Thoughts on improving the attendee experience where it matters. By John Toner

As we head into the fall Tradeshow season, the article below, from the Wall Street Journal, reminded me that all cultures love fairs. Trade events are a part of the fair industry. It is our duty, our calling, and at the end of the day our paycheck responsibility to keep that love alive for the event industry. We all need it and crave it. You can find the article here:

Our Love Affair with the Fairs

That brings me to the next article that I read in the retail industry trade press over the weekend. It talks about the front end of the store (think about our registration areas):

The Front-End Checkout: A Micro-Economic Model of the Store

What can we as young professionals do to challenge conventional wisdom and make the registration areas of our events the greatest place to be? I know I got my start in the Tradeshow industry working United’s registration desk, and still to this day it is where I like to hang out and greet everyone and say goodbye to all the important buyers at our event. I know we like to spend our time thinking about the exhibitors, but at the end of the day what are we doing to make the life of the attendee better and more profitable? We have scaled down so much the entrance to our shows (or some of us have) that we miss out on opportunities to sell/promote items that our industries are doing. And at the end of the day can we make badge pickup more fun?

John Toner V
Office: 202-303-3424

September 21, 2010 at 11:24 am Leave a comment

All I Really Need to Know about Green Meetings I Learned from Fatherhood

Part of the fascination of being a Young Professional is the growth we observe around us – in individuals professionally and personally, in our industry and in our world.  Here is a great piece, written by a fantastic colleague of mine, that juxtaposes lessons learned from fatherhood with those learned from our industry’s sustainability efforts. – Nora Johnson, IAEE YPC Immediate Past Chair

All I Really Need to Know about Green Meetings I learned from Fatherhood

I am a proud father of two beautiful girls; Emily age 4 and Leah 8 weeks.  I am also a proud member of the Green Meeting Industry Council and currently a founding member and Co-Chair of the Programs Committee for GMIC – Colorado Chapter.  As my life evolved deeper into fatherhood and into green meetings – I started to notice some quirky parallels between the accidental lessons in sustainability through parenting and the green meetings movement.  So by now I trust all have been inundated with “Green Meeting Lists” but trust me – the below is not certified or standardized by the EPA, APEX or LEED, just some thoughts by a blurry eyed and sleep deprived dad in the meetings industry learning how to survive with two girls (and the wife) in the house.

  1. Hand-me downs (internal) – items reused from sibling to sibling:  clothing, car seats, toys, etc.  Stinks no doubt for kiddo #2 and beyond but good for sustainability and costs.  Green Meeting Reference:  reusing left over conference bags, signage, décor, centerpieces, name badges, etc. for next year’s annual or other one-off meetings.
  2. Hand-me downs (external) – items donated from friends and family with kids: strollers, bouncy chairs, pac-n-plays, swings…you name it.  All of these necessities are scattered throughout our house and again offer huge cost savings.  Green Meeting Reference:  donating left over conference bags, signage, décor, centerpieces, name badges, etc. to another Association or an organization in need such as a youth shelter, local school or boys and girls club.
  3. Reusable Baby Bottles –whether for formula or mom’s magic those baby bottles get reused again and again.  Green Meeting Reference:  Reusable Water Bottles – dump the need for plastic bottle water and offer attendees a conference take away while reducing your footprint. 
  4. Carpooling – what kiddo under 16 doesn’t carpool?  Think about it.  Green Meeting Reference:  Implement a ride-share program (more…)

July 21, 2010 at 2:01 pm 1 comment

A Winning Match: Industry Newcomer Shadows Veteran at NAB Show

By Jackie Olshack

Jackie OlshackIn August 2009, I joined IAEE to further my understanding of what it takes to successfully create, develop, and launch a premier exhibition. Fortunately for me, this was also the same time IAEE launched its Mentor Match Program. This program resulted in a match between me, an industry newcomer, and Chris Brown, the National Association of Broadcasters’ Executive Vice President for Conventions and Business Operations, an industry veteran.

Never in a million years could I have imagined the caliber of mentor with which IAEE would provide me, nor that almost eight months later, it would culminate with me attending the NAB Show to follow or “shadow” not only Chris Brown himself, but also his immediate staff, Freeman employees as well to experience first hand their execution of a strategy that had been in the making for the last 360 days. A strategy designed for one purpose only: to provide NAB Show exhibitors and attendees with the opportunity to conduct business and exchange ideas related to the ever-changing (and fascinating) technology that impacts the world of media and entertainment.

Join me as I tell you what it was like for me to experience four days with former IAEE Chairman Chris Brown, his staff and the general service contractor team at Freeman as they made the 2010 NAB Show happen.

Day 1 – Friday, April 9

8:30 a.m. – I have arrived safely in Las Vegas (my first time) and now I am headed to the Las Vegas Convention Center. My first impression as I get out of the taxi is WOW! I have seen a few convention centers and attended exhibitions before, but the LVCC is unbelievable. There are 18-wheelers lined up for unloading, huge crates being moved inside, and I hear a litany of languages. I learn later the NAB Show has a huge international component comprised of pavilions and delegates each year. Anywhere else, I am sure there would be pandemonium, but amazingly this is “organized chaos” someone later tells me. Once a guard directs me to C102 – the exhibits office – I am off to meet NAB’s Event Coordinator Joi Brown (no relation to Chris) for details and to get badged.

The first person on my list to shadow is Chris Brown (11am – 2pm). I actually knew this and that is why I am wearing a suit. You never know how the boss is going to be dressed or where he will take his mentee. Chris appears right as I am attaching my badge to its lanyard and asks if I am ready? Yes, I am, and off we go. He is headed to a business/client relations lunch with the sales team (Chanda Allison and Fred Revnew) at the Venetian Hotel. Chris tells me on the drive over that it will be great for me to attend and listen first-hand to the discussion he and NAB’s SVP for Event Operations & Planning Justine McVaney will have on the topic of convention housing. When we arrive, Justine is in the middle of telling the Venetian what is important to NAB on this topic. Chris introduces me, and I am pleasantly surprised to see that after Fred hands Chris a gift, he hands me one too. They knew I was coming?! (more…)

May 4, 2010 at 8:05 am 3 comments

South Carolina CVB’s Promotional Strategies in Lenox Mall – Can They Translate to Tradeshows?

It’s a beautiful Saturday here in Atlanta, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I spent a portion of it in the mall instead of outside enjoying it . . . I digress.

As I walked down the main aisle of Lenox Square Mall here in Atlanta, I noticed a person about 15 feet above me in a harness with a parachute. Ahead of me, I saw a speedboat with a driver, and realized it was actually a set of pretty realistic looking mannequins parasailing down the main stretch of the mall, promoting South Carolina as a vacation destination.

Well, kudos, marketing team. You definitely got my attention, and impressed me with your creative strategy.

The South Carolina CVB didn’t stop here though. I later went up an escalator and the first thing I saw was a huge cut-out of little kid in goggles, mid-cannon ball and grinning like a maniac. The placement couldn’t be better. You could not miss it! And I already knew it was for South Carolina at this point because of the theme.

Then, you really got my attention. (more…)

April 30, 2010 at 1:22 pm Leave a comment

2010 IAEE Robert L. Krakoff Future Leaders Institute – Fast Forward Your Future

IAEE Robert L. Krakoff Future Leaders Institute
Fast Forward Your Future

6-8 August 2010
JW Marriott Hill Country
San Antonio, TX

APPLICATIONS DUE: Monday, 31 May 2010
The IAEE Robert L. Krakoff Future Leaders Institute brings together individuals interested in learning more about themselves so they can become effective strategists, contributors, facilitators and the innovators in the future.

Erick Burton
Speaker, Facilitator, Executive Coach, Author
The Burton Leadership Center

Powerful, positive, and practical is how Erick Burton is frequently described.  Erick Burton is known as the “The Leadership Accelerator™.”   As President of Burton Resources, Erick has partnered with hundreds of corporations and associations as a professional speaker, facilitator, executive coach, and author.  He is one of a few speakers in the entire world with the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation.

Jacqueline Russo, Vice President
Kuehne & Nagel Expo USA

Selected each year is an industry professional whose contributions, innovation and leadership have been truly unique and remarkable. At the Institute, the Legend of the Industry shares insights, recollections, tips and encouragement to the future leaders in an informal after-dinner environment. This unique setting will be intimate and allow for interaction with each Institute participant.

This year’s “Legend of the Industry” is Jacqueline Russo, Vice President of Kuehne & Nagel Expo USA, one of the world’s leading logistics companies. She oversees the direction of the exhibition/special event division. Ms. Russo has been in the international exhibition industry for over 20 years, and served as the IAEE chair in 2003, the IAEE International Committee as chairman and vice chair, and the Programming Committee as vice chair. Additionally, Jackie serves on the board of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, speaks frequently at industry events, and is an active member in other industry associations.


  • At least 3 years of full-time industry experience
  • Personal commitment to, and passion for, the exhibitions and events industry
  • Willingness and ability to become a thought leader and motivator of others


  • Go to and print or download the application
  • Employer, Colleague, Chapter or Self Nomination
  • Complete Application to Attend no later than Monday, 31 May 2010
  • Employer and/or industry peer letter of recommendation

Scholarships available.

For more information:

April 26, 2010 at 2:54 pm 1 comment

Generation Y: Young and Getting Older

Very few things hit me as something I have to share with people in the social media space.  There’s plenty to share, but as they say, you must take care in what you post as it is always visible and will always be associated with you.  Cautious? Yes.

So what makes me laugh and prepare to press “Publish?”  This morning, I came across an article titled “Inside Gen Y: Serenity’s Believe it or Not…” on  You can read the article by clicking on this link.

