Atlantic City, NJ – The Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) Executive Leadership Conference, which was held August 11-13 at the Revel Casino and Hotel, gathered a diverse mix of show managers and suppliers to the New Jersey shore. “The event drew 108 paid attendees, compared with 110 attendees last year,” said Lew Shomer, executive director of SISO.
Despite news that the Revel would cease operations in September, Atlantic City hosted the annual event without a hitch. The three-day conference featured a variety of networking opportunities and educational sessions. The conference program was put together by David Adler, founder and CEO, BizBash Media, Tom Mitchell, president, Messe Dusseldorf North America, and Nicole Peck, executive director, integrated marketing for the beauty & spa groups, Questex Media Group.
“David, Tom and Nicole put together a great conference program,” said Rick McConnell, president, Hanley Wood Exhibitions, who is serving as Chairman, SISO. “They set a high bar for those going forward.”
Over the course of one-and-a-half days, the conference featured 10 sessions on topics that ranged from selling sponsorships to the art of building passionate communities. Here are some of the key takeaways identified by Trade Show Executive:
- Create serendipitous moments. “We want attendees to be close to create as many serendipitous moments as possible,” said Ryan Begelman, CEO and Summit co-founder, Bisnow Media. At Summit Series events, attendees share lodging and sit elbow-to-elbow on the floor during sessions. Begelman said other successful tactics include salon-style dining, where attendees sit at long rectangular tables instead of rounds; creating a hammock village instead of traditional lounges; and an on-site barbershop where attendees can network while getting a shave and a haircut.
- Put fans first. When Reed Exhibitions launched ReedPOP in 2006, the group created a manifesto to define who they are. The manifesto includes 10 key points about the group’s mission and guiding principles. “No. 1: We always put our fans first,” said Lance Fensterman, group vice president, Reed Exhibitions. “If we put fans first, then brands will follow.” Today, ReedPOP events generate 20% of total revenue for North America.
- Curate your content. “We curate everything we do,” said Dan Goldstein, director of marketing & communications, Integrated Systems Europe (ISE). ISE produces a number of content marketing programs, including daily TV news during the event, daily on-site newspapers, online news, three show guides and an official visitor magazine. “Official media revenue has risen 38% in two years,” said Goldstein. “But growing revenue is not, and never will be, our key goal with content marketing.”
- Humanize your event. “Use storytelling to create an authentic voice for your event,” said Kim Rivielle, former managing director of marketing and business strategy, Institute for International Research (IIR), who is currently on summer sabbatical. “Rethink and retrain your marketing team from creating over-used, conference-speak copy to crafting a story that humanizes your event brand.” Develop a six-word story that is less formal and connects emotionally with your attendees, she advised.
- Old school still works. “We have tested re-marketing and re-targeting campaigns with medium success,” said Lindsey Fuller, show director, Aerospace Events, Access Intelligence LLC. “Customized exhibitor expo/conference passes in print and PDF format are still the most effective.” Fuller said telemarketing campaigns are also still effective. She records a voicemail from the chairman with a discount code, followed up with an email the next morning from the chairman (not the show) with the subject line “Per my voicemail” or “Following up on my voicemail.”
NETWORKING & MORE
The event opened with a reception and dinner at the Revel. Professional chefs at the Revel offered a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to gear up for banquet functions. They provided attendees with a demonstration of wine tastings and meal preparations. Each table took part to plating and serving dinner and wine, with some help from hotel chefs and staff.
On Tuesday, a luncheon featured table discussions with a variety of topics, including favorite pets, books, movies, things on your bucket list and more. That evening, attendees were given a police escort to a reception and dinner at One Atlantic, which is located on the top floor of The Pier Shops at Caesars. Extending 100 yards out over the Atlantic Ocean, the venue offers unparalleled views of the sea, sand and boardwalk through floor-to-ceiling windows.
On Wednesday, the 2nd Annual SISO Event Innovation Battlefield featured three companies who pitched their new products to attendees. The companies featured included:
- PRSONAS. The company provides virtual presenters that use artificial intelligence and computer-generated visual technologies to interact with trade show attendees and gather user analytics. PRSONAS can deliver marketing messages, provide customer support and conduct commerce in any language.
- Coatchex. The company offers ticketless check-in technology for mobile coat racks. A digital app uses photographs and QR codes to check coats, as well as gather customer data. Organizers can connect with users on social media by offering discounts to attendees who ‘like’ the show on Facebook or post photos on Twitter or Instagram.
- Crowd Mics. The company offers a technology that turns iOS and Android devices into wireless microphones. Attendees can talk into their smartphones and tablets and be heard over a room’s sound system in real-time. The product also includes a text comment feature and audience polling.
Attendees voted on the best new product, and Crowd Mics was declared the winner.
The 2015 SISO Executive Leadership Conference will be held August in Dallas.
Reach Lew Shomer at (310) 450-8831, ext. 2, or lshomer@Shomex.com