Kevin Hacke, who served as executive director of the International Live Events Association and as chief staff officer of other non-profit organizations as an association executive at SmithBucklin for 13 years, has joined the sales team at The Special Event, a MeetingsNet sister property. We welcomed Hacke with a few questions and got some insights on pay-to-play sponsorships, the value of events, and working around the world.
MeetingsNet: What do you see as a leading change in sponsorship opportunities for exhibitions and conferences today?
Kevin Hacke: There has been a marked change in the types of sponsorships offered by show management as a result of an increasing need for brand cohesion and alignment. Gone are the days where a simple acknowledgement sign provided ROI. Today, sponsors want to be viewed as an integral conference partner—perhaps combining an educational session presentation relating to the sponsor’s business sector with an event sponsorship, or designing a conference social activity where the sponsor is viewed as a co-producer instead of simply a benefactor. The challenge for show management is to understand that attendees don’t want to view those underwriting relationships as “pay-to-play,” thereby diminishing the value proposition for folks who are spending time and money to attend the conference. Striking a balance between sponsor exposure and the attendee experience is key.
MeetingsNet: Five years from now, what won’t we be doing at exhibitions that we’re doing today?
Hacke: I’m old enough to remember fax blasts, manual registration processes, printed event tickets, and registration rosters stuffed into show bags—I know those days are long gone. Conference apps, virtual conference participation, onsite impromptu meet-ups with fellow attendees sharing similar interests, and online interactions with presenters and leaders during the show are all here now. Five years from now? The entire attendee experience from conference notifications to registration to onsite participation will be different. What won’t change is the need for personal interaction. That is why conference attendance will continue to grow in the years to come. No technology can replace the value of personal interaction. Those who think that our world has no need for exhibitions, conferences, and events are simply not in tune with how human beings learn and the ever-present need for human connection.
MeetingsNet: What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
Hacke: I have lived in nine cities on four continents! Chicago is home, but I had the privilege of living and working in South America, Asia, and the South Pacific over the years. Just wish I was better at learning other languages… ;-)