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Do You KAIZEN? Why You Should

2023 IAEE Chairperson Dennis Smith explains the Japanese concept of KAIZEN and how it inspires him in his career.


Editorial Note: Originally published in the October 2023 issue of Trade Show Executive magazine.

As we enter this year’s final quarter, I reflect on the difference a year can make. As predicted by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), our industry’s performance is tracking to reach its full recovery from the pandemic in the coming months. So much so that attendees at CEIR’s Predict Conference a few weeks ago were able to shift their focus from recovery efforts to more exciting topics such as cutting-edge event marketing strategies and navigating today’s geopolitical landscape.

Our industry is poised to come back stronger than ever and is looking to the future with improvement on its mind. Executive leaders want to improve their workforce and organizational offerings, and team members want to improve their knowledge and skills. Ultimately, everyone wants to improve what they bring to the table as we experience our collective renaissance.

I am a firm believer in the philosophy of KAIZEN which is a Japanese word for “continuous improvement.” 

In 2012, after moving back to the US from Europe, I began my engagement with IAEE and came face-to-face with all the professional development programs they offer. I actively volunteered on various IAEE committees and, eventually, served on the Board of Directors for both IAEE and CEIR.

I felt that I brought a unique global perspective based upon my experience overseas. I also wanted to learn from my peers and gain new approaches and perspectives to trade shows as a show organizer. My involvement has been very rewarding, and I wouldn’t be where I am without my active participation in IAEE and my commitment to KAIZEN. In fact, I’m currently pursuing my Certified in Exhibition Management® (CEM) designation to learn more about aspects of this profession that I might have taken for granted for the 30+ years that I’ve been in the industry.

The thing about KAIZEN is that it never stops. The beauty of it is that there is no one way to go about it. Having said that, there are actions that have helped me in my career trajectory which I highly recommend:

  • If you are not a member of an industry trade association, advocate within your organization to become one.
  • Join local chapters as a starting point to network with peers and engage in information exchange.
  • Try to take some courses if you cannot do the entire certification program or to try out the program.
  • Learn more about industry leaders and reach out; if there is an opportunity for a virtual chat, go for it and learn how to be more relevant in this industry.
  • Get involved in the young professional community no matter what organization you belong to.
  • Participate in the many trade show and events community channels that are a valuable resource in sharing best practices and networking.

This drive for continuous improvement also applies to the core of our industry: our exhibitions and events. Show organizers seek to improve the design of their events, exhibitors want to improve how they engage with customers and attendees are eager to improve upon their ROI in being there.

Which is where events such as Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2023 on 3-5 December in Dallas, Texas come into play. Next month, I will share more about what you can look forward to at Expo! Expo! and how it will help you advance and achieve your goals. You can also visit for more information. This month, I encourage you to pursue your KAIZEN and wish you great success!

Dennis Smith
2023 IAEE Chairperson
Vice President of Business Development
Asian American Hotel Owners Association

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