6 Corporate Event Trends From A Third-Party Planner Perspective

June 12, 2024

What’s trending in corporate events from the third-party planner perspective?

Microdosing content, bespoke experiences and renting with cause, said MCI Group Vice President Corporate Agnès Canonica (AC), who produces internal and external events for corporate clients across diverse industries, including healthcare, technology, financial and automotive.

MCI Group, which touts itself as a global next-gen platform for marketing innovation and breakthrough communication in the digital age, has 1,650 employees across offices in 60 countries, according to its website.

The 35-year-old global agency network delivered 5,510 campaigns and digital activations for more than 1,200 clients across 31 countries, according to the company’s most recent annual report. MCI Group reported 2022’s annual turnover of €465,8M ($503,1M*), a 92% increase over 2021. 

With a bird’s eye view across the global B2B corporate event landscape, Canonica joined us in our podcast booth on the show floor at Connect Spring Marketplace 2024, held April 2-4 at the Venetian Convention & Expo Center in Las Vegas, to share her experience from the third-party planner perspective.

Read six highlights from our conversation or listen to our full interview here.

MCI Group Vice President Corporate Agnès Canonica (AC)

Microdosing content: People are multitasking all the time. No one wants to do a one-hour keynote speech anymore because they lose a majority of their audience. So we're seeing more TED Talks. That 20-minute slot is the sweet spot. Another trend we're seeing is professionally coaching speakers to deliver key bullets to ensure the retention is there. It's done in a microdosed way. 


Not cookie cutter: No customer is approaching things in the same way. So even though a meeting is a meeting, it’s not a cookie-cutter approach at all. It's all B2B-types of engagements. Corporate objectives and the way they engage their audiences are very different, depending on the type of industry it is.


Bespoke experiences: For an internal corporate event in Scottsdale, Ariz., held this spring, the client wanted to celebrate their success in 2023 and focus on working as a better team for 2024. Because it's an Olympic year in 2024, they chose to do an Olympics-type team building event. Finding vendors who are going to be able to facilitate that in a very sophisticated and bespoke way was very difficult. We had to hire multiple suppliers to create the experience the customer was looking to deliver for this internal team retreat.


Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's personal home in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Renting with a cause: This particular company is very much about supporting the community, so when we presented options for off-site private dinners, they selected Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's personal home in Scottsdale. The reason why the client selected it — which really made me pause for a second — was all about sustainability. The rental fee for this particular venue goes to a foundation, and they felt like they were supporting Americana in preserving this masterpiece from the 1960s. They are refocusing on their venue rental approach moving forward. It's about DEI, and it's about making a difference in the world. 


Everyone loves a theme: At the corporate retreat, attendees were men and women. They wanted to let their hair down, but they didn’t want to be goofy. So we themed the Olympics in different categories that were tied into the company’s growth retreat that they were focusing on from an agenda perspective with the business. We had a pickleball tournament, and we gave away customized pickleball paddles with their initials. That was a great giveaway.


Inclusive activities: We didn't want just physical challenges because we didn't want to intimidate or scare away any of the participants. We did a 3D puzzle of the Eiffel Tower they had to build within 30 minutes, then had all of these costume props because they had to present how they worked together and what was the strategy.


* Exchange rate as of May 13, 2024: 1 EUR = 1.08016 USD


Main image: Photo of Taliesin West, courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation/Andrew Pielage


New Business Deals: tfconnect & CDS Announce Strategic Partnerships

June 11, 2024
new business deals

Throughout the U.S. and across the pond, trade show-related organizations are forging partnerships and scooping up companies as they seek to expand their reach and bolster their market share.


tfconnect and Careertopia Announce Strategic Partnership for U.S. Market

tfconnect, a UK-based specialist recruitment and executive search consultancy for the global events and exhibitions industry, has formed a strategic partnership with U.S.-based event executive search firm Careertopia to expand its presence in the U.S. The two organizations will now work together on senior roles throughout the U.S., according to company officials. 


Why it matters: tfconnect’s partnership with Careertopia will allow for the expansion of both its projects and candidate reach, given that the Careertopia team has a large network of industry connections among its founders and among a team of associates. Besides running a recruitment operation in the franchise sector for a number of years, Careertopia’s expansion into the exhibition sector with tfconnect makes strong business sense, with Careertopia’s founders and partners – Scott Lehr, Gary Gardner and Tom Portesy – boasting decades of experience working in the exhibition market, according to company officials.

From left to right: Tom Portesy [Careertopia], Trevor Foley [tfconnect], Miranda Martin [tfconnect], Kim Falk, Brian Howell, Sean Falk [Careertopia]


What they’re saying: “We have been working on the launch of the Events Division of Careertopia for over a year,” Portesy said. “Throughout the entire time, the one constant was partnering with tfconnect! The respect Trevor and his team have in the events industry is unmatched anywhere in the world and we’re delighted to join them.” 


Big picture: “We have been speaking with Careertopia’s Tom Portesy for a number of months and we have already successfully worked together on a project even before signing our partnership,” said tfconnect Chairman Trevor Foley. “We are jointly looking forward to providing a much-needed service in the events sector for the U.S. market.” 


