2017 SISO CEO Summit Breaks Attendance Records in Sunny Florida

March 31, 2017

A record 300-plus C-level executives, sponsors and guests spent a few sun-drenched days at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla., for the 2017 Society of Independent Show Organizers’ CEO Summit.

“The SISO CEO Summit is the largest and more important event of the year for the for-profit side of the global exhibition/event industry and the most valuable part of the event are the participants, they make the event the success it is,” said SISO Executive Director David Audrain.

He added, “The majority of the program is an open dialogue and contribution from our members/participants, and it is this open sharing that provides the insight and discussion, along with many partnerships and business deals, that makes the SISO CEO Summit a must-attend event every year.”

Besides a record level of overall attendees, C-level for-profit organizers in attendance had an increase of more than 20 percent, compared with the previous two years, and came from 20 countries as far as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Russia, Argentina, and throughout Europe.

“Approximately 25 percent of our organizer attendees were from outside the U.S.” Audrain said. “We continue to see this percentage grow as our attendance increases in its internationality.”

In addition, he added that there was a large number of first-timers, around 20 percent of the organizers in attendance, many of whom came from 30 new member companies of varying sizes that signed on last year.

Kicking off March 27 with a first-ever SISO Executive Women's Forum - Creating Your Narrative for Success in the morning and Small Business Roundtable in the afternoon, the 3-day 2017 SISO CEO Summit had a Cuban-themed opening party that evening.

The next morning, the SISO CEO Summit’s conference opened, and first up onstage was Ben Parr, co-founder and managing partner - Octane AI and author of “Captivilogy”, to talk about how to capture an audience’s attention and understand how attention behaves.

Parr said in 1986, the average person was subjected to about 40 newspapers worth of information in a day, and now, they are inundated with several DVDs worth on a daily basis.

“We are being bombarded by information,” he added. “It’s harder to get people’s attention.”

Some ways Parr offered to get people hooked is to make something seem scarce, like an invite-only event, or create a ‘parasocial relationship’ with attendees – meaning “show people you care,” he added.

“Find a way to validate your audience and empathize with your audience,” Parr said.

Next on the agenda was AMR International’s Denzil Rankine talking about “How to Structure the Events Organizer of the Future.”

He said that the industry was going through a period of “unprecedented change” with its growth forecast converging with GDP, as well as attendance and net square footage increases slowing down.

A few things Rankine offered for companies to consider were to make event organizers capable of owning the strategy of their own events, innovation has to be constant and data analytics should be tied to strategy.

He added, “The revenue mix will (also) change. Right now, it’s mostly from floor space.”

The last session of the first morning was a panel that continued the theme of steps needed to be taken to have more women in high-level leadership roles in the trade show industry.

In a study from the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, the results indicated women make 17 percent less than men do in a comparable position in the industry.

Mary Larkin from Diversified Communications said one of the reasons women are not moving forward more is because “women tend to nurture down and men tend to network up.”

Herve Sedky from Reed Exhibitions added that there is a big difference between mentoring and sponsoring someone.

“Sponsoring someone is taking action and making the calls,” he said, which could help women more.  

The SISO CEO Summit Annual Business Luncheon opened up with Ned Krause, who heads E.J. Krause & Associates and is the incoming SISO chairman, saying, “SISO has been very good to me. I started to get involved in its second year.”

He said the association has grown to 195 members this year. “We’re extremely pleased, especially with all of the M&A activity the last couple of years,” Krause said.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of a few more sessions that highlighted “Security Issues - Organizers Responsibilities”, in which they discussed what were organizer’s responsibilities to plan for a possible terrorist incident at or near their events, and “Building Year-Round Customer Relationships”, led by Timothy M. Andrews, president and CEO of the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), and president of the ASI Show family of events.

That evening, attendees took part in the annual Las Vegas-sponsored dinner, followed by an Afterglow Reception with scotch and cigars under the stars.

The next morning the Robert L. Krakoff Award for Excellence was given to Charles McCurdy of Informa Exhibitions.

“It has been a real pleasure to have you all as colleagues in the industry,” McCurdy said.

He joked, “The first thing I thought was the recipients of this award are usually at the end of their career,” adding that he was not going anywhere.

The first session of the morning began with Drake Star Partners’ Kathleen Thomas giving an overview of the trade show M&A market.

She said there were 70 transactions in 2016, adding, “The sun is shining on our industry.” Thomas said there has been a lot of consolidation, with 25 percent of the TSNN Top 250 trade shows owned by four major players.

The trade show industry is a $24 billion global market, although it is very fractured in its ownership with the largest player, Reed Exhibitions, owning just 5 percent and 4 percent owned by the second biggest player, UBM.

“There is a lot of strong interest coming from the Europe and the U.K. in the U.S. market,” Thomas said.

Douglas Emslie, managing director of Tarsus Group, took the stage next and led a panel of M&A players, joking that the U.K. was re-colonizing America with all the trade show deals done here recently by companies such as Informa Exhibitions, Clarion, Tarsus and UBM.

McCurdy said that four years ago, Informa was “very under-represented in the U.S.”, but after buys of major companies such as Hanley Wood Exhibitions and Penton, he added, “We are now properly balanced in the U.S. with the rest of the world.”

Britton Jones, chairman and CEO - NXT Events Media Group, talked about the hard work that went in to selling his company Business Journals Inc. last year to UBM. “It takes a lot of work to sell a company,” he added

Jones also advised the audience, “The time to sell the company is when you have multiple people wanting to buy it, not when you are ready to sell it.”

David Loechner, president and CEO of Emerald Expositions, said of the slew of acquisitions his company has made in the past few years, “We closed on all but two acquisitions we had exclusivity on. There are a lot of boxes to get checked.”

He added that his team looks at several factors before investing, including good stability, predictability and growth.

When asked about the possibility of buying an association show, dmg events’ Galen Poss said, “With an association, you need to look at it like a marriage – until death do us part.”

Poss, in fact, led the final session of the SISO CEO Summit, which was comprised of executives who had bought, sold or worked alongside associations and their shows.

Dennis Slater, president and secretary of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers – which runs CONEXPO/CON-AGG, said a lot of associations say their show is important to them, but in reality they treat them like “cash cows” and spend very little time talking about them at board meetings.

Poss, who oversaw deals at Hanley Wood Exhibitions that included buying association shows, said the process was not an overnight one.

“If you are thinking about an association acquisition, patience is necessary,” he added. “It takes time.”

Deborah Sexton, president and CEO of the Professional Convention Management Association, also added that “Running an association (overall) was much more complex that it was years ago” and some chose to either bring in outside show management to assist, or sell their shows altogether.

Add new comment

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.