With 142 education sessions on and off the show floor and networking sessions primed for idea sharing, Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition offers attendees a wealth of information they can take straight to their organization and immediately implement. Like the exhibitions and events industry, the attendee make-up of Expo! Expo! is rich in diversity and always evolving. IAEE sat down with Wendy Holliday, Executive Director at PLM World, who shares why she attends the “show for shows”.

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

As the Executive Director for PLM World, our association hosts a heavy education event with over 500 education sessions. The trade show component has also tripled in size in the past three years and we added micro learning opportunities on the show floor.

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

It’s my fifth year attending Expo! Expo!. With IAEE, your entire association is a member, and this allows you to bring multiple staff to Expo Expo. I like to encourage staff to attend sessions together, it allows for a quicker information share, acknowledgement of the need for change and a smoother change process.

I found out about Expo! Expo! in a previous job. I was just amazed at the people that are there and the networking opportunities. In each conversation, you learn something new each time. You get to interact and ask questions on the trends happening in the industry as noted in CEIR reports.

You have the opportunity to connect face-to-face. And the staff at IAEE are amazing. When I think about all the other organizations I belong to, the staff of IAEE are more accessible and transparent. The experience at Expo! Expo! is unlike any other event that I have attended.

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

I benefit from attending Expo! Expo! because I think it’s important to understand what are the best practices and emerging trends out there. When looking at the Art of the Show Competition, you get to see what other shows are doing to stand out and it’s a great visual opportunity to engage with that.

It’s imperative to have opportunities to learn from your peers. The discussions that happen between sessions or during the white space time are beneficial. Networking is important because you never know who can help you or who you can help. You may meet someone who has the same show challenges as you and later on, reach out to them to see which vendor they went to on the show floor that helped solve their challenges.

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Of course, for me, CEIR is fabulous so I try to go to all of the CEIR sessions.

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

Last year, Bear Analytics did a data session titled, “Got Growth? How Two Companies are Leveraging Data to Enhance Attendee Acquisition,” which featured Eric Misic of Bear Analytics, Jenn Ellek, CMP of National Confectioners Association, Ken Ferreira of Convention Data Services and Iain Mackenzie, CEM, CMP of International Sign Association. Bear Analytics shared how they helped the National Confectioners Association increase their show attendance using data analytics. It was a great session that we actually hired Bear Analytics to assist in our show.

Bear Analytics session

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

I really liked the Ask the Expert portion of last year’s Communal Learning and Networking Experience. I took advantage on a number of those. That was very useful, especially asking Jack Buttine of Buttine Insurance on show insurance questions.

Ask the Expert

I thought the interactions at the IAEE Pavilion and meeting with the Preferred Partners were really helpful in choosing what products/services would work best with my organization.

I came home very revved up from the event with a list of takeaways and ideas.

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

Last year, I was a part of the Mentor/Mentee program as a mentor. This year, I signed up to be both a mentor and mentee. Part of my prep work is to reach out to those people so that they connect with somebody new. I also volunteer with my local chapter and see what I can do to help with the chapter activities at Expo! Expo!.

I like to see the list of who all is attending Expo! Expo! and reach out to people to plan meetings ahead of time.

This year, I’ve been having great conversations with Rebecca Washler from HIMSS. She had mentioned she had not come to the show in quite some time. We disussed CEIR tools, such as Event Performance Analyzer and the programs offered at Expo! Expo!. I told her she may be a good match for the Hosted Buyer Program. She has signed up to attend and I am looking forward to meeting her in person.

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

You can always get involved with your local chapter. Getting involved is going to help you with answering questions you may have at your organization with the peer-to-peer networking. The chapter can help you grow personally and professionally with the opportunity to volunteer on the board, micro volunteer projects or lead committees.

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One of the things I love about IAEE is their approach to member meet-ups. Someone may not have the time to volunteer or be a part of a committee, but a member meet-up is pretty simple. The name says it all. A member meet-up is simply a group of IAEE members gathering together hosted by a chapter for an activity that most people like to do. A member meet-up doesn’t require too much of a time commitment.