CDS Tapped as Registration and Integration Partner for Informa Markets’ North American Event Portfolio

Christine Flanagan, COO for Informa Markets’ North American events

B2B event organizer Informa Markets selected Convention Data Services (CDS), a Freeman Co., as its official vendor for registration, integrations and lead management services for all events under the North American portfolio.


Backstory: The partnership, which launched in January, has already been a fruitful one, with Q1 events already showing improved registration wait times, according to Informa officials. Examples of events with successful CDS service implementation include World of Concrete; the Water and Wastewater Equipment, Treatment and Transport (WWETT) Show; The International Surface Event (TISE); IME West; DesignCon; SupplySide East; and Natural Products Expo West, among others.


Context: “CDS has previously worked on select Informa shows, and we are thrilled to expand this partnership,” said CDS President Darren Phalen. “Our team is equipped with the experience and technology needed to accommodate these renowned events, and we are committed to providing our best-in-class service, as we do for all our clients.”


CDS President Darren Phalen

Why it matters: Through CDS’ data-backed platform capabilities, Informa Markets can continue to yield strong results in building and engaging attendee and exhibitor audiences, and exacting in-depth data analytics to deliver an even more robust experience for U.S. customers, according to Informa Markets officials.


What they are saying: “The CDS and Informa Markets teams have been working closely together for several months to ensure that we are completely aligned in our pursuit to deliver the best possible experience to Informa Markets’ customers, and I am excited to see the overall successful outcome of our first 2024 events together,” said CDS COO Dave Wuethrich. “I am confident that the efforts of our collaborative partnership will continue to lay the foundation for a truly unparalleled registration experience.”


Big picture: “Creating the best possible customer experience is at the heart of everything we do,” said Christine Flanagan, COO for Informa Markets’ North American events. “We were looking for a partner who shared that vision and was looking to build and grow alongside us. CDS was willing to take the plunge with us and they have been the ideal collaborator to help create seamless registration onsite, empowering our teams to anticipate the goals of our audiences with unparalleled efficiency and further fueling the innovation our events are known for so we can continue to deliver the experience our customers deserve.”

Minimizing Your Environmental Footprint: Best Practices for Sustainable Stand Construction

June 10, 2024

With the global business events and trade show industry facing increasing pressure to move in a more sustainable direction, three industry associations teamed up to offer clear and actionable guidance to help exhibiting companies and exhibit builders reduce their environmental impacts and promote responsible practices. 


Big picture: In May, the Experiential Designers and Producers Association (EDPA), the Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA) and the Events Industry Council (EIC) released the EDPA, ESCA, and EIC Sustainability Guidance for Exhibition Stand Construction, which is designed to offer practical suggestions and best practices that companies can implement to enhance their sustainable operations.


Why it matters: Tailored to meet the unique needs and challenges faced by the different industry verticals served by each association’s membership, the guide covers various facets of event planning and execution, including waste reduction, energy conservation, responsible sourcing and community engagement, and aligns with the EIC Sustainable Event Standards.


EDPA Executive Director Dasher Lowe

What they’re saying: “Amidst the evolution of event experiences, we must prioritize sustainability at every stage of planning and execution,” explained EDPA Executive Director Dasher Lowe. “Our partnership with ESCA and EIC represents a crucial step in driving this transformation, setting new benchmarks and inspiring our industry peers to embrace sustainability wholeheartedly. The guidance aims to minimize environmental footprints and foster a culture of awareness and responsibility among event professionals.”


How it works: The guidance will also be added as a supporting resource for EIC’s Sustainable Event Standards, which are a collection of eight specific standards that assess events and industry suppliers on a wide range of sustainability criteria in support of environmental and social responsibility. Through these standards, organizations can receive third-party audited certification.


Looking ahead: Members, industry partners and stakeholders are invited to review the guidance, envision practical implementation and offer feedback to help the guidance continually evolve and adapt to the ever-changing business event landscape, according to association officials. The three organizations also anticipate their members will embrace and champion the sustainability guidance and help pave the way for a more environmentally conscious future.


ESCA Executive Director Julie Kagy

Contractor perspective: “There is significant momentum among our members and the industry at large, who are increasingly committed to sustainable practices,” said ESCA Executive Director Julie Kagy. “This is fueled by a shared understanding of the environmental impacts we face together. The guide encourages everyone to begin their sustainability journey, no matter where they stand. It’s about taking that first step, engaging in open dialogues, and building an inclusive environment where we can all learn from each other’s experiences. I’m excited about the conversations this guide will inspire and the positive changes it will catalyze.”


The details: Sustainability assurance services firm Reduce 2 served as the technical writer for the initiative, closely collaborating with EDPA, ESCA and EIC in crafting the guidance. “Our team is committed to leveraging expertise and insights to ensure this guidance reflects the highest standards in sustainability practices,” said Reduce 2 CEO Glenn Hansen, who is a member of UFI's sustainability and audit committee. “We believe that by providing clear, actionable guidance, we can empower industry members to create impactful, environmentally conscious events that resonate with audiences while minimizing the collective footprint on the planet.”


EIC President & CEO Amy Calvert

What’s next: EIC President and CEO Amy Calvert said the new guidance not only represents an important milestone in the event industry’s journey toward environmental responsibility but also in the ongoing commitment of all three organizations to drive positive change within the events industry. “The guide provides nuanced and informed solutions in this key aspect of our practice,” Calvert said. “As advocates for the global business events community, EIC is proud to endorse the comprehensive guidance, which will undoubtedly assist our sector in implementing conscientious and eco-conscious experiences for our events and exhibitions.”


Access the complimentary EDPA, ESCA, and EIC Sustainability Guidance for Exhibition Stand Construction guide here.

Trail Running Trade Show Set to Debut in 2025, Preview Launches in June

June 7, 2024

Along with two partners, trade show industry veteran Doug Emslie, an avid runner and the majority owner of Raccoon Media Group, is launching TrailCon, the trail running industry conference, which will be held June 25-26, 2025, at The Village at Palisades Tahoe, Calif. 

A Taste of TrailCon, a preview event to be held June 26 at The Village at Palisades Tahoe, Calif., will feature panel discussions focused on four key growth areas in trail running. When asked about the four key growth areas, Emslie said, “Trail running is the fastest-growing segment of running, so it’s races then shoes, equipment and nutrition.”

Feedback from the event will help shape the programming for TrailCon 2025, said Emslie, who has participated in a number of trail races, including the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, which Runner’s World reported is the largest and oldest ultramarathon in the world at 85.9K, and the West Highway Way Race, a 96-mile ultramarathon in Scotland. 

"As the trail running industry matures, TrailCon serves as a rallying point for all stakeholders to envision and create a brighter future for trail running," Emslie said. “Amidst the rapid growth and global reach of trail running, we're proud to introduce a groundbreaking event that celebrates the spirit of unity, innovation, and collective progress within our beloved sport.”

Emslie told us the initial event will be B2B, but the plan is to build into a series of events that will include B2C. Here’s what you need to know.

Doug Emslie is launching TrailCon with two partners.

Backstory: Emslie is the former CEO of Tarsus, which was sold to Informa in 2023 for $940 million. He currently serves as the chairman of Cuil Bay Capital, which acquired Raccoon Media Group in September 2023. Raccoon’s U.K. and U.S. show portfolio includes events in the health and wellbeing market, including Snowbound Expo, The Boston Run Show and The Boston Outdoor Expo. In January, CBC expanded in the U.S. with the acquisition of Abilities Expo.

The ownership: Emslie is partnering with Brendan Madigan, owner of the 49-year-old specialty retailer Alpenglow Sports and event creator and race director of Broken Arrow Skyrace, and Dylan Bowman, a professional runner and CEO of Freetrail, a community dedicated to the sport of trail running. Bowman is also co-race director of Gorge Waterfalls and The Big Alta events.

The market: The trail running shoes market was valued at $7.3 billion in 2022, and is estimated to reach $12.4 billion by 2032, growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.5% from 2023 to 2032, according to an April 2024 report by Allied Market Research.

The details: A Taste of TrailCon begins at 3 p.m. on June 26, featuring a panel discussion and insights from industry luminaries. Confirmed speakers include Craig Thornley, Sally McRae, Catherine Poletti, Tim Tollefson and Zoë Rom. This will be followed by a networking event. A full lineup of events and speakers can be found here.

broken arrow
TrailCon will be held between the Broken Arrow Skyrace (pictured) and the Western States 100.

The location and timing: Scheduled between the iconic Broken Arrow Skyrace and Western States 100, TrailCon organizers hope to harness the energy of these premier races to create a transformative experience. 

The attendees: TrailCon aspires to provide a vibrant forum where passionate trail enthusiasts, industry senior executives and visionary leaders converge to chart the course for an even brighter future. As the trail running landscape evolves, TrailCon will provide an inclusive platform for dialogue, collaboration and inspiration.

What they’re saying: "Running Broken Arrow has shown me the power of our community coming together,” Madigan said. “TrailCon is our chance to shape the future of our sport through meaningful dialogue and collaboration." Bowman added, "In a time of rapid change, TrailCon unites us in our shared passion for trail running. Together, we can overcome challenges and propel our industry.”


Mandalay Bay Convention Center Shows Off Fresh New Look, Upgrades

June 6, 2024

Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino completed a $100 million redesign of its 2.1 million-square-foot Mandalay Bay Convention Center, designed to meet the needs and preferences of modern meetings and events. New and upgraded features include advanced technology infrastructure, additional digital signage, and a fresh, vibrant design that complements the 3,211-room Strip resort’s tropical ambiance.

“Meetings and conventions play a pivotal role in the success of Las Vegas, and the revitalization of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center demonstrates our commitment to this critical piece of our city’s foundation,” said Ernest Stovall, Mandalay Bay vice president of hotel sales. “Our goal is to evolve alongside the meetings industry to meet the needs of the modern customer. Based on invaluable insights from our customer advisory board, we crafted a space at Mandalay Bay that sets a new standard in excellence and reflects the future of modern meetings, events and trade shows.”

With the remodel unveiled in phases throughout the last two-and-a-half years, the venue has remained open and fully operational throughout the project, successfully hosting some of the U.S.’s most high-profile corporate events and trade shows, including HD Expo + Conference, IMEX America; Western Veterinary Annual Conference (WVC); and Shoptalk Spring, the latter of which was held March 24-27.

“We enjoyed hosting our event in the newly remodeled convention center, using features such as the new digital signage and other upgraded amenities,” said Sophie Wawro, global president of ShopTalk. “Outside of the fantastic convention space, we love holding our events at Mandalay Bay because of the great team and how the property has such extensive capabilities we can utilize, such as the restaurants, rooms and even the beach.”


Enhanced Technology Upgrades

New charging stations at Mandalay Bay

To ensure seamless communication for meetings and trade show groups, the facility implemented state-of-the-art technology upgrades, including installing Cat6A Ethernet cabling throughout the venue that doubles the frequency of data transmission, enabling speeds up to 9,400% faster, according to Mandalay Bay officials.

The convention center also features 11 dynamic digital walls, spanning up to 24- by 13-feet, strategically positioned for brand placements, sponsorships and targeted event messaging, while 20 double-sided 55-inch mobile flexible display units help facilitate easy attendee navigation to meeting rooms and events.

Additionally, radio frequency identification (RFID) locks were installed on all meeting room doors, and more than 200 motion detection cameras have been placed throughout the space.


A Bright and Refreshing Atmosphere

Renovated ballroom at Mandalay Bay

Conceptualized by the MGM Resorts International Design Group in collaboration with Dezmotif Studios, the center’s refreshed contemporary design incorporates a host of practical improvements, including enhanced lighting, streamlined signage and inviting seating areas. The new design also features white-washed walls and ceilings adorned with bold floral patterns in cerulean and coral tones, complemented by warm walnut accent walls.

In addition to the redesign of all pre-function spaces, meeting rooms and ballrooms, the resort’s 1 million square feet of exhibit space has been rejuvenated with new paint, covered pillars and relocated strobe lights.

As part of MGM Resorts’ commitment to promoting diverse and underrepresented artists within its corporate Fine Art program, the venue is now adorned with new works by Thandiwe Muriu and Sarah Anne Johnson, among other artists.


A New Wave of Resort Upgrades

four seasons
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino completed a $100 million redesign of its 2.1 million-square-foot Mandalay Bay Convention Center,

In addition to the convention center, Mandalay Bay has enhanced its integrated resort experience through a series of dynamic upgrades and new venues designed to further elevate the attendee and exhibitor event journey while providing everything planners need to facilitate successful events all under one roof.

Developments include the recent remodel of all 424 rooms and suites at Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas (featuring more than 38,000 square feet of meeting and event space); restaurant openings, including Orla by Michael Mina and Caramá by Wolfgang Puck; and the upcoming debut of Swingers, the high-end, 21-and-over mini golf and cocktail concept from London and New York City, and Bob Marley Hope Road, an immersive experience honoring the legendary Jamaican reggae singer-songwriter, both opening later this year.

Industry Trailblazers: Head of Global Events Rachel Andrews Previews Cvent CONNECT 2024

June 4, 2024

Ahead of the upcoming Cvent CONNECT, set for June 10-13, Rachel Andrews, the software giant’s head of global events, sat down with us for an exclusive, tell-all interview that makes it clear why she was chosen for our new and ongoing  “Industry Trailblazers” feature. 

Andrews began her 13-year tenure at Cvent when “the meetings and events team wasn’t really a team,” she explained, adding that the team of merely six “was kind of a bunch of disparate people working on tactics that weren't cohesive.”

“We didn't really have a strategy other than we're just going to host a bunch of lunches and talk about our products, but it's evolved significantly since I started,” Andrews added, noting there are now 30 events-specific team members under her purview globally. That team is gearing up to host the Blackstone-owned company’s largest event of the year: Cvent CONNECT that is taking place for the first time in San Antonio, Texas, after a multiyear stint in Las Vegas. 

Andrews said the Virginia-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) firm is expecting upwards of 3,000 attendees to descend on the conference, with thousands more tuning in virtually. There will also be more than 200 sessions structured in a new way for its 2024 iteration. 

Andrews explained: “We have small meetups and verticalized content this year. What I mean by that is we have life sciences and pharma and Finserv (a financial services technology) and third-party industry partners in attendance. We have content specifically dedicated to them, we have meetups dedicated to them and a lot of other niche programming that helps those different types of sectors either meet up or find content that’s relevant to what they do.”

“I like to call these ‘mini-micro communities’ coming together,” Andrews said, adding that this so-called “verticalization” of content where attendees can really tailor their own event experience is being offered this year as a result of survey results from last year’s Cvent CONNECT.

Learn more from Andrews about Cvent CONNECT’s programming, how her “street MBA” is helping her pull it all off and more.

How has Cvent changed during your 13-year tenure?

Cvent Head of Global Events Rachel Andrews

When I started [as a senior meeting and event planner at Cvent in 2011], we didn’t really do customer events, and we realized we were just doing all events for prospective customers. About 10 years ago, we flipped that to be way more customer-centric because we have a lot of customers who want to learn and evolve and come to these events and learn about not only technology and trends but also how to better their events programs. With that, we've had to prioritize the things our customers want — and I think that that's also part of the ROI, too. You want to make sure that you're providing content and an event experience that’s actually worth attending. 

Along the way there, my personal journey has been raising my hand and saying, ‘Hey, why don’t we do this?’ and bringing ideas to the table. The name of the game has always been doing more and more events. The team has evolved from hosting really amazing internal parties to being really strategic [and adding] event innovators, designers, technologists and project managers.

