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There are tradeshows, and then there are tradeshows. The majority are predictable: people walking the aisles perusing the various booths and picking up literature and tchotchkes as they stroll. Then there is the recent AIBTM hosted-buyer show in Baltimore, where participants were there to do business.
Liz Gilbert, national director for travel industry sales for Entertainment Cruises, a first-time AIBTM exhibitor, was "blown away" by the "quality of the buyers. I was afraid of home-based event planners from the Baltimore area vs. the professional high-end incentive and meeting planners and the international presence of the attendees." As an example, Gilbert said one-third of her appointments were from Brazil.
The goal of the tradeshow exhibitor is to generate new and repeat business. The goal of every association's major meeting is to surpass last year's attendance and revenue numbers. So, why isn't the "hosted-buyer" concept built into the annual event? The answer: reengineering the annual meeting; becoming even more creative; developing a strategic marketing plan to make it work, all of which require "changing" from the same old, same old way of conducting business - CHANGE!
Realistically, an association cannot host every member at its meetings, yet there are certain members whose presence can add value to the annual meeting. The challenge is for the association to figure out whom to host. Likewise, an exhibitor has the choice of staffing and operating its booth as 99.9% of exhibitors do...or, "change" to a modified hosted-buyers format to accomplish the goal of talking specifics.
On the buyer side, Shari Chesser, director of Marketing & Commercial Sales Strategy for Aspen Contracting, is the exhibitors' "client from heaven." Chesser prebooked 26 appointments with exhibitors over the two-day expo. She gave kudos to Reed Exhibitions, which "has the right process and the ideal system and tools." Chesser's reason for attending was to seek out warm-weather destinations at which to hold the numerous incentive trips her company rewards its employees. Her two underlying objectives for each exhibitor were, What does this destination bring to the table? and Is there a fit? Chesser went in with a list of 100% of viable candidates with whom to do business and came away with 80% making the first cut. And, Chesser was impressed with how well-prepared exhibitors were at the show.
She experienced only two negatives: Her final appointment at the end of the day had left, so she talked to a competitor. Although the no-show attempted to reschedule, Chesser's mantra was, "You snooze, you lose. I won't do business with that destination." Her other negative which can be viewed as a positive for Reed was that some destinations had no appointments available...the indicator of a successful show.
Bottomline: Sounds like Reed did it right: Happy buyers and happy exhibitors.
Elliott Jaffa, EdD, writes “The Tradeshow Floor” for Association TRENDS, as well as other columns. He can be reached at email@example.com or 703-931-0040.