This Just In
  • Tom Cindric joins Winsight as President, Exhibitions to oversee National Restaurant Show. Mary Pat Heftman now Vice Chairman of Winsight.
  • Emerald Expositions Events Inc. tapped former UBM exec, Sally Shankland, to serve as its President and CEO. Phil Evans continues as CFO.
  • The division of Informa PLC created by the combination of UBM and Informa has been renamed and rebranded as Informa Markets.
  • Trade Show Executive won three prestigious ASBPE “Azbee” Awards in Chicago. TSE is also a national finalist for Magazine of the Year Award.
  • Informa PLC launched Informa Ventures offering capital, access to markets, mentorship, and expertise to knowledge and information start-ups.
  • Freeman Vice Chair Carrie Freeman Parsons promoted to Chair replacing Don Freeman, who will become Chairman Emeritus in July.
  • Marketplace Events (MPE), producer of 66 consumer shows in North America, acquired the Arizona Bridal Shows from Townsquare Live Events LLC.
  • Nominations for 2019 Trailblazers Opens for Trade Show Executive’s Trailblazers program which recognizes the industry’s up-and-comers.
  • Informa Exhibitions reported a 6.7% jump in underlying revenues for 2018 even as it absorbed the blockbuster acquisition of UBM.

SPECIAL: Twenty Years of Trade Show Executive

Danica Tormohlen
, Editor-at-Large
July 11, 2019
Share On:
Read this story and other stories in our DIGITAL EDITION
Hear this story on our TSE TALKS podcast 
CHICAGO - When Trade Show Executive (TSE) launched in 1999, the exhibition industry looked slightly different than it does today. On January 1, 1999, the European Union (EU) began a three-year changeover to the euro. The International Association of Exposition Management (IAEM) produced a Mid-Year Meeting at McCormick Place in Chicago and expand- ed its Expo! Expo! to a two-day format for the first time at the Miami Beach Convention Center. In 1999, the median salary for a male show organizer was $79,000, compared with $50,000 for a female. Against this backdrop, TSE quickly made its mark in the industry, eventually leading to the closure of rivals —Tradeshow Week and EXPO. Today, TSE is the leading (and only) publication dedicated exclusively to exhibition executives who produce events that contribute $97 billion annually to the U.S. GDP.
As they say, the more things change the more, they stay the same. While some of the names and players in the industry may have changed, TSE’s mission remains the same: To be the definitive source of news, views and information for the trade show industry.
In addition to a monthly print publication, the TSE Media Group publishes content on its website ( and on social media channels. TSE’s Editor’s Picks e-newsletter pushes out the week’s top news stories via email. TSE has earned its position as the most reliable news source for the industry and was recognized as a Top 10 B2B magazine in the United States by the American Society of Business Publication Editors.
To better serve our readers, TSE compiles research and puts together a list of the top 100 U.S. trade shows, the fastest-growing U.S. trade shows, the world’s top convention centers, and a who’s who directory of suppliers and show organizers. TSE provides relevant data on compensation trends, as well as monthly, quarterly and annual statistics on attendance, net square footage and exhibiting companies.
Last but not least, TSE offers a face- to-face platform for networking and Summit, the Fastest 50 Awards and Summit and Global Direct, a hosted-buyer program for U.S. organizers looking to expand overseas. These exclusive, intimate events offer unmatched access to trade show industry leaders, influencers and innovators.
As we celebrate 20 years of covering the exhibition industry, we want to reflect on where we’ve been, what we’ve accomplished and where we are headed in the future. To find out, I talked with Rick Simon about the launch of the publication, Darlene Gudea about the transformation of the B2B publication into a diverse media group, and Gabrielle Weiss about what’s next for the award-winning content creator as we roll out new products like TSE Talks, a podcast that debuts in July to mark the beginning on our next 20 years. Here’s an edited version of our conversations.
DANICA: Tell us about the launch of Trade Show Executive and how it came about.
RICK: We launched Trade Show Executive after talking to a number of people in the industry who told me that the existing publications at the time really didn’t cover a lot of the topics important to the industry in any depth. These people wanted more than a blurb on a yellow piece of paper. They wanted more research. I thought about that for a while and decided to start something, and it grew from there.
DANICA: What have been some of the key highlights over the last 20 years?
RICK: When the magazine launched, we worked for a while with some local publishers before we added Darlene (Gudea) — I hired her at the advice of some very good friends in the industry. They were 100% correct about adding her into the mix. She brought her publishing experience. It took us to a better level. The editorial content was more professional, and the readership grew exponentially into the many thousands we serve today. So we were quite pleased with that. Then of course, we decided to have an event with the magazine, which took it to yet another level of interest from our readership and which we still enjoy today.
DANICA: Have there been any surprises along the way? 
RICK: I guess one of the pleasant surprises was how well the magazine was received. And then how well we were received after Darlene repositioned from what we started. She put her fingerprints on it and did a wonderful job of positioning it in the industry as the go-to magazine.
DANICA: Some of our readers may not know, but Trade Show Executive is owned by United Service Companies. What is your role?
RICK: I serve as Chairman of the Trade Show Executive Media Group and as President and CEO of United Service Companies. My role is pretty easy as the Chairman … I try and stay out of every- body’s way. We have experienced, very creative people who work at the magazine, like yourself, and I let them do what they do best. Occasionally, they ask my opinion, and I give it to them.
DANICA: I think it’s interesting that Trade Show Executive has been able to succeed where others in the marketplace have failed. Why do you think that is?
RICK: Good editorial content and good people who are part of the magazine and produce that content. That resonates well with people in the industry. Also, having good industry relationships with the major associations like IAEE, SISO and UFI. One of the strengths of our team is that we listen. We listen to what the industry wants and try to stay at the forefront of what direction the industry
is going. We don’t dictate to the industry; we report on the industry in a current and timely manner.
DANICA: When you reflect on your experience, what do you think are some of the key decisions you have made over the years?
RICK: Two of the key decisions were hiring Darlene, then later hiring Gabrielle. Also, I would say launching the events — the Gold 100 and the Fastest 50, which have become great successes. They’re attended by a lot of industry show organizers. We provide them with good educational con- tent, as well as great networking opportunities and social activities.
DANICA: The events have really changed the business overall. It has grown from a print publication into a diversified media group that offers content through events, online, e-newsletters, social media and much more. Tell us about investments you’ve made and why you’ve made them.
RICK: The most important investment that I make is in people. If you have
the right person in the right job, success follows. After making the initial investment to launch, the magazine became a success fairly quickly. We harness that success through the creativity and professionalism of the staff. The thoughtfulness and innovation of the Trade Show Executive staff and leadership, from Darlene and now to Gabi, keep us relevant and at the fore- front of B2B publishing. From the start, we invested in people, and from there we’ve been able to grow the magazine into the diverse enterprise you mentioned.
DANICA: Let’s talk about where you see Trade Show Executive in the short and long term. Maybe give us some projections about the future of Trade Show Executive.
RICK: We are starting to do more international outreach with some of the venues and show organizers from different parts of the world. We held an event a while back connecting show organizers who were looking to expand into different countries with the foreign venues. We’re going to produce that event again with the Gold 100, and it will probably become an annual event. Another one of the things we’re doing now is reaching out to the new people in the industry. At our other two events, I can also see a stepped-up component for educating those newer to the industry. Today you’ve got degreed programs for event and trade show management from a number of universities, so you’re getting a more educated person who has more institutional learning. Now, you have to get them some practical experience. I think that’s where Trade Show Executive is going to help, by preparing the next generation to work for the major show organizers. We can have conversations about what we have done, what we are doing and what they think can be done better in the future.
DANICA: Tell us about some of the people and events that have made an impact over the last 20 years.
RICK: There are so many people in this industry that have made a remarkable impact on me, the magazine and United Service Companies. I’ve seen so many people achieve so much in their careers and for our industry as a whole. When I started out, the trade show industry was very different. Still great, but different. Convention centers were just starting to become part of the infrastructure. In fact, I started at the International Amphitheatre, which predates McCormick Place and was the first purpose-built convention center in the Americas. This predated all of the convention centers we have today. Years later, I was lucky enough to be a part of that growth through my work as the Chairman of what was then the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau and is now Choose Chicago. I have also served on various boards throughout the years like SISO and IAEE. So many of us have worked to help build — and continue to build — our industry’s infrastructure. They are all my friends and my customers. We worked together and still do today. So much of what we do in this industry is because of the relationships we develop.
DANICA: So it's about the relationships?
RICK: Yes, our industry is all about relationships. One of the things I learned is to be nice to everybody. You never know where they're going to be tomorrow. I serve and have served on many volunteer boards both in this industry and outside of it. Being of service and making relationships has also been key. I think the structure of the magazine also follows that ideology especially with its Power Lunch feature. We have to get to know each other to work together and build together. It’s about relationships.
DANICA: What are some of your favorite memories when you look back on your experiences with the magazine and with the events?
RICK: Watching new people come into the industry and becoming friends with them. Most of the people we work with have become friends. I like to say that I don't have a job, I have a lifestyle. I get up in the morning, and I'm talking to my friends and we happen to do business together. That's been a really great thing, to become friends with most of these people.
DANICA: Any other memories that stand out from our golf tournaments or maybe on stage at one of our events?
RICK: I don't play golf, but I do get a cart at our golf tournament and drive around and try and aggravate everybody. I do a very good job of that. I remember at one tournament, we were on a par 3 hole, and we were offering $10,000 for a hole-in-one. I decided to increase the tension at the tee box by offering $100 cash on the spot to any golfer who could put it on the green. As you know in the industry, we have some people who pride themselves on being good golfers. We won't mention any names, but nobody put it on the green. This green, by the way, had its own ZIP code. We had a lot of laughs that evening.
DANICA: For those who don’t know, United Service Companies typically sponsors a $10,000 prize for a hole-in-one at our Gold 100 golf tournament. Has anyone ever won that prize in the history of your sponsorship?
RICK: So far, the $10,000 is still safe. Nobody has claimed it yet. 
DANICA: Everyone will have a shot coming up again in September at our Gold 100 event at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, correct?
RICK: Absolutely. We look forward to seeing everybody at the Gold 100, and we will be sponsoring the $10,000 prize again. We also are giving away a new car on another hole. Nobody's won the car or the $10,000, but we look forward to someday giving those away.
DANICA: As former VP/Publisher and Editor of Tradeshow Week, you had a long career in publishing in the exhibition industry. Why did you join TSE? How did that come about?
DARLENE: In 2002, I was enjoying early retirement when the trade show industry’s greatest matchmaker, Cherif Moujabber (Owner, Creative Expos & Conferences), suggested I attend E3 in Los Angeles and join him and Jim Bracken for lunch. I had a great time and realized how much I missed my colleagues. I also missed reporting on the razzle dazzle and deal-making between buyers and sellers on the show floor. Little did I realize that soon, some deal-making would happen involving me. Cherif introduced me to many people, and then, not coincidentally, we bumped into Rick Simon. Rick and I chatted for a while, and he showed me his new project, a magazine called Trade Show Executive. He had published several issues but was ready to increase his investment to make it the leading publication for trade show professionals. He made a compelling case for me to join the company and offered me resources and complete autonomy to run the business. After hearing him out, I thanked him and said I would give it serious thought.
