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IAEE Unveils Industry PR Campaign at Annual Meeting & Expo! Expo!


Las Vegas, NV – The International Association for Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) kicked off its Annual Meeting & Expo! Expo! with an announcement that some industry professionals have waited for years to hear. IAEE is launching a public relations campaign to build awareness for face-to-face events. “IAEE has worked to promote the primacy of face-to-face events, and I am very excited to report that this long-needed and long-requested vision will become a reality starting at this meeting,” said Vinnie Polito, 2011 chair of IAEE, and managing director of VP International.

Gary Sain, president and CEO of  Visit Orlando and IAEE board member, helped to raise $1 million in funding over three years for the campaign in less than six months. “We need to be enthusiastic story tellers for this industry we love,” said Sain, who was presented the 2011 IAEE Chairman’s Award for his efforts.

“I was surprised and pleased to see the overwhelming response from members who contributed to the campaign,” Steven Hacker, IAEE president, told Trade Show Executive. “The largest donation was $15,000 over three years, so that means there are a lot of smaller contributors. To date, 75 member organizations have contributed, and we have 1,100 more members to ask.”

IAEE is asking all industry organizations – show organizers, destinations and suppliers — to share compelling success stories that can be used to demonstrate the value and gain credibility for face-to-face events. The campaign’s logo and tagline: “Face-to-Face Events. Click Here First. Create Connections.” IAEE hired Edelman, a leading PR firm, to tap its global network of contacts to get these success stories placed in business publications such as Fortune, Forbes and Bloomberg.

The cornerstone of the PR campaign will be based on show organizers, suppliers, exhibitors and destinations sharing their success stories. “Our goal with the campaign is to reach a much broader audience beyond the core constituents and prove through our members’ very own stories that, despite the most dynamic and multi-faceted technologies, nothing beats the human interaction found at exhibitions and events,” said Polito.

IAEE hopes to raise the awareness and perception among corporations worldwide about the significance of face-to-face. For every dollar invested in business travel, companies realize $12.50 in incremental revenue and $3.80 in new profits, according to The Return on Investment of U.S. Business Travel, a study by Oxford Economics USA.

Too often, when budgets are tight, travel expenses are the first to be cut. “If we would have kept the level of 1997 business travel – a record high — every year from 1998 to 2011, there would have been 870 million more business trips taken accumulatively, according to the U.S. Travel Association,” said Sain. “Of course, there are many reasons for this decline, including 9/11, the economy and visa issues. But I also think the industry isn’t doing a good job of telling the story of its value.”

“Sharing our stories is critical for our business,” said Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, CEM, vice president, Marketing Design Group and chair of the IAEE PR Task Force. “The message is not out there, and the media and business don’t understand the importance of face-to-face exhibitions and events. Companies launch new products, expand their brands internationally, develop relationships and establish partnerships. That can’t happen through any other medium.”

Implementation and Measurement
After receiving about 35 RFPs from PR agencies and interviewing three companies, IAEE selected Edelman, a leading PR firm with 50 years of experience, to execute the campaign.

“The primary objective of the campaign is to promote the ongoing relevance of events,” said Hardcastle-Geddes. “For the past several years, the shift in the overall media landscape has left many people questioning the sustained relevance and importance of the face‐to‐face experience. Our campaign will highlight that trade shows, conventions, conferences, consumer shows and other face‐to‐face events are, and will continue to be, essential.”

To that end, Edelman designed the campaign logo and tagline: “Face-to-face events. Click here first. Create Connections.” In addition, the agency worked with a handful of shows to create videos that highlight how exhibitions and events are fulfilling key business objectives.

Beginning this month through 2014, Edeman will focus on placing these success stories in a variety of different media, including online, in print and broadcasting. To measure the campaign’s effectiveness, IAEE expects to see an average of at least eight placements in
targeted media outlets per month.

Key Industry Players Pledge Their Support
As of press time, 75 IAEE member organizations have committed to annual donations of $1,500, $3,000 or $5,000 over three years. “All of the major DMOs (destination marketing organizations) have contributed,” said Sain. He spent the second half of 2011 personally calling members to ask for their support.

“We really didn’t know what to expect,” said Polito. “But the level of commitment has more than exceeded our expectations in just a few months.”

To see a complete list of contributors, submit your story about why face to face works, or pledge your support to the campaign, go to

Reach Gary Sain at (407) 363-5800 or; Vinnie Polito at (203) 500-1586 or; and Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes at (619) 298-1445, ext. 116, or

Sidebar: PR Campaign Objectives

  • Build awareness around the value of face-to-face events
  • Gain credibility through third-party earned media
  • Use member testimonials to tell compelling success stories 

Sidebar: IAEE Public Relations Task Force
Polito told Trade Show Executive that he personally hand-picked the members of the PR task force, which was instrumental in helping to develop and establish the campaign’s strategic objectives, review RFPs and choose an agency, and implement the three-year plan. At the IAEE annual meeting, Polito recognized these members for their efforts:

  • Chairman Kimberly Hardcastle, CEM, vice president, Marketing Design Group
  • Paige Cardwell, President, CSG Creative
  • Nina Carrara, vice president, events, IDG World Expo
  • Wayne C. Chappell, vice president tradeshow relations, Greater Houston CVB
  • Mary Pat Heftman, executive vice president, convention, National Restaurant Association
  • Bob James, director of marketing, ITN International
  • Sam Lippman, president and founder, Integrated Show Management & Marketing
  • Jason McGraw, CTS, CAE, senior vice president of expos, InfoComm International
  • Jeff Quade, executive vice president, Exhibition Sales, Global Experience Specialists (GES)

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