Atlantic City Pulls Out All the Stops for 175 Attendees to SISO’s Executive Leadership Conference

August 14, 2014

Atlantic City rolled out the red carpet, and then some, for 175 attendees to the Society of Independent Show Organizers’ Executive Leadership Conference, held Aug. 11-13 at the Revel Casino and Resort.

Even with news about some casinos closing and the fate of the Revel in the balance right now, the city forged ahead and put on a high-level event, with three days filled with networking and education opportunities.

“We loved it here,” said SISO’s Executive Director Lew Shomer. “They have been great to us. They really pulled out all the stops. The Revel was fabulous for its food and venue and Meet AC put together all of their assets for this event to make it successful, and we really appreciate it.”

According to Shomer, attendance was on par with last year’s event, though there were several first-time attendees this year.

The education portion of the event examined what exhibitors and attendees really want, technology and practices that currently are shaking up the industry and how to navigate a multi-generational workplace, to name a few,

David Adler, CEO and founder of BizBash Media and head of SISO’s education committee, opened the conference and said, “Today, we’re going to take you into the mind of the disrupters.”

He added, “Isn’t it an exciting time to be in our business?”

Nicole Peck, executive director, Integrated Marketing - Beauty & Spa Groups, Questex Media Group, and Tom Mitchell, president of Messe Duesseldorf North America, both also were on the education committee and helped co-host the event with Adler.

The first speaker up was Jay Weintraub, event entrepreneur and founder of LeadCon, who had recently completed the sale of his company to Access Intelligence.

He detailed the rewards and challenges of creating an event and the community around it from scratch.

“Building an attendee database was one of the issues we dealt with,” Weintraub said, adding  that the cost can be high.

Next on the stage was Ryan Begelman, Summit Co-Founder and Bisnow Media CEO, who told the story of how the Summit Series started with 19 CEOS and grew into an event with 7,000-plus artists, astronauts, entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders who all meet on a mountaintop that was bought specifically for the event in Utah.

Every aspect of the Summit Series is thought through to create a transformative experience for the attendees, such as an onsite barbershop, partnering with a local animal shelter and giving people the opportunity to take one home and meetups in places like teepee-designed tea huts.

“It’s not just a Kumbaya experience,” Begelman said. “It’s really about getting business done.”

His message to the audience was to create unique experiences at their own events and a passionate community will follow, as well as to not be afraid to take big risks.

Another session consisted of the entire room breaking up into tables of 10 and brainstorming on three topics that included how to keep people on the floor for a show’s final day, shifting a portion of a show from B2B to B2C and new technology.

Each team was challenged to come up with at least five ideas for one of the topics chosen by the table, and the results were collected and will be released by SISO to its membership.

Another session the first day took a look at what’s working in attendee marketing. Kim Rivielle formerly managing director of Marketing and Business Strategy and HO Innovation, IIRNY, advised that people should try to humanize their events and get away from the conference speak.

She added that storytelling was a way to “emotionally connect with your audience.”

Other tips included not just sending out an email asking people to register, but adding content, like an interview with the keynote and then the call to action somewhere in the email, as well as to consider hiring a copywriter who can write compelling content for each segment of the industry the show might serve, which in turn will create more of an authentic connection.

In the afternoon, SISO attendees heard about what the differences are between the four generations working in the marketplace right now and how they can work more effectively together, how and why niche events are growing so fast and how to really listen to your exhibitors.

Dinner that night was at the One Atlantic, a venue that had floor-to-ceiling windows and jutted out over the Atlantic Ocean. Over a three-course meal, attendees had the opportunity to “play” by singing karaoke, shooting hoops, getting a caricature done or challenging someone at a game of foosball.

The next morning kicked off with three tech companies fighting it out to win SISO’s Event Innovation Battlefield. Taking to the stage and presenting their products for six minutes each, the winner voted on by the audience was CrowdMics, a technology that allowed attendees to use their own mobile device as a microphone.

After the battlefield, Nancy Drapeau, research director for the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, presented key findings from the SISO sponsored CEIR Study on “Young Professional Attendee Needs and Preferences”.

The second to last session of the day focused on customer research and debunking the myths of what worked and what didn’t, such as sending out surveys and not getting responses.

The conference ended with a session on “Sell Everything! From Sponsorships to Space of Any Type. What Works Now?” that took a look at successes, such as taking the time and resources to create customized programs, as opposed to a “one size fits all” approach to selling sponsorships.

Tom Christmann, director of Media Sales, Reed Exhibitions, said they learned what didn’t work when they sold sponsorships to the B2B side of one of their events and it didn’t perform, while on the B2C side it sent gangbusters.

In order to demonstrate the value more effectively, he added, “We learned we had to be specific about who was going to be watching the B2B stream.”

For more on the sessions visit HERE.

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