Why You Won’t Succeed Without a North Star

October 12, 2022

Denzil Rankine

Denzil Rankine is Founder and Executive Chairman of AMR International, a strategy consulting firm that assists corporate clients and PE funds with growth strategy and acquisition support.

As the saying goes, “the only constant in life is change.” The same rings true for trade show organizers.

More than ever, the industry is being challenged to adapt and evolve in what is a new normal, where customer expectations are rapidly evolving, and digital technologies bring the promise of new opportunities. How can we make the most of it?   

We believe it comes down to strategy. Get this right, and you’ve made a giant stride. 

For example, AMR’s new Exhibitions 3.0 Framework is making organizers rethink, putting customers genuinely at the heart of their business. As an extension of our community catalyst concept that calls for a new post-COVID vision, the focus is on changing the role and ambition of the organizer to one that facilitates much more than just events, instead moving to shape the future of the ecosystem it serves. 

This framework comprises five steps, with the first being the development of a “North Star.” It’s the critical first step on the journey to transformation.  

What is a North Star? 

Essentially, the North Star is the organization’s vision that acts as a guiding light. It sets the direction of travel.

A classic example is Amazon. Its vision is “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.” This North Star hasn’t changed since Amazon launched in 1995, with the focus 100% on the customer and meeting their needs.   

Why is having a North Star important?

The North Star is critical to success because it helps generate a common understanding of the goals and objectives that the organization is aiming to achieve. 

While the North Star is an effective tool for communication internally, it can also be used to inform current and prospective customers of the organizer’s vision, along with the opportunities and value they want to create. Consistency across internal and external communications makes it all the more powerful. 

What are the benefits?

The North Star sets the foundation and building blocks of an organizer’s strategy, helping the team to identify where the most value can be provided to attendees, exhibitors and sponsors.

It can help to generate alignment on the ambition the team holds and sets a realistic target that is believable, and more importantly, achievable. 

For example, introducing digital channels is much more than just launching digital events. A well-defined North Star might set the agenda of serving customers more broadly and improving specific areas of performance, such as sales and marketing processes or new product offerings that meet customers’ needs.

It also provides a sense of ownership and responsibility for the implementation and success of the defined strategy. 

In a nutshell, it’s your elevator pitch. The North Star condenses ambition into a single statement that can be shared and easily understood by all. Even your grandmother would know what you’re talking about.  

What are the risks?

Communication is imperative. We have worked with organizers that have set strategy and vision but found the organization not to be engaged. Management needs to deploy time and resources to ensure the North Star and its meaning is clearly explained and spread throughout the organization, from the CEO and senior management, right across to operations and customer service. The receptionist and even interns and temporary staff should know it, starting from day one. It won’t work without buy-in at all levels.

Delivering on a North Star also most probably calls for changes to current ways of working. So, to be implemented properly, again, total buy-in and belief is essential. 

It’s not an easy endeavor but it can be achieved. We’ve already been supporting some organizers on this journey, and we are seeing other examples of Top 20 organizers doing likewise. These are the organizers that are tackling the future head-on, increasing their likelihood of long-term success.

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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.