Meet your 2019 IRF Education Day speakers: 
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Opening remarks

Mike May
President, Brightspot Incentives & Events
IRF Chair

Mike May, CMP, IP, is President and owner of Brightspot Incentives & Events, a full-service performance improvement company based in Dallas, Texas. Brightspot helps enterprise clients drive performance improvement and channel engagement through group incentive travel, recognition and incentive programs, event planning, and engagement campaigns - with creativity, flexibility, and a commitment to results. Under Mike’s leadership, Brightspot has quadrupled in size, added many Fortune 1000 clients, and broadened its expertise. Mike is also a member of the Performance Improvement Council of IMA and regular presenter at The Motivation Show and IMA webinars.

Jim Kelley
Vice President, Marketing and Industry Relations, Fern Expo
IRF Treasurer

Jim Kelley brings to the table decades of trade show and corporate meetings industry experience. He came to Fern in 2019 from Production Resource Group (PRG). Jim's career prior to that spanned the industry, including roles with exposition service contractors, convention centers and hotels. Committed to supporting the professional growth of the industry, Jim has been active in PCMA, both locally and nationally. In 2014 he was honored by PCMA as the “Distinguished Service Professional of the Year.” Additionally, he is active with the Incentive Research Foundation and Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA). Jim is excited to be part of a company with a deep-rooted culture of service and solutions that is designed around the customer first.

morning keynote

Scott Burrows


As an all-star athlete, Scott played college football at FSU and was a top-ranked kickboxing champion whose last fight was broadcast by ESPN. During the height of his athletic career, Scott survived a horrific car crash, suffering a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. With singular focus, however, he boosted his recovery using the principles of Vision-Mindset-Grit and eventually found himself competing again—this time in a sport called full-contact wheelchair rugby, aka Murderball.

After graduating from college, Scott qualified for the Million Dollar Round Table in the insurance industry, a 100% commission-driven sales award. At the pinnacle of that career, he was involved in a second automobile accident. New injuries forced him to RE-evaluate, RE-invent and once again RE-ignite his life. As a result, he decided to leave an industry he had so much passion for to pursue an opportunity to partner with his brother, who was expanding his golf course fertilizer business into Southeast Asia.

Today, as a keynote motivational speaker and bestselling author, Scott delivers presentations around the globe, sharing his compelling story of tragedy and triumph. His real-life experiences, captivating message of perseverance and eloquent storytelling are sure to leave you spellbound.

Afternoon keynote

Simon T. Bailey
Chief Executive Officer, Simon T. Bailey International

Simon T. Bailey is a Breakthrough Strategist whose life's purpose is to teach 1 billion+ people how to be fearless and create their future.

He equips companies with the tools necessary to effect cultural transformation resulting in higher employee engagement and platinum customer service experiences. He challenges individuals to dig deep to find and release their inner brilliance and become Chief Breakthrough Officers - personally and professionally.

With more than 30 years' experience in the hospitality industry, including serving as sales director as Disney Institute, Simon knows how to engage and inspire leaders and team members through his keynotes, workshops, books and online courses. He has personally worked with more than 1,700 organizations in 46 coutnries since launching Simon T. Bailey International more than 15 years ago.

Simon has been names one of the top 25 people who will help you reach your business and life goals by SUCCESS magazine, joining a list that includes Brene Brown, Tony Robbins, and Oprah Winfrey. He is the author of ten books including his most recent release: Be the SPARK: Five Platinum Service Principles for Creating Customers for Life. His Building Business Relationships on on on LinkedIn has been viewed by more than 864,000 people. His Goalcast video, released Father's Day 2018, has over 63 million views worldwide.

Simon holds a Master's degree from Faith Christian University and was inducted as an honorary member of the University of Central Florida Golden Key Honor Society.

When he is not working, Simon spends quality time with his two active teenagers, roots for the Buffalo Bills, and serves as a board member for the U.S. Dream Academy, Orlando Health Foundation Board, and Florida Virtual Learning School Foundation. 

