What Keeps Me Up at Night

Originally published in Trade Show Executive, September 2015 Edition

As president and CEO of IAEE, what keep me up at night aside from my new puppy Jackson? There are many things but none that is as important as IAEE’s membership and our attendees’ collective and individual experiences at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting and Exhibition.

The Expo! Expo! Experience. As our marquee event, I ask myself and my team all the time, are we really giving our attendees what they want? How do we keep the attendee and exhibitor experience fresh year over year? After the show is over, we enjoy our successes for a bit, but then we immediately start thinking about the next one. Every year the cards are stacked against us with our own internal expectations, friendly competition amongst other shows, and emerging industry trends, to name a few. How do we deliver that unique attendee experience when they walk through the door that ultimately keeps them coming back for more? How do we immerse the attendee with all we have to offer?

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It’s not easy. It takes creativity. It takes different perspectives. It takes research. And most importantly, it takes a great team to fulfill that vision. Long gone are the days of one way communication to the attendee. Nowadays, attendees want you to create an atmosphere where they are engaged in the learning experience or what we like to call the living lab.

When you think about it, every exhibition or trade show IS a living lab to some degree. So, what does it mean to have a living lab? The definition is as broad or narrow as the person describing it, but by definition a living lab is a research concept. For our purposes, we will call it a user-centered, research concept that immerses an attendee in the complete show experience. It is hands on training, seeing, doing, and experiencing. It is taking multiple elements from design to content to the speaker, and creating an environment that is interactive instead of passive.

Added to that, how do we deliver fresh and exciting education each year? Every trade show has education in some form, with some doing it well, and some doing it even better. Education is a key component to the living lab concept and it is everywhere from learning pods to classes on the show floor. Show organizers are also continually trying new things – beacons, heat mapping, RFID, etc. – to improve the attendee experience. We are constantly looking for ways to create ROI for attendees. Isn’t that what keeps you, as show organizer, up at night?

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But you know what? It’s okay to try new things – and to fail! I would like to think that you never REALLY fail. You can learn something from anything even if it doesn’t always have the results you anticipated.

It truly is all about the EXPERIENCE, coincidentally, the same theme as our upcoming 2015 Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting and Exhibition. Come see what I’m talking about, you won’t be disappointed.

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Being all things for all people. This one is tough. Our membership is quite diversified, which we love. And it makes sense, in the global exhibition and events industry, it truly is a community of professionals from all levels of development and stages in career growth, with young professionals learning from seasoned veterans and vice versa. While it’s virtually impossible to be all things to all people, we do listen to our members’ wants and desires. We have carved out niche programming, not only at our marquee event, but throughout the year for young professionals, the MATSO community, Public Events/Consumer shows, women in leadership, faculty, student/career development and chapter level engagement. I think we’ve done a fantastic job of providing for our members with the MemberLink Community, various member recognition avenues and networking activities at the local level, to name a few.

It’s my job to push the envelope and push it often. I am proud of the work we’ve done here and hope that it shows within this dynamic community.

You know, I think I will sleep a little easier tonight.

David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO
IAEE

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