Society of Independent Show Organizers' CEO Summit Scores Record-breaking Attendance

March 26, 2012

The trade show industry is on a hot streak, with several events breaking all-time attendance records, including the Society of Independent Show Organizers’ CEO Summit, held March 25-28 at The Grand Del Mar resort in San Diego.

The event drew 250 attendees, invited guests and sponsors, many of whom were CEOs of the biggest worldwide for-profit show organizing companies. In that attendee mix also were a record-breaking amount of international attendees, 52 from 18 countries around the world.

Kerry Gumas, SISO chair and CEO and president of Questex Media, joked the only continent not represented in the room was Antarctica.

In addition, one more record for SISO to boast about was the 20 new member companies that came to the event for the first time this year.

“This is one of the best executive networking events in the world,” Gumas said.

Lew Shomer, SISO’s executive director, said the record-breaking number of attendees at the event was a 5-percent increase, compared with last year’s CEO Summit.

“We think we have such compelling content, people need to be here,” Shomer said. “It’s the only place they can do it.”

The event’s theme was “The Greatest Shows on Earth” and featured sessions that ranged from entrepreneurship, marketing strategies, social media, CEO insights, globalization and much more.

The event kicked off with an opening night reception and dinner, followed by a full day of education sessions and even more networking events.

Denzil Rankine of AMR International started off the day of education looking to the future, saying, “Chief Marketing Officers’ focus on ROI is sharper than ever. By 2015, it will be the single most important measure of marketing success.”

Some of the other morning sessions, all of which were titled after well-known movies, included Mike Rusbridge, chairman and CEO of Reed Exhibitions, and David Levin, CEO of UBM, in the “Lord of the Rings: Twin Towers” discussing with Jonathan Knee, managing director of Evercore Partners, the growth of their respective companies and successes, as well as mistakes, they’ve made along the way.

Both Rusbridge and Levin urged show organizers to remain customer-centric in their approach to the business.

“We get really worried about not taking care of customers,” Levin said when Knee asked him what kept him up at night.

Other sessions throughout the day covered the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, especially during a time when small businesses are struggling to get financing.

Some good news in the industry came after lunch when Doug Ducate, president and CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, presented the latest CEIR Index for the full-year 2011 showing 2.7 percent overall growth in the industry, compared with 2010.

Also after lunch, Nancy Hasselback, president and CEO of Diversified Business Communications, was presented with the International Association of Exhibitions and Events'  Robert L. Krakoff Leadership Award. She accepted the award, adding, “I am so surprised and so honored to have an award with Bob Krakoff’s name on it.”

There were several sessions throughout the day given by speakers outside the traditional trade show industry crowd, such as Bill Schlough, vice president and CIO of the San Francisco Giants, discussing new trends like dynamic ticket pricing, and Hugh Forrest, director of the SXSW Interactive Festival, talking about how the event has grown so fast they aren’t sure how to contain it going into the future.

That night was capped off by another dinner and reception, followed by another half day of education on tap, featuring even more sessions ranging from emerging markets to a panel discussion between the CEOs of several general service contracting companies joined by Larry Arnaudet from the Exhibition Services & Contractors Association.

“The educational content is where we have a free exchange of ideas from leaders of the industry,” Shomer said. “It’s also about bringing out-of-the-box speakers we feel we can learn from.”

The next SISO event is the Executive Conference scheduled Aug. 13-15 at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel.

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