GES VP John ‘Jack’ Patronski to Retire June 30

Patronski looks back on four decades of leadership in the meetings and events industry.

GES Executive Vice President of Industry Development John “Jack” Patronski will retire from the Las Vegas–based global experiential marketing and events company effective June 30, GES has announced.

John "Jack" Patronski

John “Jack” Patronski, GES executive vice president of industry development, will retire on June 30, 2020.

Patronski began his events career in 1976 as director of operations for the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. In 1978, he joined Andrews Bartlett, which GES acquired in 1993. At GES, Patronski worked “tirelessly with clients, industry groups, labor unions, and venues to help drive service and operation improvements,” said GES Executive Vice President of Exhibitions Jeff Quade. “Jack has been a major contributor to GES including early acquisitions in the U.S. and Canada, leading the National Sales group, major labor negotiations, service initiatives, and training. We appreciate Jack’s dedication to GES, our clients, and our industry, and we wish him much happiness in his well-deserved retirement.”

In his more than four-decades-long career in the meetings industry, Patronski has held numerous leadership positions at industry organizations, including serving as 2006 chair of the PCMA Foundation. He has also served as board chair for Choose Chicago; as a board member of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce; and as a member of Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority Labor Management Council, which owns McCormick Place in Chicago.

In 1999, Patronski worked hand in hand with the PCMA staff in developing the beginning of Network For The Needy program, and has remained committed to that program and Party With a Purpose over many years. He also worked with a group of volunteers in major convention cities to assist in educating facilities, as well as associations and show organizers, on the Good Samaritan Act and donating product and food to local charities.

Patronski has been the recipient of numerous leadership awards, including a 2009 Lifetime Achievement Visionary Award from the PCMA Foundation and induction into the Events Industry Council’s Hall of Leaders in 2016. He also has been honored by the International Association of Exhibitions & Events, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, the Exhibition Services and Contractors Association, and was recognized in 2015 with the Chicagoland Four Star Award for Best Industry Advocate.

“I have been fortunate to enjoy a very fulfilling career, learning and working in partnership with clients and colleagues, and making new friends throughout the world,” Patronski said. “GES is a great and supportive organization providing opportunities for growth and leadership throughout my career. Though my plan for retirement has been in the works for some time, my departure comes with mixed emotions as I reflect on the people, projects and initiatives that made my career so rewarding.”

When Convene asked Patronski about the highlights of his career, he listed:

  • Working with clients as a strategic partner to help grow their business — and as the business continued to change, to move away from production and operations discussions into the experiential discussion on what really drove the success of the client’s business.
  • Learning from others about creativity, service, strategy, and knowing the importance of mentoring to allow one to advance on their own career ladder.
  • Serving on volunteer boards, such as the PCMA Foundation, which created many channels of delivery to “give back” and provide to others.
  • Representing GES during the two-year project for labor improvement for exhibitor rights at McCormick Place, creating significant changes for work an exhibitor could perform on their own, resulting in cost savings at trade shows.

Convene also asked Patronski what he thinks the future holds for meetings and events. Here is what he had to say:

First and foremost, the events industry is here to stay! And I mean face-to-face live events. The execution of exhibitions, conferences, and corporate events will change in the future, but will continue to be a vital and integral part of the economic engine around the world. Through this pandemic, more and more economic data has become available, emphasizing the economic impact of the exhibitions and events industry, direct and indirect. It is quite staggering. Live events will not go away.

You only need to look inside your own home right now and feel the strong desire to go outside, dine out, or mingle with friends and family. Sure, you have the opportunity via virtual meetings and virtual happy hours, but it is just not the same as meeting face to face. And it’s no different for the pent-up demand to do business face to face or discuss the latest discovery in medicine.

In every conversation I have had about what I think about the future, the question of “Do you think virtual meetings will replace face to face meetings?” comes up. My simple answer is no. The advancement and use of technology in the events world have been significant, and a virtual component of many face-to-face meetings already exists and in some cases that may expand. However, I firmly believe it will not be a replacement for exhibitions, conferences, or corporate meetings. It will not replace the need for face-to-face presentations and meetings, interactions between buyer and seller, new product reveals, the sharing of new ideas, or the need to make new contacts professionally or personally.

Safety will be the key priority for everyone. This requires the development of new standards, protocols and best practices to increase the safety for all event attendees and every contributor to the creation, planning and execution of those events. The way the events are produced will have to change and it will take the entire industry to navigate the new normal. I do know that GES is focused on innovating and designing the future of live events for our company, our clients, and the industry at large and collaborating with multiple organizations including the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, UFI, IAEE and others, discussing what will be needed industry wide for the safe reopening of the events industry. This is an opportunity under the current environment to reimagine the business for growth opportunities as we exit the downturn.

In these challenging times, I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone working, contributing and sharing their ideas on how we bring this all together. I also want to thank all the first responders who have sacrificed their own health and family time to help save others. Thank you.

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