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. 
Mar 15, 2023
After my first week of being hired at a manufacturing company, I saw an opportunity for efficiency if workers simply altered the process in which they were fulfilling orders. I made my suggestions to the owner of the business, after which he shook his head and replied, "Thanks, but we've been doing it this way for years."   Thinking about something in a new way is often hard for people to grasp. Our minds are programmed to establish patterns of familiarity so that we can more easily predict approaches and outcomes. When a new idea is introduced in business, you can almost always expect resistance.  It’s easy to understand that for any organization to remain profitable, it must develop structured processes and procedures. These guidelines help employees work efficiently and facilitate growth of the product or service. Based on this, the attitude of “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” can become prevalent within any business over time. And while establishing processes often leads to profitability, it only tells one side of the story.   The other area that needs to be considered is innovation. If a business doesn't create new products and services, its competition certainly will. No matter how efficient a company is, if it fails to innovate, it loses customers and ultimately goes out of business.  But this poses a significant challenge: How does an organization work within its structured operations while at the same time jumpstart innovation to encourage new ideas? Here are a few considerations to keep top of mind.  1. Empower Creative Thinking First, it’s important to acknowledge that creativity is the birthplace of innovation. Recognizing that an organization’s employees know the business better than anyone else, if leadership empowers their teams to approach work creatively, new ideas and possible solutions follow. However, if ideas are going to be explored, employees need the freedom to be curious and ask, “What if?” They need space to mix and match their ideas, collaborate with others and have fun. Once they find value in their ideas, they can give them structure and deadlines, but first, innovation needs an unstructured creative approach. 2. Embrace the Paradox Organizations typically focus on logistics and structure, and even though we’re conditioned by routine to make life easier, creativity is often messy and unorganized. Ideas need space to be viewed from many different angles, torn apart and re-pieced back together. Creativity is the antithesis of structure. It demands courage, willingness and an open mind to consider the weird, the wacky and the impossible. And yet, an innovation process driven only by loose ideas doesn’t gain any traction. It must be managed against goals, objectives, strategies and deadlines in order to be measured. So, how does an organization balance the process of creativity and innovation effectively?  3. Focus on the Problem You’re Trying to Solve  What are your customers asking for? What problems do they encounter that your company might be able to solve? Is there an unmet need in the market that your business could fill? How will your organization's innovation process address these needs? This is where the creative process begins. 4. Assemble a Diverse Team It’s important to diversify your innovation teams to maximize creative ideas. Different people think in different ways and often complement one another’s ideas. The engineer, the artist, the programmer and the accounting manager don’t have to be experts in innovation. They just need to be willing to share and be open to new possibilities. 5. Think Boldly, Act Prudently This is the heart of managing the process. Even in the most innovative companies, the best leaders promote a balance of “the sky’s the limit” and “approach with caution.” Enough of the former will build creative momentum, while enough of the latter will keep budgets and deadlines intact. 6. Broaden Your Viewpoint Resist the mentality of “only invented here” within your culture. Be sure you’re also looking for ideas outside of the walls of your organization. Consumers, customers, vendors and agencies provide valuable insight into ideas you may not have considered. Share your ideas with family and friends. What is their viewpoint? How do they see the problem and solution differently? 7. Balance the Process It’s important to recognize how creativity feeds the innovation process and how to balance it accordingly. Deadlines, sales goals and quarterly projections can pressure any company to rush innovation, but too much structure can kill the creative idea by moving it forward too fast. While speeding an idea to market is tempting to increase revenue, research, testing and predictive analysis should be carefully managed and measured without pushing too much and too soon. In Summary Companies that focus strictly on cost savings and efficiencies will suffer in the long term when their customers demand new products and services in a rapidly changing world. It’s crucial that organizations balance structure, creativity and the innovation process accordingly. Empower your diverse teams to think differently, challenge them with exciting goals and measure their progress at agreed-to intervals. Efficiencies and structure may help businesses survive, but a well-planned and balanced innovation process can make them thrive. Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE, listen to our latest podcast HERE and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!