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SISO CEO Summit 2021 Recap

After going more than one year without an in-person event, SISO hosted 200-plus executives for the CEO Summit 2021, held April 12-15 at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, Fla. The robust crowd gathered to discuss industry trends, exchange ideas and network with colleagues and suppliers. While travel restrictions kept most international attendees from coming into the U.S., there were a handful of SISO members who were granted visas for entry because they were deemed essential to the country’s national interest.

David Audrain

“This month’s SISO CEO Summit brought the industry’s leaders back together for the first time since the pandemic closed us down,” says David Audrain (pictured right), CEO, SISO. “The atmosphere was incredibly positive, and the discussions focused on moving forward with in-person events.”

Douglas Emslie Tarsus

During the annual business meeting, outgoing SISO Chair Doug Emslie (pictured left), who is Group CEO of Tarsus Group PLC, provided an overview of the association’s efforts in the last year:

Association management contract extension: The SISO board approved a three-year extension on the management contract of the association to ExpoDevCo, which has managed the association for six years. “David has gone above and beyond in the last year in terms of standing up and leading our industry in the most pivotal of times,” says Emslie. “The industry came to SISO and David to take the lead with all the other associations, so it speaks volumes for what he has done for us.”

Financials: “It’s been a tough year, but it was a stroke of luck or genius that David Audrain took out insurance for us,” says Emslie. “The fact that we had insurance meant that operationally we broke even last year. We continue to have a strong balance sheet.”

Advocacy: “In 2020, SISO made a contribution of $250,000 into the Go LIVE Together advocacy program to kick it off,” says Emslie. “SISO was the biggest contributor. It was absolutely critical that we got the Go LIVE campaign off the ground.”

Maintaining and expanding SIGs: SISO has eight special interest groups (SIGs). Emslie highlighted two of the most active groups: small business and women. “Phil McKay has done a fantastic job running the Small Business SIG. They have monthly webinars, which have attracted a strong number,” Emslie says. The Women’s SIG, led by Mary Larkin, hosted a half-day forum on April 12. “There’s a new Digital SIG, led by David Adler and RD Whitney, that will focus on online revenue streams and platforms. It’s mission-critical as we get back to live … how do we think about digital. That group will likely take on a new and different significance.”

Lobbying: “The real credit goes not to SISO but actually to Bob Priest-Heck with Freeman,” says Emslie. “He came to SISO to support Go LIVE Together financially and operationally. It started as a project but became clear that this is a long-term issue that needs an advocacy arm.”  In 2021, the Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance (ECA) was formed to run the advocacy efforts in the U.S., and SISO committed $250,000 in 2021 to fund ECA, which will now oversee the Go LIVE campaign. “ECA has a budget of $600,000 to advocate for our industry. The most important task at the moment is to get the exhibition industry open in every major place,” Emslie says. “We have a lot of work to do. We hired Tommy Goodwin to head up the government affairs of the ECA, a collection of eight industry associations.” Audrain and IAEE President David DuBois are co-presidents, and SISO has four directors on the ECA board.

Hervé Sedky Emerald

Incoming SISO Chair Hervé Sedky (pictured right), who is president and CEO of Emerald, offered insight into what’s ahead for the association as he takes over the leadership: “Our three main priorities going forward are reopening, inclusion and diversity, and the role of digital in face-to-face. Safe and secure reopening has been and continues to remain a top priority. For diversity and inclusion, we have formed a task force dedicated to conceptualizing and implementing new D&I initiatives focused on driving change. Finally, we are taking the Digital SIG that was focused on incremental value-added revenue and transforming that to focus on better understanding the future role of digital in face-to-face.”

The Society of Independent Show Organizers’ members include companies, corporations and other for-profit entities that own, produce or provide full-service management of face-to-face tradeshows, consumer shows, expositions, conferences and events. SISO membership is a combination of large corporations and small entrepreneurial enterprises that do business around the world. SISO’s 200 member companies produce thousands of events around the world. SISO’s Mission, is to meet the common needs of our members, by providing peer networking opportunities, education, industry information, streamlined business processes and best practices in the industry. For more info, visit www.SISO.org

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