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SISO CEO Summit Breaks Attendance Records


Kiawah Island, SC – Trade show organizers and suppliers gathered for the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) CEO Summit, held April 8-10, at The Sanctuary in Kiawah Island, SC. The 2013 event drew 166 trade show CEOs and executives, compared with 130 at last year’s summit at the Grand Del Mar in San Diego, CA. The three-day event featured a variety of high-end networking functions and sessions that focused on the event’s theme, The Value Proposition. “This CEO Summit was the largest ever, with attendees from 18 countries,” said Lew Shomer, executive director, SISO. “Total attendance, including suppliers and press, was 295.”

At the beginning of the event, outgoing SISO Chairman Kerry Gumas, president and CEO of Questex Media Group LLC, introduced the new chairman of SISO:  David Audrain, president and CEO, Clarion Events North America. Audrain will serve as chairman through next year’s CEO Summit.

SISO announced it is sponsoring a trade mission to Cuba. The trip is tentatively scheduled for this Fall, depending on when Cuban ministers of the various industries are available to meet with show organizers. “The purpose is for event organizers to lay the groundwork so when the embargo is lifted, which it eventually will be, these organizers will have a leg up in being able to produce their events in Cuba,” said Peter Nathan, president of PWN Exhibicon International LLC. Contact SISO directly for more details.

Session Highlights

At the opening session, Denzil Rankine, executive chairman, AMR International, provided an update on exhibition strategies for 2013 through 2015, based on a white paper AMR released at last year’s SISO CEO Summit. (For a complete analysis of the white paper, see The New Value PropositionTrade Show Executive, May 2012,

“Digital is an increasingly key element to achieving exhibitor and attendee value,” said Rankine. “Digital facilitates sourcing and networking both at and beyond the show, and it provides the organizer with valuable data that drives insight and provides a platform for potential further enrichment and monetization.”

The session on The Customer Value Proposition, Business Model Change or Innovative Experiment generated lots of discussion among the audience. Each of the three speakers talked about their approaches to value-based exhibitor pricing. While this concept is not new to the industry, it seems to be gaining traction, particularly among this group of independent show organizers.

“We don’t talk about price, we talk about yield,” said Chet Burchett, president, Reed Exhibitions Americas, which launched value-based exhibitor pricing three years ago. “It eliminated discounting, and our salespeople don’t debate with customer about location. The sales cycle has shifted, and we are seeing more re-signs on site.”

Sally Shankland, CEO, UBM Connect, presented a case study on value-based attendee pricing. “Price is rational while value is more emotional,” said Shankland. “How people make decisions tends to be more emotional.”

Like many show organizers, UBM Connect charged higher registration fees to infrequent customers who are most price-sensitive. “We flip-flopped that model,” said Shankland. “In year one, the show increased revenue by 23% and attendance by 9%.”

The Market Smackdown: Strategics vs. Financials session offered a lively exchange on the pros and cons of selling your company to these very different types of buyers. Mike Rusbridge, chairman and CEO, Reed Exhibitions, made the case for strategic buyers. “Private equity may pay more, but they will have to extract higher performance from your business to see the returns they are looking for,” said Rusbridge.

“We are finance guys,” said Christian Donohue, managing director, Tennenbaum Capital Partners, which bought an ownership stake in Hanley Wood in January 2012. “We don’t run the business. We want a return. We want you to continue to care and feed your baby.”

Richard Mead, managing director, The Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc., reminded the audience, “All buyers are wonderful, but some are better than others.”

During the SISO Annual Business Meeting luncheon, Audrain said the association has a surplus, with more than $800,000 in reserves. “SISO has increased membership to 164 total companies, with 15 new companies this year,” said Audrain.

Also during the luncheon, Tony Calanca, executive vice president, exhibitions, Advanstar, presented Nathan with the Robert L. Krakoff SISO Leadership Award, which is awarded annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the face-to-face industry throughout his career.

“I am very gratified to have been honored by the SISO Robert L. Krakoff Award,” Nathan told Trade Show Executive. “The exhibition industry is a team-driven business, and no single individual can excel on his own. Without the support and assistance of so many in the industry, and especially those in attendance at the SISO function, I would never have been able to accomplish what I was able to without incredible support.”

The 2014 SISO CEO Summit will be held March 30-April 1 at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas.

Reach Lew at (310) 450-8831, ext. 2, or; David at (770) 432-4200 or; Peter at (203) 222-8660 or; Sally at (212) 600-3215 or; Denzil at (646) 465-5971 or; and Chet at (203) 840-5301 or; Christian at (310) 566-1046 or; Mike at 011-44-208-910-7875 or; Richard at (212) 754-0710 or

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