Innovate, ideate, execute

Expert Opinion
Innovate, ideate, execute

Greg O’Dell, President and CEO of the USA’s Events DC, explains why embracing a disruptive leadership mindset is necessary for success.


We know that audience demands are always changing. With new developments and emerging technologies, convention leaders know that they must constantly pay attention in order to keep up. As the President and CEO of Events DC, the official Convention and Sports Authority for the District of Columbia, I realise that these changes also present great opportunity for us to improve and embrace new ‘outside of the box’ tactics.

Events DC aims to break from the normal traditional quasi-government structure by making investments and taking risks in the development of new venues and services. For instance, a Strategic Initiatives Division was implemented that positions Events DC for future growth while also enhancing the ability to create premier event experiences that help achieve our mission to drive economic and community benefits for residents and businesses of the District of Columbia.

Only through a ‘disruptive leadership’ mindset and embracing the need to shake things up – to innovate, ideate, and execute – can we achieve the results we need.



Many of us host hundreds of events with millions of attendees each year. Each event comes with the challenge to outdo its predecessor, finding better ways to engage audiences – often by incorporating new technologies including mobile apps, crowd-sourcing, or social media tools – and turn them from passive attendees to active participants. Events are becoming more dynamic and interactive, and venues will have to keep evolving their strategies to meet these needs. It is important for leaders to keep pushing innovation forward, even when they are already seeing success.

For example, our Center in DC has over 200 digital signage displays and is the largest signage network of its kind in the United States. Over the past two years we expanded this programme by adding new LED video-walls to key locations that allow meeting planners to better implement new interactive technologies and engage their audiences.

Our Center will also undergo a facelift as we add new seating, furniture and play areas to promote ‘communities’ to actively gather and socialise during an event.



As convention leaders consider our future in an ever-changing and competitive marketplace, we must continue to ideate with forward thinking. Strategic planning requires that we place emphasis on repurposing our existing assets, while simultaneously examining new opportunities. How can we extend our business and our brand beyond our venue? 

We recently broke from the norm and set our sights on new market segments like esports. We even sponsored a team – the first city to do so – to let the world know that esports events, gamers and the community are welcomed to our nation’s capital.

Additionally, we have striven to find ways to create greater community and economic benefits for the city and our partners. Since opening the doors to our Center, the neighborhood has benefitted with additional consumer traffic and an explosion of new restaurants and retail.

We have developed a ‘streetscape plan’ to transform the exterior facade of the Convention Center through lighting, signage, canopies and furniture that will help enrich the sidewalks throughout the surrounding neighborhood.



When executing any plan, it is important to recall the core qualities of the hospitality industry and provide a service to our clients that is helpful, trustworthy, courteous and kind. We must always acknowledge our audience’s presence, making each person feel recognised. Good leaders know that to accomplish this and we need to dare ourselves to break from the norms, to forge unprecedented collaborations and to invest in innovation and initiatives that will drive our organisations to greater success.

AIPC represents a global network of over 190 leading centres in 62 countries with the active involvement of more than 1,000 management-level professionals worldwide.


Greg O’Dell is Vice-President of AIPC and President and CEO – Walter E. Washington Convention Center and Events DC. For further information, contact or visit

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