Mike Carlucci, Clarion UX, Talks Halloween Expo Expansion

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[inlinead align="left"][/inlinead] Mike Carlucci is a self-described big kid at heart. So it may be small wonder that the senior vice president of revenue and specialty events at Clarion UX, formerly Urban Expositions, is a big fan of Halloween, and his company has seen considerable growth in its Halloween expo events. Although the holiday itself has seen increased popularity not just in the United States, but globally as well, Carlucci says Clarion UX has grown the Halloween expo through embracing data analytics and customer feedback. In fact, Carlucci believes data is the biggest trend in the events and exposition industry today. “Data right now is at the forefront of everything,” he says. “We use data for everything. How do customers perceive the show? How are we interacting with customers? I think we are behind in customer insight, quite frankly. The trade show industry is a bit behind in what other industries are doing with data.” Data such as demographics, geographic information and what the customer wants to see—both on the exhibit side and the attendee side—will help the industry expand and grow, he says. Carlucci began his career in the events/trade show industry after graduating from Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Getting his degree in the heart of Boston Red Sox territory was a bit of a personal test for the New York Yankees fan, he jokes. “Sales is in my blood,” Carlucci says of his business management degree. “But the face-to-face component is what drew me to the events industry. If I could merge those two worlds, I knew I’d thrive.” He spent 13 years with Reed Exhibitions, beginning in sales and eventually leaving as group portfolio director, where he oversaw sales on a large portfolio of events including Global Gaming Expo, Vision Expo and BookExpo America. In 2014, he joined Clarion UX, which produces 37 events across 13 sectors of both trade and consumer events. Clarion UX is the U.S. division of U.K.-based Clarion Events, and is backed by The Blackstone Group. It become one of the fastest-growing event companies in the U.S. with aggressive growth through both acquisition and launch. Clarion acquired PennWell in early 2018, bringing four top trade shows into the U.S. portfolio. Clarion UX has offices in Boca Raton, Florida; Fair Lawn, New Jersey; Kennesaw, Georgia; Trumbull, Connecticut; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. “My position has grown with the company,” Carlucci says. “It’s been a lot of fun, and we’ve opened several offices. There is tremendous growth and opportunity.” Carlucci says he embraces risk and failure. “If you are not failing, you are not doing your job,” he says. “But the big takeaway from failure is: What did you learn? You have to continually push in this industry or you become irrelevant, and that’s the worst place to be. You don’t want to become monotonous and boring.”

The Personal Touch 

Carlucci believes the smallest trend that will become bigger in the events industry is one of personalization. “We’re not selling concrete anymore,” he says. “We’re selling experience and value. It’s all about facilitating the personal touch now. The more we personalize that and the more we invest in that, the greater the outcome, which means the greater the ROI will be.” And the greater the ROI will be for both the vendors at the expo and the attendees, he says. Another small growing trend is being relevant and valuable 365 days per year. “We put on events and they are usually a three- to four-day format,” Carlucci says. “It used to be when that event was over, you’d go home and start planning for the next one.” But now the events industry needs to remain relevant with its audience year-round. “That ties into personalization,” he says. One way to achieve that is through content that is relevant and valuable all year. A good example of the personal touch, Carlucci says, is The Halloween & Party Expo Clarion UX hosts. “We have one of the largest Halloween events,” he says. “We had the costume and makeup segment down, but we were missing a trend our buyers wanted to see.” That trend is the haunts segment, he says, which are companies and others who put on events such as haunted houses and tours. Clarion UX acquired HauntCon events in 2017. “We are now all things Halloween,” Carlucci says. “It’s not just props now; we’re tapping into the passion-driven folks running their own haunts. It’s a huge growth opportunity and market. We did that because of the data, personalization and customer insight. It brings in a whole new set of buyers.” Another growing event is The Classic Auto Show, held in Los Angeles, he says. In the three years the show has existed, it has outgrown the convention center. “We just signed a contract to move to the Orange County Fairgrounds, which will allow us to incorporate a festival atmosphere to the event.” Clarion UX is also launching a second Classic Auto market in Chicago next year, he adds.

The Next Big Thing 

Carlucci says those considering a career in the events industry need to get involved in all aspects of the organization. “Learn all the facets of the business, and that will make you more valuable as a contributor to the business,” he says. “Don’t just be a salesman. This industry is so silo-driven and we are trying to break down those silos. If you are in sales, get into a marketing meeting. If you are in marketing, get in an organizational meeting. If we have good-quality individuals in our organization, we want to see them improve in the organization. The only way to do that is to touch the business in many different ways.” For Carlucci, the future includes spending more time with his wife and two young daughters. “We are beyond the infant stage, and I can appreciate seeing them grow and develop. It’s so rewarding for me as a person and father.” He also says he will continue to take risks and chances. “What excites me is the fact that I don’t know what I’m going to get into when I get to work,” Carlucci says. “In the events world, the parameters have changed and the way we do business has changed. Every day is a new challenge.”