Morning BreakOut Speakers

Melissa Van Dyke
President, The Incentive Research Foundation
Morning Session 1: The IRF's Top Trends in Incentive Program Design

Melissa Van Dyke has been President of the Incentive Research Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to research and education on the topic of rewards and motivation in the workplace, for over 8 years. During this time she has proudly helped triple the organization's research and education footprint. As President, Melissa has responsibility for all day-to-day operational, financial and marketing aspects of the organization. She came to the IRF from her position as Managing Consultant of the Employee Engagement Practice at Maritz. Prior to this, Melissa held leadership positions in Solution Management, Product Development and Business Technology Solution Management and as a Senior Business Process and Technology Consultant for Ernst & Young LLP. Van Dyke has been named one of the "Top 25 Women in the Meetings Industry" by Meetings and Conventions Magazine, selected as Incentive magazine’s “Most Influential People in the Incentive Industry” and authored the chapter on “Using Non Monetary Awards to Support Business Behaviors that Drive Results” in the sixth edition of the Compensation Handbook.

Brian D. Bishop
Vice President, Partnerships & Marketing, Miami Super Bowl Host Committee
Morning Session 2: Your Big Event: What You Can Learn from the Super Bowl

Brian is a creative and dynamic business development leader with 25+ years of building teams and sales organizations. Serving in various governmental and leadership roles in his home state of Illinois and executive leadership roles with Harte Hanks, Learfield Sports, The Florida Panthers and The University of Miami. Brian has consistently created unique marketing efforts to improve the bottom line, improve visibility and enrich the communities he has lived and worked in.

As Vice President of Partnerships and Marketing for the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, he leads the organization’s development of opportunities with the region’s top corporate and business leaders.

A Chicago native and fan of the Super Bowl Shuffle, Brian lives in Coral Gables and has two sons. Zachary a mechanical engineering student and Noah who is currently based in Okinawa Japan serving in the United States Marine Corp.

Allan Schweyer
Chief Academic Advisor, The Incentive Research Foundation
Morning Session 3: 10 Academic Studies Every Incentive Professional Should Know

Allan has been engaged in human capital management consulting, research and training for more than twenty years. As Chief Academic Advisor for the Incentive Research Foundation, he is responsible for conducting original research into questions of motivation and the effectiveness of incentives and rewards. Allan also produces the IRF Academic Quarterly Journal, is a member of the Compensation & Benefits Review Board, and maintains working relationships with more than 50 researchers in the field from around the world.

Greg Bogue
Chief Experience Architect, Maritz Global Events 
Morning Session 4 (Moderator): Using Event Technology to Enhance the Attendee Journey

For more than 30 years, Greg Bogue has been dedicated to creating messages and experiences that move people. As Chief Experience Architect for Maritz Global Events, Bogue focuses on improving the guest journey and overall experience in meetings, events and incentive travel programs to create greater impact for both organizations and their guests. The recipient of numerous awards, Bogue most recently was awarded PCMA’s Visionary Awards as Supplier of the Year 2019.

Stephen Henric
Vice President of Business Development, Freeman 
Morning Session 4 (Panelist): Using Event Technology to Enhance the Attendee Journey

Stephen Henric is a proven business leader and sales executive with more than a decade of experience in the events, entertainment and experience marketing industries. Over the course of Stephen’s tenure, he has held roles in sales leadership and strategic business development, as well as account and project management. It was in these roles that Stephen sat at the crossroads of inspired creative thinking and technical innovation, allowing for a more holistic and informed understanding of how to maximize the live medium and drive immersive experiences. With a passion for using equal parts curiosity, creativity and authentic storytelling, Stephen has earned the opportunity to work with a number of globally recognized brands, agencies, and associations – in the development and delivery of their projects. As a Vice President of Business Development at Freeman, Stephen’s focus is on identifying, developing and growing new strategic partnerships that leverage Freeman’s enterprise offering. Stephen resides in Miami, FL with his wife Jessica and son Damien. When not working, Stephen enjoys traveling, water sports and spending time with his family.

Donny Neufuss
Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, Brightline Interactive
Morning Session 4 (Panelist): Using Event Technology to Enhance the Attendee Journey

Donny has been working on emerging and innovative technology for the entertainment and events industries for almost 20 years. He began his career in the music industry late 2001 as music was starting to be distributed online. Donny worked for one of the largest online independent music communities at the time. He developed new online technologies with partnering companies that helped promote and discover new talent. He also was part of some of the largest online initiatives for the music industry. Working with companies like Warner Chapel, Billboard Magazine, New Line Cinema, ASCAP and the Academy of Country Music to build them online tools and solutions for their content.

Donny also worked for one of the largest event Productions companies in the world PRG. PRG provided technology and production solutions for concert touring, Broadway, film, television and corporate events. Donny was the Vertical Market Leader of Esports as well as head of Digital Engagement. Some of the esports events they supported were ESL One, DreamHack, Fortnite Celebrity Pro-am, ELEAGUE, GamesCom and the 2018 North American Dota 2 Minor.

