial in the chapter’s successful efforts to provide relevant, well-organized events and sponsorship dollars. Ray’s contributions include creating new programs and enhancing existing programs that have directly engaged new chapter members and opportunities for learning; championing efforts for the IAEE DFW Chapter’s sponsorships programs; and serving, in addition to the IAEE DFW Board, as the IAEE Southwest Chapter Director of Marketing & Communications as well as on numerous IAEE committees for education, including the Expo! Expo! Advisory Committee.

Watch Ray’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023:


Chapter Merit Award
Sarah Kokernot, CEM, CMP
Director of Meetings and Events
Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Society

Sarah Kokernot, CEM, CMP has been hailed “a standard and saving grace” of the Central Texas Chapter since COVID. Chapter colleagues praised her for her leadership, drive and determination over the past three years. With the large turnover in the industry and the chapter, she has made calls, held meeting after meeting and recruited individuals to volunteer for leadership in the chapter. Sarah has led by example with passion and dedication for IAEE, and is on every call for the chapter and leading the chapter meetings and social events. Her nominators praised her ideas as new, innovative and a welcome freshness to the chapter.

Watch Sarah’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023:


Chapter Merit Award
Yalonde Tanner
Deputy Director, Conferences and Management Services
Georgia Municipal Association

With an impressive IAEE membership spanning 28 years, members of the IAEE Southeastern Chapter praised Yalonde Tanner as a cornerstone of dedication and commitment. She presently serves as Chapter Chair, however, has held various positions on the Board consistently for many years. Yalonde’s exceptional leadership was showcased as she successfully chaired the 2022 Southeastern Classic, a hallmark event of the chapter. This two-day educational conference not only exemplified her strategic prowess but also granted attendees continuing education credits toward their CEM designation. Under her guidance, the SE Classic blossomed into a platform that provided invaluable educational avenues for the chapter’s membership. Beyond her role as Chair, Yalonde has steadfastly represented the SE Chapter at crucial IAEE Chapter Leader meetings and other key industry events.

Watch Yalonde’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023:


Distinguished Service Award
Aaron Bludworth
Former CEO (Retired)

Aaron Bludworth’s illustrious career in the exhibitions and events industry spans over three decades. Beginning his career at Modern Exposition Services in Salt Lake City, he showcased an innate aptitude for leadership, strategic thinking and innovation. Building on those traits, he progressed professionally, culminating in taking the helm at Fern Expo in 2008. Under his visionary and values-based leadership approach, the company flourished, establishing itself as North America’s third-largest official services contractor.

In addition to his contributions to Fern, Aaron has always been a staunch advocate for the industry’s significance. He has actively engaged with policymakers at the local, state, and national levels, ensuring that the interests of the exhibition community are always at the forefront. Additionally, he has always been a trusted and respected voice for the industry, often being interviewed about important issues impacting the industry, appearing on numerous industry panels across multiple industry organizations, partaking in podcasts regularly, and being a consistent voice for the industry on social media.

Leaning into the organization’s culture, he believed in the value of giving back. He made it a point to support Fern team members in volunteering in the industry and their local communities. On a personal level, he spent many years serving numerous industry organizations including CEIR and ESCA, eventually serving as chairperson of both organizations. He has also served multiple DMOs, including the Cincinnati CVB as a Board Member and Louisville Tourism as part of their Customer Advisory Council. Aaron also gives his time and energy to numerous community and religious organizations.

Watch Aaron’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023:


Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Impact Award
Rochelle Richardson, CEM
Senior Vice President, Exposition and Event Services

Rochelle Richardson, CEM exemplifies this award in all her actions in the workplace, the trade show and events industries, and her local community. As the first Chair of IAEE’s newly created Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, she envisioned a plan with target goals – a difficult task with a brand-new committee and 10 people bringing their own goals. In her tenure as Chair, Rochelle guided IAEE initiatives through a DE&I lens, worked with IAEE staff and external partners to anonymously survey the trade show industry for a base line understanding of gender, race and sexual orientation. Rochelle’s passion to help young people, especially underrepresented and minority communities, is immense. Her biggest achievement was bringing to life the IAEE Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Scholarship for high school graduates offering educational opportunities and paths to high paying jobs in the trade show industry resulting in the first scholarship being awarded this year.

