I’m honored that IAEE has trusted me with this responsibility, and I believe that with challenge comes opportunity and change. I don’t expect it to be easy, but I am an optimist, and believe that if we work together as an industry, we will figure out how to thrive.
ES. Taking on this role at a time when the global industry is undergoing turmoil, how does it feel to be in this position? What would be on your list of priorities before stepping into this position?
Carrie Ferenac. I’m honored that IAEE has trusted me with this responsibility, and I believe that with challenge comes opportunity and change. I don’t expect it to be easy, but I am an optimist, and believe that if we work together as an industry, we will figure out how to thrive.
ES. The year has been an unprecedented one for businesses across the world in recent human memory. What is your way of looking at the situation?
Carrie Ferenac. When I gave my speech at Expo Expo, I quoted a scene from Ted Lasso. I Believe. I believe the exhibitions and events industry drives the economy, and I believe in IAEE. It’s a community you cannot find any where else. To succeed in challenging times, we have to find new ways to do things. It’s about staying curious, and showing up. I believe that our industry is resilient, and that together, we can evolve.
ES. Please tell us about your professional journey. What milestones did you reach on your way to the top which stands out as the most significant?
Carrie Ferenac. Like so many of us, I ‘fell into’ this industry. I spent more than a decade as a broadcast journalist for WESH-TV in Orlando. I was a newscast producer, and then an Executive Producer for many years. When I left that position, I was freelancing when I was asked to produce content for a trade publication in the aviation industry (Aviation Industry News). We traveled to airshows producing AIN-TV. It was my first foray into tradeshows and events. From there, I met my business partner, Marcelo Zolessi, and we saw a need for content at events in other industry, and CNTV was born. Early on, we worked with Bill Peeper, who ran the Orlando CVB for many years. Bill connected us to IAEE, PCMA, and Tradeshow Executive, which turned out to be instrumental in our growth. I joined committees, volunteered, attended events, and was asked to join the board in 2017. I’ll always appreciate the people who helped us learn about the industry, and helped us get to where we are today.
ES. Is there anything you can forecast when it comes to the trends shaping the world of trade shows?
Carrie Ferenac. I rely on data from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research to predict the future. CEIR’s economist has forecasted that the US B2B exhibitions industry will reach pre-covid (2019) levels. Since each trade show has unique , organizers and their teams have to continue to be agile depending on their individual industry.
One trend in the industry is Omnichannel marketing
There is a new focus on delivering a consistent message across all channels – whether in person, or online. Multichannel has been in place for many years, but now the role of marketing has never been more important.
With the close relationship of the marketing and sales functions in a company, not only have the marketing people had to find new ways to connect, sales teams have had to rethink the value propositions for their products. Selling in different environments requires a different way of thinking and positioning based on whether they are communicating in-person, through video or live streaming during digital events.
The second trend is an increased emphasis on the 365 community
Now, the annual event is only one stop along a year-round journey. Gone are the days where we can produce an amazing event, do business, then start planning for next year. Now, we have to engage our stakeholders throughout the year. The idea of community now is to create touchpoints through multiple channels all year long. People expect to be connected, and to do business at any time. IAEE is doing that through Memberlink, Buzz Sessions, Market Hub, Chapter MeetUps, CEIR Research, Working Groups… you name it, there’s a way to connect.
A third trend is reskilling/upskilling the workforce
Organizations need to shift and adapt quickly to consumer demands for on-demand content, a truly integrated digital experience and creating a personalized experience for each user. Our team members need to understand the changing digital landscape and be educated with the professional skillset needed to adapt. We lived this at CNTV, and it’s vital to not only survive, but to thrive.
ES. What are the top three major challenges surrounding the industry?
Carrie Ferenac. I think the largest challenge we face is uncertainty. It’s so difficult to plan for the future, when things are continually in a state of flux. At CNTV, we are trying to help our customers by being flexible, and willing to change as conditions change. That’s not always easy, but it’s necessary in these uncertain times. Another challenge is a lack of consumer confidence. For people to attend tradeshows and events, they need to feel confident to travel. As COVID cases surge, there may be a lack of confidence in some sectors. This is where advocacy comes in. We need to make sure people know they can meet safely, and that health and safety are top priorities for destinations and organizers. We also need to continue to emphasize that exhibitions mean business. If companies cut their travel budgets, it’s negative for tradeshows… but it’s also negative for those companies. I believe people need to see, feel and experience new products in order to buy them, and that happens on the tradeshow floor. The third challenge I see is rebuilding our workforce. Hiring is difficult now as so many people moved out of this space. We need to reach out to a younger audience, and find ways to reskill those who are willing to learn.
