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2019 SISO Leadership Conference Posts Record Attendance in the Motor City


DETROIT — A record number of independent show organizers and industry suppliers — more than 200 registrants — gathered for the 2019 Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) Leadership Conference, held Aug. 13-15 at the COBO Center.

“This year’s conference had a record attendance and a terrific program that was developed as it is every year by a new Planning Committee” said SISO Executive Director David Audrain. “Detroit was a wonderful host, and everyone was impressed with the COBO Center and the city of Detroit!”

Six years after the Motor City filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, Detroit’s rebirth is apparent, with billions in investments to the downtown area. Part of the new $2.1 billion sports and entertainment district, the Little Caesars Arena, which opened in 2017, is home to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and the NBA’s Detroit Pistons. Several new downtown hotels, including the Shinola Hotel and The Element, opened within the last year.

SISO members came out to see the city’s renaissance, with 50 member companies taking advantage of the Send-1-Free program, Audrain said. Each member company could send one employee to the Leadership Conference for free, and the SISO Board approved continuing the program next year.

This year’s SISO Leadership Women’s Forum, developed by the SISO Women Special Interest Group (SIG), drew 75 attendees, compared with 65 attendees in 2018. Held Aug. 12-13, the SISO Leadership Women’s Forum included eight hours of programing over two days, along with networking opportunities at meal functions. The event featured a reception and dinner at the Motown Museum. Attendees dined on SLOWS Bar BQ and toured the Motown Records office from 1959 to 1972 and Studio A, where artists like the Temptations, Miracles and Marvelettes recorded top hits.

The planning committee, led by Informa Markets Vice President Design Group’s Dana Teague, put together a program that featured a day-and-a-half of content. For the first time, the conference offered breakouts for small business, marketing, revenue and operations, as well as SISO short talks, 20-minute presentations on human resources, marketing and career advancement. Shinola CEO Tom Lewand and Capitalism 2.0 Inc. CEO Mark Fernandes provided attendees with an outside perspective on approaching business challenges.

The Innovation Battlefield featured five tech companies, including:

  • Goodshuffle strives to modernize the event rental, production and design industries. The platform offers online rental of furniture, tents, décor, linen and more to event organizers.
  • PLNIFY is an event management software and mobile application designed to organize and mobilize show teams by streamlining the communication process. Users can update schedules, share itineraries and travel plans, allocate responsibilities, and distribute information to a select few or the entire team.
  • Rebus is an AI suggestion engine and payment solution where venues can create and monetize ancillary revenue opportunities based on behavioral data.
  • Resiada offers a room block management system that provides actionable data for users to make informed decisions and the potential to generate revenue.
  • SmartXpo sells a price optimization software for the exhibitions industry. The company offers solutions for portfolio management, automated price optimization, budgeting, forecasting and margin improvement.

After presentations by each company and a Q&A with the audience, attendees voted on the technology they thought was most innovative. Resiada took home this year’s prize.

Networking opportunities included an opening party at the Whiskey Factory. Attendees mixed and mingled during a tour of the distillery and a walking tour of the nearby neighborhoods. The closing party was held at Punch Bowl Social, a venue that offers games, bowling, pool and more.

Next up for the association: The 2020 SISO CEO Summit will be held March 30-April 2 at the Four Seasons Las Colinas in Dallas. The 2020 SISO Leadership Conference is scheduled for August 11-13 in Dallas, and the 2020 SISO Women’s Leadership Forum will be held August 10-11.

Look for key takeaways from the SISO Leadership Conference in the October issue of TSE.

Reach David Audrain at (404) 334-4585 or

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