Watch Rochelle’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023:


Innovative Business Solution Award
Tony Rissley
Expo Auctions

Tony Rissley has led his company, Expo Auctions, in providing a revolutionary solution designed to transform the auction experience and create professional, memorable, entertaining fundraising activities so that organizers can focus on easily obtaining financial resources for their cause. In 2022, Expo Auctions facilitated over $900k dollars in bidding for trade associations across the country. Expo Auctions is trusted by industry leaders including, but not limited to, CEIR, IAEE, ESCA, PCMA, GSAE, AENC, FSAE, TSAE, TNSAE, NECA and many more. Expo Auctions has significantly impacted the industry by setting new standards, reshaping customer expectations, partnering with many industry leaders, and increasing the overall donations.

Watch Tony’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023:


International Excellence Award
Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM)

The Macao Trade & Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM) joined IAEE in 2006 and has maintained close ties with the association, especially in the area of education. Its leaders have been invited as keynote speakers to forums organized by IAEE as well as other industry organizations. In order to further promote industry workforce development, IPIM has worked with IAEE since 2018 to host the Certified in Exhibition Management Learning Program (CEM China). IAEE’s CEM Learning Program facilitated by IPIM not only attracts local students in Macao, but also draws students from mainland China. In addition, IPIM also provides tuition and transportation subsidies for students coming to Macao. As such, IPIM promotes IAEE’s education offerings and presence in the region.

Watch IPIM’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023:


Outstanding Marketing & Sales Award
American Academy of Neurology

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN), founded in 1948, is the world’s largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals with over 40,000 members. The organization’s mission is to promote the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care and enhance member career satisfaction. The AAN has hosted its marquee conference – the AAN Annual Meeting – since 1949. The meeting is open to members and nonmembers, and provides programming across career levels and neurology subspecialties. In 2023, the AAN celebrated its 75th Anniversary at its Annual Meeting which took place in Boston, MA, occupying the entire Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and live online. The AAN team executed an exceptional strategy that exceeded revenue and attendance goals critical to attracting attendance from industry partners (i.e., pharmaceutical companies, biopharmaceutical, medical device companies, recruiters, hospital networks, publishers, associations/non-profit) to the meeting.

Watch AAN’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023:


Volunteer of the Year Award
Ryan Lovell, CEM-AP
Associate Environmental Producer

With a passionate interest in the CEM Commission, chapter participation and education, Ryan Lovell, CEM-AP has dedicated his time to consistently participating in various IAEE initiatives including the IAEE Education Committee, IAEE Expo! Expo! Advisory Committee and the IAEE CEM Commission. In his work on the CEM Commission, he has helped to develop and improve the CEM educational curriculum through his consistent and comprehensive efforts. He regularly volunteers his time and expertise in the events industry to help mentor up-and-coming young professionals while advocating for his peers to join IAEE.

Watch Ryan’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023:


Woman of Achievement Award
Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, CEM
President and Chief Marketing Strategist
mdg, A Freeman Company

Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, CEM stands as an indefatigable leader with a ceaseless dedication to innovation that propels her mission to enhance association and organizer events. For more than 20 years, she has been an active and powerful presence in the industry through her involvement with IAEE, CEIR and the Exhibitions Mean Business campaign (to name a few) in addition to original initiatives such as the pioneering CEO Roundtables series she launched in response to COVID. Kimberly is proud of her woman-run business (prior to the agency’s acquisition by Freeman) and has always sought to support and grow strong female leaders within the agency. She serves as a mentor both within the agency, and to clients and industry colleagues seeking career advice for themselves and their children. She has supported several woman and family-friendly initiatives within the agency, including its mom’s support network and new mom’s toolkit.

Watch Kimberly’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023:


Young Professional of the Year Award
Lauren Miller, CMP, CEM
Event Manager

Lauren Miller, CMP, CEM has impressed colleagues with her outstanding dedication, commitment, and contribution to the events and exhibitions industry. Lauren consistently demonstrates a strong commitment to promoting and attracting young individuals to the industry using collaboration as her hallmark approach. As an active member of the Midwestern Chapter, she serves as a co-chair for the Programming Committee where she contributes innovative ideas and strategies for upcoming networking events. Her creativity resonates with young professionals, ensuring their continued interest and active participation. Lauren also goes above and beyond by encouraging colleagues to pursue the Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM) designation. This mentoring and educational role speaks volumes about her commitment to the growth of young professionals, providing guidance on the CEM process and even coordinating joint attendance at CEM Week.

Watch Lauren’s acceptance video below, which debuted at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023: