SISO Executive Conference Draws Attendance Uptick in Chicago

August 15, 2012

Someone might wonder what feathers, bricks, rhinoceroses and cows all have to do with the trade show industry, but attendees at the Aug. 13-15 Society of Independent Show Organizers’ Executive Conference discovered that content is either like a feather that floats away or is more permanent like a brick and salespeople sometimes are passive (like cows) or charge forward (like rhinos).

In all, according to SISO’s Executive Director Lew Shomer, there were 98 senior-level executive delegates at the three-day event held at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel and an additional 50-plus vendors and guests on hand to learn about content marketing, sales strategies and attendee acquisition, among other hot-button topics.

Last year’s event in Philadelphia drew 94 senior-level executives.

“Attendees walked away with things they said they were going to implement tomorrow,” Shomer said.

For example, during the opening keynote given by Joe Pulizzi, who is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute and Content Marketing World, he gave several show organizers an ‘aha’ moment when he told them not to use a Twitter hashtag for their events that included a date on it or else they would have to start over again the next year.

He also said that quality content is the key to not only having a strong online presence, but also it will draw more people to a company’s live events as well.

It was Pulizzi who told the audience, “Feathers are every day content, and bricks are the kind of content people love to share.” He encouraged conference attendees to focus on creating brick content to really spread awareness far and wide.

Pulizzi’s keynote was followed by another session, “How to Build a Community and Manage Its Content”, with Stephanie Selesnick, president of International Trade Information, and Allen Bonde, CMO of The Pulse Network.

Bonde said a mixture of one-part content and one-part connections equaled a community. “In order to build a community, how do you syndicate the content to feed and grow the community?” Bonde asked.

He added that if the process was being managed well, the community would actually end up creating a lot of the content on their own.

Content creation usually revolves around a show cycle, but Selesnick said, “You need to keep feeding content all year and not just before and after an event.”

Other sessions during the first full day included “The New Rules of Engagement Part Deux” that followed up on a session from the 2011 event, as well as “Mastering the Art of Negotiation” and lunch topic discussions that ranged from sustainability to social media.

The second day of education kicked off with Dan Cole, vice president of sales and business development for International CES, giving a keynote during which he advised people who were in a position to hire salespeople to really look for people who have a good overall attitude, more so than if they had experience in the industry.

Cole said he learned this lesson early on in his sales career as a door-to-door copier salesperson. “It’s not the most fun in the world,” he added. But, from that experience and others he learned early on in his career he formulated what he called Rule No. 1 for sales – “You can succeed with the right attitude, effort and accountability.”

The rest of his session was comprised of nine more sales rules he lives by, some of which included Rule No. 4 – “Onus Can’t be on the Exhibitor” and Rule No. 5 – “Activity is not king.”

Cole added, “You can’t just smile and dial anymore. As salespeople, you have to be more consultative. It’s important to remember we can’t take any of this for granted. Now, more than ever, we know our success is not guaranteed. “

The rest of the morning was packed with other sessions such as “What Drives Sales Stars”, “Leading Edge Attendee Acquisition Strategies” and “Revenue Streams: Monetizing New Media.”

It wasn’t all education though, the SISO Executive Conference also had plenty of networking opportunities. The opening night reception was held at the Chicago Symphony and the following evening’s activities included an architectural boat tour throughout Chicago, followed by an after-party at Harry Caray’s restaurant.

“The world around us changes, but each year this program stays relevant,” said Kerry Gumas, president and CEO of Questex Media and SISO chairperson.

Shomer said SISO’s education committee already was working on 2013’s event, on tap Aug. 6-8 in Washington, D.C.

The next event on the SISO calendar is the CEO Summit April 8-11 at The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island, S.C.

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