10 Words You Should Stop Using in the Events Industry…and Everywhere

May 18, 2022

Daria Knupp

Daria Knupp is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at A2Z Events by Personify. Knupp has spent most of her career in the association world handling content creation and digital marketing and recently decided to take that expertise to the events industry. She is currently working on obtaining her CEM designation and is an active member of IAEE.

Our words matter. We often use them at our events or in our teams to communicate ideas, convey passion, express creativity, articulate intelligence, radiate confidence and exude wit. But choose the wrong ones, and you’ll become the insensitive event staff or coworker.  

Assuming you don’t want to be that person, let’s explore some commonly used words at trade shows and conferences, or phrases that are either past their expiration, culturally appropriated or downright offensive, and what you can say instead to demonstrate your intellect, wit and inclusivity!  


When we refer to someone as a “guru,” we are attempting to imply a level of unparalleled expertise and wisdom. How can that be a bad thing to talk about some of our conference speakers? In Hinduism and Buddhism, the title of guru is given to the highest of spiritual leaders or guides. Therefore, using it to describe Mark as an “event planning guru” is just plain inappropriate.   

Consider: expert, authority or specialist instead.  

Pow Wow 

We use pow wow when we want to gather our team in the war room for a quick debrief or planning session. Hopefully, you’re not surprised to see this on a list of words to stop using, but you may not know precisely what a pow wow is. A pow wow is the gathering of Native American people to celebrate old and new friendships through dance and song—a lovely sentiment, indeed but also potentially offensive to Native American culture.  

Consider: meeting, conference or collaboration. 


Event organizers often promote to attendees that their event is a way to connect and network with their tribes. Tribe comes from the Latin tribus, which describes, in basic terms, a group of people connected beyond a blood relationship. According to Learning for Justice, “tribe reflects widespread but outdated 19th century social theory” and often implies savageness in Western culture.      

Consider: team, group or cohort. 

Nitty Gritty 

We’re all guilty of this one. It’s how we commonly direct a conversation to focus on the important aspects or particular details of a plan or event. You may not realize that the phrase nitty gritty originates in the slave trade, describing debris left behind by enslaved people on the lower deck of the slave ship after removal. So, let’s just not use this one anymore. 

Consider: details, essentials or particulars.  

Hold Down the Fort 

To hold down the fort means we keep watch over or an eye on the status of something while someone is away, such as the exhibitor booth, registration booth or information desk. It seems harmless, but this phrase is also steeped in racial offense, as you may have guessed by now. It was initially used when Western explorers kept watch over and protected their forts from Native Americans, who were perceived as savage enemies.   

Consider: supervise, manage or oversee.  

Tipping Point 

Malcolm Gladwell talks about the tipping point as the moment an idea or social trend becomes commonplace and takes on a life of its own. However, tipping point is yet another example of a racially motivated colloquialism. According to an article written by Chelse Bengier, tipping point refers to the proportion of black residents in a given neighborhood that would trigger the exodus of white families. This surely is not the sentiment you want to convey. 

Consider: pivotal moment, milestone or boiling point. 

Rule of Thumb 

This one may be subject to some discussion, as modern etymology suggests the phrase was used to indicate the acceptable width of a stick that could be used for wife-beating. However, there is some debate whether or not this is true or a rumored statement from the 18th century.  Alternatively, a rule of thumb has been used to indicate a general method or approach for doing something. If you are so inclined to err on the side of caution, you might reconsider its use. 

Consider: general guideline, approximation or industry standard. 

Crazy or Insane 

Who hasn’t had an attendee or exhibitor described as crazy or insane? In a time when we are trying to destigmatize mental illness and promote open, honest conversation about mental health, we can make an effort to be more sensitive in the language we choose. If you want to challenge yourself, pay attention to the ubiquity of crazy and try to nix it from your lexicon for a day. 

Consider: absurd, ridiculous or outrageous. 

Synergy, Leverage, Bandwidth 

Please just stop with these overused buzzwords. You sound like a walking MBA degree, and it’s gotten absurd, ridiculous and outrageous. See what just happened there? 


There is no need to stop using hyperboles altogether, but if you want to be taken seriously and dazzle people with your communicative intellect, be mindful of mixing up your use of figurative language. You are not drowning in paperwork, you don’t have a million things to do, and as lovely as it is intended, you can’t love someone to the moon and back.    

Consider: metaphors, allusions or puns. 

In Conclusion 

As event professionals, we often come in contact with thousands of attendees, speakers and exhibitors, and sponsors so our words matter, and a little mindfulness can go a long way in ensuring you’re, at minimum, not the cringey friend or coworker, and at best, helping to present yourself as the inclusive wordsmithing intellect that you are!  

P.S. Just in case you need an occasional reminder, we created this handy cheat sheet for you.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.