I deliberated for a few weeks. I was hesitant because the U.S. economy was in a recession, and the global economy was weak. Tradeshow Week and EXPO magazine had the financial backing of large publishing companies, plus access to the geniuses in specialized departments such as circulation and research. How could I compete? I am not the type to take a job half-heartedly. I play only to win. I was intrigued by the thought of starting with a clean slate and shaping an information empire that could shed old procedures “that had always been done that way.” The gears in my mind started turning on how I could provide better information and deliver it faster to show managers. I drew up the “Faster/Better Business Plan” that included a trade show statistical report that would run monthly in- stead of quarterly and feature a dashboard of key metric indicators. With so much change impacting trade shows, the industry needed a predictive tool and hence the column Trending & Spending was created, with its panel of industry experts and an economist. Another component of the “Faster /Better Business Plan” was TSE’s E-Clips, an email blast to subscribers with condensed news reports within hours of breaking news. On the business side, TSE’s circulation would be audited by BPA. Rick liked the plan and added some tweaks and terrific ideas of his own. I realized SISO was coming up in a few weeks, and it was the perfect launchpad so I realized I better get moving. I accepted the offer, which set off a whirlwind of exciting activity from that day forward.
The multi-talented Mary Beth Rebedeau had been running TSE in her spare time, along with her own show management company, The Rebedeau Group. She offered to help me in any way to help smooth the transition.
DANICA: You have such a rich history in the industry. What’s one or two memories about TSE that stands out?
DARLENE: There’s too many to cite just two so I’ll keep them short. TSE’s first editorial award and each one up to No. 38. Launching events. Rising to President. The satisfaction of seeing my team members grow professionally and earn the income to buy a home for their families. Receiving IAEE’s Industry Legend Award and Industry Icon Award. The expansion of McCormick Place. Seeing advances in technology make their way to convention centers. Going dune bashing on the outskirts of Dubai during a UFI meeting, followed by dinner in the desert at a Bedouin-style camp. Experiencing my first overseas exhibition in 1981 — K Düsseldorf (Plastics) — with its double-decker exhibits and elaborate meals prepared on site in the exhibit. Speaking of food, The Fancy Food Show.
I will always remember, with great fondness, the trips to Mexican exhibitions, which ran on their own kind of schedule. Sometimes, the show did not close at 6 p.m. as scheduled because exhibitors were still conducting business. Lights stayed on until 7 or 8 p.m., sometimes longer. Reminded me of my first retail job at J.L. Hudson’s in Detroit …. we worked until the last customer left. What a concept!
DANICA: Tell us about the launch of Gold 100. What was your inspiration?
DARLENE: Danny Phillips, executive VP at Advanstar (now Informa), gets the credit for conceiving the idea and pushing me forward. He suggested bringing the Gold 100 directory to life with an event to honor the largest shows. He said the Gold 100 honorees and TSE’s subscribers would be the attendees. The Gold 100 service providers and TSE advertisers would be the sponsors. That made sense. But I didn’t know how to run an event. It was serendipity that Diane Bjorklund, former event manager for SISO, was available and excited about joining the team. We had some resistance early on from potential sponsors who said, “Not another event! How is this one different?” We point- ed out that all industry events at the time-honored professionals for distinguished service to the industry. This would be the first event to honor show managers for their ideas, management skills and success in propelling their events to the top of the charts. They deserved recognition. The plan was to organize a small, intimate event, by invitation only, where industry service providers could network with honorees and other high-powered organizers. The idea caught on and new events, including the TSE Fastest 50 and Global Direct, were launched thereafter.
DANICA: Research and data are an integral part of TSE. How and why did you build these resources for the industry?
DARLENE: Reliable data, mixed in with a dash of intuition and risk, is critical to forge bold new plans. We wanted to give show organizers the tools needed to anticipate the future and make sound business decisions. Show managers are an outspoken group and regularly told me what information they needed. The old adage from Epictetus, the Greek philosopher, applied here, “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason… so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” I listened, then crafted research, then delivered.
DANICA: As we all do, I’m sure you made a few mistakes along the way. Looking back now, what would you redo? Any lessons learned that you will share?
