For the last ten years I have attended Association Forum’s Holiday Showcase, an annual Chicago December tradition for event professionals. This “Feel-Good” event has always had a reputation, in the hospitality industry, for being a “must-attend” function.
Holiday Showcase, in the past, has been viewed by many people (myself included) more as a social event, than an educational conference. Indeed the program has always had an education component but the centerpiece of Showcase is it’s exhibition.
For many years the event sold out and always had a waiting list. CVB’s and hotels dominated the show floor. For all practical purposes the exhibits were a “who’s who” in the Hospitality industry. Adding to the festivities were the Hotel/CVB parties …… one huge industry holiday celebration.
Due primarily to a historic recession business has changed significantly over the past couple of years. Companies are now more prudent with their spending. Organizations are more selective about which events they will participate in as exhibitors. The reality is business people must do their homework to justify their participation in trade shows and conferences. They must sell their managers on the ROI of an event in order to receive approval to attend.
Holiday Showcase Expands Education Program!
For some time the folks at Association Forum recognized the need to evolve and expand the Holiday Showcase event. With an eye on it’s members shifting needs the planning team has focused on growing the education content and featured technology. I recently spoke with Christie Tarantino, President and CEO of Association Forum. Christie is passionate about re-engineering the Holiday Showcase. Beginning with the 2010 event attendees will see some exciting new enhancements.
“This year, we’re trying a lot of new things and will be showcasing many different technologies. We wanted to show you what’s out there and give you a chance to test drive it from an attendee perspective so that you can take back what you learned and apply it to your own organizations and meetings. If you haven’t been to Holiday Showcase in a while I’d encourage you to take in the whole day this year. We’ve kept the great things about Holiday Showcase and tried to introduce other things to take the education and networking to a whole new level.” — Christie Tarantino, President and CEO, Association Forum
Take a moment and check out this cool video preview of Holiday Showcase 2010.
New Holiday Showcase Features for 2010
Here’s a recap of the new features being added to the event:
Education Content — Association Forum is doubling the number of education sessions and hand-picked topics with speakers that will attract more seasoned event professionals.
Technology — Attendees will have the option to preview a number of new, interactive technologies (e.g. downloadable mobile applications, speed networking, appointment setting, interactive show floor maps, online interactive guide) They will use these tools to communicate with speakers, exhibitors and each other.
General Session/Lunch Combined — This year, John F. Crowley (whose story about saving his children’s lives is featured in the movie Extraordinary Measures) will be the Holiday Showcase Keynote presenter. A great networking lunch, in the same room, will follow this inspirational speaker.
All Events in Hyatt Regency Chicago East Tower — If you’ve been to Holiday Showcase before, you remember walking. A lot. To save attendees time and “make their feet happy”, all events will be in just one (East) tower so they can make the best use of their face-to-face time with colleagues and peers.
Cell Phone Service in Exhibit Hall — To maximize productivity and interactivity, Association Forum has added cellular service that will be available in the exhibition hall. Attendees will be able to use Twitter (event hashtag of #HSC2010) and other social media tools to follow Holiday Showcase news as it happens.
Online Communications Task Force — Attendees may meet members of the Association Forum’s new online communications task force, get a tour of the Association Forum’s new website, learn how to set up a member profile called “MyForum” on associationforum.org and learn how to use a new buyers guide to connect with supplier partner members.
Photographer Services — Members will be able to take a complimentary, professional headshot to use for their new member profile or other business-related purposes (NOTE: This is a members-only benefit.)
“We believe it’s really important to attract more business service and technology exhibitors for long term sustainability and to attract higher level decision makers. Association Forum is working hard on that one. If we’re successful with that, there will be increased value to CVB’s and hotels too.” — David Lutz, Managing Director, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting
I am really excited about and can’t wait to experience all the great changes coming to Holiday Showcase. Kudos to Association Forum for having the presence of mind to re-think it’s structure and features. If this event is not currently on your calendar, then it should be!
Hope to see you at Holiday Showcase on December 14, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago!