On October 1, David DuBois replaced Steven Hacker as president of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events. The former head of the Fort Worth (Texas) Convention and Visitors Bureau comes to the job with a focus on growth—and results.
: What attracted you to the job?
David DuBois: Several months ago, Steven Hacker and I were playing golf as we do every other month or so. He looked at me and said, “I’m retiring; you should be a candidate.” I hadn’t really thought about it. I’m really happy in Fort Worth, and things were going well. A month later he called me and said a search firm had been hired and he encouraged me to be candidate.
I think I was one of six that had an in-person interview in Dallas, and then it was narrowed down to two. When I finished my interview, the search committee asked me to wait, and about 20 minutes later I was offered the job.
AM: You have a unique background having worked at the Professional Convention Management Association, Meeting Professionals International, hotels, and a CVB. How will this experience help you lead IAEE?
DuBois: The best e-mail I received was from a good friend who said, “Dubois, you’ve hit the trifecta—PCMA, MPI, and now IAEE.” Every job builds on the next. I was blessed to work for Sheraton and the Ritz-Carlton. Then I worked for PCMA and Roy Evans, who was the CEO, who said, “David, you’re a hotel guy with great sales and marketing skills, but you have to become a CMP (Certified Meeting Professional). I took it a step further and became a CAE (Certified Association Executive) and that helped me get the next job at MPI. My MPI and PCMA experiences with non-profit boards and committees led to my position at the Forth Worth CVB.
There’s a book by speaker and author Randy Pennington called Results Rule! When I interviewed with the Forth Worth CVB six years ago, I bought seven books from him and gave them out to the search committee. I did the same thing at the first interview with the search committee at IAEE. It’s all about results and it’s all about growth.
IAEE is in great financial shape. Steven has built the organization from less than 1,000 members to over 8,000, so everything is solid. IAEE’s chief operating officer Cathy Breden is great and runs the day-to-day organization. Steven grew the association so they want me to continue. I’m going to run it like a business and my charge is to grow the organization.
AM: How will you grow the organization?
DuBois: I need to get in there and analyze all of the programs. Are they successful financially? Are they of value to the membership? That’s the number one criteria.
We have a lot of collaboration agreements—one with a Mexican exhibition organization, for example, one in China, Korea, and Brazil. Over the next 12 to 18 months, the board has asked me to build and enhance those relationships. If the members of those organizations want to join IAEE—fantastic; but they don’t have to. Once a collaboration agreement is signed, they have access to IAEE programs at member rates.
Our CEM (Certified in Exhibition Management) program has significant growth potential, not only in the U.S. but also internationally in places like China, India, and Brazil. One mistake I will not make is to forget that 85 to 90 percent of what we do is North American-centric. Sometimes organizations spend too much time on international growth and then domestic members say, “What about us?” You’ve got to balance that.
We have 14 chapters and they are very important. We’re not looking to have 30 to 40 chapters—that is not on the growth plan.
There’s also membership growth. Those associations and exhibition organizers that aren’t members need to know about us.
How do we expand and grow our annual meeting, Expo! Expo!? We’re planning to make some aggressive changes for 2013. We are still working on them and aren’t ready to release those plans yet. For this December’s meeting we have increased our educational offerings by over 20 percent.
AM: What is on your wish list as you begin your tenure?
DuBois: Nothing’s broken—that’s what’s so nice about this. I’m not going in to be a turnaround guy; I’m going in to be a growth guy. The reason they hired me is because of my passion for growing organizations. We have doubled the number of meetings in Fort Worth since I joined the CVB six years ago. Many other things contributed to that, but if you don’t have a spark plug, you can’t start your car.
I want to exceed expectations. I want to work with my friends Deborah Sexton at PCMA and John Graham at ASAE and whoever takes over at MPI to help increase the collaboration with those organizations. There are more opportunities to collaborate than we’ll ever get to. A big emphasis for all these organizations is the promotion of face-to-face events.
As they look to renew me for another three years, I hope they say that David has grown the organization, helped to facilitate more collaborations in the industry, and helped increase the volume of face-to-face meetings, exhibitions, and events.