CHICAGO — Bob Priest-Heck, CEO of Freeman, was honored at the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) CEO Summit this year with the auspicious Robert L. Krakoff Industry Award of Excellence.
The Krakoff Industry Award of Excellence is named in honor of industry legend Robert L. Krakoff, who built and managed some of the most successful businesses in the trade show industry. The award is the only that SISO presents, and it is given to one of the most impactful leaders of for-profit business in the industry.
As is the tradition, the award was presented during the SISO CEO Summit luncheon. “Bob is one of the real disrupters in our industry,” Hervé Sedky, President and CEO at Emerald and outgoing Chair of SISO, said. “He is constantly pushing the industry forward. In fact, his mantra is that to beat disruption you have to be the disruption. Bob’s innovation and creativity is equally matched with his ability to connect deeply with people around him. He genuinely cares about the thousands of people who work for him. In fact, under his leadership Forbes recognized the organization he leads, Freeman, as No. 4 in the Best Employers for Women. He is also known to be a strategic risk taker-one that always seeks ways to tap into people’s creativity so that they can excel, innovate and ultimately reimagine what is possible.”
Priest-Heck was recognized in part because of the vital role he played in the launch of Go LIVE Together, an online resource and rallying point for a coalition of associations, companies and professionals through the pandemic to facilitate legislative action. He also serves as a Board Member for the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance, which continues advocacy efforts that align with those of Go LIVE Together.
As well as championing legislative advocacy, Priest-Heck was a part of the CEO advisory group that launched the Net Zero Carbon Events pledge in 2021.
“I love the events industry. I am proud of the work we do,” said Priest-Heck. “I feel nothing but grateful. This comes from starting out on the show organizer side and then supporting it on the supplier side with Freeman. So, to be honored with the Robert L. Krakoff SISO Award is beyond gratifying. Just to stand in the company of past winners – those industry giants – is huge. And the award is a big reminder that I have been blessed throughout my career to work with the best people. That’s the secret, right? Work with the best people.”
“Bob Priest-Heck was a very deserving winner of SISO’s highest honor,” Vincent Polito, CEO of SISO said. “As a past member and as someone who often still thinks like an independent show organizer, he played an indispensable role in rallying the entire event ecosystem together during the challenges of the last couple years. I applaud this selection.”
Priest-Heck has served as CEO of Freeman since 2018 and has been with the company for nearly 12 years. Before joining Freeman, Priest-Heck served as CEO for several companies including Wheelhouse Solutions and companies that belonged to WheelHouse Solutions.