If you’re new to the industry, it’s a great way to make new connections, which can lead to new opportunities. If you’ve been in the industry for a while, it’s a great way to reconnect without spending a lot of time and gives you the opportunity to give back. There are so many things you can do at the local level.

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

Even if I tried, I couldn’t just tell you one moment. There are so many experiences at Expo! Expo! that it’ll be hard to pinpoint just one.

I had the opportunity to present a couple of years ago and that was a lot of fun. It was the last session of the last day, so I wasn’t expecting many people to be in attendance, but it was packed. I enjoyed that the audience was interactive and that you never expect what’s going to happen.

A new activity that I liked from last year is the photo walk, where attendees walked through the city of San Antonio and took pictures of historical places. A tour guide gave us a brief history of each point of interest and as a show organizer, it’s good to know what the host city offers so that we could potentially bring an event here.

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I enjoy my time with the IAEE staff. They are so kind. Just hanging out with them at Expo! Expo! and all the different activities is a lot of fun. It’s really about the people. I love IAEE’s approach to member engagement. IAEE serves as a model. IAEE does what the association stands for exceedingly well and is an outstanding example of how associations should operate.

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

Expo! Expo! is an opportunity to grow professionally and renew personally. You go to this event and you have the opportunities to go to the education sessions that can help you on the job. You have the professional opportunity to help your organization. As for renewing personally, you get to be out of the office for a few days and really focus on the possibilities of things. You reconnect with old acquaintances and make new connections.

With budget restrictions, Expo! Expo! has many opportunities to come to the show at no charge, such as First Timers or Hosted Buyer. I think the value that you get is worth the registration fees, but these opportunities allow you to experience Expo! Expo! and make your judgement on the value of the show.

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?

Don’t be shy about acknowledging that you’re a first-time attendee. I think a lot of times that these people see First Timer sessions or mentor/mentee program and they’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to do that because I don’t want anybody to know I’ve never been there before.” There’s so much fun, free stuff at Expo! Expo!. Last year, there was a champagne send-off for First Timers. It’s a small thing, but those sessions are a great opportunity to better understand how you can make the most of the event. If you’re a First Timer, don’t be afraid to acknowledge you’re a First Timer. Go to the First Timer sessions and come in on time to attend.

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Regardless of the years of experience when coming into the First Timers program, I’d recommend signing up for the mentor/mentee program. You’re never too old to be a mentee as well as serving as a mentor. It’s an opportunity to connect with somebody new. As you’re helping somebody else, you realize things you didn’t know either.

Also, don’t be afraid to change sessions. If you’re unsure about a particular session, don’t sit at the very front, but sit towards the back so that you can leave without making a scene. It’s okay to get up and go to the next session because you want to make sure you’re getting what you need.

There’s so much going on at Expo! Expo! that you shouldn’t be afraid of opportunities that appear out of the box. For example, the Ask the Expert sessions were informal and, in a format, most would not expect. I would say to not be afraid of experiencing something new.

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

I thoroughly enjoy the chapter receptions. Each year, the chapter receptions are held right before the opening party, which is great for networking. You can meet with professionals that are in your chapter and then walk with your new connections to the opening party. If you happen to be by yourself, it’s a great opportunity to get to know people better as you walk with them to the party.

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The opening party highlights something fabulous about the host city, which you may not be familiar with yet. New Orleans is the perfect example with Mardi Gras World. If you have never been to Mardi Gras World, it’s a must-see. Going to Mardi Gras World with your chapter will be a lot of fun.

The Executive Breakfast is a must-attend session. Last year’s speakers were just amazing.

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. I have my flight and hotel confirmed already. In addition to the chapter receptions, Mardi Gras World, Executive Breakfast and all the great education sessions, I’m always looking forward to the unexpected. There’s always something I did not go in expecting to learn. Each year, there’s always something like that.

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

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Posted by Jannat Choudhury

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