MYS Blog

Webinar Recap: The National Restaurant Association Builds Event Success Utilizing Map Your Show

Map Your Show and Informa Connect recently teamed up for an educational session on leveraging advanced event management technologies to drive event success. Ben Dunlap, Regional Vice President from Map Your Show, moderated the discussion with panelists Kara Shukas, Senior Director of Event Operations and Exhibitions, and Madison Wichterich, Senior Coordinator of Exhibition Services, both from the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Here's a detailed recap of the key points covered in the webinar. 

Content provided by Madison Frye, Marketing Associate at Map Your Show.  


Watch the Full Webinar:


Introducing the Panelists and the National Restaurant Show 

The discussion kicks off with an introduction of the panelists. Kara Shukas oversees operations and exhibitions for the National Restaurant Association Show and has been with the organization since 2011. Madison Wichterich, who joined in 2019, manages various aspects of exhibitor services. 

NEW_Show_Logo_NoYear_4CKara shared impressive statistics about the National Restaurant Show: "We just finished our (2024) show a little before Memorial Day, and we saw a total of over 58,000 attendees, including about 2,200 exhibitors, and covered just over 723,000 square feet." The event takes place annually in Chicago at McCormick Place, occupying three halls, and this sheer scale presents its own unique challenges and opportunities. Kara elaborated, "Managing an event of this magnitude requires meticulous planning and coordination. Every detail matters from logistics to exhibitor management to ensure a smooth experience for attendees and exhibitors alike." 


Trade Show Wow Factors 

Ensuring that the event remains exciting and captivating year after year is challenging for trade shows big and small. To keep the excitement going at the show, the NRA team introduced new activities and opportunities. "This year, we had what we like to call our 'wow' activation in the Grand Concourse," explained Kara. This featured a giant show-themed photo opportunity that also served as an additional sponsorship revenue generator. These opportunities are essential for maintaining excitement and engagement at the show. "We always strive to create memorable experiences for our attendees. It's not just about the exhibits but the overall experience." 


Measuring Success 

When it comes to measuring success on the exhibitor side, there are many factors that need to be accounted for. The National Restaurant Association conducts an on-site space selection and closely examines the percentage of companies participating in that process, as well as the percentage of square feet that exhibitors are rebooking. 

Kara also mentioned attendee feedback as a critical metric. "We conduct post-show surveys to gather insights from our attendees. Their feedback helps us understand what worked and what needs improvement." 


Floor Plan Management 

If there is one thing that sets the stage for the show, it’s the importance of effective floor plan management. Kara emphasized: "We start by looking at what changes we want to make, such as new pavilions or on-floor education theaters. We place these strategically to drive traffic throughout the halls." This strategic placement is essential for ensuring a balanced flow of visitors. "Our goal is to create an environment where every exhibitor gets exposure and every attendee finds value," she added. 


Utilization of Map Your Show Tools 

Madison highlighted the benefits of using Map Your Show’s Event Management Technology, Builder: "Builder makes it really quick and easy to make adjustments that we need to. With three halls and 2,200 exhibitors, the flexibility and efficiency of Builder are crucial." 

She further explained how the tool aids in daily operations. "The Builder tool allows us to visualize the floor plan and make real-time adjustments. This is especially important as we get closer to the event and need to accommodate last-minute changes." 


Day-to-Day Management 

Event management technology should be easy to use, enhancing the day-to-day for event managers and their audiences. As for Madison, she explains her experience with Map Your Show: "The functionality between Builder and Reports is very helpful. It's so easy to pull our totals and statistics for everything, and booth tags make it quick to gather email lists and communicate with exhibitors." Effective communication with exhibitors is a key aspect of her role. "We need to ensure that exhibitors have all the information they need to succeed. The tools provided by Map Your Show streamline this process," she explained. 


Challenges and Flexibility 

One thing that event managers can all relate to are the challenges that come with managing a trade show floor. When asked about the flexibility and layout of the show floor, Madison noted, "We do our best to include different booth sizes and types equally spread throughout the floor. There's less flexibility as we get closer to the show, but our waitlist process helps manage last-minute changes." Madison also touched on the challenges of last-minute adjustments. "Flexibility is crucial, especially when dealing with unexpected changes. Having a robust system in place helps us manage these changes with ease." 


Historical Knowledge and Future Planning 

One unique aspect of the National Restaurant Association Show is its additional perspective over time. Kara mentions: "One of the benefits of being at McCormick is knowing what a maxed hall looks like. In 2019, we used almost every inch of space we could." 

This historical knowledge is invaluable for future planning. "Understanding our space limitations and capacities allows us to plan more effectively and make informed decisions about layout and design," she said. 



The “MYS x Informa Building Success Webinar” provided valuable insights into how the National Restaurant Show uses event management technology to enhance the success of their events. By continually innovating, effectively managing their floor plan, and utilizing powerful tools like Map Your Show, they ensure a seamless and engaging experience for both exhibitors and attendees. This webinar highlighted the importance of adaptability, detailed planning, and the use of technology in event management. For those seeking to improve their event planning processes, the strategies and tools discussed by Kara and Madison offer a roadmap for success. Successful event management depends on a combination of strategic planning, innovative thinking, and the right technology partner. As Kara aptly put it, "It's all about creating an environment where everyone—from exhibitors to attendees—can thrive." 


Map Your Show  is “Your Trade Show Technology Partner”, offering a wide range of capabilities for your trade show, conference, or industry event, including  Event Floor Plan Mapping Software, Conference Management Software, Event Mobile Apps, Exhibitor Education,Sponsorship Opportunities, and more. Let us assist you and your team in creating your ideal trade show. Contact us  today for a  free demo.  



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