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FOR SOMEONE WHO never intended to specialize in special events, ISES international president David Spear has certainly embraced his industry wholeheartedly. The association leader and owner of Mandeville, La.-based Classic Effects says it was a passion for pleasing people that hooked him on the event business back in 1984. “I can't sing, I can't dance, but I saw a way to entertain people through firework displays,” he explains, recalling the launch of his first company, Classic Fireworks, which he sold last year to concentrate on his special effects operation and its roster of high-profile events, including multiple Super Bowls, pro basketball championships and Republican National Conventions.

Showmanship may fuel the flame of Spear's event career, but when it comes to steering ISES, the entrepreneurial-minded leader, who took the association's reins in August, is all about business. “I see my role as promoting professionalism, education, ethics and certification within our association,” he says. In order to fulfill this role and achieve the goals of his presidency — goals that include growing association membership from 3,500 to 5,000 and increasing the recognition of professional certification — Spear asserts that he plans to “continue the running of ISES as a business rather than a ‘good ol' boys' club.’” To show his no-nonsense approach, Spear cites a recent board meeting he led that ran a tight two hours rather than the traditional four or five. “It was more, ‘Let's delegate, rather than thinking we need to address every little issue out there,’” he says.

Spear credits many of ISES' recent successes, including getting association finances “firmly in the black” and developing an “outstanding strategy plan for the next three years” to Chicago-based Smith, Bucklin and Associates, which took over management of ISES two years ago. But it's ISES members, he says, who are responsible for sustaining these successes and moving the association toward new ones.

While Spear says he's grateful for the opportunity to steer ISES into the future, he adds, “I'm looking for people willing to row the boat. There are so many people out there who think it's their role to point out the problems. To me, that says, ‘I'm an anchor.’” His word for would-be naysayers: “‘Consensus,’” he says. “It's not ‘your way’ but ‘what you can live with.’ When we look at things with a team mentality, it allows us to get rid of some of those anchors and start rowing the boat.”

Classic Effects 1930 Surgi Drive, Suite C, Mandeville, LA 70448; 866/455-5201;


“Don't underestimate what you have learned through the years in traveling to conferences and through the hard knocks of being in the special event industry. And if you go to [annual Special Events Magazine trade show] The Special Event and you garner new knowledge, experience, ideas and creativity there, don't just give it away. There is value in that.”


“My dad taught me, ‘There's no wrong time to make a right decision.’”


“What's absolutely fascinating to me is to see where ISES has come in the past two years. With our new management company, we've had a tremendous turnaround in our financial situation. It's exhilarating to see that we don't have to worry about some of the problems we had before. Now we can really focus on how we want to build the organization.”

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