Expo! Expo! Energizes the Trade Show Industry

December 18, 2020
Expo! Expo! Energizes the Trade Show Industry

The show for shows lived up to its billing, even if it looked different from past years. Expo! Expo!, International Association of Exhibitions and Events’ annual gathering, reunited more than 1,250 attendees in a virtual format to help spur trade shows toward a faster recovery.

“None of us expected 2020 to be the year it’s been,” said IAEE 2020/2021 Chairperson Bob McClean, executive vice president and PPAI. “We’ve all been faced with learning new and challenging things, and now we’re becoming experts at virtual events.”

Engagement levels suggest McClean is spot on, and also indicate how hungry buyers and exhibitors are to do business. The follow statistics are impressive by any standard:

  • Education sessions drew 10,000 unique registrations and 8,000 unique views; 
  • Nearly 2,500 connections were made between the 102 exhibiting companies and attendees;
  • 22,000 messages were sent via the trade show’s online platform.

“What stands out to me is how strong this industry really is…we are there for each other,” McClean said. “Despite tough times, the people in the exhibitions and events industry are resilient and I believe we will survive and even thrive in the years to come.”

The event kicked off with a robust general session introduced by IAEE President and CEO David DuBois, followed by McClean and Carrie Ferenac, IAEE 2022 chairperson-elect and co-founder and president of CNTV.

McClean and Ferenac teamed up in providing a comprehensive overview of IAEE’s extensive efforts in exhibitions industry advocacy. Over the past year, this has included working closely with various coalitions and organizations and supporting their efforts in fighting for government funding to help the industry recover via efforts such as the first-ever virtual Exhibitions Day in June.

McClean then presented the 2020 IAEE Chairperson’s Award, which was awarded to the Go LIVE Together coalition and Bob Priest-Heck, CEO of the Freeman Company, who leads the growing effort that works to protect the events industry through advocacy efforts.

Ferenac and McClean then relayed an impressive roster of the many ways IAEE has been laying the groundwork for a strong industry recovery, including releasing white papers, webinars and launching a virtual exhibitions and events marketplace, along with myriad community initiatives and international efforts. 

Leeann Norton, IAEE’s 2020 CEM chair, introduced the 2020 CEM graduating class, which included 194 event professionals from 13 countries. Next, Gregg Caren, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, touted a host of new developments in the city that 2021 Expo! Expo! participants will be able to experience for themselves when they converge upon the city Dec. 7-9.

International speaker, consultant and author Risha Grant jump-started day two with an engaging, boldly honest keynote session addressing diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias in the workplace titled “Permission: Granted and How to Get Rid of Your BS.” 

During this compelling, no-holds-barred session, Grant explained how barriers and biases prevent diversity and inclusion in an organization, and then outlined a comprehensive, three-step process to help people overcome their own biases and barriers. 

She then closed the session by providing action steps that people could adopt to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, including building authentic relationships with people different from you; being intentional about including others; questioning one’s assumptions and challenging microaggressions.

“If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, you do that through inclusion,” Grant said. “Is there something about your culture that makes you feel that their voice doesn’t matter? How can you be an ally and help them amplify their voice? Who is it that you can help to become a part of the team, teach them the ropes and show them how to excel? Diversity is about all of us and inclusion is where we have the opportunity to come together and create better products and services that represent the world we serve.”

While it may not be the same as other years, organizers agreed Expo! Expo!, provided the spark the industry needed.

We are incredibly pleased at the result and grateful to the show partners who collaborated with us to create such an outstanding experience,” said Dubois.


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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact