Stephanie Selesnick, President – International Trade Information, Inc.

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ES. “I help build global communities! Does your organization need help building yours?” We are curious to know more details on this.

Stephanie Selesnick. Trade shows/exhibitions are large gatherings of communities, usually built around the industries that that people work or aspire to work in. By helping show organizers to recruit international exhibitors and visitors it enlarges those communities. I also assist with targeting and starting/deepening relationships with like organizations and associations in other countries, which also grow said communities. This is not an easy process and involves teaching clients and their teams about cultural, societal, and historical differences and nuances. For example, the simple act of handing a new acquaintance a business card is done differently in China than the US. Or the pressure of a handshake. Then there’s hard currency vs. soft currency to pay for a stand (or booth). The list goes on. It’s one of my core beliefs that the more we understand each other, the better and longer lasting the relationships.

ES. You are the US Partner of ExposAsia, a global M&A and show management firm. What matrix do you use for partnering/buying shows?

Stephanie Selesnick. Unlike many other countries, the US Exhibition market is very fragmented with over 65% of all expos owned by associations and not-for-profit organizations. In addition, there are for-profits of all sizes. Everyone selling individual shows or entire companies have different reasons and conditions for selling. EBITDA is but one part of that equation. Some organizers want to get the best price possible, stay through one show and leave. Others want to stay and be a part of a larger organization, and others may want annual royalties or commissions. We engage with sellers to find out what their goals are for the next show, the next year and the future to help them get the deal that works best for them.

ES. You are the faculty of the UFI Exhibition Management School (EMS), the Virtual Events Institute as a Subject Matter Expert. Can you share with us some context from what you deliver at these forums?

Stephanie Selesnick. I teach Cross Channel Marketing for the UFI-EMS and truly enjoy the interaction with the students who are made up of exhibition pros from all over the world, with all kinds of experiences and knowledge. Marketing is in a constant state of transformation and evolution, so updating the class curriculum every time is a must. Teaching this class motivates me stay abreast of trends. For example, one year ago, ChatGPT wasn’t on anyone’s radar. The next class (in June) will have to cover how AI plays and will play into exhibition marketing. Content creation and audience engagement is critical for today’s exhibitions whether it’s online (VEI) or in person.

ES. What is your advice for the event planners in today’s times?

Stephanie Selesnick. Strive to make your curated attendees, visitors, or delegates your biggest fans and evangelists. If they’re happy, your sponsors and exhibitors will be too. Stay current. Look at trends in your industry. Under promise and over deliver. Keep your organization adaptable and remember change is not the enemy. Talk engagements, not numbers of delegates or visitors. It’s a lot, I know. The hard work works!

ES. In your opinion, what are the top things that will continue to influence the industry, besides the economics and technology?

Stephanie Selesnick. How people are treated. There is
competition for everyone’s attention all the time. If you want to stand out, be innovative. For events, ensure you are providing encounters stakeholders cannot get on an internet search. That means personalization, experiences (leave the Ferris Wheels to fairs and amusement parks), and thoughtfulness. How can you make your visitors and exhibitors journey easier? Do you say thank you? Differentiate your events and expos. Be creative. Try new things. Be bold. Reward your teams for creativity, even if ideas fail.

ES. Which do you believe attendees value more: the material, the connections, or the creativity?

Stephanie Selesnick. All the above! Deliver material they haven’t seen. Help visitors/delegates connect with suppliers, sponsors, and each other. As I said earlier, be brave, clever, and have some fun.

ES. A lot of talk is going around sustainability. How much of it do you see happening on ground and what could be done to move further towards this cause?

Stephanie Selesnick. We are seeing some of it in Las Vegas (where I live). More recycling. Leftover food going to local food banks. The Las Vegas Convention Center transports all rubbish off-site for sorting materials for recycling. Mandalay Bay Convention Center has solar panels on its roof and MGM Resorts International, who owns 14 resort properties on The Strip have their own solar farms outside the city. The water you see in the fountains of the city? All recycled. With the upcoming UFI Congress taking place here in Las Vegas this November, I’d be surprised if the topic does not come up.

Finally, help exhibitors be more sustainable by providing easy and tangible suggestions to follow. They should be cost-effective. It may be as simple as providing razor blades to break down cardboard cartons and boxes at the end of expo floor aisles. Ban single use stands from your shows. Reward sustainability.