New phase in the recovery

Mary LarkinEW speaks with Mary Larkin (pictured left), president, Diversified Communications USA division and incoming chair of SISO, the Society of Independent Show Organisers, 2023-34

Mary Larkin took over from Cassandra Farrington, founder MJBiz, as SISO’s chair mid-March at the SISO CEO Summit, held in Las Vegas, NV, USA. We caught up with her shortly before she became chair and just after Diversified’s five very successful exhibitions, including The Seafood Expo, North America and Vinexpo America/Drinks America.


EW: What are you most looking forward to as the SISO chair?

ML: Working with the SISO team, Executive Committee and Board as we move beyond recovery from Covid. I’m also looking forward to working with Vincent Polito in his first full year as SISO’s CEO and helping him achieve his goals for the organisation.


EW: What are your goals as SISO chair?

ML: I am focused on three key areas. The first is to look at messaging that helps SISO members show the value of our industry. How can we more fully support our smaller member companies as they grow their businesses? We want to show the value of our industry to the cities we go to, the businesses we support, and to local and national governments.

We want to help our members on a day-to-day basis in a tactical way. How can we help them negotiate and advocate locally?

Secondly, I’m interested in increasing partnerships with other industry organisations to deliver more to members. For example, the ASIA CEO Summit held in Singapore was a partnership between four organisations: SISO, AEO, SACEOS, and UFI, and facilitated discussions on issues and opportunities in the ASEAN region.

We want to look at other mutual areas of interest or synergies where we can partner that also provide unique benefits to SISO members.

The third is to drive industry advocacy, DEI, and sustainability. Anyone that knows me knows these are my true passions. It’s important to me to keep them front and centre.

This includes working with ECA, Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance, of which SISO is a prominent member, to advocate on behalf of the business events industry in the United States. The Alliance is now two years old and making strides in Washington, DC and other cities and states. (Along with SISO, there are nine other associations partners in ECA.)

I helped start the SISO Women’s Special Interest Group (SIG), the Executive Women’s Forum at the CEO Summit and the Women’s Leadership Forum at the Summer Conference to help provide special programming, networking, and support to the women in our industry. Bringing in a more diverse workforce to our businesses and exhibitions will result in positive changes.

Sustainability initiatives remain incredibly important and isn’t going away any time soon and SISO remains active in the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative.


EW: You’ve said the SISO CEO Summit is about going beyond recovery. Would you elaborate?

ML: As SISO Board member Fernando Fischer, president, RX Americas said so well, this year’s Summit is a focus on customers, a focus on stakeholders, a focus on staff (talent retention, acquisition) and a focus on growth. It’s a new phase and I can’t wait to see what it looks like.