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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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.