Today Donny is the Senior Vice President of Brightline Interactive. Brightline Interactive is company made of creative technologies and games developers who create customized immersive experiences for brands, entertainment, and government. Brightline just recently finished creating a customized football video game for a client during the Superbowl. This game was projected downtown Atlanta on the Crown Royal Plaza building leading up to the big game. It allowed players to play on the 400,000 lumen 23,000 SQ. FT surface of the hotel.

Donny’s passion for gaming, innovative technology and creating one of a kind and memorable experiences is the motivation behind his everyday work and career thus far.

Afternoon Breakout Speakers

Kari Vrba
Senior Vice President, Business Development, MotivAction & IRF Vice Chair
Afternoon Session 1: How to Better Integrate Wellness into Meetings and Incentive Travel

Kari Vrba leads MotivAction’s strategic vision of presale which includes sales, client solutions, marketing, creative, and purchasing teams. Kari is an industry veteran with 20 years of experience in delivering performance improvement solutions. Her work and client programs have received global recognition from SITE, CMI25, and Incentive Magazine. She plays an active role in industry roundtables and advisory boards for several leading hotel chains and in the past has participated on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Chapter of Site and multiple committees for SITE International.

Betty Weinkle
Vice President, Partnership, Blackhawk Network & IRF Trustee
Afternoon Session 1: How to Better Integrate Wellness into Meetings and Incentive Travel

Betty Weinkle is a Vice President of Partnership with Blackhawk Engagement Solutions. Her responsibilities include management of key strategic partners in addition to business development in alternate channels such as wellness. Betty’s 25 years of leadership in the incentive industry includes board membership in the Incentive Marketing Association and as a past President of the Incentive Gift Card Council. She has led research development, been an outspoken incentive champion, and is a designated Certified Professional of Incentive Management. She has additionally enjoyed mentoring a number of successful folks in the industry. She is a tremendous advocate for the power of incentives.

Janet Traphagen
President, Creative Group, Inc. & IRF Trustee
Afternoon Session 2 (Moderator): Unlocking the Power of IRF Research to Strengthen Your Incentive Programs

Janet Traphagen has been in the hospitality industry for over 25years. Today as President of Creative Group, Inc, a CMI Top 25 incentive firm, she maintains responsibility for all sales, marketing, operational and execution activity within the organization. She joined Creative Group in 1996 in an operations role as Account Manager. In 1999, she transitioned into sales as an Account Executive and in 2004 was promoted to Vice President/Account Executive. During her tenure as an Account Executive, she was recognized as “AE of the Year” in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010 and served on the company’s Management Committee and Sales Management Team. Janet has served on the Starwood Advisory Council and is a frequent contributor on industry panel discussions with Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Marriott Hotels. She is also a member of the Sales Management Summit, a board for senior sales executives and NAPW (National Association of Professional and Executive Women).

Morgan Crain
Senior Manager, Rewards & Recognition, T-Mobile & IRF Trustee
Afternoon Session 2 (Panelist): Unlocking the Power of IRF Research to Strengthen Your Incentive Programs

It's no secret the Un-carrier works hard, but it plays hard, too. In fact, that's where you'll find Morgan Crain—at the intersection of hard work and celebration, with her pom poms cheering. T-Mobile, knows what success looks like, and celebrates this success in Un-carrier style. Morgan spends each day of the year focused on recognizing others – and she and her team do that in a big way.

As the Senior Manager for T-Mobile’s Rewards and Recognition team, Morgan leads the development and delivery of innovative and dynamic departmental and company-wide recognition programs. These include reward programs like the PEAK Recognition Award – the pinnacle of achievement at the T-Mobile – and Winners Circle, which rewards the top performing frontline employees in its retail stores and customer care. But whether it’s a complex, company-wide award program or a small gesture of thanks, Morgan helps ensure that meaningful recognition remains a big part of T-Mobile’s DNA.

T-Mobile has built a strong reputation for listening to customers and evolving based on their feedback, and in the true Un-carrier spirit, the company’s sweet suite of offerings evolves based directly on feedback from #TeamMagenta – after all, people are willing to give more fuel to the Un-carrier machine when they feel recognized, motivated, and engaged!

