LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The International Association for Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) held its annual Expo! Expo! at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Ky., Dec. 14-15, bringing together a mix of top trade show organizers, innovative tech exhibitors, destination organizations and other industry leaders. The “Show for Shows” drew 233 exhibitors and more than 1,700 attendees for education sessions, tech demos, peer-to-peer panels, motivating keynote speakers and a buzzworthy show floor filled with activations and face-to-face networking opportunities.
Trade Show Executive was in attendance for the show, including the Dec. 13 Education Day, ranging in timely topics from advocacy to attendee engagement to workforce challenges. Education Day was moved this year to a day before rather than after the official Expo! Expo! show to drive attendance. The strategy worked, as sessions such as “Reimagining the Attendee’s Experience in the Next Normal” drew a full house. The presentation focused on interaction and engagement, tackling questions such as how to “edutain” and how to better cater a show to attendees by asking them questions about their purpose for attending the show.
Key takeaways for the session, “Mutually Beneficial: The Organizer & Exhibitor Dynamic” included having an effective communication channel to voice concerns or questions to help build trust and engaging stakeholders. Cooperation between organizers and exhibitors, such as having an Exhibitor Advisory Council, can give exhibitors the confidence to return year after year and help to find solutions to the challenges being faced.
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David DuBois, President and CEO of IAEE, led the session “From Capitol Hill to the Show Floor: How Advocacy Is Supporting the Road to Recovery,” which focused on past successes of the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA) in advocating for the exhibitions industry on Capitol Hill, what issues are important for 2023 as well as how IAEE members can get involved. Visa wait times is one of the issues of concern as well as continued supply chain challenges.
The emphasis was on getting local legislative leaders to understand the importance trade shows and events bring to the local economy, with a suggestion to invite them to shows in their area, or even the setup of shows to see how many people are employed by a single show.
“Invite your local congressperson for the conference where your event is to come; they love seeing what’s going on. They love seeing action in their districts,” Julie Pazina, National Director of Sales at Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services and recent winner of the election for Nevada State Senate District 12, said.
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The session “Gentelligence: How Gen-Z Is Shifting Company Culture and How Succession Planning Is More Important Than Ever” focused on the importance of asking your employees what their expectations are and checking in on employees about themselves and not just their work. For hiring tips, statistics noted that 70% of college seniors said they strongly expect their employers to be committed to DEI in the hiring process and 51% of Gen Z rated mental health as a priority while job hunting.
Other activities on Education Day included live podcasts and Hackathon pitch sessions where participants were given tasks to complete, followed by collaborative conversations and the opportunity to see the results of their learnings.
Let the Show for Shows Begin
The official opening day of Expo! Expo! started with a welcome from Dubois and a celebration of the CEM Class of 2022. The keynote interview featured NCAA soccer standout Lauren Holiday, a U.S. Women’s soccer team member, and three-time Olympic medalist, who has faced severe medical challenges including being diagnosed with a brain tumor during her pregnancy with her husband and NBA All-Star and Milwaukee Bucks’ player Jrue Holiday.
Holiday emphasized that her positive outlook throughout has guided her through as she shared her philosophy, “focus on what you can control because there’s so much that you cannot.” Her parting words were, “Joy does come in the morning, it just might not be tomorrow.”
Following the session, the show floor officially opened for business and networking, including a wellness area with chair and foot massages; tech startup “Shark Tank” presentations with the winner ExpoFP, offering interactive floor plans for trade shows, awarded at the closing ceremony; special interviews with industry leaders conducted by Rich Vallaster, Director, Client Relations & Support, Personify A2Z Events, held at the A2Z Events News and Views Theatre; and a Kentucky Derby-style fun zone competition led by Global Experience Specialists (GES).
The two days also featured sessions, including “Champion the Adoption of Sustainable and Socially Impactful Practices Within Your Events” hosted by speakers Glenn Hansen, President and CEO of BPA Worldwide, and Mariela McIlwraith, Executive Consultant with the Events Industry Council (EIC), which release its updated Sustainable Event Standards in 2022.
Related. EIC Announces Inaugural 2022 Online Sustainability Certification
The executive breakfast session, “Building an Effective Talent Strategy” featured presenter Alex Chausovsky, MBA, Director of Analytics and Consulting for Miller Resource Group, who addressed the topic of staffing shortages, workforce retention, and how to attract the new Gen Z generation to the workforce.
Expo! Expo! focused on networking, with half-hour breaks between sessions as well as activations, including Hatitude, where attendees helped create their own Kentucky Derby style festive hats and headbands in preparation for the opening night reception at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.
IAEE’s own advocacy program along with GES, collaborated on the 13th annual Humanity Rocks: A Celebration with a Cause, which was a ticketed event at Tavern on Fourth in Louisville’s Fourth Street Live district, raising $10,000 for the Backside Learning Center.
For early risers, two busloads of attendees braved the elements to walk/run Louisville’s iconic Big Four Bridge and cross the Ohio River in the name of wellness the opening morning in memory of industry leader Terence Donnelly, who unexpectedly passed away in July 2019. In its third year, the event is designed to bring the IAEE community together to celebrate both Expo! Expo!’s host city and Donnelly, whose passion for the industry touched all.
Hosted by Maritz Global Events, participants were met at the bridge with a DJ who played lively music during a short warm up/stretch, and the entire Maritz Team for another impactful event.
Expo! Expo! ended on a high note at the closing general session after three days of networking, education and exhibiting. “Yesterday and today gave us a lot of hope and optimism for the future. We have made and strengthened connections that will carry us into 2023,” DuBois said.
Current IAEE Chairperson Carrie Ferenac, Owner of CNTV, interviewed the 2023 incoming Chairperson Dennis Smith, Vice President of Business Development at the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, in which he shared his plans and strategies to grow IAEE and expressed excitement for what’s in store in 2023.
The 2022 IAEE Awards were presented to the recipients and the Derby Race winners were announced, honoring those dedicated IAEE members and those who made their way all throughout the show floor.
Near the close of the session MCI USA Vice President, Convention Housing Operations and Contracting Jason Ware interviewed Broadway actor and vocalist Liz Mikel, about her roots in Dallas and her favorite spots in the city, which is the host city of the 2023 Expo! Expo! taking place Dec. 5-7.
Reach David DuBois at firstname.lastname@example.org