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The 2013 Red Diamond Congress shines

From July 30 to Aug. 1, the congress brought together every group with a vested interest in the tradeshow industry: marketers/exhibitors, show managers and a variety of suppliers to the industry. An interaction that too rarely takes place was the highlight of the three-day meeting.

When E2MA was formed from the Exhibit Appointed Contractors Association (EACA) and the dormant Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA), skeptics doubted whether an organization that brought together all the disparate factions could function as an advocacy organization when each group has different concerns. The Red Diamond Congress, more than anything, demonstrated that power comes from banding together, not staying ‘siloed,’ a word that cropped up repeatedly throughout the week.

Networking opportunities were abundant and productive. In addition to “dinner with strangers” on Tuesday night and the gala on Wednesday night, lunches that were part of the program allowed attendees to continue conversations started in the educational sessions. And because there were short breaks, people could talk over a cup of coffee between sessions.

E2MA is responsible for the education program that awards the CME program. The program, linked to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) confers the Certified Manager of Exhibits designation. Additionally, E2MA and Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association (HCEA) have joined forces to offer a CME-H, which combines course material from E2MA and HCEA. For more information, visit www.E2MA.org or www.HCEA.org.

Throughout the Congress, “appreciative inquiry,” an organizational development method that focuses on what an organization does well rather than on what it does badly, was used to document the proceedings. As a self-defined “asset-based approach,” the method assumes that every organization and every person in that organization has positive aspects that form the foundation for strengthening the organization. It asks questions like “What’s working well?,” “What’s good about what you are currently doing?” The findings will be used to formulate action areas for E2MA.

Concerns of marketers and exhibitors, such as measurement, show selection, branding, budgeting and strategy, were topics addressed in the educational sessions as well as revisiting the RFP process, planning with dashboards and global exhibiting. The dialogue between exhibitors and show managers, started at the Explore! conference prior to the Red Diamond Congress, continued with David Audrain, show manager of Clarian Events, delivering a keynote presentation on his model after a presentation by CMO Council’s Liz Miller’s on the report, “Customer Attainment from Event Engagement.” Managers from convention centers in Cleveland and Austin as well as Marilynn Gardner from Navy Pier in Chicago discussed the challenges of facility management on a panel chaired by Mary Beth Rebedeau of The Rebedeau Group.

The process of sustainability certification brought together Karl Pfalzgraf from BPA Worldwide and Aaron Joseph of the City of Chicago mayor’s office as well as Ryan Thorpe, director of facility operations for McCormick Place/SMG. The three standards for sustainability—environmental, social and economic—were presented to the group. As agreed by the group, the “no one is asking for this” refrain was going to be replaced by marketers wanting to accrue sustainability to their brand promise in a meaningful way. Merging the Convention Industry Council’s (CLC) APEX auditing methods with standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has resulted in a way for the industry to measure the sustainability quotient for meetings. The Environmental Protection Association (EPA) and Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) have contributed to the APEX guidance.

More Keynotes
Delivered by Lara McCulloch-Carter of Ready2Spark, evangelism as a tool for event marketing was the topic of the first keynote presentation on day two, and the second was Bob Milam’s practical how-to presentation of strategy for advancing the sales continuum at trade shows. The second day closed with an awards gala, where presentations were made to those who have made significant contributions to the industry.

“Stump the Experts” was a lively discussion where topics ranged from making the most of small spaces, renting vs. owning an exhibit, labor issues and securing and keeping the necessary funds from corporate budgets to support a robust trade show program. As with the rest of the Red Diamond Congress, this session demonstrated that although each industry contingent has its own issues and its own viewpoint, coming together to discuss these matters and to share insights is the path to a healthy future for the industry.

Awards presented at The Red Diamond Congress Gala:
Member of the Year: Capitol Logistics
EAC Hall of Fame: Paul Willet, Czarnowski
Exhibitor Hall of Fame:
• Donn Sanford, The Sanford Organization
• Marti Wolf, Gould
• Ron Hardaway, AT&T
• Thoburn Stiles, GE
• Tom Grossman, Unisys (Burroughs)

Intrepid Award: Sue Huff, Medtronic
EMY Award: Robin Herman, Plum Inc.

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