Expo! Expo! Energizes the Trade Show Industry

December 18, 2020
Expo! Expo! Energizes the Trade Show Industry

The show for shows lived up to its billing, even if it looked different from past years. Expo! Expo!, International Association of Exhibitions and Events’ annual gathering, reunited more than 1,250 attendees in a virtual format to help spur trade shows toward a faster recovery.

“None of us expected 2020 to be the year it’s been,” said IAEE 2020/2021 Chairperson Bob McClean, executive vice president and PPAI. “We’ve all been faced with learning new and challenging things, and now we’re becoming experts at virtual events.”

Engagement levels suggest McClean is spot on, and also indicate how hungry buyers and exhibitors are to do business. The follow statistics are impressive by any standard:

  • Education sessions drew 10,000 unique registrations and 8,000 unique views; 
  • Nearly 2,500 connections were made between the 102 exhibiting companies and attendees;
  • 22,000 messages were sent via the trade show’s online platform.

“What stands out to me is how strong this industry really is…we are there for each other,” McClean said. “Despite tough times, the people in the exhibitions and events industry are resilient and I believe we will survive and even thrive in the years to come.”

The event kicked off with a robust general session introduced by IAEE President and CEO David DuBois, followed by McClean and Carrie Ferenac, IAEE 2022 chairperson-elect and co-founder and president of CNTV.

McClean and Ferenac teamed up in providing a comprehensive overview of IAEE’s extensive efforts in exhibitions industry advocacy. Over the past year, this has included working closely with various coalitions and organizations and supporting their efforts in fighting for government funding to help the industry recover via efforts such as the first-ever virtual Exhibitions Day in June.

McClean then presented the 2020 IAEE Chairperson’s Award, which was awarded to the Go LIVE Together coalition and Bob Priest-Heck, CEO of the Freeman Company, who leads the growing effort that works to protect the events industry through advocacy efforts.

Ferenac and McClean then relayed an impressive roster of the many ways IAEE has been laying the groundwork for a strong industry recovery, including releasing white papers, webinars and launching a virtual exhibitions and events marketplace, along with myriad community initiatives and international efforts. 

Leeann Norton, IAEE’s 2020 CEM chair, introduced the 2020 CEM graduating class, which included 194 event professionals from 13 countries. Next, Gregg Caren, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, touted a host of new developments in the city that 2021 Expo! Expo! participants will be able to experience for themselves when they converge upon the city Dec. 7-9.

International speaker, consultant and author Risha Grant jump-started day two with an engaging, boldly honest keynote session addressing diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias in the workplace titled “Permission: Granted and How to Get Rid of Your BS.” 

During this compelling, no-holds-barred session, Grant explained how barriers and biases prevent diversity and inclusion in an organization, and then outlined a comprehensive, three-step process to help people overcome their own biases and barriers. 

She then closed the session by providing action steps that people could adopt to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, including building authentic relationships with people different from you; being intentional about including others; questioning one’s assumptions and challenging microaggressions.

“If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, you do that through inclusion,” Grant said. “Is there something about your culture that makes you feel that their voice doesn’t matter? How can you be an ally and help them amplify their voice? Who is it that you can help to become a part of the team, teach them the ropes and show them how to excel? Diversity is about all of us and inclusion is where we have the opportunity to come together and create better products and services that represent the world we serve.”

While it may not be the same as other years, organizers agreed Expo! Expo!, provided the spark the industry needed.

We are incredibly pleased at the result and grateful to the show partners who collaborated with us to create such an outstanding experience,” said Dubois.


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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.