Marsha Flanagan to Take the Helm as IAEE President and CEO

November 15, 2023

Following an extensive search process, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) has tapped Marsha Flanagan to serve as its newest president and CEO. She takes the helm on Dec. 1, just before Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting and Exhibition opens on Dec. 5 in Dallas. 

Focused on leading innovative strategies and fostering purposeful collaborations, Flanagan will lead IAEE into its next era of service to the global exhibitions and events industry while upholding the association’s core pillars of advocacy, sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, according to IAEE officials.

In her previous role as IAEE’s senior vice president of events and learning experiences, Flanagan spearheaded all events and learning initiatives, overseeing leading industry designations including Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM), Certified in Exhibition Management – Advanced Professional (CEM-AP) and CEM Fellow (CEM-F). 

Dennis Smith, 2023 IAEE Board of Directors chairperson, expressed confidence in Flanagan’s future leadership.

“Under Marsha’s leadership, IAEE will continue to serve as the leading trade association for the global exhibitions and events industry,” Smith said. “Her vision and strategic approach will ensure that IAEE remains a trusted partner for our members by engaging in industry collaborations and delivering valuable resources, advocacy and learning opportunities to drive success in the exhibitions and events ecosystem.”

Back story 

Bringing a wealth of expertise to IAEE, Flanagan has served in pivotal leadership roles in prominent industry organizations, showcasing exceptional leadership and a successful track record of driving accomplishments. 

“IAEE plays a vital role in advancing the global exhibitions and events industry, and I am honored to take on the position of president and CEO,” Flanagan said. “I am excited to work closely with the IAEE board of directors, staff, our members and other stakeholders to drive community engagement and growth for the organization.” 

Flanagan’s appointment arrives at a pivotal juncture for IAEE and the industry at large, according to IAEE officials.

“During this period of transition, it has been business as usual with everyone on staff continuing to demonstrate a passion for the industry, delivering exceptional programming and networking opportunities,” said CEO Cathy Breden, who was appointed IAEE’s interim CEO on Oct. 1 following the departure of longtime president and CEO David DuBois. 

Why it matters

Before her time at IAEE, Flanagan directed content strategy and development at the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), steering strategy and developing and delivering professional development and editorial offerings. Additionally, she spent six years in the medical industry, holding diverse roles encompassing operations, purchasing, revenue cycle management, marketing and business development.

Flanagan’s career trajectory includes 12 years at Meeting Professionals International (MPI), where she served in various roles, including as executive vice president of professional development, in which she oversaw strategic partnerships, professional development offerings and meetings management.

A fifth-generation Texan, she earned her bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University and a master’s in education from the University of Arkansas, specializing in Meeting, Tourism and Recreation Management. Flanagan obtained her Certified in Exhibition Management designation in 2021.

“We are thrilled with the search committee’s selection of Marsha Flanagan as IAEE’s next president and CEO,” said Mark Gnatovic, executive vice president, SearchWide Global. “Working with a highly engaged search committee that met with several candidates was a very rewarding and successful process. Their commitment and active participation throughout the search were invaluable. We look forward to witnessing the positive impact Marsha will undoubtedly make in her new role.”


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