For exhibit and event professionals  

One Minute With…Dee Silfies

July 13, 2015 By Editor


Dee Silfies makes it very clear that she doesn’t want her ego to get in the way of what’s best for the industry.

After all, the head of EXHIBITORFastTrak, one of the industry’s leading accelerated learning conferences for exhibit and corporate event marketing professionals, said she’s always subscribed to a “servant leadership” theory that has allowed her the ability to manage creative people over the years by letting their imagination take them to greater heights.

We sat down for a minute to chat with Silfies, who had some interesting things to say.

eConnections: We’re focusing our thoughts for this issue on managing creative people, especially those with minds that can take off into beautiful places but need to be reined in at times. What are some of the most effective ways you’ve found when it comes to maximizing the effectiveness of creative employees while keeping things in check?

Dee Silfies: As a disclaimer, I do not currently manage creative people. I have in the past – and for several years. I do not like the phrase “reined in.” What I do like is figuring out how to keep them moving forward and keeping their eye on the goal.

Have you heard the term “servant leadership”? Some of the principles of servant leadership are: hear and understand me, even if you disagree with me, please don't make me wrong, acknowledge the greatness within me, tell me the truth with compassion. (Dan Lumpkin, a faculty member of the EXHIBITORFastTrak program, teaches a class on this and has an inventory and scoring analysis for this type of leadership.)

It encompasses my preferred style of leading. I myself am clear on the goals. I make sure the creative folks are clear and are participating in the production schedule. I find out what they need to make it happen on time and on budget. Then I make sure they have what they have identified as their needs. So, I think servant leadership is leading and collaborating and staying focused—all of us moving in the same direction with agreements in place.

In the end, everyone wants to feel like they have accomplished what we set out for and that it has value (and they have value).

eC: You work to head up the EXHIBITORFastTrak program. Could you tell us a little bit about what that is and what goes into developing curriculums?

D: FastTrak is an accelerated learning conference for exhibit and corporate event marketing professionals. MC² has been our partner since the inception of the program. That partnership has resulted in the education from EXHIBITORLive! being offered in four different cities. Prior to the partnership, that education was offered only one time each year in Las Vegas. Another result of the partnership is that MC² and EXHIBITOR have been able to help educate thousands of people in the industry as well as making it possible for CTSM (Certified Trade Show Marketer) candidates to move more quickly toward achieving certification.

One of the favorite components of each of these conferences is the Peer2Peer roundtables, where attendees have the opportunity to network and learn from their peers and industry experts. We have three more of these coming up this year in Chicago (Aug. 25 – 27), San Diego (Sept. 29 – Oct. 1), and Atlanta (Nov. 10 – 12).

eC: There are always new advancements in our field that’s touted as the next big thing. You’ve seen fads come and go, but if you could name one or two current trends in the industry that have staying power, what would you say they are?

D: I wish I had a crystal ball to answer this question! Technology is a big trend that is certainly here to stay, and is constantly evolving and changing. I think that social media around events, wearable technology, marketing automation, and measurement are all here to stay. It will be interesting to see how they all evolve for the trade show and event industry.

On the exhibit side, I have been hearing more about the use of lighting and fabric and holograms, etc.—and a focus on the customer experience within the exhibit.

eC: Lastly, what’s been the most rewarding experience in your career?

D: The most rewarding experience in my career has been having the opportunity to meet and learn from hundreds of thousands of people and to be able to come up with education that helps them to grow professionally and to go back to their office and “be the hero” who has the best ideas for their company programs. (That may be the longest sentence that anyone has ever written!)

Short version: My goal is to “send them home the hero.” When they tell me that happened, it is very rewarding.

Do you agree with Dee? Do you set out to “send people home a hero”? Let us know in the comments below!


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