I like to joke that we're the lawyers for the Lawyers Association. We are planning events for other planners. So we have another layer of pressure on top of working for an event tech company.


What is a skill that you’ve learned working in events that you believe is pivotal, but can really only be learned through experience?

The budgeting skills and financial knowledge that you need to know as an event professional isn't necessarily taught; it's learned on the way. I call it my ‘street MBA,’ [which taught me] budgeting and financial projections, things like risk analysis and contract reading. 

A lot of event professionals aren’t really put into that line of learning at a school level until they get to their jobs, and then they're like, ‘Oh, I didn't realize how important understanding risk analysis was and understanding financial projections was.’ When you are in it, you're managing a mini business, essentially, with your budgets.


How has Cvent been able to scale its event programming in an economy where many other companies are slashing budgets?

Cvent is expecting upwards of 3,000 attendees to descend on this year's conference.

I want to caveat that we have been scaling in the last few years, but we’ve also been doing it in a smart way. Obviously, if you host an event and you get bad feedback or you don't have great attendance, you're less likely to keep that in the budget for the next year. So we do look at what is actually performing. 

We survey people who come to our events [and] we survey our sales team that goes and hosts these events. So ROI and survey data has been really important to us in the past few years. And we’re looking deep into: Was the customer satisfaction there? Was the reaction positive in terms of their experience? In terms of our sales experience? In terms of getting more business or helping our customers scale up their programs?

I'm lucky in a way because I work for an events company, so our company knows the importance of events. I don't feel like I have to prove events’ importance to our owner. I don't take that lightly, and I'm thankful to work for a company that allows us to be creative and innovate and show our customers and attendees what they could do at their events because it does help them.


What can you share about Cvent CONNECT’s programming this year?  

This year's Cvent CONNECT will be held June 10-13 in San Antonio.

Some of the fun things coming up are evening events, which are always amazing. One is at Smoke [Skybar, a barbecue joint in downtown San Antonio]. Our theme is ‘neon rodeo,’ so that's going to be a really fun night. The next night is at The Espee, which is an old train station, so that will be fun and country western-themed. 

One other cool aspect: tech tours onsite. I think this is very unique to just us. Obviously at Cvent, our planning team uses all this event technology, right? At CONNECT, we take that technology and we do a tech tour and we literally walk them through every single different programming area, [and] what technology we use. We show them how we're using it — it peels back the curtains. 

Our big keynote is Karamo [the host of Netflix’s ‘Queer Eye’], Jennifer Morgan from Blackstone [which acquired Cvent in a $4.6 billion transaction in March 2023] and obviously our CEO Reggie Aggarwal. 

One more note on our speakers: Somebody said to me they didn’t know if they should go to Cvent CONNECT because they feel like they’d be sitting in sessions and it’d just be all about Cvent. That’s actually not the case. We do a lot of industry training content because we have users there, [but] it's not all just training. We have our user conference and a lot of content dedicated to innovation and technology. But in fact, the majority of our content is best practice-sharing, how people build their teams, how they're staffing, how they're doing their day-to-day event program or total event program, which we call TEC.


What can the virtual audience expect from Cvent CONNECT?

There are livestreams happening through the general sessions and what we call our ‘Stream Stage,’ where the most popular breakout sessions are hosted. We know they’re top performing by our registration numbers. We also stream our awards program, the Excellence Awards.

Also, only for the virtual audience is Cvent CONNECT TV, which is a behind-the-scenes peek at what we're doing. The in-person audience doesn't even see it. They can watch on-demand later, but it's really to empower the virtual audience during things like a coffee break, where the virtual audience is just sitting there. 

This content allows the virtual audience to hear from speakers, watch ‘Man on the Street’ interviews and hear from major partners. Erica [Stoldenberg, Cvent’s director of corporate communications] and I are behind the scenes doing some of the videos, just showing the virtual audience [some of the things we're doing onsite] and they can feel like they've seen some part of the event that's not just streamed general session content.


ECA Hosts The Largest Legislative Action Day to Date

June 3, 2024
legislative action day 2024

A record number of business events industry leaders met with policymakers on Capitol Hill on Thurs., May 30 as part of the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA) annual Legislative Action Day. More than 130 advocates from 25 states raised awareness about the U.S. business events industry, which employs 2.6 million Americans and drives $399 billion in direct spending annually. 

Armed with data on economic impact of business events by state, participants discussed key issues impacting the trade show, meetings and events industry during 112 meetings with senators, House representatives and their staff. Legislative Action Day attendees represented all sectors of the business events industry — from independent and association show organizers and venues, to general service contractors and destinations.  

Resource: Economic impact of business events by state from ECA.


Here’s what you need to know about this year’s Legislative Action Day.

Related: Legislative Action Day 2024: Let’s Tell Congress to Finish the Job 

Big picture: This year’s Legislative Action Day focused on two of ECA’s top public policy priorities: helping the industry attract and train its next generation workforce and further reducing visa wait times for international exhibitors and attendees looking to come to U.S. exhibitions, conferences and trade shows.

Related: What’s the Latest on Visa Wait Times? 

