Why did you first joined the industry and what has made you stay?
I got a job as a legislative assistant for a US senator after I graduated from university, and it was a friend who advised me to get involved with the events industry.
The exhibitions and events industry (provides) an exciting and compelling career for someone with my personality. I have always been interested in face-to-face experiential marketing, and I want to design, create, engage, see new things and meet new people.
I started by selling booth space and sponsorship for the National Home Health Care Expo in Atlanta, Georgia, before becoming an international sales and marketing subject matter expert. From there, I continued to move up the management ladder.
I then took on a senior management role as executive vice president (for North America) with Messe Frankfurt in 2010, before joining FreemanXP in December 2014. I have not looked back or regretted one moment of my career.
How long have you been involved with IAEE, what roles have you played and how did you become its chairperson?
I have been a member for 25 years. I was on the Southeastern Chapter board for five years and ultimately became the chairperson. I have also chaired the Education Committee and Finance Committee.
Prior to being the (IAEE) chair-elect and chair of CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research, which is aligned with IAEE to produce forward-looking research), I was the secretary/treasurer for two years. I have been on the board’s executive committee for four years.
What is on your agenda as you take over as chairperson for the upcoming year?
I am aligning my agenda with IAEE’s strategic pillars of advocacy, learning, and providing a technologically advanced experience in all aspects of exhibition industry marketplaces. I also want to further position IAEE’s annual meeting and exhibition Expo! Expo! as the face-to-face resource for the ever-changing trade show environment.
I want to focus on various other aspects such as industry cooperation; global business expansion and the application of universal metrics, protocols, ROI, advocacy and expectations; a trade show certification model; international promotion, expansion and recognition of membership; the changing business model and the influence of technology and globalisation; the CEM (Certified in Exhibition Management) global programme – region specific and advanced, the Art of the Show – remedial and advance; CEIR; and quality of life challenges in our industry and how to create a better environment.
What is IAEE’s footprint in Asia-Pacific, and in what areas do you see opportunities to grow?
China (with 800 IAEE CEM professionals in 2016) is second only to the US in the number of CEM professionals. We have reciprocal agreements with several regional associations, and continue to provide education and training opportunities to the entire Asia-Pacific region. We will recognise sustained growth as our CEM content becomes more relevant and region-specific.
How did the AFECA (Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention Associations)-IAEE MoU come about in 2015 and what do you hope to achieve during your term as chairperson?
For many years, Walter Yeh (AFECA president and president and CEO, TAITRA [Taiwan External Trade Development Council]) and Edward Liu (immediate-past AFECA president and group managing director, Conference and Exhibition Management Services) have been great IAEE advocates in Asia.
Through our relationship with Edward, we signed a reciprocity agreement with AFECA in 2007 that has carried through to today. Then in 2012, through Walter and TAITRA, we expanded our CEM licensee agreement to further expand the IAEE brand in Asia.
Since many Asian countries support our CEM programme, it made sense to formalise a collaboration with them. Additionally, we hold joint meetings every January during the China Expo Forum for International Cooperation.
What is the trick to managing work and IAEE duties?
I am very passionate about this industry. I eat, drink, and breathe exhibitions and events. Therefore, managing my work at FreemanXP and IAEE is not something that intimidates or worries me.
We are all busy, but I also firmly believe that we have to take a moment to smell the flowers. Life is too short to not be happy and physically, emotionally and philosophically fulfilled.
What do you do for fun?
I like to spend time with my family. I have two boys and two girls and I am expecting another girl soon. I’d imagine my time management skills will be further tested.
I really enjoy exercise and outdoor activities, travelling and, of course, food is high on the list of things that make life so exciting.