60: The Future is Bright for More In-Person Events with David DuBois

We are delighted to be speaking to an icon in our industry today! David DuBois, the current President and CEO of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE,) is joining us!

David DuBois has tailor-made the industry to fit his experience and style of leadership. In this episode, he will talk to us about what the IAEE does, the Exhibition Day on Capitol Hill, and the Women’s Leadership Forum.

You are sure to enjoy listening to our conversation with David today!

David DuBois’s bio

David DuBois is the President and CEO of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events® (IAEE). As IAEE’s president, DuBois is responsible for the management of 25 full-time professional staff, producing the annual business operating plan and budget, overseeing the support of all meetings of governance units, leading business development, directing fundraising efforts, advocating for the industry and the organization’s members, providing organizational leadership and strategic counsel to the board. Also, he serves as the association’s representative with industry coalitions, partner organizations, and strategic alliances. In 2019, DuBois was inducted into the Exhibition Industry Council’s “Hall of Leaders,” one of the industry’s most prestigious honors.

DuBois began his career with Sheraton Corporation in various sales positions including Regional Director of Sales and the Director of Marketing Programs. He has served as both President and CEO and Senior Vice President at the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) where he was responsible for all operations and a $7 million budget. As Senior Vice President, he managed the development of 15 new chapters and was responsible for magazine advertising sales and membership recruitment and retention.

DuBois has also served as both the Chief Operating Officer at Meeting Professionals International (MPI) from 1996-2000. During this time, he supported programs and services for more than 16,000 members worldwide and served as the Executive Vice President of the MPI Foundation. David has also served as MPI’s Vice President of Sales and Key Account Management and Vice President of Corporate Services.

Most recently, DuBois has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau where he had oversight and full responsibility of 42 staff, with the responsibility of attracting convention and tourism business with an $8.5 million budget.

DuBois has served as a board member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE); Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Texas Society of Association Executives; board member and Chairman of the Dallas-Fort Worth Tourism Council; board member of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce; and Past Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Convention Industry Council (CIC). He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Destinations International, the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, and the U.S. Travel Association.


David spent a night in Wuhan, China, in January of 2020. That was when COVID started. Today, China and much of Asia are experiencing about 75% of the exhibition business and events of 2019.

As the pandemic slows down

As the pandemic slows down, businesses are becoming more willing to send their staff to be exhibitors, attendees, or buyers at trade shows. We are starting to see progress from Asia, across into the United States, Mexico, and Canada. David thinks that Europe will be the last continent to get back to the levels of 2019 and before.

Digital events

In 2019, the meetings and trade show industry had its best year ever. That was followed by its darkest year ever, in 2020. The industry had to pivot to virtual/digital, which was the only available substitute. The revenues of all the digital meeting platforms went through the roof and the general service contractors for in-person events had to quickly hire people with different skill sets to put on digital events.

In-person events are coming back

We are starting to see in-person events coming back worldwide, led by Asia and coming back into the United States. Convention centers are open in fifteen states in the US right now.

The future of online versus in-person

In the last half of 2021, we will see the merging of in-person and digital. Then, in 2022, we will see less digital and more in-person as people get more comfortable with traveling again.

Online meetings

The reality now is that we are going to see a lot more in-person events. However, only a certain amount of people will be willing to travel to those events. Now, with the addition of the digital experience, those audiences can get expanded across the world.

The IAEE Annual Expo

The IAEE now has members in 52 countries. At their December 2019 Annual Expo meeting in Las Vegas, they were thrilled to have 200 people. That was the most people they have ever had. In December of 2021, David thinks they can get 1,000 people to attend their Annual Expo meeting digitally in Philadelphia. He believes they could also get a couple of thousand people to attend, in-person.


Now, David is expanding his reach to his customers and members by between fifteen and thirty percent. Many salespeople in other industries are also reaching more people now through digital.

The future

David gets excited about the future because the future is very bright.

What David DuBois says about the blending of digital, in-person, and hybrid for exhibitions

David DuBois feels that online exhibitions are mediocre, at best. People cannot truly connect unless they meet face-to-face. So, digital, in-person, and hybrid need to work together. How that gets done is the key for exhibition professionals and members of the IAEE to keep people engaged and give them an experience that they would never want to miss.

A nugget

The best nugget that David got from the US Travel Association’s board meeting in Tampa recently was that he learned more in a five-minute meet-up with a friend over a cup of coffee than he learned from the entire presentation of the board meeting.

The exhibition industry

In 2019, the exhibition industry, excluding meetings and business events, was worth 109 billion dollars and it had over 1.5 million exhibiting companies. David believes that it is vital for the people in the trade business to be on Capitol Hill to let all the elected leaders and people working in the congressional offices know what is happening in the exhibition business, trade show business, and meeting business.

Exhibition Day

For eight years in a row, in the first week of June, the IAEE has held a Legislative Action Day on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. It is all about advocating and talking about the importance of the industry. Up until last year, they had 125 – 140 people attending, in-person. Last year, they had 600 people attending virtually via Zoom.

The bottom line, according to David DuBois

The bottom line is that they have to do a better job than before because they have just hired their first Vice-President of Government Affairs for the exhibitions industry, David DuBois explains. This VP is supported financially by seven organizations that have raised half a million dollars to have a full-time representative and lobbyist, and he is working to ensure that the exhibitions industry gets known much better than it has ever before.

The business events economic impact

The overall economic impact of business events on the GDP in 2019 was over 350 billion dollars, and the trade show industry produced a little over a third of that.

The Connecticut Avenue Collection

Back in the eighties, David and some of his competitors in the hotel industry, who were all Directors of Sales and Marketing, decided that they needed to collaborate more. So, they came up with what they called The Connecticut Avenue Collection. Together, they competed against the local convention center and four or five times a year, they won some business.

The advocacy effort

The IAEE did the same thing with their advocacy effort. Seven organizations got together and decided to collaborate. Now, they have an alliance and a full-time registered and licensed lobbyist.

The Women’s Leadership Forum

The Regional Virtual Forum of the Women’s Leadership Forum happened on April 20th, 2021. The Women’s Leadership Forum also has a signature event that has always taken place in Washington D.C. That event has always sold out before. For more information on future forums, you can go to the IAEE website. Men are also invited to attend.

Expanding women’s leadership skills

The Women’s Leadership Forum focuses on expanding women’s leadership skills in meetings, exhibitions, and conference businesses. Their goal is to empower, embrace, and provide enhanced skills for women. Sixty percent or more of those who work in the exhibition and meetings business events industry are women. Less than fifteen percent of those women are vice-president level or higher.

Connect with David DuBois

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Eric Rozenberg

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