Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 2013

Top Takeaways From 3 Key Industry Events

By Sarah Beauchamp, Assistant Editor, Katie Kervin, Assistant Editor, and David McMillin
the program was billed as interactive to encourage attendees to be more than just passive listeners. Participants split into small groups during management consultant Jeffer London’s session, “Mega Conversation Experience: Understanding How Dialogue-Based Events Boost Engagement,” helping each other through a series of exercises to get to an “essential question” - the heart of each group member’s own meeting and attendees’ needs. Meeting U technology expert James Spellos led a conversation among a packed room of conference-goers on the apps they use every day that make their professional lives easier - generating a list of more than 65.

WEC also provided attendees with two different CSR opportunities. On Saturday, participants worked with a local chapter of Clean the World, assembling hygiene kits for members of the local Las Vegas community. And on the last day of WEC, all attendees were invited to take part in Helping Hands: Connecting Heads, Hands, and Hearts, for which they were divided into teams to assemble prosthetic hands for amputees or victims of landmines in one of 65 countries. In all, more than 250 hands were built and placed in bags decorated by the teams - each person working one-handed, both to ensure teamwork and to give participants the experience of having only one hand to work with.

Alexis M. Herman, former director of the United States Women’s Bureau and the country’s first African-American labor secretary, gave the closing general-session address. Herman fit the WEC framework for inspiring change: She worked to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, and resolved a Teamsters strike against UPS in 1997. Speaking about her work and the power of meeting face-to-face, Herman said: “You have to constantly educate people and communicate to them your point of view. The world changes, and so communication is critical if you wish to embed an idea.”

RDC 2013: ‘WE’LL BE A BETTER INDUSTRY OVERALL’ McCormick Place, Chicago, July 30-Aug. 1

By David McMillin

If David Audrain, president and CEO of Clarion Events North America, had his way, one industry term and practice would be scrubbed from the exhibit world. “If we could eliminate ‘drayage’ from our conversations and encourage colleagues to do the same,” Audrain told an audience of 200 corporate show organizers, contractors, marketers, and exhibitors during a session at E2MAs second annual Red Diamond Congress (RDC), “we’ll be a better industry overall.”

E2MA was formed last year when the Trade Show Exhibitors Association merged with the Exhibitor Appointed Contractors Association (EACA), and this year’s RDC offered an expanded program from 2012’s inaugural event. More than 50 educational sessions, panel discussions, case studies, and keynotes helped participants understand how to harness emerging possibilities in today’s technology-driven world. From using social media to capitalize on attendee evangelism to leveraging big data to attract new sponsorships, the three-day program showcased how some shows are leading the charge toward a more successful exhibit hall.

At Audrain’s featured presentation on Tuesday, participants dove headfirst into the sensitive topic of how the cost of transporting goods to booths has created serious problems for trade-show pricing. Using a case study, Audrain offered a glimpse at a progressive bulk-buying model - replacing the traditional nickel-and-dime approach - one price tag that truly represents all of the expenses associated with exhibiting. At first glance, he said, the costs may look higher, but putting an end to cost-shifting strategies ultimately will pay off for the entire industry. It’s an approach that could eventually inspire the industry to move from selling space to selling a true partnership.

“In an ideal world, you might look at a trade show like a mall,” Audrain said. “Malls charge rent for space plus a percentage of the [store’s] revenue. Instead of paying a venue a fixed rate, the venue might get a percentage of the show revenue.”

While this may not be the answer for every trade show, E2MA Executive Director Jim Wurm said that the organization is aiming to help its members understand that there are new models that can help exhibitors manage their budgets more effectively. “David recognizes that the escalating costs of material handling have a negative impact on any show,” Wurm said. “The exhibitor is forced to bring something smaller and lighter to the show, and smaller and lighter are the kind of terms that drag down the show with fewer products for attendees to see. Some aren’t willing to say this, but everybody knows it’s true: The weight-based model of bringing exhibit freight on to the show floor does not have a sustainable future.”

Regardless of what exhibitors will pay to participate in tomorrow’s trade shows, RDC participants returned home with new strategies for ensuring that their spend delivers better ROI. “We’re focused on how to generate more ideas that can help build business,” Wurm said. “As trade shows continue to evolve, these discussions are designed to help everyone involved in exhibits win.”

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