Embrace The Industry!

By Murphy, CEM, National Sales Manager, Fern Expositions

We have the distinct pleasure and advantage of working in a very exciting and fast-paced industry. Our industry is also probably one of the most misunderstood!  There are so many facets to this industry. Have you ever had to explain what your job is only to have someone say, “Oh, all you guys do is plan parties.” Did you just want to choke them?

When I first got involved with this industry, I had no clue of the vastness of it. In fact, my first entré into the industry was as a member of an advisory board for a convention center. It was there that I started learning about what goes into having events, particularly conventions and exhibits. I learned about the efforts of the CVB and their partnerships with hotels, convention centers, destination management companies, transportation companies, caterers, floral providers, and even local musicians and other entertainers.

Eventually, I got a job working for a local supplier in that city, but even then I had no real appreciation for the industry. Like most of us who have been involved with this industry for more than 15 years, it was not something that I studied for in college. In fact, when I was in college there may have been a program for hotel management, but that was it. I actually studied political science and economics, and then bounced around from economic development to banking to finally getting a job with an exposition company.

Even with that, I don’t believe I really started to recognize and appreciate the industry until coming to DC. One of the first bits of advice I received when coming here with my current job was to “get involved with some industry organizations.” That has turned out to be the BEST advice I could ever have been given. It wasn’t until I got involved that I really started to understand the scope of this industry.

Starting with the DC chapter of IAEE, I jumped right in and got involved with committees, community service projects, and special events.

After attending Krakoff Leadership Institute (KLI) as the result of a scholarship from the DC chapter, I was challenged to start CEM training, and I rose to the challenge.  I then volunteered on the special events committee for the chapter, and the rest is HISTORY!

Because of “getting involved,” I now have a deep appreciation for this wonderful industry and the many facets of it. I want to encourage everyone who is thinking about industry involvement to DO IT!  Jump in with any of the many volunteer opportunities that come up.

No matter whether you are on the supplier side or the planner side of this industry or whether you’re just getting started or have a few miles on this road, you will find “It’s Not a Job – It’s an Adventure!”

Why is Social Media Marketing Not Delivering on Its Promise

by Sean Garvey, President, InGo

Sean Head ShotIn the long history of technological innovations that have impacted marketing, social media and the promise it holds seems to be unique. Never before have there been such massive expectations, coupled with a growing sense of under-performance on those expectations.

Earlier innovations, going as far back as the printing press, or telephone, or more recently email, brought with them significant expansions in reach, and significant reductions in cost. For brands looking to reach consumers with their message, these technological advances provided large boosts in marketing activity; they were able to reach more and more people, and at lower and lower cost.  In the early days of adoption, these technological advances were correlated with boosts in sales, and it seemed that all that was required was to adopt the technology and “spray and pray.”  Over time however, as each new marketing channel reached a saturation point, its effectiveness plummeted, as the “noise” factor took the return on the dollar spent down to below single digits, showing that the correlation was better understood as “early adopter advantage.”  Ultimately, the “noise” gets so bad that civilized societies begin to legislate and regulate them in order to protect the consumer (see the TCPA, the CAN-SPAM Act, as examples.)

Besides reach and cost, another aspect of these historical technological advances has been ‘targeting’ – the ability to reach the right consumer, not just any consumer, with one’s message.  Over time, marketing advances have attempted to include greater and greater audience and demographic specificity.  The evolution of television advertising illustrates this well. At first, advertising on broadcast TV was enough; no matter what time of day or which program, you knew you were reaching the more affluent demographic.  As TV became a standard household appliance, certain times of day were designated “prime time” viewing, and certain shows could be relied upon to attract certain ages and sexes of the population.  The advent of cable TV, with its local capabilities and plethora of content-specific options, enabled advertisers to pinpoint zip codes and lower the price point so that smaller, more regional advertisers were able to advertise on TV.  It’s not an accident that beginning every evening at 5pm, the Golf Channel runs ads for erectile dysfunction cures on heavy rotation.

However, throughout these advances, as reach increased and cost decreased and as targeting capabilities got further and further refined, return remained fuzzy at best, and low at worst.  The return on dollars spent by marketing channel remains a highly dubious pseudo-science, with the result that most marketing spend decisions are driven primarily by tradition – “because we have always done it that way.”

