Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

April 2014

Co-Location Picks Up Speed

By Regina McGee

Cornelison said. “It's not always a cut-and-dried calculation, and you have to keep the bigger picture in mind, the larger goals of the association.”


After a trip to Montana to fly-fish together, executives at the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) decided to co-locate their annual events. “Well, it wasn't as simple as that,” Kenneth G. Andres, ASA's trade-show director, said with a laugh. But the trip does illustrate the bond between the leadership of the associations, “and establishing trust with your partner is a crucial foundation for co-locations,” Andres said. “Our two groups have a great combination of trust and synergy, where co-locating expands opportunities for both while strengthening the fishing industry as a whole.”

The associations held their first co-location — ASA's International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) and AFFTA's International Fly Tackle Dealer Show (IFTD) - at the Las Vegas Convention Center on July 10-12, 2013. Combined registration, including exhibitors, was about 9,000, with AFFTA accounting for about 12 percent. “We saw growth in our numbers, and so did AFFTA,” Andres said. “And we rejuvenated interest and relevancy for the fishing industry.” The alliance will continue this year with a co-located event at Orlando's Orange County Convention Center, where the total size of the two shows is expected to grow from 130,000 net square feet to 145,000 net square feet.

To maintain a strong fly-fishing component, AFFTA will continue to have its own show hall, although all show materials and design again will be blended to create a unified look and experience. There will be one registration fee and one registration area for attendees, as was the case in Las Vegas last year. Having separate fees and registration areas for co-locations can lead to problems, Andres said, including attendees “gaming” the system and registering at the least expensive rate.

Education is strategic to building attendance for both ASA and AFFTA, Andres said, and among the new sessions this year will be tutorials that give retailers, many of whom sell only conventional fishing gear, an understanding of fly fishing and its equipment, with the goal of expanding the market for fly fishing, a more esoteric niche of the fishing industry. “Trade shows, the good ones, provide cost-effective solutions, and the same is true of good co-locations,” Andres said. “We're providing a place where attendees can see all industry products in one place. That's a win-win for everybody.”


When the U.S. federal government announced new restrictions on conference travel by government employees/agencies in 2012, the effects were felt by many technical, scientific, and professional associations. One of them is SPIE, an international society for optics and photonics, with a membership that includes professionals in academia and business as well as government.

Even before the new travel restrictions were imposed, SPIE had moved its Defense, Security + Sensing (DSS) 2012 conference from Orlando to Baltimore to make the show more affordable and cost-effective for the many government agencies in the Washington, D.C., area, according to Andrew Brown, SPIE's senior director of global business development. In a further effort, SPIE invited the Directed Energy Professional Society (DEPS) to co-locate its annual Advanced High-Power Lasers (AHPL) meeting with DSS 2014 at the Baltimore Convention Center on May 5-9.

DEPS focuses on high-energy technologies such as lasers for national defense and security applications — a subset of areas covered by SPIE DSS. The two groups hope that a multi-focused conference experience will bring more participation from government agencies while also exposing their individual constituencies to a broader audience. “It’s a good fit and opportunity for both organizations,” said Mark W. Neice, DEPS's executive director.

Still, Neice said, it's important for DEPS to maintain its brand identity at the co-location, so there will be a separate area of the expo hall for its exhibitors, as well as separate receptions for the two groups. DEPS's programs will be open only to a restricted group of attendees with appropriate security clearance, compared to SPIE's more open participation. Color-coded badges will be required to attend those DEPS sessions. “The col-legial relationship between our two associations really helped make this co-location come together smoothly,” Neice said.

As to whether the co-location will continue, a lot depends on whether restrictions on conference travel for government agencies persist. “These restrictions are clearly creating a negative effect on the professional development of the government's technical and scientific workforce,” Neice said. “Co-location can help, but we need a bigger fix.”

SEE ALSO: Playing Nice at the Toy Fair

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