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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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.