SISO Leadership Conference Rocks Cleveland

DANICA TORMOHLEN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE
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Cleveland, OH – After hosting the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July, Cleveland was more than ready for the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) Leadership Conference, which was held August 9-11 at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. The event drew 101 show organizers and a total of 174 attendees, said David Audrain, Executive Director for SISO. By comparison, the event attracted 108 show organizers and a total of 200 attendees to Dallas in 2015.

While the heat and humidity simmered outside, it was easy to beat the heat for attendees who stayed at the headquarters hotel, the Hilton Cleveland Downtown, which is connected to the convention center. The hotel features a 32-floor glass tower and 600 guest rooms, a majority of which offer views of Lake Erie and in fact, spectacular views from every direction.

“Cleveland was a wonderful host for this year’s SISO Leadership Conference,” said Audrain. “We heard great reports from our attendees on the conference content and the city. From our session on new show launches to the presenters at this year’s ‘SISO Innovation Battlefield,’ participants went away with tangible new ideas that they can use.”

The day before the conference, the SISO Board met and approved a new initiative for the 2017 SISO Leadership Conference, which will be held in Philadelphia. For the first time, every SISO membership will include the one free registration to attend the 2017 SISO Leadership Conference. “Our goal is to encourage an even wider participation from even more of our SISO member companies,” said Audrain.

Session Highlights

The conference featured 10 sessions on topics that ranged from “Learn How To Launch From The Experts” to “Increase Your Event’s Value by Providing Meaningful Content.” One breakout session offered small group discussions about customer journey mapping. Each group was given a customer service scenario, and they discussed what the experience might be like from their customer’s point of view. At the end of the day, each group presented their ideas to the entire audience.

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

  • Must-haves for launches. “Before we announce a new show launch, we always have a key partner or supporter,” said Stephanie Everett, COO & Partner, Exposition Development Company Inc. “It’s not about money; it’s about credibility.” Other organizers agreed. “Do I have the right advisory board?” asked Vinnie Polito, Principal of VPI and mdg. “I have a committee for everything. If I can’t fill a committee, I know there’s going to be a problem.” Phil McKay, President & CEO, nGage Events LLC, said he makes sure the agenda is set first. “The agenda drives the audience, and the audience drives the event,” said McKay.
  • Digital revenue for shows are on the rise. From 2010 to 2015, Informa Exhibitions increased digital sponsorship revenue by a factor of nearly five, said Elizabeth George, Customer & Audience Solutions, Informa Exhibitions. “Our email options are the biggest sellers, and we often sell out,” said George. “Push notifications are the biggest mobile revenue driver for Informa, but don’t oversell push notifications,” she said. Others agreed that digital offers unlimited possibilities and revenue.  “We are no longer selling single products; we are selling the exhibitor/attendee experience,” said Jason Scorrano, Director of Global Sales and Strategy for ReedPOP. “While new digital products are important, it is really about how we sell solutions combining the digital and physical to enhance the on-site experience for attendees.”
  • Using content to increase your event’s value. How do you generate content when your show doesn’t have a publication? Emerald Expositions focuses its content efforts for the COUTURE show on Instagram. “To get consumers talking about products and brands, we work with designers to let them take over our Instagram account for the week of the show,” said John McGeary, Senior VP, Emerald Expositions. “They post content about hot styles and trends.” COUTURE has 82,000 Instagram followers. Outdoor Retailer launched a print publication last year. Outdoor Retailer Magazine is distributed to 14,000 of its 30,000 attendees in June and November, about two months before each show. “We are trying to extend our reach,” said Jennifer Holcomb, Content Director for Emerald Expositions. “The digital edition goes to 80,000 attendees and prospects. Our open rate in June was 43%, and we are happy with that.”
  • Continue to find small niches in your show. “Always look for the next generation of people and products,” said Aaron Levant, Senior VP, Reed Exhibitions, who founded Agenda, which was acquired by Reed three years ago. Since then, his group has acquired four shows and will produce 20 events in 2016. Next year, they will produce 25. Inspired by the TED Conference, Levant launched Agenda Emerge, a conference and content portal, in 2013. “We are helping our brands tell their story,” said Levant. “Buyers and consumers might see them, so it adds value beyond the show floor. We are trying to address the evolving needs of our business, but monetization might be three years down the line.”
    Event Innovation Battlefield

What is the next great technology for the trade show industry? Five companies presented their new technologies to the SISO audience. The five technologies included:

  • Grip is a matchmaking technology that uses artificial intelligence to offer a personalized networking experience. The matchmaking tool can be integrated with a show mobile app. Users review potential matches anonymously and simply swipe on those they are interested in meeting. The technology makes recommendations based on key words and matches you select. Clients include Reed Exhibitions, World Economic Forum and InfoSecurity Group.
  • InsightXM is an analytics tool designed to make it easier for events to use their data. The business intelligence platform can integrate, standardize and visualize event data, from the type of people attending to the levels of on-site engagement. InsightXM also offers analysis of behavioral personas, personality insights and sentiment analysis for sales and marketing. Clients include Questex.
  • STEREO.BOT is a design and technology integration company combining 3D building systems and 4D visualization into fully immersive real-time experiences. The space-frame technology is designed to accelerate and advance the creation of world-class structural frames. Clients include VidCon, Coachella and the US National Drone Racing Championship.
  • iStrategyLabs (ISL) is a digital agency that specializes in combining the offline and online worlds to engage consumers. The company was acquired by J. Walter Thompson Company earlier this month. The company’s designers, developers, marketers and makers build everything from apps to connected devices to creative campaigns that reach audiences globally. Clients include Kroger, Medtech and USA Network.
  • Beeping is a new technology that transmits digital content through sound. Beeping allows event organizers to share any type of content with any app that is enabled with the Beeping software development kit (SDK). Send advertising, custom messages, images and video directly to your attendee’s mobile phone, as the action happens in real-time.
    After the presentations, the SISO audience voted on which technology was most innovative. ISL received the highest percentage of votes — 53.5%.

Networking & More

On Tuesday, the opening night reception was held at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Attendees got exclusive private access to all seven floors of the museum’s exhibition space. Opened in 1995, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is one of Cleveland’s most striking and recognizable pieces of architecture, which was designed by internationally renowned architect I.M. Pei.

The 150,000-square-foot building features a glass-enclosed, double pyramid adjacent to a 162-foot tower, both of which soar above the shores of Lake Erie. Upside-down cars from U2’s Zoo TV tour greet visitors in the sun-filled lobby atrium, which hosted the cocktail reception. After the Rock Hall, the Cleveland Hilton hosted an after party on its 5th Floor.

On Wednesday evening, attendees enjoyed dinner and music at the House of Blues Cleveland, one of the city’s biggest hot spots for live music performances. After the reception, an after party followed on the rooftop at the Green House Tavern.

The 2017 SISO Leadership Conference will be held Aug. 1-3 at the Philadelphia Convention Center. Next up, the 2017 SISO CEO Summit will be held March 27-30 at the Miami Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, FL.

Reach David Audrain at (404) 334-4585 or david@expodevco.com