SISO Recap: 13 Takeaways From The 2024 CEO Summit

April 17, 2024

More than 300 independent trade show executives, suppliers and industry media convened April 1-4 for the 2024 Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) CEO Summit at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Amelia Island, Fla. The pre-registered attendance was the highest ever for this event, said SISO CEO Vincent Polito. The previous attendance record was set in 2019 when 295 industry leaders gathered in April at The Sanctuary in Kiawah Island, SC.

SISO welcomed 35 first-time attendees, said Clarion Events CEO Lisa Hannant, who is serving as this year’s SISO chair after Arc CEO Americas Mary Larkin completed her one-year term and moves to the SISO immediate past chair role.

The three-day event offered content on a wide variety of topics, from a global economic forecast and the impact of AI to exclusive exhibitor research and a case study on sustainability.

As in years past, the attendee and speaker list featured a who’s who of industry leaders (see who attended in 2024 here). The Informa Connect team — which publishes Trade Show News Network, BizBash, Corporate Event News, Meetingsnet and Exhibitor News Now — was also onsite for this annual meeting of C-level executives. 

Among the many educational sessions held at the conference was an underlying focus on the state of the exhibitions industry as the second quarter of 2024 begins. Here are 13 takeaways we noted during the event. 


1. New speakers to the SISO stage: This year’s SISO CEO Summit featured a number of new speakers, including a few from outside the industry, to spark ideas and share best practices. For example, BravoCon Executive Producer Deirdre Connolly (pictured in the middle) said, when fostering fandom, it’s not all about revenue for the TV Network.   

2. Economic outlook: “American consumer spending is almost reckless, but it’s good for the economy,” said Sage Policy Group Inc. Chairman and CEO Anirban Basu (above), who has spoken at the SISO CEO Summit previously.

3. What exhibitors want most from trade shows: Face-to-face interactions and delivering hands-on experiences, said mdg President and Chief Marketing Strategist Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes (left) and Freeman SVP Strategy Ken Holsinger (right). A link to the full report can be found here. Stay tuned for our analysis of the report.

4. Memorable moment: SISO Immediate Past Chair Cassandra Farrington, founder of MJBizCon that sold Emerald for $120 million, presented Informa Markets President Nancy Walsh (above) with the Krakoff Award. Walsh is only the second female to win the only annual award that SISO presents. A list of previous Krakoff award winners is available here

5. Unexpected (and funny) theme from male speakers: Who did or did not have girlfriends in high school.

6. When to invest: Look for hustlers. You invest in people, not companies, said Fintech & Events Entrepreneur Jonathan Weiner (right) during a fireside chat with Polito (left).

7. New revenue idea: Create a curated marketplace for attendees with exhibitor products through Amazon’s affiliate program, which is especially applicable to consumer events, said Fast Forward Events Partner Michelle Metter (second from left on the stage) during the CEO Panel.

8. Ideas to steal from the NBA: Drop content and merch that’s only available at the event. Spend your time and resources on the top three high-heat moments at your event, advised NBA SVP, Head of Global Event Strategy & Development Joseph Graziano III.
ceo panel

9. Content-driven play: Use data from content engagement to listen to what event communities want, suggested Questex CEO Paul Miller (second from the left).

10. Good to know: Lean into experience but don’t get trapped by it, said Fanatics Events CEO Lance Fensterman (above).

11. AI transformation: Sooner is better when it comes to using AI, said 2toLead CTO Richard Harbridge (above). Only 26% are investing in AI adoption. 2025 will be the year of functional agents.

12. Words of warning: “ChatGPT is like your wide-open drunk friend,” said on the stage during an AI workshop (above). 

13. What’s next: Small language models (SLMs) vs. large language models (LLMs), said Informa Markets SVP Technology Transformation Yarrow Diamond.
    The 2025 SISO CEO Summit will be held at Omni Barton Creek in Austin.

    Looking ahead

    The 2024 SISO Leadership Conference will be held Aug. 13-15 in Philadelphia. The next SISO CEO Summit will be held March 31-April 3, 2025, at the Omni Barton Creek in Austin.


    Looking back

    Want to see more photos from the SISO CEO Summit 2024? View the photo gallery here. Check out our coverage from last year’s event: SISO's 2023 CEO Summit Addresses Key Issues in a New Era for the Events Industry 


    Photos by Coleman Photography LLC for SISO


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