ES. What in your view are the current opportunities in this sector?ES. What in your view are the current opportunities in this sector?
Carrie Ferenac. I think the largest opportunity is to reach new people. With the emergence of hybrid events, show oragnizers can now expand their reach exponentially. What used to be a regional event, could include people from other counties logging on to a virtual platform. Speakers can be zoomed in from anywhere in the world, and sponsors can expand their reach to potential customers.
ES. In a world of accelerated change, how have you used the crisis as a catalyst and have accelerated the change to boost your business in the coming years?
Carrie Ferenac. At CNTV, we were committed to innovation and never stopped evolving. We came up with new formats to deliver content and tell stories for our clients. In 2020, we switched completely to virtual events, created a platform, and trained our teams to produce content remotely. Now, we are positioned to work with our clients face-to-face, virtually, or in a hybrid capacity. The pandemic also served as an opportunity for CNTV to be a trusted partner committed to generating revenue for clients. At a time where it was more critical than ever for organizations to diversify revenue streams, we were alongside them and asking questions to understand business needs. This allowed us to present opportunities to produce even more custom solutions and year-round content to keep everyone moving forward.
ES. As well, you are involved with the ECA Legislative Action Day and the Exhibition Means Business campaign. Please tell us about your role in promoting these two activities and how they benefit the industry?
Carrie Ferenac. I served for several years as the IAEE Advocacy committee chair and worked closely with the committee. It is important to surround yourself with others that are passionate about your views and that is what we did for many years on this committee before EMB moved under the Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance in February 2021. We have built a strong network of advocates over the years and use their influence and networking to spread the word about issues affecting the US exhibitions industry at the local, state and federal level.
In addition to making a difference on the legislative level, there are so many ways to be an advocate. To me, advocacy is believing in something. Advocating for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is believing in social change. Advocating for sustainable tradeshows is believing in the environment. Focusing on the women’s leadership initiatives is believing in equal rights and equal pay. I think it’s vital for people to get involved, and advocate for what they believe in.
ES. How has CNTV been instrumental in helping clients reach a global audience and connect people who are unable to attend their events? How do you view hybrid as a solution in post-pandemic scenarios?
Carrie Ferenac. At CNTV, we believe in the power of connections. That is key whether those connections are in-person or online. One silver lining is the increased adoption of hybrid events has made attending them easier than ever before. It has opened a door to reach new audiences, too. The key is producing dynamic and compelling content, especially so you can turn the audiences you may be reaching for the first time into repeat attendees. I believe hybrid approaches are here to stay and as an industry – we shouldn’t shy away from that. It doesn’t cannibalize a live event audience, it enables those who can’t attend in person to get involved. Hybrid events also create even more revenue opportunities through sponsorship. For sponsors, they are now able to reach both in-person and online participants. There’s incredible value in that. Hybrid events are also great for year-round content that you can use for marketing. We’re always reminding clients that any time we capture content on site or virtually, we are able to repurpose it throughout the year to continue to drive engagement and their business forward.
ES. On another note, what do you enjoy the most about your work? Please share your hobbies, what keeps you busy when you are away from work?
Carrie Ferenac. I enjoy the people. There is nothing like seeing industry friends at Expo Expo, and reconnecting. These are people who have been through hell the past two years, and somehow still find a way to smile. I also really believe in the power of face-to-face meetings. People do business with people they know, and trust, and we build that trust by meeting in person. Outside of work, I love being on the water. I’m a Florida girl, so I enjoy the beach, the sunshine, and fishing. My favorite vacation is on the southwest coast of Florida with my husband and three kids.
ES. Is there anything else you would like to add as we wrap up? Any message that you would like to share with us for the fraternity?
Carrie Ferenac. I hope people will BELIEVE in the power of exhibitions and events, SHOW UP by volunteering and being an advocate, and BE CURIOUS as we embrace change for the future.