Interview with a Trade Show Exec: BIO International’s Robbi Lycett

September 7, 2014

This month on Interview With A Trade Show Exec we’ll be getting to know a bit more about another one of our industry’s rock stars – 32-year veteran Robbi Lycett, senior vice president, Conventions & Conferences, Biotechnology Industry Organization, which owns and runs the BIO International Convention.

While it may not have the Gothic setting of an Anne Rice novel, I think these main characters are just as complicated and deep as Lestat de Lioncourt and Louis de Pointe du Lac, but without all that brooding undead thing going on.

Where did you grow up? What was your adolescent experience like?

I’m an Army Brat.  I grew up on the east coast but we were also stationed in  Alaska and Panama.  Alaska, I really don’t remember, but Panama in the 60’s was memorable – think civil unrest and riots.  Fun too, though!  My brother was born there and it was summer all year long!

What was the first show you went to? What do you remember most about it?

I went to the National Restaurant Show as an attendee/guest.  I was in my 20’s and had never been to anything like it.  I was amazed at how large it was and all the vendors you could see in one place.

What was your first job? Did you learn any valuable lessons or tools that you have brought with you into your current career?

Like most young people starting out in life, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I had some part-time jobs, I dressed mannequins for a sportswear chain (not many people know that) but my first real job was working with Cherif Moujabber and Skip Mason, then Jerry VanDyke and Peter Nathan at Cahners Exposition Group.  I went to my first CEG tradeshow with Tony Calanca and Larry Charrlin, and when we got to the hall it was empty.  I knew the show started in a couple of days and I remember saying something like, “What happened?!  Where is everything?”  I had no idea you could build a show in a couple of days.   I’ve worked with so many great people in the industry who have shared so much, but Peter Nathan pushed me out of the nest and introduced me to exhibit sales, which was the next position I had in the industry and another story ...

When did you become interested in working in the industry? How did you get started in the trade show industry?

I had just moved to Stamford, Conn., and was looking for a job.  I applied at a temp agency/placement firm, where Bob Krakoff’s wife worked at the time and she set me up with an interview for an administrative position with Skip Mason and Cherif Moujabber.  I knew what a trade show was, but had no idea it was the beginning of a lifelong career.

Do you have any hobbies? (woodworking, birding, knitting, Herpetoculture)

Too busy growing up in the trade show industry and raising a daughter to take up a hobby over the years, but I enjoy bike riding, hanging out at the beach with friends and family and love a good book.  My daughter and I support a couple of groups in our area to help the homeless.  We both enjoy giving back because we have so much.

Do you have any pets? We want to know all about them if you do.

We have two cats.  They are my daughter’s cats and turned 14 this year.  She named them Gem and Treasure when she was 6 years old and was very upset to find out Treasure was a boy.  She wanted two sister cats!  She loves them dearly, and I am allergic!  Talk about a labor of love!

What’s on your iPod?

I love jazz, blues, country and listening to the “oldies.”

If time travel was possible, where would you go and why? (You cannot choose the future because it hasn’t happened yet and there is the possibility you may have to stay put wherever you travel to … So answer wisely.)

I have been reconnecting more with my deceased mother’s family the past few years.  She was one of 10 children, so it’s a big family!  I’d like to go back and learn more about my heritage.  My daughter and I took the 23 and Me DNA test a year ago and we are learning that we have many relatives of European descent, so some trip to Europe, maybe?

Name three people you would love to have lunch with? (Living, dead, famous, infamous, unknown …)

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Katherine Hepburn, Duke Ellington

What are your future goals? (Career, education, travel, etc.)

To help my daughter through the next few years of her life finishing college and getting a job that she loves and will make her happy.  I’d like to volunteer more; pay it forward; and have some more time to spend with family and friends.   There are a few places I want to see – Ireland to start!  Yes, I’m Irish!

Thank you Robbi for being such a great sport! We wish your daughter all the luck in the world landing that perfect job. You are already a great role model to everyone in the industry and have a blast in Ireland

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