VisitPITTSBURGH Business Events Sales and SportsPITTSBURGH Teams Round Out Staffs


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 staffs, 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 at Hampton University.

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 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.