STEEL CITY: The David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, seen across the Allegheny River, is host to this year’s IAVM VenueConnect. (Getty Images)

The International Association of Venue Managers’ 98th annual conference and trade show takes place in Pittsburgh July 31 to Aug. 4, with renewed energy and lots to discuss.

The VC23 keynote address will come from Kevin Clayton, senior vice president and head of social impact and equity for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Other must-see events and topics include the annual IAVM Foundation golf tournament, the Venue Severe Weather Workshop, IAVM New Member Orientation and UpStart: Game Changer, a program designed for young venue management professionals, volunteers and students. Also on tap are venue tours, sector workshops, awards presentations and much more.

Venues taking part in this year’s VenueConnect include PNC Park, PPG Paints Arena, The Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, The O’Reilly Theater, Liberty Magic and Byham Theater.

Individual award winners include Beth Wade, CVE, director of Berry Center in Houston, who will receive the prestigious Charles A McElravy Award. Richard Andersen of Venue Solutions Group Advantage Training will receive the Joseph J. Anzivino Distinguished Allied Award, and Tom Cornwall, CVE, currently retired is to receive the IAVM Foundation Legacy Award. 

The 2023 Venue Excellence Award Winners are Baltimore Convention Center, BC Place Stadium, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, INTRUST Bank Arena, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and Schottenstein Center/Nationwide Arena. 

IAVM President and CEO Brad Mayne gave VenuesNow a preview on this year’s VenueConnect, to be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

VenuesNow: What can you say about the state of VenueConnect 2023 and what the industry can expect this year?

Brad Mayne:  Right now, everything’s moving toward this being the third-largest since 2016 in Minneapolis, which was my first year on the job as an association executive, which is a good sign that our industry is back. Of course, our venues, because they’re municipally owned and operated for the most part, financially and or staff-wise, they still have some challenges (sending people to IAVM). 

 The convention center industry is lagging more than any other sector. Performing arts is finally getting back to somewhat normal, most arenas and most stadiums have gotten at least to where they were pre pandemic or better. Universities are for the most part steady because most of their events are their own sports teams. 

Our membership prior to the pandemic was around 7,100. We’re now well over 7,200 in membership. But it’s really coming back strong now and continuing to grow. We now have the largest number of members that the association has had in its roughly 99 years.

The annual conference and trade show have been taking place for nearly 100 years. How has the programming evolved in recent years?

We create sector sessions by arenas, stadiums, convention centers, performing arts theaters, universities and complexes. We have something for everybody and it’s always interesting to do our research and find out that some of the sector members go to other sessions because they can learn more from another sector’s particular session. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s worked out pretty well for us. The first year we had that program was 2016, meaning we wouldn’t have any more separate conferences based on sector. The arenas, performing arts centers, convention centers all had their own conferences all over the country.

What can you share specifically about Pittsburgh, this year’s location?

Brad Mayne, pictured at last year’s IAVM VenueConnect in Phoenix.

Most of the larger buildings are all ASM Global buildings and they’ve been fantastic. They’ve really worked very well with us. We always put together a host committee in the city.

The general managers of the arena, the convention center and the stadium have been instrumental in helping us p

We’ve got some good keynote speakers. We also have a lot of education as well as networking opportunities. For a second year, we’re doing a luncheon with general managers in attendance and it’s led by sector where each can share what is happening out there. Because it was pretty late last year when we created the program, this year we’re going to more than double the number of people who will participate in the luncheon. We’re pretty excited about that. I understand we’re somewhere around 150 general managers. 

We always do the major awards. We’ve got the Charles A McElravy Award, the highest award given to a venue professional. We’ve got the lifetime achievement for the foundation, we also have the Joseph J. Anzivino Award for the highest level for the allied members. We have venue excellence awards and educational awards. There’s going to be a lot of folks recognized, given their due for all the hard work they’ve done for the association.  

What can you share about IAVM as a whole?

I was a member of IAVM for 32 years before I became CEO of the association and I thought I knew what IAVM did and found out pretty quickly that there’s a whole lot of moving parts. The good news is we’ve been successful over the last seven years with the exception of the pandemic time frame. 

The foundation with new governance is moving forward really well. Our diversity inclusive leadership committee has been raising funds for six years now and we’re doing a lot of different scholarships for all of our events. The GuestX (Guest Experience & Crowd Management Conference), the AVSS Academy for Venue Safety and Security and our senior executive symposium, which we moved from Cornell University to Georgetown this year, all were very successful. That’s looking good and has our hopes up. Hopefully in 2024, which all the economists are suggesting, is going to get us back to pre-pandemic in all of the industries collectively, which is exciting for us.