Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum Scores Record-breaking Crowd in D.C.

May 30, 2014
Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum Scores Record-breaking Crowd in D.C. alt

The ballroom at the JW Marriott in Washington, D.C., was filled with the who’s who of the association and for-profit trade show world; all gathered together to take part in the record-breaking 13th edition of the Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum held May 27-28.

Sam Lippman, who is president and founder of Lippman Connects and runs the event, said that the 216 registered attendees were a record, as well as the number of sponsors this year and supporting publications.

“The 13th time is not the curse, it’s the charm!,” Lippman said. “The speakers exceeded all expectations.”

The event kicked off with a welcome reception the night before a packed one-day conference schedule the next day.

After everyone in the room stood and introduced themselves at the conference, the first speaker who took the stage was Greg Topalian, senior vice president of Reed Exhibitions.

His topic was “Avoiding Irrelevance” and he said, “The next generation consumes information differently and consumes data differently.”

Just as Blockbuster video rental chain collapsed in the face of market disruption by Netflix, Topalian cautioned that B2B events must build fan-like loyalty to fend off disruptions.

Explaining that Blockbuster’s reliance on late fees gave Netflix a strategic market opening, he boldly asked ECEF attendees, “What’s our industry’s late fee?”

Topalian said that show organizers should ask themselves, “Do  (attendees) need to come to your event or do they want to come to your event?”

He also warned about sticking with the same old, same old when it came to exhibitors. “I think the exhibitor experience is the thing we could universally find the most unhappiness with,” he added.

Next up on stage was David Audrain, president and CEO of Exposition Development Company, and Paul St. Amour, vice president of Latin America, who discussed tips on attracting Mexican attendees to U.S. events and taking events down to Mexico.

Among other things, St. Amour said that attendee marketing that works includes direct mail, e-mail blasts, having partnerships with Mexican-based associations and radio, billboard and street advertising.

Both St. Amour and Audrain advised the key to success to taking a show into not only Mexico, but also any country, was to conform to the way of doing business there. For example, shows in Mexico typically are held from 1 p.m. – 8 p.m.

“Don’t just take your American model and plop it down in the marketplace there,” Audrain said.

Joe Loggia, president and CEO of Advanstar Global, talked about his company’s successes and lessons learned while launching its “Shop the Floor”, a 356-day, online fashion marketplace.

“We wanted to communicate on (the buyers and sellers) timeframe, not ours,” Loggia said. “We needed to get a platform that allowed this to happen.”

There were some bumps in the road, including coming to the conclusion they weren’t software developers and needed to bring in a company from the outside, but in the end, there now are 800 brands, 50,000 products and 4,000 buyers who regularly use the site.

After a networking luncheon, the afternoon sessions began with Chris McEntee, executive director and CEO of the American Geophysical Union, gave a presentation about the success her organization has had with its virtual event.

She said, while 23,000 members attended their annual meeting, another two-thirds did not. “We wanted to reach (those) members,” McEntee said. “How can we make this experience more valuable to them?”

And, the virtual event did not cannibalize the live event, in fact attendance the following year at the live event increased 18 percent.

Next up was Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association – which owns International CES.

“You learn from your total failures in life,” he told the crowd. “ … I do not understand people who do not have regrets.”

He detailed several lessons CEA learned trying to hold a summer version of the International CES show, including not engaging with the video game sector (which left and launched another association and the massive E3 Expo); opening the show up to the public; and engaging with everyone as order-takers, instead of building relationships.

Shapiro also challenged all show organizers in the audience to come up with “three new major things at every show,” adding that no one wanted to have the dreaded “B” word – boring.

Lastly, Larry Vincent, chief branding officer at the Brand Studio, led a discussion about how businesses should think of their brand as a business strategy, not just image and design.

He used the example of Starbucks and said the company didn’t just create a brand, but an experience every time someone stepped into one of their stores.

“How do you do the same thing with your events?” he asked the audience. “… Experience is the root of great brands.”

To see the Twitter feed for the event and a lot more coverage from the sessions look under hashtag #ECEF or Tweets from TSNN_Rachel.

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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.