At its Visionary Awards in early May, the Professional Convention Management Association Education Foundation honored Phelps Hope, CMP, as Event Designer of the Year. Hope, senior vice president, meetings & expositions, at Kellen was cited for his fresh, experiential ideas and his redesign of the Girl Scouts Convention in 2017, which resulted in a 50 percent increase in registrations. We caught up with him via email to congratulate him on the honor and ask a few questions based on his 30 years of experience in the industry.
MeetingsNet: What have you learned about attendees and their experience at meetings and expositions that you didn’t know when you started the business?
Hope: When I began my career, I did not know much about anything—despite what my college-grad self thought. The first training I had was as a hotel employee where my customer-service skills and work ethic were truly developed. The skills I learned then have carried me through my entire career. The change I note in meetings attendees is that today they demand much more interaction. They want to engage with the subject-matter experts, not just listen; they want to touch and experience the exhibit displays, not just look at them; they want to share their experiences with others in a much wider social group than just their close proximity friends……and of course they all want to do it their way. This has changed how we design the meeting and exhibits experience so the attendee has the opportunity to influence or tailor the experience, prior or during, to their specific preference.
MeetingsNet: Five years from now, what won’t we be doing at exhibitions that we’re doing today?
Hope: Since the heaviest investment in the exhibition industry is the building of convention center venues, and since the venues are designed with bare concrete floors, columns, and an exposed internal ceiling, there is only so much that can be done with that space affordably to enhance the attendee experience. The biggest shift I have seen is that more conventions are incorporating education, interactive experiences, social areas, and of course expanded F&B offerings onto the exhibit floor in order to keep attendees on the floor longer and allow them to widen their convention and exhibit experiences without having to leave the exhibit hall. Basic social changes will continue to affect this experience as well, with technology-use habits, recycling and sustainability practices, and the behaviors of the evolving generations all contributing to the exhibit floor experience. One thing that “we” will not be doing on the exhibit floor is wasting time!
MeetingsNet: What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
Hope: A couple of things, I spent my early years as a young teenager growing up in the highlands of Bougainville Island (part of the Solomon Islands) in Papua New Guinea with my family, on an open cut copper mine site. Secondly, I am a Kentucky Colonel, as bestowed by the Governor of Kentucky for my work in the hospitality and travel industry … not that I could ever get used to being introduced as Honorable Phelps Hope, or Colonel Phelps Hope, but it is fun to have as part of the resume.