Cross-Job Collaboration Key to Tackling Industry Challenges


AMR International executive director Denzil Rankine

Collaboration among industry sectors and job functions is more crucial than ever, whether crafting emergency-response plans or collecting and acting on event data. The topic was a major theme at two meetings-industry events held last week in Washington, D.C.

The Association of Destination Management Executives International held its second Emergency Preparedness Certificate Program, a two-day course about minimizing risks for and crafting responses to crisis situations, be they caused by severe weather, crime, terrorism, active shooters or otherwise. Representatives from destination management companies, however, comprised less than half of the participants.

"Developing an updated emergency-response plan has become essential," said Brian Ferrell, owner of Factor 110 | Destination Oklahoma and the current president of ADMEI. "Just think about the effects a disastrous event can have on a destination -- it can pretty much shut down a destination to travel for an extended period. It's critical for DMCs to be prepared. But it also requires cooperation from all industry partners. At ADMEI, we wanted to really take the lead on this, but sought for it to be open to everyone."

Even for organizations with robust preparedness plans, a lack of communication with industry partners can be the root of problems. Course presenters -- among them a security and law-enforcement expert, a hotel security executive and attorneys -- frequently fielded questions about who should be taking the lead in various crisis situations.

That's precisely the discussion that ADMEI leaders had hoped to facilitate, although they weren't so sure before they held the inaugural session this past winter in Dallas. "At the beginning of the course, a planner looked at the agenda and suggested we separate the tracks by job function in the future," noted ADMEI president-elect Marty MacKay, president, global alliance, of Hosts Global and a principal designer of the course. "By the end, she said, 'Don't separate us!' There were just so many 'ah-ha' moments among the participants. Corporate planners now understood why their DMCs had been requesting attendee information they had been reluctant to provide, and the DMCs understood better about where their planner clients were coming from. It just became so clear that we had to keep this open to everyone."

Association and corporate planners, destination marketing executives and venue operators comprised the bulk of participants this time around, and ADMEI hopes to see a similar mix for future sessions. Courses are now planned for September in Chicago and November in Las Vegas; soon, ADMEI will likely make the course part of the organization's certification requirements. For further details, see

The need for cross-sector collaboration was no less a significant a theme at Transform USA, a new one-day symposium about data, analytics and digital technologies in the exhibitions industry. The event, presented by AMR International and Lippman Connects, brought together high-level executives representing show management, technology suppliers, IT, data and analytics, marketing, production, A/V and other sectors. The goal was to tackle the challenges of collecting, integrating, leveraging and monetizing data as it pertains to the future of trade shows -- tasks that, similar to what the ADMEI event found with the topic of crisis preparedness, can't be effectively tackled in silos.

The symposium found that questions abound around data ownership, data privacy and monetization -- the latter, in particular, about just who's going to get paid for which data. One convention center executive acknowledged that he was waiting for direction from industry partners regarding what should be done with the data the venue acquires around each event. "We have a lot of data," said Mark Sims, senior vice president and CIO of New York's Javits Convention Center, "but we're taking a hands-off approach today. There are questions around who owns which data; we purge it after a while."

As the race to monetize data intensifies, however, the need to establish better guidelines will be paramount. "It's all about balance," said Elli Riley, senior director of exhibits and meeting services for health-care IT provider HIMSS. "Over the next five years, it's going to be a changing revenue cycle. But we need to work together and to keep it a fair playing field for the future."

AMR International executive director Denzil Rankine agreed. "We'll need a whole new stream next year just to talk about collaboration in the industry," he concluded.

A Transform Europe event is planned for London in December of this year, and the second annual Transform USA is slated to take place a year from now, again in Washington, D.C.