Nicole Bowman, MBA is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE). Nicole is responsible for developing and managing all marketing functions of IAEE including corporate branding and event marketing as well as creating and executing the comprehensive strategic marketing plan for all IAEE initiatives including chapter relations, membership, councils, events and advocacy initiatives.
Nicole has 20 years of experience in event and marketing management with the last 15 years in the association world. Nicole received her B.S. in Business Administration and Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas – Dallas.
What is the history of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events?
The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) is a global organization that was originally founded in 1928 as the National Association of Exposition Managers. Then in the 1940s the organization’s name was changed to the International Association of Exposition Managers; and finally, in mid-2000s, the name was changed to the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) reflecting its change from individual memberships to company-based memberships.
We have members in 52 countries, and about 1,300 company memberships representing over 10,000 individual members. Within the membership, we have various councils, working groups, task forces, and committees that focus on a wide variety of issues. The association works with the needs of the members to provide advocacy functions, learning programs, and trade shows.
How many chapters do you have?
We have 10 U.S. chapters and several international chapters. Each of our chapters has their own web site, board, and councils. They are the grassroots of our association. Among many other functions, the chapters provide educational programs and host CEM courses. We have chapters in India, Mexico, and Thailand who are all very active and promote the IAEE message.
Can you give an overview of this year’s Expo! Expo! event?
We call Expo! Expo! the “show for shows.” The attendees are trade show organizers that come for networking, education, the exhibitors. They are all looking for ideas, best practices, and solutions to problems that will enhance their own attendees’ experience.
We request presentation proposals from our members that wish to share their experiences and insights. SmithBucklin, a well-known association management services company usually sends a team of six-to-ten people to the show to share their expertise. They offer ideas on how organizations can best utilize outsourced teams of experts to help reduce costs, improve efficiencies, meet tight deadlines, and produce better outcomes.
We also provide niche opportunities for groups like CEM Meet Ups or MATSO Meet Ups. We offer 30 different networking opportunities that don’t overlap with our education secessions or the trade show.
On the show floor, we have over 60 products and services including convention and visitor bureaus, audiovisual providers, registration services, mobile apps developers, etc. It’s like a one-stop shop where one can see new product demonstrations and learn about services that will enhance the trade show experience.
This year’s "Expo! Expo!" will be held November 28th and 30th in San Antonio, Texas at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
Can you highlight the programs for this year?
One of the things we are doing different this year is frontloading education before the opening general session on Tuesday. Last year we had six educational tracks including marketing, design, technology, leadership, and operations.
We will have three sponsored Mega Rooms where we have focused on the neuroscience of the learning experience with Cort Design. The seating arrangements are carefully crafted where people are going to collaborate with one another during the workshops.
In our “Spark! Sessions,” we give the top 10 ways to engage or attract attendees in just one-minute snippets for a total of 10 minutes. We do “Tech Huddles” at the event where people can get a quick overview of x, y, z technology platform.
We are also doing our traditional workshops on November 28th, which consists of an educational morning followed by our annual lunch, business meeting, and awards presentation.
Another thing that we are doing this year is expanding our technology pavilion. Emerging technology is a major interest in our industry and has been a growing trend. Last year we debuted a Wearable Beacon Program and we are going to do it again this year. It records an attendee’s journey on the show floor and attendance to the education sessions, as well as the people they have met during the three days.
There’s a lot of talk among the members about the future of the industry and whether face-to-face meetings are a thing of the past particularly with the popularity of Virtual Reality (VR). Well, we don’t think that face-to-face is going away at all. We think that it’s human nature for people to want to connect.
But, I believe that the trade show industry is embracing virtual reality and we are bringing VR and AR technology to our members at Expo! Expo! We push the envelope and try new things. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Our members want to try new things so we try to give them new things to try.
Are there any specific events or sessions or tracks you want to highlight?
