Geoff Cassidy of NAHB discusses the challenges—and opportunities—of managing a show with more than 60,000 attendees.
To create innovative and interactive meetings, planners around the nation are raising the bar on productivity and capitalizing on attendee experience. In Orlando, seven planners have exceeded in this realm, setting the bar high for both their peers and the industry. In this series, we’ll learn how these planners are driving change, creating memorable events and inspiring their attendees at each and every meeting.
Meet our third “Planner of Productivity”: Geoff Cassidy, senior vice president of exhibitions and meetings for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), based in Washington, D.C. The NAHB International Builders’ Show® has been held in Orlando every few years for two or three years in a row. It will return to Orlando in 2021, 2022 and 2026. The show has about 60,000–65,000 attendees and is co-located with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show from the National Kitchen & Bath Association, which brings another 25,000 attendees. The two shows are known as Design & Construction Week.®
Visit Orlando: How do you define innovation and what are you doing to infuse this into the meetings you plan?
Geoff Cassidy: New and different ways of solving problems and improving—doing what we do even better. We’re really focused on solving challenges. We’re constantly scanning the marketplace by going to other trade shows, by looking at trade magazines, by participating in the client advisory board meetings that Orlando holds, communicating with peers who manage other shows. In regard to education in particular, we’re constantly striving to bring new voices, new content, but also innovative delivery methods for education to the show.
It’s really all about team—my team and the team down in Orlando. I really like working with Orlando—Visit Orlando, the convention center, the hotel community. They apply a community approach to their business. They all work hand in glove, and it’s an enjoyable experience.
VO: How have such innovative approaches allowed for greater productivity in meetings?
GC: It’s a constant focus for us, and it’s a bit of a struggle, especially the larger a show becomes. Our show is like a city; it’s a very large campus with 2 million square feet of buildings. We also have two shows right next to each other and intermingled within two buildings. Trying to help people find things and maximize the benefits of their limited time that they have with us at the show—it’s only three days—is a real challenge. We’re always trying to find new and better solutions—better apps, better wayfinding, better communication in advance so people hit the ground without having a big learning curve while they’re there.
VO: Taking advantage of smart, flexible meeting space is one of the largest trends this year. How have you utilized this for greater productivity?
GC: An example of that is the Tangerine Ballroom, which is flex space. People use it for both education programming because it is carpeted, but it has the infrastructure underneath the carpet to enable you to put exhibits in there with relative ease. It’s connected to the other exhibit halls with big, moveable air walls. We’ve used that space in a variety of ways already since they did a renovation.
We’re looking for ways to make the show a little less daunting for our attendees—more seating, comfortable seating areas where they can gather. And if we can’t get it as nice and cozy in the exhibit hall, minimally just dropping rounds in hallways where we don’t have other things going on so people have a place they can sit and relax for a bit.
VO: What advice would you give to peers about keeping up with consumer expectations? How should they not only manage this, but continuously surprise and delight attendees?
GC: We’re probably doing what our peers are already doing, which is really trying to be more effective with our surveying and getting feedback from attendees and exhibitors that we can use to better prepare next year’s show to be more responsive to their needs. The challenge is in asking the right questions and being willing to actually react in a way that heads you in the right direction.
VO: Describe a few of the initiatives you’ve spearheaded—no matter how large or small—to improve the attendee experience.
GC: Tech Bites is one thing we began doing several years ago. A lot of our attendees were looking for help to try to keep up with the incredibly accelerated pace of new technology relevant to managing business, but also technology in the home as well. We weren’t in a position to lecture for an hour or 90 minutes on technology. Instead, we do short, hard-hitting bursts of education where they can interact with the technology.
We’ve engaged a consultant recently. It’s important to us to not become complacent, that just because we’ve been doing this for as long as we have that we may know all the answers. The consultant has an international presence with respect to trade shows, so they bring that perspective from outside of the United States to the various things we’ve asked them to focus on. I’m confident that will lead to improvement on several levels for the International Builders’ Show.®
VO: When thinking about unique experiences in Orlando, which offsite location do you prefer: Café Tu Tu Tango? Cuba Libre? ICON Park?
GC: Cuba Libre is more my thing. Cuba Libre fits in more with the warm weather theme that I’m a fan of.
This article has been provided by Visit Orlando.
When it comes to productivity, innovation and unique attendee experience, Orlando usually tops the list. With fantastical backdrops you won’t find anywhere else, only Orlando can offer incredible once-in-a-lifetime experiences that your attendees will be talking about for years to come. Tapping into the heritage of creative thinking from its first-rate theme parks, Orlando offers a wide range of creative resources to help your transform your meeting or event. From unique team building activities, exclusive dine-around options to immersive private events inside its world-renowned theme parks complete with a fire-breathing dragon, you are sure to wow your group in Orlando. Discover the many resources available to you to help make your next meeting or event unforgettable at Orlandomeeting.com.