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Hall of Fame: Karen Chupka : Running the Show

Karen Chupka of CEA

January 2014 By Nancy Klosek
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The 2014 International CES spans nearly two million square feet, features about 3,200 exhibitors and hosts 150,000 visitors. That’s quite a contrast to when Karen Chupka, CEA’s senior vice president for CES and for corporate business strategy, left a D.C. lobbyist group to join the association back in 1989 as the show’s registration coordinator.

“At that time, all of it was manual,” Chupka said. “We literally had to shut computers down and ship disk packs to the show, because there was no such thing as the Internet. Everything’s been on super drive since then.”

A good deal of the credit for CES’s growth into the world’s largest trade show for consumer technology goes to Chupka, who has played multiple roles in her rise to the top ranks of CEA, while helping to make the show the powerhouse it is today.  She has been vice president of business development, director of industry relations and education, and director of marketing for CES, and has garnered accolades from the trade show industry’s International Association of Exhibitions and Events and the CE Division of the Anti-Defamation League.

“Karen is one of the true innovators in tech and the tradeshow industry. She epitomizes what CES is all about: growing and evolving along with the consumer electronics industry,” said Tara Dunion, CEA’s senior director of event communications.

“Under her leadership, the International CES has become the world’s largest hands-on showcase of emerging technology. She is a true professional, and a tradeshow leader.”

Chupka said she considers herself at an advantage to have entered the industry early on, at a time when there were many more retailers. “Seeing how the industry used to work makes it a little easier to understand and recognize where some opportunities are,” she said. “Now, when we hire new staff, it helps to enrich their understanding.”

A key part of Chupka’s role in growing the CES has been to identify different industry segments, strategize about how to include them in the show, and forge relationships to attract new audiences. For example, in January 2000, when she first started running the show, she was instrumental in bringing wireless communications into the fold.
 “We had not had a strong relationship with that community,” Chupka said.  We learned that where we worked really well was when we had a membership affiliation with that segment, as well as a show affiliation. It was getting the wireless community within CE so we could better serve them, not only at the show but throughout the year. If you look at the way the show has grown, it has been those alliances and partnerships which help us continue to stay relevant and keep the show relevant.”


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