Niche EventFest Excites Attendees at First Launch in New Orleans

November 19, 2014

How do attendees of the first-ever Niche EventFest get to a networking party? They have a traditional second line parade down the middle of Poydras Street in New Orleans accompanied by a brass band and a police escort.

Niche EventFest, held Nov. 3-5, is the creation of Carl Landau, self-proclaimed Grand Poobah of Niche Media and believer that fun and conferences go well together. This isn’t Landau’s first rodeo though. Niche Media is the producer of Niche Media Conference, Niche Digital Conference and Niche CEO Summit.

Landau said the idea for Niche EventFest came from the obvious interest in events as a revenue source from attendees at his other Niche conferences. Once he saw that event focused workshops were selling out, he knew the time was right.

Niche EventFest is targeted to niche publishers looking to add events to their portfolio or those looking to improve the events they already manage. This first Niche EventFest was attended by 128 business-to-business publishers, consumer magazine publishers, corporate event producers and association event managers.

While Niche Media incorporated a lot of fun and laughter into their event, there was serious education and networking taking place as well.

Andrew Davis, author and founder of Monumental Shift, kicked off the event by encouraging attendees to keep the momentum of their events going 365 days of the year by thinking like a publisher.

Phil Mershon, director of events for Social Media Examiner said, “Drew Davis imploded my ‘best-ever’ mindset and highlighted the importance of harnessing the eight weeks of natural momentum leading up to our event and seeking to leverage that into future loyalty from our audience and customers.”

From there, 21 speakers presented at eighteen sessions, roundtable discussions and a pre-event workshop. Breakout sessions focused on high-level topics for the CEO, operations, and marketing and audience acquisition.

The small size of the event offered attendees, speakers and sponsors an ideal networking opportunity. It was an event where you could meet every person in attendance and spend quality time in deeper conversation with many of the people you met there.

“I came to Niche EventFest to meet other event directors from similar conferences and was thrilled to find veterans and newbies who helped each other think through all facets of our events. Incredible opportunity and value,” Mershon said.

The event culminated with a Niche Media version of the popular T.V. show “Shark Tank” called Niche Tank. Four lucky contestants had the opportunity to pitch their event to two “investors”, industry veterans Sean Guerre of Stone Fort Media and Greg Topalian of LeftField Media.

While there was no real money being invested, it was all in fun, contestants pitched very real ideas and the judges offered valuable advice to each contestant.

Lest things get too serious, though, Davis, playing the role of emcee, kept the audience laughing. The open bar didn’t hurt either.

Brad Ring of Battenkill Communications plied the judges with wine as he pitched his idea for a home wine maker event. We would never accuse the honorable judges of being swayed, but Ring did, in fact, win the contest and got a neon green Niche EventFest bowling shirt for his efforts.

“I was planning on rolling out more regional winemaking events and homebrewing events over the next year, but it was great getting positive reinforcement from the panel as I start up the long hours it will take to make these new events successful,” Ring said.

Landau can relate to the work and challenges a new event brings. As with any new event, Landau said his biggest challenge was that potential sponsors don’t know you.

“Sometimes, sponsors will stick with an event even though it’s not working for them, over trying something new,” he added. Landau started with sponsors who trusted his reputation and built from there.

“The key thing is the attendee experience. If (attendees) have a good experience, the word will spread,” Landau said.

Based on comments from his audience, Niche EventFest should have no trouble spreading the good word. Dates and location for Niche EventFest 2015 still are being decided.

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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.