Chris Johnson
Director, Global Travel and Enterprise Events, Land O' Lakes & IRF Trustee 
Afternoon Session 2 (Panelist): Unlocking the Power of IRF Research to Strengthen Your Incentive Programs

Chris joined Land O’ Lakes in 2016 and currently leads a centralized corporate team responsible for driving strategy across five work groups including Corporate Travel, sourcing, event management, technology and event operations. Additionally, Chris has responsibility for sports marketing and sponsorship, tradeshow exhibit management, LOL campus conference center operations and all corporate premium solutions.

Recognized by Incentive Magazine as Top 25 Incentive Industry Influencer, September 2018 - Chris has over 20 years of creative and business savvy event marketing and travel operations experience across a wide range of event and travel management functions at a global level. His passion is driving experience through collaboration and strong teamwork. He also represents the industry on various hotel and partner customer advisory boards.

Chris enjoys adventure, sports and travel with his wife Julie and their triplet boys.

Dawn Ryburn
Director, Program Management and Communications, Ricoh Americas Company & IRF Trustee
Afternoon Session 2 (Panelist): Unlocking the Power of IRF Research to Strengthen Your Incentive Programs

Dawn Ryburn serves as Director, Program Management and Communications in the Services organization at Ricoh USA, Inc. Her responsibilities include the strategy, planning, development, and implementation and management of Services programs, events, and effective communications. She brings more than 20 years’ experience in Incentive/Recognition and Communications to the role, executing on strategies that elevate company progress/processes and strengthen the organization and recognition culture. Dawn focuses on a creative and collaborative approach to running effective meetings and programs that work to advance Ricoh’s goals with a passion for recognition.

Dawn champions change to improve organizational competitiveness and performance, while building a strong internal culture. She delivers on programmatic goals, which drive key service methodologies, financial results, and effective, standardized communications.

Dawn oversees Ricoh’s Services Team Annual Recognition (STAR) Program, which received the Incentive Grand Motivation Masters Award in 2014. Additionally, Dawn is responsible for REACH, an overall recognition program for the Services organization to increase employee engagement and recognition, as well as planning leadership meetings, and providing support to various conferences including management of an event mobile app.

Dawn has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. She serves on the Customer First committee and Mid-Atlantic Diversity Council at Ricoh, and volunteers locally as Director of Events for the Brandywine Youth Club.

Rick Garlick, PhD
Chief Research Advisor, The Incentive Research Foundation
Afternoon Session 3: 9 Important Research Findings for 2019

Dr. Rick Garlick joined Magid in 2018 as Vice President, Strategy Consultant. Rick’s primary focus at Magid is to apply his experience in branding, customer experience, and employee engagement consulting and research to drive preference for destinations, hotels, airlines, rental cars, and other travel related industries. A large part of his current work examines the state of the industry for incentive travel providers through a partnership with the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF.)

During a career that has spanned over two decades, Rick has worked with the most prestigious hospitality, travel, and leisure companies in the world, in a variety of research and consulting roles. He has a diverse research and consulting background that includes extensive experience with guest experience management, employee engagement measurement and training; talent selection; brand research; customer satisfaction and loyalty programs; image and awareness studies; and national opinion polling. Rick is a current a member of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ISHC) and the former Global Travel and Hospitality Practice Lead at J.D. Power where he provided industry thought leadership to the company’s clients in the hotel, rental car, airline, destination, gaming, and cruise line industries. His resume’ also includes experience with two of the most prestigious research companies in North America: The Gallup Organization and Maritz Research.

While at J.D. Power, Dr. Garlick developed J.D. Power’s first ever Destination Experience Study in which he and his colleagues assessed the top 50 tourism destinations across various aspects of the visitor experience. The result was a ‘Destination Index’ in which cities were awarded the J.D. Power Award for top regional destinations. This received national media coverage. Also included in this research was the monetization of how improving visitor experience positively impacts tourism revenues. Dr. Garlick currently serves as research advisor to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) where he leads the research efforts for the IRF’s signature studies and speaks on behalf of the IRF at major industry conferences as part of his advising/consulting role.

A frequent conference speaker, Dr. Garlick has published numerous articles in industry and academic journals. He has also appeared on such national media outlets as MSNBC, CNBC, CNNfn, Bloomberg Television, and National Public Radio, as well as being quoted in a number of national publications. Dr. Garlick has served as chair of the Research Committee for the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association (HSMAI) Foundation Board and Meeting Professionals International (MPI). Dr. Garlick received a Ph.D. in communication studies from Michigan State University.