Social media marketing seemed like it would solve all that.  Here was a marketer’s paradise: consumers freely sharing the most exact and intimate details about themselves, and not just demographic detail like sex and age, but likes and dislikes, interests and hobbies, etc.  Social media itself had the added benefit of being highly addictive, so people were spending gobs of time on their social network of choice. Add to that the unparalleled instrumentation that digital technology provides, and it is no wonder social media marketing had outsized  expectations.  Never before had there been such a powerful intersection of knowledge about, and access to, the target.  Marketing on social media should literally be like shooting fish in a barrel, except in this case, the fish help load the gun.

But it’s not…..

In a 2013 study, of 750 companies across a wide-spectrum of industries, 88% said they “didn’t feel they could accurately measure the effectiveness of their social media campaigns. Fifty-two percent said that dealing with social media ROI was their biggest frustration.”   With regard to the events industry in particular, a recent Lippman study stated that, while social media is the fastest growing portion of marketing budgets, it is “perceived as providing the worst ROI for events,” right alongside print advertising.  How can this possibly be?  A worse return than direct mail?  Than telemarketing?  Email?  It seems unthinkable, and yet there it is.

One school of thought posits that it is simply a measurement issue; it’s having an effect, we just can’t measure it very well.  But that is difficult to square with the amazing instrumentation that is part of the social media marketing package.  The impressions are tracked, the clicks and click-throughs, more and more sophisticated algorithms measure the trends and eyeballs, and calibrate the “value” of digital advertising space on a moment to moment basis, and yet the sales impact still seems at best vague, at worst, non-existent.  The best we can do so far is to track meta-measurements, counting likes and retweets and followers; what is called “social media engagement.” If the sales results were there to back it up, then no doubt meta-measurements of a campaign’s engagement would be enough to quiet the perception of social media marketing providing the “worst ROI,” and we would rest easy with the explanation that “it’s working, we’re just not sure how.”  But we don’t, and the perception persists, even as we increase our spend.  And the most likely explanation is that the results are not there.

A conclusion one might come to is that what is required is more and better instrumentation.  And based on a whole hatful of emerging companies with product offerings, it seems many have concluded this. Re-targeting, digitally driven consumer profiles compiled real-time, social network and behavior analysis, all tied to more and more perfectly timed message delivery capabilities, indicate that this is the answer in vogue.  But can we reasonably expect dramatically better results from this wave of improved instrumentation?  Given the nature of the case, we might rightly expect incremental improvements, but it is just as likely that this trend may result in “digital stalking” legislation, and no indication that it will produce returns in line with our current expectations of social media.  The answer isn’t more technological capability to improve the same dynamic.  The dynamic itself needs to be changed.  But how?

One of the implicit promises of social media is encompassed in the word social.  Social media, for all its current disappointments as a marketing vehicle, has shown many examples of the incredible cultural power it has: overnight YouTube celebrities, virilization, ice-bucket challenges, etc.  There is no doubt that there is dynamite in social media.  However, the way social media marketing has been adopted to date is with an emphasis on the marketing and a lack of emphasis on the word social.

Everyone knows intuitively that word-of-mouth marketing (trusted resources freely recommending a product or brand to other interested, potential buyers) is the most powerful type of marketing, and all the studies bear that fact out.  But that’s because it really isn’t marketing per se, at least not in the traditional sense.  Marketing is essentially an activity that brands undertake, to get their message in front of as many of the right consumers as possible, and they pay very handsomely, both to craft that message and have it delivered to the right consumer at the right time. The presence of a monetary incentive and the lack of trust in the relationship, make it a subtly but inescapably adversarial one: the brand has a vested interest in convincing the consumer to buy, and the consumer knows this.  Word-of-mouth marketing – ‘person-to-person’ not ‘brand-to-consumer’ – circumvents and cuts through all of that native distrust and natural skepticism.  The only problem is, it can’t be bought.

In fact, to buy it is to neuter it….

So therein lies the oh-so-frustrating rub; a technological advancement that enables word-of-mouth marketing on an unprecedented global scale, that isn’t purchasable or obtainable by brands via the traditional approach.  To square this circle, a change in thinking and a different approach is required.