Alone, it is funny, but tied to my own musings this past week, it is even more so.  The article speaks of the “twentysomething” mass that isn’t as enchanted with social media as we are made out to be; “we” is inserted as I find I associate with this group.  It is a necessity in the sense that we feel the same pressures to be present, but it isn’t something this strange “twentysomething” group is overly fond of.  In all honesty, I appreciate the tools, but cringe at the time and omnipresent demands placed upon me.  (more…)

February 5, 2010 at 10:20 am 3 comments

Ready for 2010 and Beyond

During this time of reflection and resolution, especially as we step – or jump – from 2009 into the possibilities of 2010, we are inundated with Top 10 lists, forecasts and recommendations for success.  It is a time when we smile at the irony of clichés, tried-and-true wisdom and perpetual cycles – perspectives and realities we are aware of, but complicate throughout the year. 

Before jumping into global themes observed in the latest wave of articles, webinars, blogs, RSS feeds and more; it would be best to preface them with the following quote I came across not too long ago: “Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favor.” – Robert Frost 

  1. Work hard (and relax, too).   Perhaps you are now thinking that if you worked any harder you’d fade away, and you may be right.  This point doesn’t address trying to cram more into your already hectic schedule.  Rather, it serves to address the satisfaction you can find when you work hard for something and accomplish it, or your ability to fully relax or decompress only after putting in a great deal of effort (consider working out, finishing the remodeling job in your kitchen or submitting a business report you’ve worked tirelessly on).  The next time you find yourself reeling from your work, take a moment and find the satisfaction in what you are accomplishing, and then find time to relax.  If you don’t relax, you don’t recharge, and if you think you can last and perform well on a low battery, imagine how well your laptop or phone will serve you in the same capacity.
  2. Be true to who you are (personally, and as an organization).  Every organization, product, service and individual has a place in the market space.  This position is not static, but at a given point in time, considering strategic direction, core competencies and the competitive environment, one truly falls into a single market position.  To use a market term, don’t “window-dress” your organization or yourself.  People are looking for people they can trust.  Most can see through a person’s attempt to window-dress their product or service offerings – or their own capabilities.  The other word for this message is “transparency.”  People will see through to who you truly are and what you’re truly capable of.  If they have to pass through a mirage, trust is diminished.  Keep it simple; be true to who you are.  In another vein, only by being true to your core competencies, style and passions – accompanied by a willingness to continue growing – will you be able to maximize your value to those around you. 
  3. Be courageous.  This may best be supported by a quote: “When two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.” – William Wrigley Jr.  This is not a note of encouragement to be argumentative or to constantly stand against someone or something, but rather to acknowledge the value of diversity within a team, organization or industry.  Have the courage to question, to research, to seek solutions.  Have the courage to explore these solutions.  You are a part of a diverse network of individuals who are trying to accomplish something great – whatever that may be.  Be courageous and understand that you may have the missing puzzle piece to an idea or industry. 
  4. Observe both sides of the fence.  Recently, while reading through What Matters Now, I came across the following concept: for every trend there is a counter trend to be considered.  We are all familiar with the swinging pendulum and moderation versus extremism in ideals, organizational efforts and business acumen.  Know your market position and objectives, but as you look to the future of the marketplace, consider the counter trend that may arise.  Recall the swings from classical to contemporary, from technical to social, from well-rounded to specialized.  By being aware of both sides of the fence – or the pendulum – you may better anticipate the evolution of market trends and have more time to position yourselves accordingly.
  5. Listen.  The most pressing application for this point is Customer Service.  The irony of today is that, while we have numerous communication channels at our fingertips, our ability to communicate has seemingly diminished over time.  Pertaining to the markets, consumerism, when complemented with abundance, has led to a market place where most followed the concept “If you build it, they will come.”  With revenue goals and set profit margins, most organizations went forth to see who was a best fit for what they’ve built, rather than seeing if they were a best fit for their customers – or any customers for that matter.  We find ourselves at a point in a time where we must listen to truly understand the needs, wants and expectations of the individuals we serve.  Only then can we really connect with our customers and prospects and have a chance at establishing a trust relationship, and hopefully a valued business relationship.
  6. Understand the power of “likeability.” It is amazing how much “likeability” factors into a business relationship.  This applies not only to sales, but also to teamwork.  One short from Seth Godin’s eBook, What Matters Now, pointed out that a rowing team would select a weaker rower, over a strong rower, for the team if that individual was “likeable.”  The team would ultimately work harder with a team they liked than one they did not.  Clearly, the concept of “likeability” then applies to everyone on a team, as much as it does to leaders.  One small step towards achieving “likeability:” the ever-famous golden rule – treat others as you’d like to be treated.    

Just for fun, here are two more quotes you may like as you move further into 2010.  May it be a good year for you and yours. 

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.  An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” – G.K. Chesterton 

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I need to be.” – Douglas Adams

January 19, 2010 at 8:18 am 1 comment

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