Charles Sylvia, ECC
Vice President, Membership & Trade Relations, Cruise Lines International Association
Afternoon Session 4 (Moderator): State of the Cruise Line Industry

Charles Sylvia, ECC is Vice President of Membership and Trade Relations with Cruise Lines International Association. Charles has 25 years’ experience in cruise marketing and sales, starting as a front-line agent at a brick-and-mortar travel agency near Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

After a decade successfully selling group cruises on the leisure side of the business, Charles moved to the corporate side, producing meetings, incentives, conferences and events at sea for Access TCA, a Boston-based exhibit and corporate events agency. Charles built Access TCA’s “at sea” division from the ground up.

In addition to being a lifelong cruise enthusiast, Charles is also interested in start-ups, serving as an advisor to graduate students in Brown University’s Program in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship (PRIME). In his role at CLIA, Charles champions the interests of CLIA’s North American trade membership, comprised of more than 33,700 travel agency owners and agents.

Charles lives in Rhode Island with his partner, Michael, and travels most of the year, attending conferences and other industry events. Fun fact: Charles is a JFK scholar, with a vast knowledge of the 35th President of the United States, and is currently working on a book about JFK in 1962… the only full year of the Kennedy Administration.

Katina Athanasiou
Senior Vice President, Charters, Incentives & Events, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings
Afternoon Session 4 (Panelist): State of the Cruise Line Industry

Katina Athanasiou joined Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings in November 2014, after the acquisition of Prestige Cruises International. As Senior Vice President of Charters, Incentives & Events, Katina is responsible for the global sales and operations of all full ship charter and corporate/incentive business, as well as internal corporate meetings and trade events, including new ship inaugurals for all three cruise brands, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.

With nearly 20 years of direct industry experience, Katina began her career as a corporate event planner, responsible for mid- to large-scale global travel programs. Katina then joined the cruise industry and combined her planning expertise with the immense flexibility and unmatched service of cruise ships to create turnkey MICE solutions that deliver incredible value and record satisfaction to clients.

She is a member of SITE, MPI and FICP, where she sits on the hospitality advisory board committee.

Jerilyn Giacone
Director of Charters, Meetings & Incentives, Crystal Cruises LLC
Afternoon Session 4 (Panelist): State of the Cruise Line Industry

Jerilyn Giacone is Director of Charters, Meetings, & Incentives with Crystal Cruises. She is a cruise industry veteran with over 35 years of experience in business development, travel industry sales, and charter, meeting & incentive sales. A Pennsylvania native, and long-time resident of Long Island NY, Jerilyn started her travel industry career as a front-line leisure and corporate travel consultant. After joining the cruise industry in 1982, she has worked with several cruise companies and has been with Crystal Cruises since 2015 working on CMI business development for all of Crystal’s brand experiences.

Bob Lepisto
President, SeaDream Yacht Club
Afternoon Session 4 (Panelist): State of the Cruise Line Industry

Bob Lepisto, President of SEADREAM YACHT CLUB, was part of the original SEADREAM team assembled in September 2001, responsible for the launch of the company.

Prior to joining SEADREAM, Bob was Vice President of Sales, for the Americas at Cunard Line Ltd. and was responsible for both Cunard Line and Seabourn Cruise Line.

Lepisto served as President of the Institute of Certified Travel Agents (ICTA) from 1994 to 1999. He had joined ICTA following a 22-year career as a sales executive with Continental Airlines where he rose to the position of Vice President Global Sales.

Lori Cassidy
Associate Vice President, Global Corporate Incentive and Charter Sales, Royal Caribbean International
Afternoon Session 4 (Panelist): State of the Cruise Line Industry

Lori Cassidy, Associate Vice President, Global Corporate Incentive and Charter Sales with Royal Caribbean International based in Miami, Florida is responsible for all sales, service, and marketing efforts pertaining to the company’s global meeting, incentive and full ship charter business. Lori and her team of Corporate and Charter Sales Managers are responsible for managing and developing all incentive house account business as well as direct meeting/incentive/charter business with corporations and associations.

In addition, Lori is also responsible for the company’s loyalty gift card and individual incentive gift certificate programs as well as the group shore excursion sales team.

Lori has been in the cruise industry for over 25 years. Prior to joining Royal Caribbean International, Lori was Director of Corporate & Incentive Sales for 5 years and Business Development Director for 10 years with Carnival Cruise Lines based in Miami, FL. A resident of Winter Park, Florida, Lori attended Bloomsburg University where she majored in business administration.

Lori has received her CIC designation and is an active member of MPI, SITE, RCMA, IMA, DSA, IFA, FICP and several other industry associations.