The first step is to recognize how social media is different than any previous technological advancement.  Unlike TV, email, even the printing press, it is not unidirectional (brand speaking to passive consumer.)  It is bidirectional and even multi-directional.  On social media, the “consumers” have a voice, and they love to use it.  And that leads to our second insight.

The people on social media are not ‘consumers waiting to be marketed to.’  As noted above, they have a voice, and they are talking, a lot.  What are they talking about?  Themselves, their opinions, the things they are passionate about and want the world of their friends and colleagues to know.  Consciously or unconsciously, they are engaged in ‘brand promotion’: the brand of themselves online.

The last insight, is to notice our own behavior on-line. None of us click on the top returns from a Google search, because we know they’ve been paid for. Yet many of us pay for them.  When logged in as ourselves, most of us are completely unaware of the “suggested posts” on Facebook, but again, many of us marketers pay for them.

Once we’ve discovered these three insights, we can change our approach to marketing on social media and better unlock its potential.  My audience is not peopled with consumer targets; it is full of potential co-marketers.  Rather than finding more and better ways to target and track ‘consumers’ like they are game, we can turn our efforts to empowering them to market on our behalf.  This is what we call ‘advocate marketing.’

This change in approach is counter-intuitive, and takes intellectual discipline to implement thoroughly.  However, when done well, the results show beyond the shadow of a doubt, that our most powerful marketing asset is already in our possession.  It is our audience.


Go & Be – Counted


Julie Sullivan, CEM, CMP
Manager, Exhibition Sales
International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA)

This winter, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend Expo! Expo! on a scholarship courtesy of the Washington, DC Chapter of IAEE. As you can imagine, this news and opportunity added an extra element of excitement and anticipation for me and made the event seem all the more rewarding and memorable.

When I applied for the scholarship, I had several key goals in mind. Since it had been nearly five years since my last brief fly-in, take a CEM class, visit the exhibit hall, and fly back out ten hours later, I hoped to make this trip a total emersion experience. I wanted to begin networking and supporting IAEE on a national level, bond with my local IAEE DC Chapter community, hear about new trends in the industry, gain some new insights on multi-generational communication, and last but certainly not least, experience a new city. Like everyone, I suppose, I had pre-conceived ideas about what my experiences there would be like and what the City of Los Angeles might hold as well. In reality, my expectations were completely dashed to the rocks. My time there was everything I had hoped it would be and more. In fact, from an attendee’s perspective, I thought Expo! Expo! 2014 was the proverbial grand slam.

I went to Los Angeles to “Go & Be” many things: original, innovative, creative, and strategic as IAEE’s Expo! Expo! encouraged us to be. Upon returning home, I felt genuinely surprised and inspired by the vitality and adaptability of our industry and impressed with the thriving, rejuvenated Downtown LA area. It was a perfect pairing of meeting to destination.

As the seed of an idea from months earlier suddenly took root and began to materialize, my only remaining dilemma was deciding on what to do out of the countless options available to me during the meeting. Sticking to my initial goals, I settled on an agenda including a city-wide tour, learning how to building better relationships in our technology driven era, networking on a national and local chapter level, applauding all 257 CEM graduates, and visiting suppliers and industry friends alike on the trade show floor.

My experiences at Expo! Expo! re-confirmed for me that I’m in one of the most exciting and successful career paths. The industry is doing very well, has been doing well during the recession, and will surely continue to do so because it adjusts effectively through the ages. The proof of its strength was in the numbers announced at this year’s meeting. Not only did Expo! Expo! 2014 experience record attendance and had a record number of CMP graduates investing in its future, but the industry is producing big numbers where many others simply are not.

Making the decision to go to Expo! Expo! 2014 was a great one for many reasons. It was an opportunity for me to support the exhibitions and events industry at the national level, it stood as a testament to my level of commitment and support to our close-knit Washington, DC community, and was proof positive to that I wanted to officially stand-up and be counted. As the saying goes, “the community that stays together, thrives together” proved very true last year and I’m thankful for its support.

