Insight From The Experts: Wendy Holliday, M.Ed.

At Jacoby Expo, we value the insight that leading experts in our industry have to offer. That’s why we’re excited to announce a feature on our blog we are calling, Insight From The Experts.

Our guests will be sharing their tips and secrets to success in the trade show world with you!


Title: Executive Director, PLM World

Company: PLM World

Wendy Holliday joined PLM World in 2016 as the Executive Director. As an independent user community focusing on the Siemens PLM software product suite Wendy leads the growth of a vibrant and engaged community. A seasoned association professional, Wendy has spent more than 20 years in non-profit management; bringing a strategic and data-driven approach to association management, the inclusion of volunteers, membership marketing, and increasing member and attendee acquisition.

What is the one thing you make sure to do at every show?

Take care of the people. Your board, your attendees, your staff and your vendors. Shows are stressful. Be the force of calm and good. This takes many forms: from a special dinner location with the board or staff before the event starts to understanding attendee pain points within the event itself and ensuring you are mitigating those as much as possible. For example, is your registration line always long the first morning? Offer a rolling coffee and snack cart, bring in a live DJ and pump up the crowd or do both! Don’t forget the vendors. Can you have a full hot breakfast available and coffee all day and include your vendors? Or, how about a chocolate stash for those staff and vendors in need?

How do you define or track the success of your show?

We look internally and compare to the industry at large. For internal, we have set key performance indicators and track these year to year. It is also important to understand which indicators are leading indicators or lagging indicators. For example, the total registration number would be a lagging indicator, but the trends of registration in specific attendee categories (for us this includes industries like aerospace and automotive as well as the age of attendees) are some of our leading indicators. The Event Analyzer from CEIR,  free with your IAEE membership, is a great tool to compare your event to the industry at large. Other indicators of success could include the number of people submitting to present, social media engagement, show floor engagement and the number of people volunteering with your organization.

How do you continually improve your show year after year?

The process for new product/event creation and sunsetting old products/events is important. This can be activities within events as well. No event organizer will find success with a stale event. Attendees do not want to go to an event that was basically the same in 1988 and just recycled for 30 years! We challenge our staff to have an entrepreneurial mindset and take some risks. Some things work great and others don’t. Manage the total liability of the risky programs and target for a 25%-35% turn of new event/programs/activates each year.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?

Make yourself uncomfortable. Try something new that you know nothing about. Submit to present at an industry event. Take a class – whether it is on the professional level or personal. I am taking the MSEA CAE prep course now and it is an amazing learning experience. And…taking that CAE exam and the prospect of doing so, definitely makes me uncomfortable.

What does the future of trade shows look like to you?

The future is bright. In this highly digital world, trade shows allow you to compliment that digital connection with an in-person experience. The casual conversations on the show floor and the programmed events both serve a bright future.