Stephanie Selesnick reports from St Petersburg, Florida, on the SISO CEO Summit
The SISO CEO Summit, held 21-24 March in St Petersburg, FL, USA brought together 300 CEO-level executives from around the world. Pre-conference Executive Women’s Leadership Forum was attended by 60+ women and the Small Business Roundtable 35. While there were few Asia-based delegates, about a third of all delegates were from outside the US, including broad representation from the UK and Germany.
Common themes this year were sustainability, advocacy, and data/tech integration. A power panel on The New Normal, moderated by incoming SISO chair and co-founder MJBiz Cassandra Farrington kicked off the Summit with top global movers and shakers Hugh Jones, RELX plc; Mary Larkin, Diversified Communications; Charlie McCurdy, Informa Markets; Hervé Sedky, Emerald and Russell Wilcox, Clarion Events Ltd. Delivering value to exhibitors and meeting their marketing and sales goals was top of mind. Coming out of the pandemic, most agreed that a solid mix of square metres and digital products is now normal.
The Summit was then treated to economist Anirban Basu, Sage Policy Group, Inc. who delivered an impactful analysis of mostly US trends. Ken Holsinger, Freeman and Kimberly Hardcastle from mdg, a Freeman Company, shared insights with show organisers. Many databases are somewhat out of date with some 70+ million people in the US having left the workforce and called for a Great Marketing Reset. They urged delegates to invest now in technology and tools as we are looking at a younger, more digitally savvy audience moving forward.
Two advocacy updates were given. The first was an update on US efforts with Tommy Goodwin, Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance (ECA) and Tori Emerson Barnes, US Travel Association, and the second on global efforts focusing in on the EU with Kai Hattendorf, UFI and Barbara Weizsacker, EEIA and EMECA.
Other notable sessions were a pre-release of the latest SISO-UFI-EXPLORI Exhibitor Survey, A Customer Lens on the New Normal (good news – NPS scores are looking up!) delivered by Sophie Holt, MD, Explori. Top Ten Tips for Recruiting and Retention Now with Janice Rogers, Diversified Communications and Janine Bavaso, Northstar Travel Media, LLC advising delegates to share what is special about their organisation and use current employees’ testimonials when recruiting, conducting “stay” interviews with your teams to increase retention, and realise that it’s been two years of Covid – check in and be there for your employees. Make sure to re-engage them.
Day two featured Small Business Growth Strategies colourfully moderated by Simon Kimble, executive chairman, Clarion Events Ltd. whose panelists (John Golicz, Unicomm, Jennifer Hoff, Taffy Event Strategies & Trifecta, Vincent Polito, VP International & MDG, a Freeman Company, and Michelle Troop, Ai4) shared some great tips for smaller operators including finding synergies with exhibitions sharing venues over the same dates to save on costs, and using digital events to purposefully expand into new sectors.
The M&A Panel should have been entitled ‘The British are Here!’ with Simon Foster, ARC Group moderating David Doft, Emerald; Douglas Emslie, Tarsus Group plc; Lisa Hannant, Clarion Events Ltd. and Mark Temple Smith, Informa Markets. Panelists cautioned those contemplating selling their companies not to rush the acquisition process especially if there is a plan for the entrepreneur to stay on. Also, multiples haven’t drastically changed, but the structure of the deal has, with an emphasis on having longer earn-outs. Having a robust forecast also helps determine sales prices.
Lewis Shomer, president and CEO of Shomex, chairman of the Abilities Expos and former executive director of SISO won the annual Robert L. Krakoff Award, presented to individuals who have helped lead and advance the exhibition industry.