SISO CEOs See No Signs of Economy Upturn

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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San Diego, CA – Show organizers have battened down their hatches as much as possible for the recession and are now waiting for signs that the economy is starting to recover.

Attendees at the SISO CEO Summit that began March 30 at San Diego’s Grand Del Mar Resort said there were no concrete metrics yet that might validate the assumption that the recovery could begin by the end of the year and that organizers should prepare for what could be a long slump. “We are not at the bottom yet,” Mike Cooke, CEO of dmg world media, told an audience of around 200 organizers, suppliers and venue executives.

Cooke was among those agreeing that while a downturn can be a good time to overhaul operations, it would also be prudent to take a prepare-for-the-worst approach for the near-term that doesn’t necessarily assume things will be back to normal in 2010.

“We have just got to assume that this could be a situation that exists for a number of years,” Cook said.

The idea of making hay while the sun is not shining was seen as a positive. Downturns, the panelists agreed, have a way of making companywide changes easier to accomplish than they might be in better times when success is harder to argue with.

Cooke and the others on the panel – Penton Media, Inc. CEO Sharon Rowlands; Joel Davis, CEO of JD Events LLC, and Tony Uphoff, CEO of TechWeb – all urged the crowd to remain visible to customers and staff and take a leading role in responding to changes in the marketplace.

“Use the economy to drive innovation and don’t hide in your office,” said Uphoff.

Uphoff said his tech-oriented company is looking to specific purchasing indicators in the technology sector for the first signs that the industry is recovering. The other panelists said the enthusiasm of exhibitors and attendees would be the most reliable pulse.