Looking to the Future of Engagement with IAEE’s President & CEO

Fuse Director Shafer Busch caught up with IAEE’s new President and CEO, Marsha Flanagan, right after the wrap-up of Expo! Expo!, to ask about her plans for the future of this influential industry organization – and to see how community-driven concepts fit into her vision. Flanagan has long been known as a leading member of the events industry. She was named one of the 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry by Successful Meetings in 2017 and named to BizBash’s Inaugural Top 500 in the Events Industry in 2018 and 2019. In 2021, she was listed in Meetings Today as a 2021 Trendsetter.

Listen to the conversation with IAEE’s new President and CEO, Marsha Flanagan.

How does community come into play for an association as big as IAEE? Flanagan said that as events get larger, participants want them to feel smaller. Just looking at it through the lens of her own organization, she said the Expo! Expo! team want their exhibitors and attendees to experience a show where they don’t just meet lots of people – they meet the right people.

“That requires a lot of conversations, a lot of data analysis, a lot of thinking outside the box as it relates to show design,” she said. “It’s not a plug-and-play anymore for our industry. Meeting the needs of all the people in the ecosystem can be very challenging. You have to pick and choose what you can make a difference in and what’s most relevant, and what your members are telling you they need.”

She advises event professionals who are creating a community or an event to clearly define objectives that tie back into the value proposition.

“There are so many traditional metrics in our industry, whether it be net square footage or attendance or revenue, and those are important. But you really have to dig into the sentiment and the value that’s being driven by events and by being part of a community. There’s so much more to the story to tell.”

The future of event engagement, she said, is one where technology is infused into event design.

“Creating those attendee journeys – even journeys for exhibitors… is so important to really creating an event that will yield a lot of ROI for everyone involved.

“It’s different for every industry, so finding what your industry can do to drive that engagement, you have to ask a lot of questions.”