Buoyed by an influx of first-time attendees, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events drew its largest crowd since 2001 at Expo! Expo!, IAEE's annual meeting and exposition.

About 25 percent of the 2,500 attendees at the event — held at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas in December — were attending Expo! Expo! for the first time. IAEE President Steven Hacker attributes the boost in new attendees to the fact that the association's membership has more than doubled in the past two years — climbing from 3,333 to 8,109 members.

The event also served as a platform for major announcements by industry suppliers. Facility management and marketing company SMG announced that it was awarded a contract by Beijing North Star to market and offer consulting services for the new China National Convention Center in Beijing. The 500,000-square-foot CNCC will host events at the 2008 Olympics.

The importance of forging relationships in China was a theme at Expo! Expo!, highlighted by an event called China Friendship Day, which featured Chinese dragon dancers.

Freeman Cos. also announced several new initiatives, including an expansion of its global transportation services.

Randy Bauler, exhibits director at the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses in Aliso Viejo, Calif., took office as IAEE's 2008 chairman of the board.

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