“Go & Be” HOPEFUL should be added to the Expo! Expo! 2014 meeting theme. The future looks very bright indeed for exhibitions and events.

To bid or not to bid?

Donna Mattei Johnson, CEM, CMP, CTS & Mary Higham, CEM

IAEE at the Westin Alexandria

You have contracted with your tradeshow vendors (general contractors, registration, audio visual, floral, etc.) for years – your level of service is excellent, they are dependable and you  have a great relationship with them – why would you want to go through the daunting task of bidding our your vendors?

As a third party provider, some of clients demand that we bid out services every year. This can be very challenging and time consuming. Bidding out services every year does not provide bulk buying power or allow our teams to establish critical relationships, but it does keep our current vendors on their toes year over year. Then we have some clients that have not bid out services for years and have no idea if they are getting the best deal from their vendors.

Typically we prefer three year service contracts with a mutual cancellation clause. This allows us to negotiate the best prices for services, build upon relationships and course correct if needed during the term of the contract.

Once a decision has been made to bid out service it is important to inform your incumbent vendors, stakeholders and staff of the reasons you are going out to bid. Then you must develop an RFP (Request For Proposal) and a timeline for the bidding process. The RFP should allow you to compare all services in an “apples-to-apples” order. The best way to receive the apples-to-apples RFP is to request that all vendors submit their proposals in the same format and in the order that is requested.

After the RFP is developed (normally at least 1 year prior to your contracts ending), inviting your vendors to visit the event is allows everyone to get a firsthand look and ask any additional questions prior to the submission. Communication throughout the RFP process is key to your success. You can request that all questions to the RFP be submitted by a certain date and share all answers with all bidders or you can decide to answer questions individually.

Upon receipt of all RFP’s it is critical to develop a comparison chart to ensure that pricing for each requirement was submitted. While rates can be important, they are not an accurate measurement of everything that is included. Price alone should not be the lone determining factor when selecting vendors. It is extremely important that you are comfortable with the vendor, that the relationship is a partnership. Hopefully a long-term, win-win partnership. Good luck and happy bidding!

Mary Headshot 1

Regularly bidding services for your show certainly has its advantages and there are definitely arguments to be made for why services should be bid every 3-5 years. However, if you are already pleased with your current vendors, it may be in your best interest to skip a bid cycle now and then.

If you are bidding every three years, you are constantly spending large portions of both your and your supplier’s time crafting, submitting, pitching, and reviewing proposals. You end up with only a year or two of fluid service, as the vendor will need a year to get up to speed and then the last year of the contract requires crafting a response to the new proposal so that they do not lose the business. The old phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can aptly be applied here.

Exhibitors do not like change when they can avoid it. Reliability is a huge factor, and changing vendors frequently is difficult for them. Processes change, pricing differs, and they have a difficult time keeping track of who the “Official Vendors” are. Not only with exhibitors, but attendees are also confused when you are switching vendors frequently. Show tools and processes differ both in look and protocol. When you are happy with you current vendor, it seems unnecessary to create undue stress for not only your them, but your own team who doesn’t know who they will be working with year to year. By maintaining your relationship uninterruptedly, it builds loyalty on both sides and consistency for your exhibitors, attendees, and internal staff.

Sometimes, if you establish that you are very pleased with the service, you may wish to consider signing a longer term contract. This can enable you to develop a competitive pricing model that both parties can be happy with and to work towards long term goals, saving you both the time and stress of an RFP process every 3 years.

Just because you choose not to bid a successful service is no reason to bury your head in the sand about the latest tools and technologies. Educate yourself on the newest innovations and if you see something that piques your interest, ask your current vendor if it is a feature that they can offer you. My association offers a new product competition that we were constantly bidding vendors for. Because we sync it with our mobile app, my organization asked if we should bid the app as well. We approached our existing app vendor, whom we were/are very happy with, and asked what product competition systems they would be able to integrate with. The result was the app vendor custom built us our competition site and it perfectly syncs with our app. This program is not only perfectly fitted to our needs, it ended up being less expense than finding both a new competition submission site vendor and new app vendor. It is understandable that you want your vendor using the latest technologies, but sometimes all it takes is a conversation with them to have them offer that service.

