By Rich Vallaster, DES, CEM, Director, Marketing

They say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. What we left behind in 2019 at IAEE’s Expo! Expo! was an industry filled with optimism for continued growth. I see photos of maskless attendees hugging, handshaking, and connecting less than six feet apart as I look back. Crazy huh?  Little did we know, the events industry was going to see its most significant challenge in all of our lifetimes.   

We took it all for granted.  

We viewed regional interruptions such as hurricanes or local unrest as the biggest barrier to an event’s success. Our events would meet, year after year from at great venues in cities across the globe. As event professionals, we also took it for granted we could learn and connect with our industry colleagues, clients, and prospects at Expo! Expo! We all were looking forward to bourbon and southern hospitality in Louisville.  

We took it all for granted.  

We all “pivoted” and hosted our own virtual events. But we make a living convening people to learn, share and connect with their colleagues and industry partners – in person. So, when COVID dashed the opportunity, we too participated virtually in Expo! Expo! But honestly, it was not the same. As I skim past photos of Humanity Rocks, crazy booth activations (remember me as Willy Wonka in San Antonio), or simply being able to have a meal with a client – that didn’t exist in the online events world. I am not upset. It was the reality we all faced with our own events and Expo! Expo! We all certainly have learned and grown from the experience, but as we are just a month away from being back in person, I can’t lie…I am excited. 

So, What Excites Me About Expo! Expo! This Year? 

Everything, of course!  

Community – The IAEE and Expo! Expo! Community is incredibly welcoming and supportive to all members. Whether it is your first- or fifteenth-time attending Expo! Expo! allows you to share and solve your challenges and successes with like-minded people. In addition, the opportunities for the serendipitous meetings we all missed in the virtual settings will once again connect our community in only ways in-person events can. 

I remember one of the first people I met outside of our booth many years ago, it was a dearly departed friend and sorely missed colleague Terence Donnelly. I credit Terence to this day as someone who encouraged me to get involved in everything from Exhibitions Day to the TSNN’s ExpoChat. It’s why I will once again participate in the Terence Donnelly Memorial Health & Wellness Event on Wednesday, December 8th.  

I will be saddened by the missing friends whose jobs were directly impacted by the pandemic. But, more positively, I am encouraged more event professionals to return to their previous organizations or new ones in the events business. What’s the saying, you can take the events out of a person, but not the person out of the events?  I am also excited to all the newcomers who will be participating in the hosted buyer program.  

Our community is how we got through this terrible situation. It’s how our events will once again grow as we build back and harness our own events communities. I know our Expo! Expo! community will lift us all back up this year, remind us why we love this business so much and get motivated to make our events even better (regardless of what format they take in the future).  

Content – Selfishly, I am most excited about us (A2Z) hosting the News and Views theatre on the show floor.  For the third year in a row, I will be interviewing industry leaders, icons and newsmakers to get lessons from this past year and, more importantly, get their take on the industry’s future and how to tackle the challenges ahead. But, news and Views aside, the content schedule is packed with amazing speakers who have so much to share. From hot topics of event communities, DEI initiatives, selling in a post-pandemic world, marketing and more. And great news, if you aren’t in-person this year, there are also a lot of great sessions virtually on Thursday. 

Detailed education schedule

Connections – You are on mute. Am I sharing my screen?   

Reconnecting with our clients, prospects, industry partners and friends face to face is something we are all looking forward to this year’s event. While all have mastered the art of video conferencing and virtual events, in-person interactions can’t be replaced. We tried once again as an industry and have proven the value and need to meet in person at some level and frequency.  

I have a feeling about this year’s Expo! Expo! will be like a Friends sitcom reunion. A bit of foreshadowing about our booth this year. So please stop by, grab some coffee and let’s catch up.  

Commerce – As industry surveys have shown from exhibitors, an actual trade show floor is critical for doing business. And from our clients who have been hosting in-person trade shows again, people are ready to find solutions and new partners even with shows with reduced attendance. As a result, more qualified buyers are walking the show floor than ever before.  

I know our entire team is ecstatic to share new features, upcoming releases, and even surprises for those who visit us. So make sure you stop by the booth and we are happy to show you how we have powered the event management side of Expo! Expo! and hundreds of other events for associations and independent show organizers. 

Ready to Register? 

So if I have convinced you to register with my excitement, I encourage you to dig further and see why attending this year’s Expo! Expo! will not only be good for your career, but it will also show your support for the live events industry. If you have never attended, make sure you check out the hosted buyer program I listed above.  I can’t wait to see you.