The premier resource for exhibition and event industry professionals

IAEE Spotlight on 2023 Innovative Business Solution Award Winner Tony Rissley

Tony Rissley
It hasn’t taken long for Innovative Business Solution Award Winner Tony Rissley to make a name for himself in the industry by helping organizations raise the bar on their fundraising efforts. In this interview, he talks about how the industry discovered and embraced his company, Expo Auctions.

By Mary Tucker | Sr. Communications & Content Manager | IAEE

animated image of 2023 IAEE Innovative Business Solution Award Winner Tony Rissley

Tony Rissley has led his company, Expo Auctions, in providing a revolutionary solution designed to transform the auction experience and create professional, memorable, entertaining fundraising activities so that organizers can focus on easily obtaining financial resources for their cause. In 2022, Expo Auctions facilitated over $900k dollars in bidding for trade associations across the country.

Expo Auctions is trusted by industry leaders including, but not limited to, CEIR, IAEE, ESCA, PCMA, GSAE, AENC, FSAE, TSAE, TNSAE, NECA and many more. Expo Auctions has significantly impacted the industry by setting new standards, reshaping customer expectations, partnering with many industry leaders, and increasing the overall donations.

Tony’s ingenious approach earned him the IAEE Innovative Business Solution Award last year, for which he was recognized this past December during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Dallas, Texas (watch Tony’s acceptance speech here).

Here, Tony shares with IAEE how he built his company, developed his relationship with the exhibitions and events industry, and what the future holds for Expo Auctions.

fun facts about Tony Rissley

What is Expo Auctions all about and how did the idea come to you?

Tony: I’ve been in the auction world for a long time. I started working with a frame company that custom framed golf art. We would bring 6-10 frames to a golf tournament in a silent auction format. I was given 40 golf tournaments my first year. I turned that into over 130 events in three years and expanded our offerings, even prompting a business name change to reflect the new variety. I knew then that I wanted to be THE AUCTION GUY! I wanted to provide a full turnkey service for fundraising organizations. A LOT of trial and error and lots of failures before I found my niche in this industry.

How were you introduced to the exhibitions and events industry, and what was your initial impression of how you would fit into it?

Tony: I worked with an association during their golf tournament early on in my career. I saw they had a casino night during their winter conference, so I pitched the auction for their casino night. Long story short, that turned out to be the best auction I managed up to that point and I knew then, I needed to be in this industry. Fast forward too many years and a lot more failures, and I met Mark Zimmerman with the Georgia World Congress Center and my life changed over the next couple of years.

I realized very quickly the need for fundraising help in the industry. Not only monetarily but saving staff and volunteer time was super important to the executive directors. Now I needed to figure out how to charge for something that has, for many years, been run by volunteers. BUT, nobody wanted to volunteer for running the auction. They knew how tedious it was. Insert an amazing opportunity for me.

Now that you’ve worked with this industry for some years, how has your initial impression developed and what is your vision of your role in the industry today?

Tony: I’m lucky beyond my wildest imaginations. I have been able to partner with some of the top associations and organizations in this industry. I plan on building this business to be the leader in the industry, the “go to” brand when someone thinks auctions.

How has being involved with IAEE enhanced your business objectives and what does the future hold for Expo Auctions?

Tony: IAEE and Expo! Expo! in 2018 was my springboard into the industry. Each year, we are able to reach more associations through our partnership with CEIR and IAEE. I will forever be grateful to IAEE. The future is very promising, we are growing the team and connecting with more associations than ever. We are striving every day to improve our processes. How much more can we improve such an old-fashioned way of fundraising??? I’m not entirely sure but we are doing it every day.

The Call for Nominations for this year’s IAEE Awards is now open! Check out all of the award categories here and be sure to submit your nominations by 30 August!

Share Post

Stay Up To Date

Related Posts

iaee blog station logo

Stay Up To Date

Join over 15,000 followers dedicated to learning the ins and outs of the exhibition and event industry!