By Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Dennis Slater, President of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), embodies the significance of the IAEE Pinnacle Award with more than 30 years of experience in the industry and membership with IAEE. He is well-known as a generous mentor, and in fact many of today’s top industry leaders credit him with greatly impacting their careers and contributing significantly to their professional development.
Dennis has served in various leadership roles and made an indelible mark on IAEE’s success, both domestically and abroad. Dennis continues to regularly share insights and best practices with colleagues as a speaker and panelist at numerous industry events. His service and dedication have earned him vast recognition as a visionary and leader, which garnered him the IAEE Pinnacle Award in 2016.
Here, Dennis shares with IAEE his views on what drew him to a career in the industry, why mentorship is important and where he sees the future of exhibitions and events headed.
PHOTO CAPTION: IAEE President and CEO David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA (left) presents Dennis Slater (right) with the IAEE Pinnacle Award during the Networking Luncheon at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2016 in Anaheim, California.
IAEE: During your acceptance speech at Expo! Expo! 2016 you mentioned that like many people, you didn’t know much about the industry when you entered into it 30 years ago. What came as the biggest surprise to you about the exhibitions and events industry?
DENNIS: The biggest surprise for me was the energy and positive “can do” attitude of everyone in the trade show business. Everyone was (and still are today) just so confident in the success of trade shows, their own events and their career paths. I knew right away from my first IAEE event that I wanted to be in the trade show business.
IAEE: Along those same lines, what do you think people entering the industry today should know as they start their career?
DENNIS: People starting their careers in the trade show business today need to know that the opportunities for success and a great career are right before them. You will have to work hard, challenge yourself to be creative and innovative, and really care more than others think is rational. But, if you do that, you will succeed and have an interesting, challenging and rewarding career in a wonderful industry.
IAEE: Your nomination included letters and testimonials from several industry leaders expressing gratitude for the mentorship they received from you as they developed their careers. What compels you to mentor others?
DENNIS: Mentoring others needs to come naturally. You need to recognize that many people helped you along the way to be successful. People gave you opportunities, they took a chance on you, they saw something in you. Your journey to success is made possible by the mentoring of others. So you remember that and do the same for the next set of leaders. You will find that it’s equally rewarding to help guide others to reach their potential.
IAEE: Did you have mentors and, if so, what was the best advice you received?
DENNIS: I had many mentors and at all stages of my career, including today. The best advice I ever received was to do something for a career that you truly are passionate about and enjoy. If you do that, you will be successful. Equally important, was to play well with others. Have empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of others, particularly when managing people or negotiating an agreement.
IAEE: What do you consider the most significant advance in the industry that you have seen over the course of your career?
DENNIS: I’ve been in this business for a long time, so the significant advances are too numerous to mention them all. Today, I would say the use of data to better understand the interests of customers – both exhibitors and attendees – in order to make their experience worthwhile and keeping trade shows relevant.
IAEE: How would you like to see the industry change in the next decade?
DENNIS: I am optimistic about the future of trade shows. There will always be a place in business to meet face-to-face to do business. In the next decade, I would like to see the trade show industry focus on the ROI for their customers. Let’s make it easier to attend our events. Let’s bring more activities and value to our events. If we focus on doing that instead of the bottom line, the customers will come, and the bottom line will be there.
IAEE is accepting nominations for the 2017 Pinnacle Award! Click here to learn more about the IAEE Individual Awards and submit your nominations today!