To say that conferences and exhibitions are in Dean Anderson's blood is no hyperbole; his father worked for United Exposition Service Co. for 35 years, and his grandfather owned and operated Zimmerman Displays for 50 years. Dean founded Midwest Conference Service in 1987, at age 21, and the Roselle, Ill.-based company today provides rental products, expertise and support for trade shows and other endeavors across the country. Anderson shared his observations of the events world in a recent chat with M&C.
What are the most dramatic changes you've seen in the industry over the years? The biggest change is planning time. We used to have six or more months to pull the logistics together for a conference. Now the same conference is being pulled together in 30 to 45 days.
What do you predict for the future of conferences? We have had more speakers wanting to do cloud-based presentations and have seen more smartphone apps associated with each event. I think the younger generation of attendees is starting to understand that shaking a hand and building a personal relationship is important, and that they cannot do that solely online. So I expect attendance at conferences will actually climb in the near future.
What kind of challenges do you find planners facing these days? I see more problems due to a lack of budget and increased workloads. Planners don't have enough time to spend on preplanning. Then there's a constant "passing of the torch" from year to year, where planners moving on don't share the details from the previous year, so the new planner has to start from scratch.
What do you like to do for fun? I love spending time with my wife and four teenage kids, especially by boating at our lake house and skiing.