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IAEE’s Expo! Expo! 2023 Reflects on the Success and Optimism of the Exhibition Industry

Photo of people gathered around a booth at a trade show event

DALLAS — The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) held its annual Expo! Expo! Meeting and Exhibition at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas Dec. 5-7, 2023.

This year, the “Show for Shows” welcomed trade show organizers and exhibitors and hosted buyers and attendees for three days of peer-to-peer learning, networking, and doing business on the show floor. Exhibitors at the show leaned into the culture of Texas with a variety of activations from state-fair-themed games and snacks to hat-making. 

In the General Session, IAEE’s 2023 Chairperson Dennis Smith, Vice President of Business Development at the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, reflected on the exhibitions industry’s incredible rebound in 2023 and expressed optimism that the industry will be fully recovered by the end of 2024.  

Professionals who earned their CEM and CEM-AP designations were announced and celebrated during the General Session, walking the stage to receive recognition for their continuing education. Freeman is the sponsor of the IAEE certification journey from workforce development to CEM Emeritus. 

Association Roles Change

At Expo! Expo!, the new President and CEO, Marsha Flanagan, M. Ed., CEM shared her vision for the association, which includes driving growth, providing more opportunities and fulfilling members’ needs and wants. Flanagan steps into the role following more than 10 years as IAEE’s Senior Vice President of Events and Learning Experiences.

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research’s CEO, Cathy Breden, CMP Fellow, CAE, CEM, who is IAEE’s Chief Operating Officer and had been serving as Interim CEO since October, will be stepping away from IAEE in June 2024. Breden will continue to assist with Flanagan’s transition into the President and CEO role until her departure.

Related. ESCA Winter Celebration and Awards Unites Industry Members to Recognize Successes in 2023

Dennis Smith handed over the Chairperson title to Marie Browne, Group Vice President at RX, who will serve alongside Flanagan throughout the 2024 term. Browne was featured in the December 2023 edition of Trade Show Executive Magazine as the Power Lunch and shared her priorities for the association. 

Powerful Education

Continuing education and career and professional development are a priority for IAEE and the event’s programming. Over the course of the event, attendees could participate in a variety of sessions covering topics from AI and tactics to boost registration to risk management and industry trends.

In a session focused on increasing last minute registration, industry leaders shared that paid digital, invitation programs, pushing add-ons and groups, personal outreach and drive-in campaigns are proven to be highly successful in driving registration. 

The team behind RIMSRISKWORLD presented a case study about its experience with an active shoot situation during the 2023 show in Atlanta. Despite having a robust crisis plan, the team discovered there were still areas to sharpen up in in case of an emergency. They emphasized that having a city-wide convention requires a city-wide crisis plan, because incidents can affect hotel access, transportation and attendee safety away from the venue.

IAEE also partnered with Visit Dallas and the Dallas ISD to bring students to the show floor to be exposed to the exhibitions and events industry.

Connecting Professionals Through Fun

Expo! Expo! also offered attendees a plethora of networking opportunities off-site activities to meet new peers, reconnect with colleagues and teams, and experience what Dallas has to offer. The event included the PRIDE After Party and IAEE Young Professionals Party, as well as chapter receptions.

The annual Humanity Rocks event, sponsored by GES and onPeak, was held at Backyard – Dallas, where attendees could play arcade games and enjoy a live band. The event raised $10,000 for The Stewpot Dallas, which provides a haven for at-risk and homeless individuals of Dallas by providing resources for survival needs and opportunities to start a new life. 

The Expo Group and Visit Dallas hosted Boots and Bling, held at Gilley’s Dallas. The networking event featured a performance from country singer and songwriter Josh Turner and a drone light show in the sky, which formed a number of Texas icons, while sponsors of the event also gave cowboy hats to attendees.

The Closing Lunch, sponsored by the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Boards, featured a presentation from the sponsors about the destination, which will host the 2024 edition of Expo! Expo! In addition, Smith awarded the Chairperson’s Award to the entire IAEE staff for their hard work and dedication throughout 2023.

Reach Denis Smith at; Marie Browne at 

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