John Hense: Grit — Key to a Successful Event 

Skift Take

According to John Hense, if you peel back the curtains of all successful meetings and events, you'll find one key ingredient: grit.

John Hense is the CEO of Nth Degree and Fern Expo, a full-service global event marketing and labor management company. Tight timelines. Turbo speed. Trade shows require many components to make happen. With such pressure, grit helps, he explains.

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Mergers and acquisitions: it’s been an interesting year for the events industry. Nth Degree was part of it. In June, it joined forces with Fern Expositions. The combined company now has a substantial in-person event and experiential marketing footprint. The two companies are operating separately. 

“The combination of Nth Degree and Fern was a perfect fit because Nth Degree is very focused on supporting our exhibit house partners, and Fern doesn’t play in that space at all. Not to mention, we had almost no overlap with locations, and that’s not a common statement in this world of mergers and acquisitions,” said Hence.

Face-to-Face More Important Than Ever

With so many people working from home or in a hybrid environment, opportunities to get together have become more critical. “I don’t see that stopping. I see that continuing to build over the next years and just becoming a more important part of the whole marketing program for many companies,” he said. 

Challenges to Keep in Mind

Inflation continues to plague the industry. Transportation costs have skyrocketed. In some cities, Boston and New York, for example, prices have increased tremendously. “That’s shifting conferences away from those areas,” said Hense.

In addition, the industry is not seeing the same volumes in Europe and the Asia Pacific as in 2019. “A lot of shows have disappeared, a lot of shows have much lower attendance still. And then we’re also seeing the number of international attendees coming into U.S. shows is down from what it used to be. So hopefully that will move forward,” said Hense.

Get on the Show Floor

“If you’re in this events industry, you need to get down to the show floor and experience it while it’s being put together and the actual show is on. That would be my biggest advice if they haven’t been to the show floor. It is very important to get down there and see what all has to come together because it gives you an appreciation and an understanding of all that goes into it. While it looks like organized chaos on the floor, it takes a tremendous amount of organization to make that all happen in such a short period of time,” said Hense. 

Service First 

Following the merger, Hense oversees 30 U.S. offices. Services include exhibitor space sales, housing services, registration services, speaker management, sponsorship sales, design services, upfront creative design, and transportation. 

Service has always been a focus of Nth Degree. Something that in a post-Covid world, Hense says, has been an afterthought for many. “We’ve put a huge amount of effort into making sure that our capabilities on the show floor and that our ability to really service all these events is second to none, that we really have top quality people on the floor to make sure our clients have great event outcomes,” he said.