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SISO Leadership Conference Returns to Philadelphia


Philadelphia — After six years, the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) returned to the City of Brotherly Love for its Leadership Conference, held Aug. 1-3 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC). Around 190 industry executives attended the 2017 event (verified numbers aren’t available yet), compared with 174 attendees last year.

“The quality of the program and the enthusiasm of attendees was clear,” said David Audrain, SISO Executive Director. “We had just under 40 member companies take advantage of the Send-1-Free program.” Each member company could send one employee to the Leadership Conference for free, and the SISO Board approved the program’s continuation next year.

“There have been so many new positive developments in Philadelphia and at the Pennsylvania Convention Center since SISO last met here,” said Julie Coker Graham, President and CEO of the Philadelphia CVB. “It was truly an honor for us to have the opportunity to showcase all of the changes and the outstanding work that has been done here over the last six years.”

Since 2011, several new hotels, including the Hotel Monaco, Hilton Home2Suites, the Courtyard Philadelphia South at The Navy Yard, have opened in Philadelphia. A 20% increase in hotel inventory is expected by 2018 with the opening of a 755-room dual-branded W and Element hotel and 179-room Aloft by Starwood attached to the PCC.

Programs & Networking

The event kicked off with an optional program, the SISO Women’s Forum, which featured a half day of sessions. Angela Scalpello, a strategy activator for The Scalpello Group, presented a session on managing your career with deliberate intention and action. A panel of female executives representing UBM, Informa Exibitions and Diversified talked about career advancement. A networking breakfast and lunch were included with the program.

The conference featured one-and-a-half days of sessions. Meals, breaks throughout the day and parties in the evening offered ample time for networking.

The opening reception and dinner was held at the National Constitution Center, located just two blocks from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and six blocks from the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The Museum of We the People proved a spectacular event venue, along with must-see exhibits and live performances to enlighten and entertain SISO attendees.

Between networking and dinner, attendees enjoyed the museum’s acclaimed experiences, including a stirring, multimedia theatrical performance called Freedom Rising; an interactive exhibition, The Story of We the People, that celebrates the Constitution’s legacy of freedom; and Signers’ Hall, with 42 life-size bronze statues of the Founding Fathers.

An after party has held at the Stratus Rooftop Lounge at the Kimpton Hotel. On the 11th floor above Independence Hall, the venue offered sweeping views of downtown Philadelphia.

On the second night, attendees enjoyed games, food and drinks at the Field House, located inside the Philadelphia Convention Center and across from the world renowned Reading Terminal Market. In the newly renovated 12,000-square-foot space, they mixed and mingled while playing shuffleboard, pop-a-shot, darts and other games. The Philadelphia CVB gave away prizes to participants.

And the winner is …

For the 5th year, the conference featured the Event Innovation Battlefield, a showcase for new technology in the industry. “We are excited to present organizations that will stretch the imagination, showcase forward thinking and encourage our members to raise the bar on innovation,” said David Adler, CEO of BizBash and Co-Chair of the SISO Battlefield project. “The program is a version of American Idol meets Shark Tank, where attendees will vote on their choice for the most innovative of the innovative for 2017.”

The nominating committee chose five out of 50 organizations under consideration looking for breakthrough event technology or amazing new business models. The companies included:

  • Aromachology. Aromachology makes scent solutions to enhance the customer experience. The company has scaled its scent mapping technology and applies it to trade shows and conference spaces to influence the attendee experience and intent to purchase.
  • Buster. Like Uber, but for the event industry, Buster is an online platform for ordering group ground transportation. The tool, which is free to use, searches ground transportation companies in a city, compares prices and offers a booking.
  • EventBot. These chatbots enable organizers to create personalized conversations for an event. By creating personalized conversations on universal messaging platforms, the hybrid conversation design with structured menus supplemented by natural language understanding supports free-form texting and changes the way events communicate with their attendees.
  • Eventuosity. This cloud-based suite of project management, collaboration, and reporting tools is designed for event marketers. By standardizing and automating low-ROI activity, exhibitors can spend more time working creatively and strategically to achieve their own marketing and sales objectives while boosting the overall perception of your show.
  • The mobile app hopes to replace interpretation hardware for live events. An interpreter is stationed in a booth, a computer is connected to the sound system, and attendees listen to the translation on their phones or tablets via an app.
    After short presentations and Q&As with each company, the audience voted on the best product. EventBot was declared the winner of the 2017 Event Innovation Battlefield.

The 2018 SISO Leadership Conference will be held Aug. 7-9 in Orlando, Fla.

Reach David Audrain at (404) 334-4585 or

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