‘Crazy’, ‘wrong, entrepreneurs wow a sold out ECEF 2024 audience

In the risk-taking spirit of her Cuban immigrant family, this year’s keynoter of the 23rd annual Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum (ECEF), Melissa Medina assured the audience that it’s okay to be crazy. The venue welcomed 269 exhibition and convention industry leaders for the event in Washington DC.

Medina is the co-founder, CEO and president of eMerge Americas, a visionary event-centric ecosystem created to help bring technology investment and infrastructure to Miami. The community-based model that motivated eMerge Americas gave organisers attending ECEF ample food for thought.

Ten years ago the ECEF keynoter was Greg Topalian, now chairman of Clarion Events North America. Then he confidently predicted that B2B events would add consumers to the mix. “I was wrong,” he admits today although some of his other predictions fared better. However, it was Topalian’s vision for the next 10 years that truly captivated the attendees’ attention. Among his many controversial predictions: Costs in top tier destinations are approaching a tipping point.

The other sessions were similarly forward looking with the emphasis on actionable insights. 

  • New analytics of Q1 and Q2 data from Freeman Research informed both Sam Lippman’s annual 5 Key Data Points in 5 Minutes and a deep dive by Freeman senior VP, strategy Ken Holsinger
  • A panel of CFOs helped organisers understand that a CFO’s job is not to ‘nickel-dime the CMO’ but to allocate funds for the greatest ROI
  • Google senior director Teena Piccione emphasised that executing transformative change requires thawing the ‘frozen middle’ – stakeholders who agree to make changes but do whatever they want
  • Encore VP customer experience Christine Kiesling explored the results of proprietary human design research and proved how it made a measurable empirical difference for her customers.

In another first for ECEF, Sam Lippman, president of Lippman Connects, paid tribute to retiring CEO of Freeman Company Bob Priest-Heck. Priest-Heck looked back on his long career and laid out what he sees ahead for the events industry. 

The 23rd annual ECEF was hosted 29 May in the Grand Hyatt Washington, and was produced by Lippman Connects. Learn more at www.lippmanconnects.com.