Trade Show Executive Gathers Leaders Off the Record

Andrea Doyle, Executive Editor

LAS VEGAS Top leaders in the trade show industry came together on February 10 for Trade Show Executive’s inaugural Off the Record, a think tank-style event.

The idea for the gathering was ignited during one of TSE’s Editorial Board calls led by Gabrielle Weiss, Vice President & Editor-in-Chief. “We identified the need for a high-level executive exchange of industry leaders where they could learn from each other and speak freely, hence the name, ‘Off the Record.’ It’s important to share information candidly, especially as we emerge out of the pandemic. This was a great way to bring together our TSE community, experts and thought leaders to address issues facing our industry as we reevaluate and reset, and that is exactly what we did as a unified group of visionaries.”

It was a true mini-reunion as the attendees are part of the TSE community and can be found on TSE’s Gold 100 and Fastest 50 show rankings or have graced the cover of the magazine.

“Some of our greatest lessons are taught in the worst of times,” Chuck Bowling, President and COO, Mandalay Bay, said during his opening remarks. And that was what Off the Record focused on – sharing best practices created during the shutdown with an eye on what will work in the future.

The all-day event was held in and hosted by Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The content aimed to inspire conversation, educate and create camaraderie. The group overnighted at the Delano Las Vegas, an all-suite property steps away from Mandalay Bay.

Participants liked the fact the group was kept small to ignite discussion with depth. There were five high-level sessions during the day, culminating with a discussion featuring members of the TSE Editorial Board.

The first, presented by Jamie Murdock, Managing Vice President, Sales; Robert King, Managing Software Engineer; and Erin Dunstan, Managing Vice President, Sales, all of Maritz Global Events, was entitled, “Building Exhibitor Revenue and Engagement with an Omnichannel Approach.” It explored omnichannel tactics that cast a strong focus on exhibitor retention and building additional revenue streams. This expert-driven panel explored the company’s research on solidifying exhibitor experience and retention.

The second session, “More Than a Trend, Sustainability is Here to Stay. Now What?” featured Alan Steel, President and CEO and Jacqueline Tran, Director of Energy & Sustainability, from the Javits Center, and Glenn Hansen, CEO, BPA Worldwide. It featured what is needed to keep the trade show industry current and how to surpass boardroom, exhibitor and attendee expectations. It offered deeper insights into how to transition to meet the demands of this new and critical component of the trade show industry. The session acted as a clearinghouse of all the different certification programs and measuring devices available to gauge the sustainability of a trade show. The Joint Meetings Industry Council’s “Net Zero Carbon Events” initiative was a focus as was the Glasgow Climate Change Conference.

The third session, “Security Updates: What Show Management Needs to Know in a Post-Pandemic Lockdown World,” featured Rick Simon, President and CEO, United Service Companies who is also Trade Show Executive’s Chairman, and Bob Caldwell, Founding Partner of 42Chat. The session looked at the recent uptick in civil unrest, theft and active shooter incidents. The two provided insights, anecdotes and case studies to help understand new and emerging security needs as the industry reopens and reboots. From the perspective of safeguarding shows with a real-time communications technology provider to a trusted live event show floor security partner, the session focused on what is needed to keep trade shows and the industry safer.

Straight answers about the trajectory of the pandemic were the focus of the next session featuring Patty Olinger, Executive Director, Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC); John Cordier, CEO of Epistemix; and Dr. John Lowe, University of Nebraska Medical Center. They worked through scenarios of moving from the pandemic phase to an endemic phase – a new normal – as defined by the WHO and other scientific bodies. Then answered many questions all had—especially as the Governor of Nevada had lifted the mask mandate that morning.

The final session of Off the Record, led by Mary Pat Heftman, Vice-Chair, Winsight Exhibitions, featured Nancy Walsh, President, North America, Informa Markets; Rochelle Richardson, Senior Vice President, AVIXA InfoComm; Greg Topalian, CEO, Clarion Events North America and Chris Dolnack, Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer, NSSF – The Firearm Industry Trade Association, all TSE Editorial  Board Members.

The discussion focused on operations and adaptations made in holding trade shows the last six months. A robust Q&A and all-around sharing of experiences, thoughts and ideas followed.  There were many lessons learned that have been implemented into future shows.

Discussions continued through the night at a reception sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority held at Libertine Social, an impressive gastropub, followed by dinner at S BAR, an elegant space that combines craft cocktail experiences with a lush lounge ambiance.

Be sure to check out the April issue of Trade Show Executive for a more in-depth article about this impactful event.