Why it mattered: “Today was the largest gathering of the industry on Capitol Hill ever,” said Vinnie Polito, ECA’s co-president and Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) CEO. “As we have seen in recent months, when our industry shows up and advocates together with one voice, we can drive policy change that positively impacts all of us going forward.”

Related: A New FTC Rule Targets Trade Show Scammers: How It Works & Why It Matters 

How it worked: “From expanding access to programs that will help develop the industry’s future workforce to restoring visa interview wait times to pre-pandemic levels, ECA’s policy priorities have broad bipartisan support,” said Marsha Flanagan, ECA co-president and International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) president and CEO. “That’s why we are calling on Congress to take action this year on these issues that will strengthen our industry’s collective ability to drive economic growth, support job creation and empower small businesses.” 

Related: ECA Rings in 2024 With New Public Policy Agenda 

From left to right: Chris Griffin, Tommy Goodwin and Dasher Lowe were among the 130+ participants for this year's Legislative Action Day on Capitol Hill. Photo: ECA

What they’re saying: “Whether you are on Capitol Hill, on the show floor or even on your phone, ECA invites you to be an advocate for the business events industry,” said ECA Vice President Tommy Goodwin. “Together, we can be the strong, unified advocacy voice of the industry and shape our future with policymakers nationwide.”

Related: Time to Go All In for Our Next Generation Workforce 

Looking back: Last year’s Legislative Action Day drew nearly 100 industry leaders from 24 states — including representatives from independent and association show organizers, exhibiting organizations, venues and destinations. During more than 100 meetings, Legislative Action Day attendees advocated three key issues: Reducing visitor visa interview wait times; helping to build the future skilled workforce; and supporting efforts to stop business impersonation fraud.

Related: ECA Legislative Action Day Attendees Make the Case for Exhibitions and Events on Capitol Hill 

Backstory: Established in 2021 during the pandemic, ECA is a coalition of professional, industry and labor associations that comprise the unified advocacy voice of the business events industry. In May, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) joined ECA as its newest alliance partner, bringing the total to nine industry organizations that support ECA. 

Before meeting with Senators and House Representatives, participants were briefs on the issues to address. Photo: ECA

Deeper dive: In addition to IAEE, SISO and ICCA, ECA's partners include Experiential Designers & Producers Association (EDPA), Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA), International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), Trade Show Labor Alliance and UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.

Looking ahead: ECA has opportunities for industry leaders and advocates to stay engaged on the policy issues that matter year round. Next year’s Legislative Action Day will be held Thurs., May 29, 2025, in conjunction with the Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum, which will be held Wed., May 28, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.

Main image: Industry leaders participate in the ECA's Legislative Action Day on May 30. Photo: ECA 

Beyond the Hype: Will Tech Deliver Slam Dunk For Brands?

May 31, 2024
kevin durant

There’s no better case study in fan engagement than live sporting events. Take it from sports merchandise giant Fanatics, which tapped Komo Technologies to measure its level of fan engagement as part of a new partnership that’s set to debut at the first-ever Fanatics Fest in New York City this summer.

Kicking off with a bang, the fest is set to boast appearances from Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, Kevin Durant (pictured), the Manning brothers and Hulk Hogan — just to name a few — plus breaks to trade cards live, see brand activations, check out main stage programming and purchase exclusive merch at a superstore.

Though Komo Technologies Co-founder and CEO Joel Steel couldn’t divulge which exact Komo experiences would make their debut at the Fanatics Fest, taking over Big Apple’s iconic Javits Center Aug. 16-18, he alluded to real-time leaderboards designed to inspire a competitive edge, enhanced Q&A features for live panels and a plethora of interactive elements.

Backstory: Komo Tech, which has hubs in New York and Australia, is set to capitalize on the Fanatics Fest’s positioning at the nexus of sports fandom and culture by infusing the event with the immersive gamification, polls, user-generated content (UGC) and badge-earning opportunities — among other features — that it’s known for.  “These features are designed to captivate attendees and amplify their fandom,” said Steel, adding that each experience is “completely customizable and brandable.”

Why it matters to exhibitors: “These are the perfect way for brand partners to connect and engage with the audience at a deeper level than ever before,” Steel said, noting that Komo’s platform will be able to track sales during and after the event, plus pre-event anticipation and post-event engagement such as e-commerce transactions, digital coupon functionalities and lead capture tools.

Done deal: Komo Tech Co-founder & CEO Joel Steel (left) and Fanatics Events CEO Lance Fensterman (right) inked a deal to debut Komo's tech at the launch of Fanatics Fest. Photo: Komo

What they’re saying: “True ROI extends beyond these immediate figures to encompass long-term gains such as enhanced brand awareness, stronger customer relationships and increased loyalty,” Steel said. “For a comprehensive understanding of ROI, it's crucial to connect event outcomes with strategic objectives like lead generation, brand positioning, merch sales and market expansion. This holistic approach ensures that the event's financial impact is fully realized and accurately measured.”

How it works for ROI: “A common misconception among event planners is the belief that high engagement during an event, such as impressive attendance numbers or active social media participation, directly translates into immediate financial ROI,” Steel said. “This narrow focus often overlooks the broader, long-term benefits and deeper value that comprehensive engagement can bring to both the event and its sponsors.” Though short-term metrics like the number of attendees or social media activity are important, Steel said, they’re not indicators of an event’s true impact or ability to generate future sales and high customer retention rates. 