DARLENE: I have been a workaholic since my early grade-school years, determined to succeed by working harder than anyone else. That was the curse of the second-born child who needs to break out of the shadow of her older brilliant brother. I probably pushed my team too hard. OK, not probably …. I definitely did. Since retiring, I apologized and told a few of them that I would have advised my younger self to lighten up a bit. Their reaction? One was very gracious (guess who?) and said I wasn’t that bad, and my high standards paid off with numerous editorial awards for TSE as well as becoming the No. 1 publication. Another said: “You got that right, Gudea! Too late now.” And we both laughed. But the takeaway is that all managers should conduct an honest self-evaluation at least once a year to identify better approaches to achieve important goals.
DANICA: With your guidance and leadership, you established Trade Show Executive’s impeccable reputation for editorial integrity. What are the keys to building trust and truthfulness in media? What does it mean to Trade Show Executive?
DARLENE: First of all, hiring only the writers and editors who have integrity. That's why Trade Show Executive is trusted and respected. I was privileged to have such an honorable team, like Irene Sperling, Carol Andrews and Carri Jensen whom I worked with at Tradeshow Week and brought on at TSE, and like you, Danica. You can't imagine my excitement when you agreed to join TSE with your incredible credentials and all of your previous awards. I had so much respect for you as a competitor when you worked at EXPO. I remember how many times we sat down and had dinner together over the years. That was unheard of for a person like me because I am a fierce competitor. 
But back to the question about editorial integrity … it’s simple. Keep your personal and political opinions to yourself and out of editorial decision-making. I'm an old-fashioned journalist that believes in presenting both sides of the story and letting the reader draw his or her own conclusions, rather than inject my opinion or biases.
Another key is to verify information. Also, be open-minded to a wide variety of opinions and perspectives; don’t get caught up in a familiar routine. Everyone makes mistakes; admit your mistakes and correct them. Fast. Prominently. Don’t bury corrections on page 89. Operate under the principle that with the power of the press comes great responsibility.
DANICA: What do you miss the most now that you are retired? The least?
DARLENE: I’m definitely more mellow now that I don’t have constant deadlines! Throughout my career, I could never fully unplug from my job, often daydreaming about ideas for feature articles, new business ideas or task lists. I rarely took vacations. I drove myself too hard. It’s good to finally focus fully on my family and friends — and travel without having to take notes. What I miss most is connecting with industry friends at the many “trade show family reunions”— like the Gold Gala, UFI, IAEE, ESCA and SISO events. Facebook is one way I stay connected, but I sure do miss the face-to-face interactions and the hugs.
DANICA: Well, you did push us, but we are better for it.
DARLENE: Thank you for that. I want to thank everyone in the industry and Rick Simon, in particular, for making all this possible. He was terrific to work for, and he has such a brilliant business mind. He is such a nice guy and truly an idea man. It’s been a pleasure working in the industry for 40 years. The future is bright for Trade Show Executive with you, Rick and Gabi (Weiss) at the helm.
DANICA: You joined Trade Show Executive in 2016 as Managing Editor and then stepped up to your role as Publisher and Editor in 2017. You had a strong background in communications and journalism, but no experience in the trade show industry. Following a legacy like Darlene Gudea’s, what's been your biggest challenge so far?
GABI: My biggest objective was to maintain our brand equity and then improve upon it. I am grateful for her help during that transition, and I am grateful for the honesty and direction many have given to help me understand our industry. Mostly, I wanted to make sure the magazine stayed at the level Darlene had brought it to, but I certainly have a very strong vision for the magazine, the enterprise, our research and our events. I’m different than Darlene, so another big challenge I think all of us had was the change in leadership. Through listening to the team and sharing that vision we have really made a great transition and, in the tradition of Trade Show Executive, building something lasting and great for our industry.
DANICA: TSE has really grown and flourished during the last three years under your leadership. What are some of the accomplishments you are most proud of during your tenure?
GABI: Launching new initiatives, like our Trailblazer Awards and our Women to Watch programs, which is extending a hand to the up-and-comers in our industry and giving them a platform to be recognized. For me, it’s about paying it forward. Throughout my career people have given me opportunities to shine and get exposure to leaders. I have been very lucky in that respect. More than that, we also want to listen to the voices of the next generation of C-suite executives to find out how they are helping to shape our industry. Both programs offer these up-and- comers the opportunity to attend an event: The Fastest 50 for the Trailblazers and the Gold 100 for our Women to Watch. They get to network with top industry leaders, enjoy our educational summit and get recognized both at the event and in a feature article in the magazine.
DANICA: Anything else?
GABI: We continued TSE’s tradition of winning awards. We won seven journal- ism awards last year! This year, for the first time, we were up for Magazine of the Year and recognized by the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) for being one of the top 10 B2B magazines in the nation. Danica, you won another regional award this year. I can’t tell you how incredibly proud I am of you and the team. I think it says a lot about how we’ve come together to produce high-caliber journal- ism. I could go on and on, but I have to say the team pulling together is the pinnacle of what I’m most proud of. I think a lot of creative thinking comes from fostering a good environment. I think hard work and creativity always wins.
DANICA: In this era of fake news and information overload, what role do business media and Trade Show Executive play today in your opinion?
GABI: This is the time when we absolutely must be a beacon of good journalism for our readership. There is so much misinformation going out every day — from both sides of important issues. It influences our market, as well. The opportunity is to be that place where information about our particular industry is meaningful, accessible and true. We don’t pass advertising as editorial. We recognize that our audience is intelligent and respect that. Editorial integrity is absolutely top of mind in every decision I make.
DANICA: Good point. Tell us about how TSE is trending. What’s working and what’s not in your opinion?
GABI: The editorial team has just knocked it out of the park. Period. We’re continuing to get out there and talk to thought leaders and report on how things are being defined in the trade show sector. What’s the next big thing? Is it festivalization? We’re doing very well with that in print, as well as developing and curating content for our events.
I would like to capitalize more on our website and data. Everybody takes in information differently — whether it’s audio in a podcast format or it’s visual in slideshows or video. For others, it may be a deeper dive with long-form journalism. Some just want a snapshot with a news brief. I think that we can move more in the direction of providing our award-winning content in dynamic ways that really meet our readership where they’re at. When something works in print or digital, can we bring that to life on stage at one of our events or vice versa? How can we have all of that working together so it’s interwoven and easily digestible for our readers? Those are some of the concepts we’re working on and we are devising different ways we can use communication vehicles for our content.
DANICA: Let’s talk about what’s next for TSE. Maybe you could give us a sneak peek into what some of your plans are for the short and long term.
GABI: Well, I don’t want to give away our strategic plan. We are continuing to expand on our coverage of new and innovative ideas that are coming from trade show organizers throughout the world and what they’re bringing to exhibitors and audiences — whether it’s more experiential, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, or data. As a media group, our part is to share information, so that people are equipped with the latest and greatest about what’s trending. We are also launching a new podcast series called TSE Talks with this issue and we are expand-ing our print articles online…so you can read more of the story. We will also expand our events portfolios as it makes sense. Our subscribers can also expect an updated website in the near future.
DANICA: Great. Well, thank you so much for your time and sharing your views and outlook for the magazine with our audience.
GABI: It’s been a whirlwind since I started three years ago.
I am eternally grateful to Rick and Darlene for giving me this opportunity and to our readership that continues to grow and come to our events. I’m also very thankful to our knowledgeable staff that set such a high standard, along with our advertisers and sponsors. I am constantly amazed at the creativity of our industry and its massive contribution to the business world — small businesses to large. It’s a wonderful industry, and it’s been a wonderful experience.
Reach Richard “Rick” Simon at (312) 922-8558 or, Darlene Gudea at (760) 889-8585 or; Gabrielle Weiss at (312) 493-7753 or; Danica Tormohlen at (816) 803-8103 or  
Share On: