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Event Recap: 2018 SISO CEO Summit Draws 300+ to Las Vegas


LAS VEGAS — More than 300 industry professionals attended the 2018 Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) CEO Summit, with approximately 175 C-level show organizers, said David Audrain, Executive Director of SISO. Final numbers won’t be available until next week, but this year’s attendance was about the same as last year’s event in Miami.

“This is the largest and most important gathering each year of the leaders in our industry,” Audrain said. “SISO currently has 193 corporate members, and we have the vast majority of the top 30 global organizers as members, as well as many small and mid-sized entrepreneurial companies.”

The SISO CEO Summit was held April 16-19 at the Four Seasons Hotel. It was hard to believe that a mass shooting took place in the same building where the event was held. The Four Seasons Hotel sits atop the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, giving SISO attendees an up close and personal view of the glass windows that cover the sides of the 43-story mega-complex that also includes a convention center with just over 1 million square feet of prime exhibit space, according to TSE’s The World’s Top Convention Centers 2017.

It is apparent that the city has bounced back from the tragedy and continues to grow and develop. Las Vegas is home to more TSE Gold 100 show than any other city, hosting 29 of the top 100 U.S. B2B exhibitions in 2016. Since last October, Las Vegas has hosted a number of Gold 100 shows, including National Business Aviation Association Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition, CES, SHOT Show, and NAB Show — to name a few.

During the event, Chris Meyer, Vice President Global Business Sales for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, unveiled a video with recently approved plans for the construction of the Las Vegas Convention Center District.

Sessions & More

The event kicked off with the SISO Women’s Executive Forum, a half day of education and networking developed by the SISO Women Special Interest Group (SIG), which was chaired by Courtney Muller, Chief Corporate Development and Strategy Officer for Clarion UX.

Forty-two women attended the second annual program, compared with about 40 last year, said Muller. She announced the launch of the Women’s Leadership Forum, which will be held for the first time in August. The one-and-a-half day program will be co-located with the SISO Leadership Conference. SISO members will be able to use their free registration to send a director/VP level staffer to both, Audrain said.

Diversified Executive Vice President Mary Larkin moderated the session, “Making it to the top in our industry: How did two women do it in different ways?” Larkin interviewed Nancy Walsh, former executive at Reed Exhibitions who recently launched Nancy P. Walsh Xpert Consulting LLC, and Cassandra Farrington, CEO and Co-Founder of Marijuana Business Daily.

With more than 50 attendees, the Small Business Roundtable offered four hours of content specific to their needs. Session topics included: Best practices for Building Content, Marketing 2020, Planning & Positioning for Sale, Festival Events, Where Does the Next Great Idea Come From?, and Surviving Volatile Markets.

Ted Wirth, President, Diversified Communications, officially began his term as SISO Chair, taking over the duties from Ned Krause, President and CEO, E.J. Krause & Associates. During the annual business meeting and luncheon, Wirth told the audience the association has more in its reserves than it has ever had in its history. Wirth also announced SISO will be adding SIGs for chief financial officers (CFOs) and chief marketing officers (CMOs) in 2019. The new SIGs join the existing Small Business and Women’s Leadership SIGs.

Former SISO Chairman Tony Calanca, Executive Vice President, Exhibitions for UBM Americas, announced the 2018 winner of the SISO Robert L. Krakoff Industry Award of Excellence as Galen Poss, Chief Operating Officer, dmg::events.

According to SISO, “this award is named in honor of a legend of the industry, Robert L. Krakoff, who built and ran some of the most successful businesses in the exhibition industry. It is the only award that SISO gives out, and it is only given to the most impactful leaders of for-profit businesses in the exhibition and event industry.” Last year’s winner was Charlie McCurdy, CEO of Informa’s Global Exhibitions division. A list of previous winners is available at:

Networking Vegas Style

There were ample networking opportunities with breakfasts, lunches, breaks, receptions, dinners and after-glow parties over the course of the three-day event. The opening night festivities were held at the Four Seasons. On the second night, Las Vegas hosted a reception and dinner at the Rivea Restaurant, followed by an afterglow reception at the SkyFall Lounge. Both located on the 64th floor of the Delano Hotel, the venues offered sweeping views of the Las Vegas Strip at sunset.

On the day three, sessions wrapped up by lunch, and attendees were given the opportunity to network at the SISO Annual Golf Tournament at the Spanish Trails Golf Course, go cart racing at Pole Position or have cocktails and conversations pool side. For closing dinner event, attendees broke off into smaller groups to eat at various restaurants at Mandalay Bay

Next up for the association, the 2018 SISO Leadership Conference will be held Aug. 7-9 in Orlando. The 2019 SISO CEO Summit will be held March 24-27 at Turnberry Isle in Miami.

Look for a comprehensive recap of the SISO CEO Summit, with key takeaways from the conference program, in the June issue of Trade Show Executive.

Reach David Audrain at (404) 334-4585 or

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