How the deal came together: A self-proclaimed Fanatics fan himself, Steel said that working with Fanatics was a goal of his since the inception of Komo in 2014, though at the time it was a Quiz App to help nonprofits raise funds and awareness for their cause. “I’ve always admired Fanatics, their CEO Michael Rubin and the communities they bring together in sports and entertainment,” Steel explained. “I continued to reach out to the folks at Fanatics and eventually got in touch with the right people. I then had the opportunity to demo the power of the Komo platform, and the rest is history.”

Fanatics Fest is launching Aug. 16-18 at the Big Apple’s iconic Javits Center​. Photo: Javits Center

Steel noted that Fanatics Events, the live and special events arm created by Fanatics live in July 2023, immediately recognized the platform’s value to a three-day fan experience like the Fanatics Fest.


Main photo caption: Olympic champion Kevin Durant of Team USA in action at group A basketball match between Team USA and Australia of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Durant will make a guest appearance the 2024 Fanatics Fest. Photo credit: Shutterstock


From Rooftop Retreats to Digital Check-ins, What Exhibitors Can Expect at Hiltons in Nashville

May 29, 2024

During a recent trip to Nashville, we visited six Hilton properties across their collection of brands – from luxury brands like the Conrad Nashville to boutique brands in the Curio Collection like Hotel Fraye

We toured meeting spaces, hotel rooms and suites, lobbies, bars, restaurants and gyms (stay tuned for complete rundown), but here are eight cool trends we noted and experienced during our site visit. 

Hydration station. At the Tempo by Hilton Nashville Downtown, guests can fill up their water bottles with complimentary sparkling, still or alkaline water. Partnering with Planet Water, Tempo by Hilton sells refillable water bottles in its gift shop, and $2 from each bottle is donated to help build water towers for water-insecure communities around the world. Tempo by Hilton Nashville Downtown has helped build a tower in Jalisco, Mexico.

Sparkling, still or alkaline? The hydration station at the Tempo Nashville offers three options for guests to refill water bottles.

Bespoke experiences. At the Conrad Nashville, Hilton teamed up with designer Olia Zavozina to offer a two-hour customized wedding gown experience that includes a two-night minimum stay in a premium suite with complimentary sparkling wine and chef’s charcuterie selection. Zavozina’s flagship boutique in Nashville has been a destination for brides for nearly two decades. Zavozina told us she outfitted 13 members of the wedding party for Country Artist Sam Hunt’s nuptials. 

Conrad Nashville offers bespoke experiences for guests, like a customized wedding gown experience with designer Olia Zavozina.

Mocktail for every cocktail. For every specialty cocktail, Hilton properties offered a mocktail option. As demand for non-alcoholic beverages has risen, particularly among 18- to 34-year-olds, hoteliers like Hilton have responded with inclusive menus that feature drinks like pomegranate cosmos and cucumber drinks made with Seedlip Garden’s zero alcohol spirits. During a reception at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown/Convention Center, the bar offered an extensive selection of premium tequilas and whiskeys, as well as a variety of non-alcoholic selections like Noughty Sparkling Rose. 

Cocktails and mocktails: Hilton is responding to the demand for more nonalcoholic drinks for events.

Related: AHLI’s Michael Dominguez Talks Hotel Trends: 8 Takeaways

Double points for planners. During lunch with the Hilton Honors team at Hotel Fraye, Devin Kaltenback, senior director, Hilton Honors Program Design and Expansion, told us the loyalty program doubled the number of points event planners can earn from hotel rooms, meeting space rental, food and beverage and more. As of April 15, planners earn two points for every dollar spent. Planners can use their points for experiences like the Kelce Jam Music Festival held May 18 in Kansas City, Mo. Hilton Honors members could redeem 45,000 points for two tickets to join NFL superstar Travis Kelce at his 2nd annual Kelce Jam Music Festival, featuring Lil Wayne, Diplo and 2 Chainz.

double points
As of April 15, event planners earn two points for every dollar spent, said Hilton's Devin Kaltenback during a lunch at Hotel Fraye in Nashville.

Digital tools. We were able to bypass any lines at the front desk and check in to the Embassy Suites via the Hilton mobile app while on the way to the hotel. Digital keys appeared within the app. Guests can walk up to the door, tap unlock and gain entry to their room – all without ever interacting with hotel staff, if they prefer. During the pandemic, guests adopted digital tools out of necessity, and many now enjoy the convenience of this do-it-yourself approach.

Digital tools: Bypass lines at the front desk and check in via the Hilton mobile app and use the digital key for entry to hotel rooms. Also, get points on Lyft through Hilton's partnership with the rideshare company.

Rooftop experiences. If you haven’t been to a rooftop in Nashville, have you really experienced Music City? Every Nashville hotel we visited featured a rooftop pool, restaurant, bar, meeting space and spectacular views for miles. At the new Hilton BNA Nashville Airport Terminal that opened in February, our group enjoyed breakfast on the rooftop that overlooks the active runway. The rooftop at the 30-story Embassy Suites Nashville provided ample space for our group to nosh on appetizers, listen to live music and watch the sunset. At Conrad, groups can host a dinner or reception at the Secret Garden, which offers access to an outdoor rooftop space next to the pool.

