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Archive for August 3rd, 2013

What You Missed at The Red Diamond Congress

August 3rd, 2013 1 COMMENT

Red Diamond CongressLast week, I attended the E2MA Red Diamond Congress in Chicago. Now, in my head I can hear you saying, “What the heck is the Red Diamond Congress (RDC) and how does it compare to the more famous White Diamond Festival? Or the regional Purple Diamond Jamboree.” I’ll explore those comparisons in a future white paper.

First, a little explanation — The E2MA, or the Exhibit and Event Marketers Association, was formed about two years ago when the Exhibitor Appointed Contractors Association (EACA) merged with the Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA). Merged, the E2MA represents all stakeholders in the event and trade show community:  exhibitors, labor contractors, show managers, and suppliers. As you can imagine, it’s a brilliant concept where all parties depend on and interact with one another . . .  yet all have an ax to grind and incriminating information on the others. Basically, your typical dysfunctional family (i.e., every family). While other industry organizations represent a subset of these groups, and do so for a valid reason, E2MA is the only one that does a collective bear hug. Scary, wonderful fun.

McCormick Place Chicago

The Red Diamond Congress is the association’s annual three-day meeting. It was my first. Kevin Carty attended last year on behalf of Classic Exhibits. So what’s the RDC. It’s not a trade show like EXHIBITOR. Nor is it a meeting with colleagues held at a resort like EDPA Access. Instead, it’s in Chicago at McCormick Place. About 200+ attended, which meant it was nearly impossible not to meet everyone. That was two-thirds of the fun.

During those three days, I attended educational sessions (65%), listened to keynote speakers (10%), and ate, partied, and socialized (25%). The percentages may have been skewed higher or lower for others (and yes, I’m talking about you Chuck). One night I went to a “Dinner with Strangers.” Something I’ve never done at EXHIBITOR, but did at RDC. All together, including the keynote speakers and breakout sessions, there were 49 opportunities to learn about our industry. For example:

  • Integrating Social Media into Live Events
  • Branding for Exhibits and Events
  • Why Your RFP Isn’t Getting the Results You Want
  • International Must See Trends
  • Selecting the Right Trade Show
  • Basics of Lead Management
  • Does this Yarn Make My Carpet Look Fat (great session)

What made the session and speakers relevant and beneficial, at least to me, was the mixed audience. I don’t often get the chance to interact with show managers, association directors, union labor, and event managers. Their perspective on industry issues and trends was refreshing and often surprising. We often forget that they have frustrations too, ones that impact how we do business with them. What surprised me was that their frustrations mirrored mine:  drayage, excessive regulation, a poor understanding of exhibit marketing by CMO’s, and a lack of transparency and predictability on all levels. These were people who have devoted their lives to the exhibit and event industry. They have a passion for it and are sincere in their efforts to improve and reform it.

So, why weren’t you there? Seriously . . . Why Weren’t You There? Chicago is close and convenient. The price of the event and the rooms at the Hyatt were reasonable. The food was mostly included. Ditto the booze. And the education and the social events were very, very worthwhile. I’ll give you a pass this year — but not next. I strongly encourage you to attend the Red Diamond Congress. The educational sessions will benefit you. And when did you ever turn down an open bar with tasty appetizers?

2013 Red Diamond Congress

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Next year . . . Chicago . . . McCormick Place . . . July . . . 3 Days . . . Red Diamond Congress. See you there.

My compliments to Jim Wurm, Executive Director of E2MA, and his team for all their hard work on this successful event.

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or