Dallas Rolls Out the Red Carpet at SISO Leadership Conference

DANICA TORMOHLEN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE
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Dallas, TX – Dallas hospitality was in abundance at the 2015 Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) Leadership Conference, held August 3-5 at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center. “The conference drew 100 show organizers and close to 200 total attendees, including speakers and sponsors,” said Lew Shomer, executive director, SISO. In 2015, the event attracted 108 show organizers to Atlantic City, NJ.

While the temperatures reached close to 100 degrees outside, it was easy to beat the heat for attendees who stayed at the headquarters hotel, Omni Hotel Dallas, which is attached to the convention center via skybridge. Opened in November 2011, the 23-story hotel features more than 1,000 guest rooms and 39 meeting rooms.

The three-day event featured a variety of networking opportunities and educational sessions. The conference program was built by Dana Teague, vice president, design group, Informa Exhibitions U.S., Construction and Real Estate; Nichole Peck, executive marketing director, RELEVANTS; Amy Allen, executive vice president, dmg::events USA; and Lawrence Dvorchik, managing partner, Hallway Advisors.

“I want to thank the planning committee for all of their work on this year’s conference program,” said David Audrain, CEO, Exposition Development Company, who will take over as executive director of SISO in 2016.

SESSION HIGHLIGHTS
On Tuesday morning, the event kicked off with the traditional introductions of each attendee. The conference featured 11 sessions on topics that ranged from “Building Attendance in a Digitally Focused World” to “Recession-Proof Thinking:  Lock Down Space and Sponsorship Sales.”

After testing the format last year, one breakout session offered small group discussions on a variety of tactical topics. For example, there was an interactive session on exhibitor and attendee experiences. Conference attendees discussed the value of the experience and how to create a wow factor. At the end of the day, each group presented their tips and techniques to the entire audience.

Here are some of the key takeaways identified by Trade Show Executive:

  • Community is everything. What’s the secret technology that powers SXSW? “Community. It is everything,” said Hugh Forrest, director, SXSW Interactive Festival. “We spend a lot of time reading and responding to post-event feedback. We strive to answer emails very, very quickly.” Another way that SXSW Interactive responds to its 70,000 attendees is via its PanelPicker, where users propose session topics and vote on their favorites for inclusion in the program content. “We received a record number of 4,000 total entries for next year’s show,” said Forrest. “Voting runs August 10-September 4. It creates a buzz for the event several months out.” The program features 700 to 800 panels.
  • Check out Periscope and Meerkat for marketing. At more than one industry event this year, speakers have mentioned Periscope and Meerkat, apps that allow users to livestream content but not upload content after it’s been recorded. “We had a session on Periscope,” said Forrest. “We recently had 120 people participate. Not a huge number, but those members of our community are engaged and they will tell others.”  (Link to SXSW talks PanelPicker on Periscope)
  • User-generated content is key to digital marketing. “We spend a lot of time trying to be the voice of the industry, but there are a growing number of new social influencers already out there,” said Greg Topalian, president, Leftfield Media. “Find the influencers and partner with them instead of starting from scratch.” For example, Reed Exhibitions’ International Vision Expo & Conference partnered with Alan Glazier, OD, who founded  ODs on Facebook, a forum for like-minded professionals to discuss optical topics, said Topalian. “Engage with care,” recommended Kevin Ryan, CEO, Motivity Marketing. He cited an example of a Facebook group for American Airlines Platinum Club members that he finds informative and useful.
  • Custom sponsorships are hot. “We hired another sponsorship sales person this year, and Jeff Davis (director, new business development, Informa Exhibitions) is focused on non-endemic sponsorships,” said Informa’s Teague. For example, Airbnb signed on as the exclusive host sponsor for Informa’s Dwell on Design Los Angeles. “We connected the brand with press, architects and influencers at an event at an Airbnb home,” said Teague. “We handled the invites, catering and RSVPs.” At the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS), show management offered Champagne & Cupcakes, an invitation-only event for media and bloggers, said Brian Pagel, vice president, kitchen and bath group, Emerald Expositions. The sponsorship was priced at $30,000 for the one-hour event, which generated 33 million impressions via social media.
    NETWORKING & MORE
    The event kicked off on Monday evening with an opening reception at Gilley’s Dallas, a honky-tonk bar originally founded in 1971 by country singer Mickey Gilley. In addition to cocktails and dinner, attendees could ride the original mechanical bull featured in the movie Urban Cowboy, and each received a Stetson hat to take home.

On Tuesday evening, a reception and dinner was held at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, which opened in December 2012 in Victory Park, near Downtown Dallas. Designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Thom Mayne, the modern urban building features a 54-foot, continuous-flow escalator contained in a 150-foot, glass-enclosed, tube-like structure that dramatically extends outside the building. Attendees dined on different courses on three floors of the museum while interacting with exhibits on dinosaurs, gems and minerals, energy and engineering — to name a few.

During the 3rd Annual SISO Event Innovation Battlefield, four companies had eight minutes to pitch their products and seven minutes to answer questions from the audience. The featured companies, which were selected by a SISO committee from more than 50 entries, included:

  • e-180 helps shows set up “brain dates” for attendees to share knowledge on site.
  • event kloud offers an audience-driven marketing and advertising automation platform.
  • Event Hero is an integration platform-as-a-service that connects event technologies.
  • Feathr features an event marketing cloud providing marketing and analytics tools designed specifically for the events industry.

At the end of the session, attendees used their cell phones to vote on the most innovative product among the four. While the voting was close, Feathr was selected as this year’s winner.

Check out event photos on SISO’s Facebook page. The 2016 SISO Leadership Conference will be held August 9-11 in Cleveland, OH.

Reach Lew Shomer at (310) 450-8831, ext. 2, or lshomer@Shomex.com