The now fully equipped teams allow the organization to enhance key
initiatives, boost economic impact
PITTSBURGH – As the first quarter of 2023 closed, the VisitPITTSBURGH
Business Events Sales and SportsPITTSBURGH teams officially established
fully equipped staff, setting the organization up to enhance key
initiatives and continue driving economic impact.
New additions and elevations made to the VisitPITTSBURGH Business Events
Sales Team and SportsPITTSBURGH include:
* Shavonne Harding, Director, Eastern Regional Sales
* John Leinen, Director, Midwest/West Region Sales _ (elevation from
National Sales Director)_
* Brady Inners, Director, Sports Event Development _ (elevation from
SportsPITTSBURGH Event Manager)_
* Melissa Hickman, National Sales Director
* Garrett Horrell, National Sales Manager
* Alexis Pollins, Executive Meeting Manager
* Laura Flanagan, Business Events Coordinator
* Nick Jelliff, Sports Program Coordinator
“It has been somewhat serendipitous the way this team has come together
relatively quickly,” VisitPITTSBURGH Chief Sales Officer Andrew Ortale
said. “Individually, each one of these professionals is very good in
their roles, but together they are quickly distinguishing themselves as
a great team. I am excited to be a part of the new energy that this
business events team is taking into the future for Pittsburgh.”
“We’re thrilled to welcome Nick to our growing SportsPITTSBURGH team and
to elevate Brady to the role of director. Nick has already shown his
passion for sports and events by rolling up his sleeves from day one,”
SportsPITTSBURGH Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins said. “Plus, I’m
confident that Brady will be a great mentor for him. I’m incredibly
proud to have seen him continue to grow within the organization. His
dedication to customer service and hosting excellence has directly
benefited the growth of annual events and the booking of new events.”
Shavonne Harding has more than 20 years of experience, with her most
recent previous role being with Choose Chicago, where she managed
relationships with clients who required 201 to 3,000 rooms/peak as the
national sales manager for the East Coast. She also previously held
relevant roles at Visit Baltimore, The Freeman Company, Destination DC,
the Smithsonian Institution and more. Harding earned a master’s in
tourism administration, event and meeting management at The George
Washington University, and a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Hampton
John Leinen has 13 years of experience in destination marketing, which
he earned following an extensive career in the hospitality industry.
Prior to joining VisitPITTSBURGH in 2022, he spent four years as Vice
President of Sales and Services at Destination Madison. Leinen also
previously served as Vice President of Convention and Tourism Sales at
Reno Tahoe USA and held several positions at Sage Hospitality and Omni
Hotels. Active within the industry, Leinen previously served as the ASAE
Industry Partner Alliance/Committee Chair and the Destinations
International Sales and Service Committee Co-Chair.
Brady Inners joined SportsPITTSBURGH in 2018. During his time as event
manager, he developed and executed specialized event and marketing plans
for all annual and new SportsPITTSBURGH-affiliated events as well as
served as tournament manager for the 2018 and 2019 NCAA Division II
Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships, 2022 NCAA Division III Women’s
Basketball and Volleyball Championships and Co-Tournament Manager for
the 2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship and the 2021 NCAA
Men’s Frozen Four. In his new role, he will plan, direct and execute the
host event services function of SportsPITTSBURGH’s annual and new
events, pursuing strategic growth opportunities year-over-year. He
earned a bachelor’s degree in media and professional communications from
the University of Pittsburgh.
With more than 10 years of experience, Melissa Hickman has held events
and sales management roles, including with Pittsburgh’s David L.
Lawrence Convention Center and various Hyatt Hotels. Hickman studied at
the Cesar Ritz School of Hospitality in Switzerland and earned a
bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant, and institutional management from
Penn State University.
Garrett Horrell also has 10 years of events and corporate recreation
experience. He previously acted as a memorable experience maker (sales &
operations manager) at Wildly Different, where he specialized in team
building and networking events and worked with companies including
Disney, NASA, Baker Tilly, and Lockheed Martin. He also held relevant
roles at Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida, and Omni Amelia Island
Resort in Amelia Island, Florida. Horrell earned a bachelor’s degree in
hospitality and event management from Slippery Rock University.
Alexis Pollins has held various roles in event planning and sales at
companies including Laurel Linen, Topgolf Pittsburgh, and Kent Area
Chamber of Commerce. Pollins earned a bachelor’s degree in hospitality
management and a minor in event planning at Kent State University.
Laura Flanagan has nearly 10 years of experience, previously holding
various program management roles for companies including 9Rooftops, PNC
and MARC USA. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration
from the University of Pittsburgh.
Nick Jelliff graduated from Penn State University in 2022 with a
bachelor’s degree in recreation, park and tourism management and minors
in business and sports studies. He has held internships with Visit Lake
Norman in Cornelius, North Carolina, Harris County – Houston Sports
Authority in Houston and the Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company in
Hershey, Pennsylvania. He also has volunteered with ESPN College
GameDay, where he organized three tournament-style competitions with 100
participants, and he served as both committee lieutenant and as a
special interest organization member for Penn State THON.
VisitPITTSBURGH is the official tourism marketing and promotion agency
of the Pittsburgh region.
The organization is dedicated to generating business events, sports
events and leisure travel.