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Why Leadership Should Invest in Young Professionals Attending Expo! Expo!: An Interview with Benjamin Rabe, CEM, Events Director at SmithBucklin

Expo! Expo! is a great opportunity for everyone, no matter their career level. Invest in your Young Professionals to attend.

Ben Rabe 2017 Expo! Expo! blog (2)

With more than 50 learning opportunities on and off the show floor, over 265 exhibitors, and networking sessions primed for idea sharing, Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition offers attendees a wealth of information they can take back and implement to their own exhibitions and events. From a leadership perspective, is it worth the company’s time and resources to take their younger talent to Expo! Expo!?

Here, IAEE speaks with Benjamin Rabe, CEM, Events Director at SmithBucklin, who shares his experience in encouraging his team to participate in Expo! Expo! and why it’s important to support rising stars in the exhibitions and events industry.

 IAEE: Why do you attend Expo! Expo!?

I have been an IAEE member for 15 years now, and I have attended eight Expo! Expo! meetings so far. My number one reason for attending is the networking. It’s interesting to hear innovations, trends and new thinking across the industry. I also enjoy the education sessions and learning about topics relevant to the shows I support.


IAEE: Tell us a little about the shows you manage.

In my role at SmithBucklin I lead five teams, each serving different client organizations and some of them organizing multiple shows annually. I serve both association and corporate clients.  My team supports all aspects of planning, logistics and operations.  My focus is development of event strategy and leading growth initiatives.  My client events range from 2,000 attendees to more than 20,000 attendees and anywhere from 20,000 to 375,000 net square feet. Two of my clients have repeatedly been honored by the Trade Show News Network’s (TSNN) Top 50 Fastest-Growing Trade Shows List and the TSNN’s Top 250 Trade Shows List and one client is on the Trade Show Executive Gold 100 List.

IAEE: Last year, you were not able to attend Expo! Expo! in Anaheim, but you had encouraged your team to attend instead. Why was it important for them to attend Expo! Expo!?

When feasible, we try to send a small delegation of four to six people to Expo! Expo!. They represent different career levels, ranging from meeting coordinators to those in senior management. They are our “eyes and ears” for new ideas. At SmithBucklin, we are continuously updating our best practices and integrating new ideas and technologies. While we learn a lot from each other every day, it is important for us to learn from others, too.  In January, the members of the delegation report out to the 100+ members of our team in Event Services on what they learned and saw at Expo! Expo!.

IAEE: That’s a fascinating approach! It’s interesting to note that SmithBucklin sends a group of people from different stages of their careers.

We offer attendance at Expo! Expo! as a reward for our top performers in Event Services. We try to send different people each year, so more can share in the experience.  We also encourage our people to apply for the 20 Under 30 program.

IAEE: Would you say that having Expo! Expo! as a reward helps your team perform better?

Yes! They are motivated by that. Providing the opportunity for our team to go to Expo! Expo! shows we are supporting them, especially from an educational perspective.

IAEE: Do you notice a change with your team after they attend Expo! Expo!? Do they bring insights that turn into action at SmithBucklin?

Of course! They are excited to try new ideas and programs. Innovation is an important part of what we do for our clients and why they look to us for trade show expertise. For example, after attending a session on robust exhibitor retention programs, two of our meeting coordinators presented what they learned at our team meeting in January. That led to creating a new best practice for our exhibitor retention programs.  At SmithBucklin, we have a core set of standards for our trade shows and the exhibitor retention program is now one of them!


IAEE: Why do you believe that those in leadership positions should allow their younger talent to attend Expo! Expo!?

Our team brings back new ideas after attending Expo! Expo! They are exposed to new thought leadership, which helps them think at a higher level. Our people are interacting with clients on a daily basis. If something comes up in one of those conversations, I want our team to be subject-matter experts and be able to speak to new ideas that are happening in our industry.  Seeing, hearing and discussing what other show organizers are doing helps whenever there is discussion around idea generation and creation. At the end of the day, I want everyone on our team to be the best event and trade show professional they can be.1_YP_web__529x193

IAEE: What would you say to those in higher leadership positions considering taking their younger talent to Expo! Expo!? What would you say to convince them to send their team to Expo! Expo!?

First, if they are nervous about expenses, I would encourage them to think about the 20 Under 30 program or First Timer opportunities. There are ways to get partial or full funding for those new people who have not been to Expo! Expo! before.

As I look back at my own journey with IAEE over the past 15 years, I would tell my story with Expo! Expo!. I started attending Expo! Expo! back in 2003, with the purpose of earning my CEM. At the time, I thought I was getting my designation and it would help me build my resume. What actually happened was that I got my CEM and then one of my managers at the time, who was on the IAEE Board, introduced me to the Krakoff Leadership Institute (KLI). That led me to my involvement in the Board for the IAEE Midwestern Chapter, and I ended up serving as the Chapter Chair for a year. All that experience helped me fine-tune my soft skills, specifically networking and presenting. It has helped to fuel both my personal and career growth. Fifteen years later, I am now in a leadership position in my company and a contemporary of the manager who first told me about KLI.

I would like other people to have the same growth opportunities and experiences through IAEE that I had. For example, I have seen one of my colleagues, Cassie, grow in her career. She started attending IAEE events, and now she’s a member of the Midwestern Chapter Board. She too has improved her soft skills and grown as a trade show professional.  This is great because it’s opened up a lot of opportunities for her during her tenure at SmithBucklin. She’s moved up from being an entry associate to a coordinator to an event manager.  The inspiration she receives from attending IAEE events carries through to the client shows she serves. One of her direct reports is now following suit.  She attended IAEE Expo! Expo! for the first time in 2016 through the 20 Under 30 program and is currently on the YP Committee of the Midwestern Chapter.

At SmithBucklin, we have a culture of nurturing and supporting our younger talents. Our people want to stay because they are valued and helping them to attend Expo! Expo! is just one way we show it.

Ben Rabe Quote Blog

Stay tuned for Cassie Palacios’ interview with IAEE and how her experience as a Young Professional at Expo! Expo! has led to actionable insights.

Don’t forget to register for Expo! Expo! in San Antonio, TX on Nov. 28-30!


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