This year we are holding a “Tech StartUp” competition for emerging technology companies that have a new product or service for the event industry. Visit Austin is sponsoring the competition and will provide an award. All of the competing entries will be available in the Tech Pavilion.
We are trying to encourage technological development because it has been playing an important role in the transformation of the trade show business. Convention centers are becoming more and more tech friendly and the industry is moving away from printing in favor of smart phone apps. Not only does that allow for a reduction in cost, but it also helps the LEED certified facilities with their waste control.
How many exhibitors and attendees are expected at the event this year?
We will have between 265 and 270 exhibitors. The largest number of exhibitors are from the technology, AV, and mobile software companies. We also have quit a few international CVBs and industry associations among our exhibitors.
In terms of attendees, we expect around 2,200 to 2,300 and they tend to be from the south and central U.S. We expect a huge contingency from our Texas chapters, and San Antonio is not difficult to get to from either the southwest or southeast.
Every year, we select a different region of the county. Last year it was in Anaheim and in 2015 it was in Baltimore.
Can you briefly tell about a couple of your lead sponsors or partners?
We have a number of long-time sponsors like GES – one of the industry’s leading full-service, audio visual providers. They specialize in live event productions and production support services, including audio, video, lighting, scenic design and fabrication. They are our general service contractor both for the show and the general sessions.
Among the some of the other notable sponsors, Cort is our furniture provider, Visit Austin is sponsoring this tech competition, and Shephard Exposition Services is the sponsor of our First Timers program.
How would you categorize your attendees?
We market to show to event organizers, industry associations, and industry suppliers. We normally have about 40% of attendees representing suppliers and the balance made up by organizers and associations. The bulk of the organizer attendees are association organizers and range from mid-to-upper management all the way up to the executive.
We track attendee demographics in detail and know that 91% have either a purchasing or decision-making role in their organization. That is important information for the exhibitors because business happens at face-to-face and it gives them the opportunity to meet their customers.
Does IAEE serve as a global industry advocate?
We have a large advocacy program that functions at both state and federal level. It’s one of our main planks in our strategic plan. We organize an event called Exhibitions Day that is run through the Exhibitions Mean Business campaign. Every June we meet federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill and discuss a variety of issues.
We work in conjunction with other large organizations to promote specific issues such as the legislation against online booking scams. That is something that affects consumers in every state. We have 25 co-sponsors that are supporting that bill. If the bill passes, it will give state attorneys general more power to go after people who put up fraudulent booking websites.
We also have an event called the Women’s Leadership Forum in the Washington D.C. area. In September, we are taking the Women’s Leadership Forum to Thailand, which should be very exciting.
In China, we are starting to work with the different IBTMs and are definitely gaining traction. We did our first global forum in Guadalajara, Mexico this past April that was in conjunction with our board meeting. We also speak at numerous different events all over the world.
What benefits do IAEE members get?
Perhaps the greatest benefit that we offer is the research and reports from our Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Nancy Drapeau, the Senior Research Director for CEIR, is responsible for the research and writes the reports. All IAEE members receive access to all of the CEIR research as part of their membership except for the index and the census, but members receive a discount on that.
What is your CEM certification program?
We established our Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM) program in 1975 and now have more than 2,500 active CEMs around the world in 26 countries. China is our second largest market for CEMs and follows closely behind the U.S.
In 2014, Marsha Flanagan, our Vice President of Learning Experiences along with a couple of other people in the education space, approached the Department of Labor with a request. They wanted to rewrite the Competency Models to remove events, exhibitions, and meetings out from under the category hospitality and tourism.
As a result of their efforts, exhibitions and meetings now fall under the category “events,” which has its own set of core competencies. The Department of Labor tracks events completely separate from hospitality and tourism with different codes that employers fill out on job and census statistics. That laid the foundation for us to provide a path for career development.
We have been working with 12 different universities to establish a curriculum for exhibition management. Our show textbook, which the CEM program is based on, provides a career path for anyone wanting to become a CEM.