Spotlight On: David DuBois

Our Spotlight On segment invariably welcomes distinguished individuals within the Meetings Industry. On this occasion, the guest is David DuBois, President, and CEO of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE).

David is the “boss of bosses,” responsible for managing multiple teams of full-time professionals, given that IAEE is the “umbrella” that extends across the entire macro ecosystem of the Exhibitions Industry.

The IAEE has more than 12,000 members worldwide, divided into 30 different categories, including convention centers, venues, technology companies, and convention bureaus, among others.

With 45 years of experience, there is much to say about David’s trajectory and current responsibilities. For now, it is worth mentioning that in 2019 he was inducted into the Hall of Leaders of the Events Industry Council, one of the most prestigious recognitions in the industry.

“2019 was the best year in history for the MICE Industry. We had never had a year like this in the number of events in the world; then, in 2020, nothing. The global economic impact on the industry was over US$500 billion,” stated David DuBois.

The trade show and exhibition segment generated more than $300 billion in 2019 and suffered a 90% drop in 2020. “We were at the top of the mountain, and we ended upin the bottom of the sea; now we’re going up again, very slowly,” acknowledged David, who noted that IAEE lost 15% of members in 2020.

Asia leads the way in face-to-face reactivation

The pandemic started in China, and it is precisely the Asian continent where in-person reactivation is advancing at a faster pace than in the rest of the world. David shared data indicating that Asia, mainly China, would be recovering 75% of its 2019 activities.

For its part, the United States should be recovering approximately 40-50% of its events by the end of the year. For now, 20 states are becoming active again, but recovery is only 25% underway. Europe will follow suit, and Mexico is even further behind, barely 5-10%, with the possibility of reaching 25%.

In terms of event participation, in most countries, there is still less than 50% attendance in person; however, technology is opening up a channel for a larger virtual audience.

As for the annual IAEE convention, in 2019, they had 2,500 attendees; for the exclusively virtual edition in 2020, 1,200 professionals were participating. Expectations are high for the 2021 edition to be held in December in hybrid form.

“My goal this year is to have between 1,500 and 2,000 attending in person, and the same amount from their computer. Two years ago, we had the capability for 3,000 people; I think digital is excellent. We had people from 20 countries in Las Vegas; this year, I want at least one person in each of the 50 countries.”

Which international certification would you recommend?

“We fully endorse the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), certification, to be safe and sound according to the health authorities. It can be done virtually, and the sooner our friends in LATAM get certified, the better,” said David DuBois.

GBAC is the global organization that certifies venues and buildings for events, implementing the most updated protocols and technology to provide more security to those attending events in stadiums, arenas, auditoriums, and other venues.

David concluded by saying that we will be able to get together again—the pandemic will disappear, but meetings will not. Just like playing golf with friends, something he enjoys very much.

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