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SISO Summer Conference Focuses on the Trending Topics in Post-COVID Trade Show Industry Era

Maddy Ryley, Managing Editor
SISO Summer Conference Focuses on the Trending Topics in Post-COVID Trade Show Industry Era

SALT LAKE CITY — The Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) held its annual Summer Conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center Aug. 22-24, bringing together independent trade show organizers and suppliers for three days of education and networking. The education focused on trending industry topics, including AI, evolving customer expectations, brand building and creating engaging and memorable experiences for attendees.

From the start of the conference with the SISO Women’s Leadership Forum, common challenges were addressed. At the forum, four industry superstars discussed the best practices and successful techniques in sales, marketing, HR and show management, and following their presentations and panel, the attendees participated in smaller roundtables discussing common challenges and questions in those areas.

From research findings to emerging trends to new opportunities to wow attendees and exhibitors, the wide range of educational sessions and presentations hit relevant points of interest to trade show organizers in the post-COVID era. Kicking off the educational program was a session about audiences’ evolving expectations of events, presented by Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, President and Chief Marketing Strategist at mdg and Ken Holsinger, SVP of Strategy at Freeman. The two shared findings from Freeman’s research that reported the demands and expectations of next gen event goers for exhibitors and events, which included meaningful connections, a frictionless journey, consumer-centric experience and being a trustworthy source of industry information.

Related. The Freeman Trust Report 2023 Finds In-Person Events Increase Brand Loyalty

As trade shows look to increase attendee and exhibitor loyalty, focusing on creating unforgettable experiences and brand building can strengthen trust and interest. Monique Ruff-Bell, Head of Events at TED, explained that the keys to building a successful brand and experiences for event goers are elevating all parts of the attendee experience, sales excellence and having a best-in-class team. Something that sets TED events apart is that the team and event itself is embedded in its host community, for example, at the recent TED event in Detroit, attendees were brought around the city to see what the on-the-ground work around sustainability looks like in the community. Being intentional with creating spaces and times for people to meet and connect is also important to making a big show feel small.

AI, a trend that has recently taken center stage in a big way, was discussed by Richard Harbridge, Chief Technology Officer at 2toLead, a Microsoft consulting company, who delved into AI and its applications in business for the audience. Harbridge emphasized that humans’ collaboration with AI will yield the most successful results and higher productivity, and that AI will become essential in competitive industries as more and more people and sectors adopt the technology. He also said that for every one opportunity for automation, there are 10 opportunities for collaboration with AI, which will increase content quality and lower chances of miscommunications.

Other session topics included using strategic communications for attracting and retaining talent, DEI initiatives and intention, creating experiences that generate FOMO and increase engagement and how to use innovative technology like facial analysis to elevate the attendee and exhibitor experience.

The conference also featured breakout sessions on hot industry topics, such as the evolution of smart events, evaluating partnership ROI and rethinking attendee revenue models, and a variety of networking opportunities, like receptions, lunches and conversation-driven breaks.

“We tried to create a story arc for the conference and focused on the theme of the evolving customer expectations. I think this created a very understandable and important cohesion to the programming, and we tried to be conscious of the evolving needs of our customers as well and increased both the wellness events and peer-to-peer networking time,” SISO CEO Vinnie Polito said.

Check out Trade Show Executive’s full coverage of the SISO Summer Conference and its impressive educational programming in an upcoming edition of TSE Magazine. Subscribe to receive your copy here.

Reach Vinnie Polito at

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