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The Business of Meetings

Oct 31, 2023

The Business of Meetings – Episode 190 - A Life Leading the Exhibitions Industry with David Dubois

We are delighted to be speaking with an industry legend today! 

David DuBois has a career spanning several decades in the industry. He now holds the positions of CEO, President, and Publisher of the Exhibitor Group.

In today’s enlightening conversation, David shares his insights on workforce development, the integration of AI, and the role of experiences for the future of our industry. 


David DuBois is the president and CEO of Exhibitor Group and publisher of EXHIBITOR magazine. Before coming to Exhibitor, he was president and CEO of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events®(IAEE). As IAEE’s president, DuBois was responsible for managing 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, and providing organizational leadership and strategic counsel to the board. He also served as the association’s representative within industry coalitions, partner organizations and strategic alliances. In 2019, DuBois was inducted into the Events Industry Council’s “Hall of Leaders,” one of the industry’s most prestigious honors.

David’s journey

David’s journey began when he graduated from college and declined his father's offer to buy out their family's dry cleaning business. Instead, he opted to join his friend in enrolling at the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University. That allowed him to spend thirteen years working for Sheraton and Ritz Carlton. Following that, he dedicated three decades to working with various organizations, including, PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association), MPI (Meeting Professionals International), Fort Worth Convention Visitors Bureau, and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events. He has enjoyed a blessed career, and has made many friends along the way.

David’s Advice on Personal Branding

David offers invaluable advice on the concept of personal branding. He explains that a resume catalogs personal achievements, and a CV outlines backgrounds, so it is essential to consider those integral components of your personal brand. He emphasizes that every action and decision we make contributes to our personal brand, ultimately shaping how others perceive and respect us. His central message is that personal branding is a crucial element in a professional journey, so it is essential to cultivate your brand consciously from the outset.

Embracing AI for Industry Advancement

AI has played a pivotal role in shaping the future of the meeting and events industry. While acknowledging the need for caution, David also emphasizes the importance of integrating AI into various aspects of event planning and execution. He explains that AI can enhance decision-making because it offers a hybrid approach that combines human intelligence with machine intelligence, allowing businesses to remain innovative and competitive.

Addressing Workforce Development Challenges

Workforce development is a pressing concern in the events industry. With over a million job openings in the hospitality sector, finding and nurturing talent is paramount. David points out that success in the industry does not necessarily require a college education but rather a combination of intelligence, commitment, and people skills. He believes there is an urgent need for a strategic outreach program to help cultivate a robust workforce.

Crafting Unforgettable Experiences

The role of experiences in the events industry is a central theme of today’s conversation. Drawing on the wisdom of author Jim Gilmore and his Experience Economy, David introduces the concept of experiential marketing. He points out that creating memorable experiences has been a pivotal element in the industry for decades. Those experiences are not limited to trade shows and exhibitions but also extend to incentive trips and consumer shows. The world is teeming with options, and incentive trips and consumer shows provide unforgettable and valuable experiences that are the key to event success. Attendees leaving those experiences are eager to return because they foster engagement and reinforce a sense of community within organizations or associations.

Balancing Human and Machine Intelligence

While AI holds much promise for the future, a balance between human and machine intelligence is necessary. David explains that while AI can process vast amounts of data and provide insights, it should serve as a tool to enhance human judgment instead of replacing it. Maintaining the equilibrium between human and AI intelligence is essential for the growth of the industry and its progress.

Designing Unique Incentive Trips

Incentive trips are a prominent aspect of the events industry. A common misconception around incentive trips is that they are simply luxury getaways. That is why they should offer experiences that participants cannot easily replicate for themselves. Incentive trips should celebrate top performers and reward them with unique and memorable experiences. That approach serves to boost morale, motivation, and a sense of belonging, making incentive experiences a crucial element in the success of any company or organization. 

The Art of Creating Unique and Memorable Experiences

With his wealth of experience in the events industry, David understands that unique and memorable experiences form the essence of what makes an event truly special. He points out that events are about crafting moments that leave a lasting impact, foster community, and build long-standing connections.

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Books mentioned: 

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman  

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harare

The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore