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IAEE's Expo Expo! Opens, Explores 'Experience Economy'


Photo courtesy of IAEE Expo! Expo!

International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) Expo Expo!—billed as “the show of shows”—began Tuesday in San Antonio.

More than 2,000 people are expected to gather at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center for the annual multi-day conference for meeting industry professionals.

Attendees enjoyed a lively opening session keynote from Ryan Estis, founder and CEO of Ryan Estis & Associates.

The consultant addressed an emerging economy, where practically everyone is digitally connected yet appreciative of an intimate experience as a consumer.

A stop for Starbucks coffee in a Minneapolis airport terminal changed Estis’ way of thinking.

The server, named Lily, emotionally engaged Estis the entire time, asking about his day, his coffee preferences, and his family, whom he was flying to see for the holidays.

After serving Estis his coffee, Lily wished him a good, safe trip, and invited him to make meaningful memories and share them with her following his return flight.

Estis was floored by the experience, but he noticed how Lily similarly engaged other customers.

“I thought to myself wow, it’s Christmas Eve, most people would rather be anywhere else in the world than serving coffee in an airport, but not her,” Estis said. “I couldn’t help myself, I had to go back.”

Estis said Lily created a meaningful experience around an otherwise mundane activity. It also connected him to a brand, Starbucks, to which he was not loyal.

Estis said it’s up to businesses and industries to emotionally invest themselves and create a memorable experience for their customers.

Lily told Estis her sincerity was not a method of marketing Starbucks, but her genuine desire to make people feel happy and want to return.

Estis said Lily and people like her achieve two things in this connected, busy, global economy: Focusing on being helpful, and consciously choosing to be caring in their work.

“Choice has less to do with your external circumstances and a lot more to do with your internal resolve,” he added.

Estis and industry experts leading educational sessions at Expo Expo! are exploring methods of accomplishing authentic experiences and becoming more productive in the industry.

Judi Holler, owner of Holla! Productions, appeared in a trade show “Pit Stop Session.” In less than 10 minutes, she suggested ideas for decluttering life through select apps, books, and jettisoning bad habits, such as comparing oneself with others.

The latter, Holler said, wastes professional and personal time. She implored attendees to just be themselves.

“No one looks like you, no one talks like you, no one writes like you, no one laughs like you, no one is you,” she said. “This is your power.” 

Ryan Strowger, IAEE board chairperson, told the opening session crowd that IAEE has surpassed 11,000 members in more than 50 countries.

An emphasis on technology, and communal and experiential learning at this year’s Expo Expo! are offered “to create a more robust experience for you and to provide you with ideas to implement in your own industry events,” he added.

About the Author

Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz is a San Antonio-based freelance writer who has been published in outlets such as the San Antonio Express-News, San Antonio Magazine, San Antonio Current, Portland Tribune, CultureMap, and Virtual Builders Exchange.