Whether you decide to bid routinely, or just when needed, it’s very important to stay on top of industry trends, keep your knowledge of different vendors current, and develop strong communication with your existing vendor on your needs, future plans, and intentions. Best of luck!

Movers & Shakers

Jennifer Abdinoor is now National Convention Sales Manager with Reno-Tahoe Convention & Visitors Authority

Susan Ainsworth is now Director of Member Programs and Services at American College Health Association

Janet M. Allen-Smith is now Director, Mid-Atlantic Regional Operations at Smart City Networks

Chris Anderson is now Conference & Corporate Relations Director at American Jail Association

Terrence Arth, IOM, CMP is now Vice President Member Programs & Services at National Association of Chain Drug Stores

Diana Brodney is now Manager of Conferences at Access Intelligence LLC

Yvonne Chanatry is now Vice Presindent, Marketing at America’s Health Insurance Plans

Dan Cole, CEM is now  Senior VP, Trade Shows & Exhibits at Hargrove, Inc.

Jennifer Custer is now Manager, Partnerships & Community at CTIA-The Wireless Association

Alex Davis is now  Manager, Operations at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

Jana Fields is now Senior Director Sponsorships and Meeting Planning at American Bus Association

Allison Fried is now Director, International Communications at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

Jessica Gelsinon is now Manager, Sponsorships at International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions

Laura Goodling is now Account Manager at a2z Inc

Caitlyn Gorski is now Senior Tradeshow Marketing Manager at Cvent.com

Jean Huh is now Sponsorships Coordinator at Water Environment Federation

Kate Hurst is now Vice President Community Conferences and Events at US Green Building Council

Puneet Jain is now Director, Emerging Technologies at a2z Inc

Donna Jarvis-Miller, CMP, CEM is now Director, Membership Operations & Events at American Public Human Services Association

Candace Johnson is now Director, Event Operations at Walter E Washington Convention Center

Brenda Kinney is now Convention Manager at American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine

Steve Koenig is now Senior Director, Industry Analysis at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

Pam Magnani is now a Meeting and Event Consultant at Vicki Johnson & Associates, LLC

Tom Markusson, CEM is now Senior Director, Sponsorships & Exhibits at American Health Insurance Plans

Mary Medawar is now Director, Exhibit Services at National Association of Chain Drug Stores

Denise Medved is now VP Sales & Business Development at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

Sarah Moretti is now Specialist, Exhibit Sales at Water Environment Federation

Mary Cecile Neville is now  Director of Marketing & Communications at SnowSports Industries America

Kathleen O’Brien is now HMS Rental Specialist at Hargrove, Inc.

Amy O’Connor is now Director of Meetings & Conventions at Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy

Meredith Pallante, CMP is now Senior Manager, Conferences at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

Amy Phillips Hanley, CMP is now Senior Director of Meetings and Exhibits at American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Holly Price is now Project Manager at Naylor Event Solutions

Lesly Rehaut, CMP, CMM is now Director of Business Development at Travel Planners, Inc.

Christina Reilly is now Sales Operations Manager at CTIA-The Wireless Association

Heather Rhoderick, CMP, CAE is now Vice President, Events and Education at American Composites Manufacturers Association

Marilyn Sawyer is now Manager, Operations, Conventions & Conferences at Biotechnology Industry Organization

Michelle Schrei is now Mobile Project Coordinator at Eventpedia

Amy Smith is now Vice President, Conference Services at COMPTEL

Antoinette Tripi is now Manager, Meetings and Special Events at National Association of Chain Drug Stores

Victoria Velez is now Senior Coordinator, CES Marketing at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

George J. Vuturo, RPh,PhD is now Chief Medical Officer at American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM)

Lisa Yonkers is now Director of Meetings and Education at International Association of Fire Chiefs

Welcome New Members and Congrats to New Certifications

Welcome New Members:

Convergence, LLC


US Green Building Council

Congratulations on your new certifications:

Meredith Pallante, CMP at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

Peter J. Pantuso, CTIS at American Bus Association

Amy Pepin, CMP at International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions

Amy Phillips Hanley, CMP at American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Heather Rhoderick, CMP, CAE at American Composites Manufacturers Association