Reflections on SISO’s CEO Summit & Film Festival (in 3D)

I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to attend The Society of Independent Show Organizers, the voice of the for-profit expo industry, since 1997. First the Executive Conference, and then I was granted access to the “adult table,” the CEO Summit, in 2003. I’ve been every year subsequently. Full disclosure: As well as being a member of SISO, I’m also the Community Engagement Ringleader running all social media on behalf of the organization.

Here are 5 thoughts on the CEO Summit.

1.) The Venue. The Grand Del Mar Resort in Del Mar, Calif., is spectacular. What I want to talk about is their attention to detail. It was supposed to rain one day, so the night before, large umbrellas magically appeared in everyone’s rooms. The Ritz Carlton’s mission statement used to be “Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” That’s what this felt like throughout the entire stay, down to the bellboys putting fresh bottles of water in my car for the drive home. Just remember: Outstanding customer service lets you charge MORE.

2.) The People. It was a veritable Who’s Who of leaders in the for-profit global tradeshow industry. We had over 52 international attendees, who comprised over 25% of the total. Sorry to actually say it, but I like the limiting of supplier/sponsors. No one felt overwhelmed with people trying to be sold (unless you count the show organizers looking to be acquired!).

3.) The Content. The message I received this year was that digital is driving 24/7 engagement with our clients—and is going to become even more important in the next few years. Speakers were engaging, and bringing in some outsiders (Eric Ly, co-founder of LinkedIn, Bill Schlough, SF Giants, & Hugh Forrest, SWSWi)  and newbies (Todd Brockman, The Michael Bass Group, Doug Emslie, Tarsus – a first timer, really!)  helped germinate a few ideas that should be translating into new expos and payment schemes in the next couple of years (or less) around the planet.

4.) The Networking.
Having half-hour breaks two times a day plus 1.5 hours for lunch enabled a lot of conversations to take place without negatively impacting attendance during sessions. Most importantly, people engaged. All were cordial and most were downright friendly. (Sounds like a lovefest, right? Not quite!) I’ve found most CEO’s of companies in the exhibition business really are people-people—and are not afraid to speak their minds. In a word, they are charming, bright and at times, brutally funny.

5.) The Message. Globally, things are looking up after the last few years. Hooray! That and engage your community 24/7.

Conclusion: I look forward to the annual CEO Summit each year and, as usual, came away with all the feelings an attendee should: inspired, rejuvenated and ready to tackle the challenges that come my way. What was the last conference you attended that left you feeling it was time worth spending?

Stephanie Selesnick is president of International Trade Information, Inc., a Los Angeles-based boutique international exhibition management and conference company founded in 1972. She is also a social media coach, trainer and well known industry speaker. Reach her at and follow her on Twitter @StephSelesnick.

Stephanie S. Selesnick is president of International Trade Information, a longtime global exhibition industry specialist helping U.S show organizers increase international participation in their exhibitions and a well-known speaker and trainer. Follow her on Twitter @stephselesnick.  ... View all articles by Stephanie Selesnick →