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Why I Attend Expo! Expo!: An Interview with Mary Adler-Kozak, CEM, Director of Expositions, National Association of College Stores

Mary Adler-Kozak, CEM of the National Association of College Stores shares what she looks forward to at Expo! Expo! every year.

No one understands you the way your fellow exhibitions and events colleagues do. Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition provides attendees with a diverse marketplace to view and assess the tools needed to plan and manage successful trade shows and events for years to come. IAEE sat down with Mary Adler-Kozak, CEM, Director of Expositions at the National Association of College Stores who shared the importance of community and learning at Expo! Expo!.

Tell us a little about yourself. What are your current responsibilities?

I am the Director of Expositions at the National Association of College Stores. We do one major trade show a year, called CAMEX. I sell exhibit space and manage operations for the trade show onsite. I am the attendee promotion person as well so I am digging into that a bit more than I used to at this point. All in all, I try to sell exhibit space and get attendees to come to the show.

Recently, I have been doing the website optimization and digital efforts for my show. I’m not much of a techie person, but if you have good partners, they help you along the way. We’re using Feathr right now and we have used Feathr for the past couple of years. Actually, I found them at the Women’s Leadership Forum. It’s a perfect example of how networking gets you where you need to go.

Why do you attend Expo! Expo!? And how many years have you attended Expo! Expo!?

It’s been a long time. I’ve been in the exhibits department at my organization for 21 years. I believe my first Expo! Expo! was in the early 2000s so I would say I’ve been to every Expo! Expo! for the past 15-16 years.

I attend Expo! Expo! because of the networking, education sessions and the ability to renew your CEM designation. The sessions always have amazing speakers. There’s always something you learn every year. I don’t know what I would do if I had to miss Expo! Expo!.

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How do show organizers like yourself benefit from attending Expo! Expo!?

Being able to discuss common issues is a huge bonus at Expo! Expo!. Learning doesn’t stop when you leave the show floor or when you leave the sessions. I mean you’re talking to people when you’re hanging out or grabbing a bite and you find a common issue in these meaningful conversations. You walk through how other people have solved their challenges so that information is invaluable.

What education sessions caught your attention at Expo! Expo! in the past? Did you have any takeaways from those sessions?

Attendee promotion sessions are probably some of my favorite. At my organization, I’m trying to draw in new audiences at my show. It’s very helpful to know how other people have done it.

The session that stood out from last year was Big & Small: Issues, Differences, and Similarities of Show Organizers, which had a panel discussion that included Kellie Shevlin, CEM, Lenay Gore, Beth Ellis and Brad Kent. I didn’t realize everyone else had the same pain points. The one thing that really struck me is how late people are registering to attend shows nowadays. Kellie mentioned that 75% of her attendees came in the last three weeks before the show. Although you need to take a look at your numbers, it doesn’t always mean it is panic time. That’s the nature of how the world is working right now. People aren’t doing things as early as they used to, though I am already registered for Expo! Expo! this year.

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Were there any insights from Expo! Expo! that you implemented in your organization? If so, what were they?

I know there are many, but I just can’t pinpoint all of them. One of the takeaways I implemented at my show was making our VIP attendees feel like VIPs through various sessions and experiences.

The organization has implemented target marketing. I’ve taken thoughts and information from other shows and have targeted our audience segments with personalized content. That’s really been helpful.

How do you approach your time spent at Expo! Expo!?

First of all, I look at all the education sessions I need to register for, especially the ones that require pre-registration. I make sure I get those on my personal schedule. Then, I figure out what I need to look at for my show to see who I need to visit on the show floor and make appointments with them.

I prioritize who my must-see exhibitors are and I make sure to hit all of those appointments first. I also have a list of exhibitors whose products or services I’d like to implement for my show but don’t have the budget for yet. It’s definitely worth some time talking to them.

Why is it important to be involved with one’s local chapter?

I’m involved with the Mid-South chapter and being involved with a chapter keeps you connected to your peers. It’s great to go to Expo! Expo! once a year, but through closer ties with your local chapter, you’re able to bounce off ideas with other people. I think it’s really important to be a part of the industry all year round by getting involved on the chapter level.

I’ve gotten so much out of networking with people through IAEE and its chapters that I feel like I need to give back. You get as much out of it as you put into it.

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Name an unforgettable moment that has happened to you at Expo! Expo!.

My unforgettable moment was walking the stage at the Opening General Session and being recognized on earning my CEM. That was pretty cool.

Another moment was one of the chapter battles. It was based off of the game show, Wheel of Fortune. It was Ohio Valley chapter (now Mid-South chapter) versus another chapter. It was just hysterical. Dave Lutz was sitting next to me and feeding me answers. Legally, of course, because he was on my team. That whole experience was so much fun.

If you were talking to someone who had not attended Expo! Expo! and was considering going, what would you say to him/her?

If they are part of the industry, Expo! Expo! is definitely worth its weight in gold with the networking, education sessions and trade show floor. You learn about up and coming technology at the Tech Startup Pavilion and Competition. Expo! Expo! gets you and your show ahead of the curve.

Expo! Expo! is a must do, must see and must go!

What tip would you give to a first-time attendee that you wish someone had told you when you attended Expo! Expo! for the first time?

I did go to the First Timers session, which is held the day before Expo! Expo! starts, and to all the meet-ups that we had. In fact, I still hang out with some of the people I met at the First Timers session. We’ve been friends forever and Expo! Expo! gives us the opportunity to see each other once a year. It feels like yesterday that we had all met for the first time. We have so much in common. It’s awesome to see your people at this yearly event. Definitely go to the First Timers events!


This year when you register for Expo! Expo!, you have the option to receive a mentor. I think this is a great idea and first-time attendees should get on that. You’ll have someone share their experiences in the industry and give you tips as to how to navigate Expo! Expo!.

What is one event or program that attendees cannot miss at Expo! Expo! that you thoroughly enjoy?

For those getting their CEM, of course the CEM sessions that are held before or after Expo! Expo!. I really like doing those sessions in person because the courses are more interactive and I like the interaction between everyone.

Again, you’re networking with people.

Will you be attending this year’s Expo! Expo! in New Orleans? If so, what programming are you looking forward to experiencing?

Yes, I will be attending Expo! Expo!. I wanted to go to the Women’s Leadership Experience, but I’ll be flying in a bit later and bummed I’ll be missing out. For the ladies out there, I’d recommend going to the Women’s Leadership Experience because it’s just great information.

I’m looking forward to the programs focused on emerging technologies and attendee promotions. I always, always, always go to Humanity Rocks. Most of all, I look forward to seeing all my people at Expo! Expo!.

Trade show floor, education and networking…all in one place. Attend the “show for shows” in vibrant New Orleans this year. Register by Friday, 26 October to receive early bird savings.


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