Rooftop retreats: The rooftop at the Embassy Suites Nashville features a pool, bar and outdoor seating.

Pet-friendly hotels. In 2021, Hilton launched a partnership with Mars Petcare to provide exceptional stays for pets and their owners. The partnership was expanded in 2022 when they launched Mars PET On-Demand across Hilton’s seven pet-friendly brands, available at more than 4,600 Hilton hotels across the U.S. and Canada. The online service provides pet owners with advice from the Mars Pet Expert Team during their stay. Notable: All Embassy Suites are pet-friendly. 

The Hilton team worked with the Nashville Humane Association to bring in puppies to play with on the rooftop at Embassy Suites by Hilton Nashville Downtown. Puppy lounges continue to be popular at meetings, providing not only fun for attendees but also sponsorship opportunities for exhibitors.

Pet-friendly hotels: A sampling of pet food, treats and toys available in some Hilton gift shops.

Giving back. In collaboration with Mars Petcare and Greater Good Charities, Hilton donates its retired towels and terry products to local animal shelters across the U.S. and Canada. To date, more than 1,200 hotels and more than 500 shelters have enrolled, and Hilton will donate more than 140,000 pounds of towels and terry products. 

giving back
Giving back: Hilton donates its retired towels and terry products to local animal shelters across the U.S. and Canada.

Main image: Embassy Suites Nashville is located across the street from Music City Center.

Usher’s Super Bowl Halftime Show Cancels Your Closing Party 60 Days Out. Now What?

May 29, 2024

When Usher took the stage on Sun., Feb. 11, at the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Promotional Products Association International (PPAI)  Show Manager Ashley Van Der Stuyf was one of 129.3 million people who tuned in to watch the performance. Once she took a look at the elaborate staging and production, she understood why the NFL canceled the association’s contract to host a party at the venue scheduled for less than a month before the big game.

But it wasn’t an easy pill to swallow when she got the news on Nov. 8, about 60 days out from the Ultimate Tailgate Party the association had planned and sold tickets and sponsorships for already.

Context: PPAI produces an annual trade show each January for the $25 billion U.S. promotional products industry. In 2024, the PPAI Expo 2024 drew 16,000 industry professionals to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. Nearly 1,000 exhibiting companies filled more than a quarter-million net square feet of exhibit space.

Backstory: As part of the expo, each year the association hosts what they tout as the biggest party in the promotional products industry. PPAI had been planning to host this year’s shindig on Jan. 17 at Allegiant Stadium, the home of Super Bowl 58 on Feb. 11. The association signed a contract with the stadium, but the NFL had the right to cancel that contract up to 60 days out. 

Looking back: By early November, about 700 people had already purchased tickets to the party, about half of the tickets PPAI planned to sell. But on Nov. 8, the NFL and Allegiant Stadium informed the expo staff that Usher’s Super Bowl halftime performance would result in a cancellation. 

Moving from Allegiant Stadium to a ballroom at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, the PPAI Closing Party attracted 1,000+ attendees.

Deeper dive: The PPAI team had no choice but to pivot and come up with another venue and a new theme. We sat down with Van Der Stuyf to find out how her team selected a new venue and started from scratch in planning a party for 1,000+ in 60 days, during the critical eight weeks before the massive trade show.

Read highlights from our conversation or watch or listen to the full conversation here.

1. Allegiant Stadium Contract: The contract with Allegiant Stadium for PPAI's event had a clause allowing the NFL to cancel it up to 60 days before the event.

2. Last-Minute Change: Due to Usher's Super Bowl halftime performance, PPAI had to find a new venue and theme just 60 days before the event.

3. Quick Pivot: PPAI had to pivot swiftly, exploring new venues and pitching ideas to the executive team within a week of notification.

4. Choosing a Venue: Despite initial hesitation, PPAI chose Mandalay Bay ballroom for its convenience and potential bump in attendance.

Themed Vintage Cirque Meets Circus, the PPAI closing party featured a variety of performers for entertainment.

5. Theme Selection: The theme "Vintage Cirque Meets Circus" was inspired by the film, The Greatest Showman, reflecting the event's grandeur.

6. Budget Allocation: The majority of the budget went into transforming the ballroom, particularly focused on drapery and creating a unique atmosphere.

7. Collaboration with Event Production: Working closely with Mandalay Bay’s event production team was a new experience for PPAI, requiring trust and collaboration.

8. Attendee Turnout: The event attracted around 1,000 attendees, exceeding expectations despite the last-minute changes.

In addition to performers, the event featured games and a band.

9. Positive Feedback: Attendees and exhibitors praised the event's unique theme, entertainment acts and overall experience, leading to high satisfaction.

10. Sponsorship and Ticket Handling: PPAI reallocated sponsorships and offered options to ticket holders, maintaining positive relations and mitigating losses effectively.

Want to know more? Read Pure Panic Mode: How The PPAI Expo Party Averted Disaster

Photo: Usher from X


Partner Voices
For the past 18 years, BlueHive Exhibits has been a steadfast partner for both national and international companies, catering to their trade show and event needs.