Much of the meetings industry is facing the challenge of sagging attendance and exhibitor numbers, but Neilsen Expositions' Interbike enjoyed a year of impressive growth. The show, held annually in Las Vegas, increased its total attendance numbers from 23,370 in 2011 to 25,536 last September.
Here's a look at how Interbike made 2012 a year to remember - - and how you might be able to apply these lessons to your own meeting.
More Marketing Muscle
To connect with prospective attendees and exhibitors, Justin Gottlieb, communications and PR director, Interbike, says that the show refreshed its promotional approach.
"We made several changes to our marketing campaign," Gottlieb says. "We increased our email marketing communications with both exhibitors and attendees, and our event guide and trend guides were downloadable on the Apple newsstand for the first time."
A Seven-Days-A-Week Social Media Strategy
In addition to more traditional marketing channels, Gottlieb says that Facebook played a key role in their marketing efforts.
"We gave an extra focus to our social media efforts," Gottlieb says. "We posted nearly everyday and made sure that our content varied to keep fans engaged. Some posts were educational. Others were funny. Some featured celebrity bicyclists."
That focus had a big impact on the Interbike online community. Gottlieb says that the show's Facebook followers were around 6,000 at the beginning of the campaign. Today, the count is near 11,000 - - without spending a dime on Facebook advertising.
Those marketing efforts were working to promote many of the new elements at the show. Gottlieb says that Interbike made big strides to deliver a new on-site experience that built buzz about what waited for attendees and exhibitors in Las Vegas.
"We made several improvements to our popular OutDoor Demo to enhance the attendee experience," Gottlieb says.
One of those enhancements included an interactive course challenge where attendees attempted to beat a record set by World & National Downhill Champion, Leigh Donovan.
The show worked to combine exhibits and education, too. Gottlieb says that some learning sessions were hosted in pavilion neighborhoods.
A Staff of Experts
Gottlieb says that the human resources department even played a role in enhancing the organization's street credibility and ultimately, the show's success.
"I think it's important to note that we brought in several staff members that have significant experience in the bicycle industry," Gottlieb says. "This gives us a unique perspective on the industry as we're more connected than ever before and understand how the industry ticks."
All of the show's improvements paid off. Gottlieb says that 2012 set records for Interbike in attendance and net square feet.
Making An Impact at Your Own Show
"Many planners are struggling to determine how to get their attendance numbers back on track," Mary Reynolds Kane, director, marketing, PCMA, says. "Interbike's work to create a more robust marketing program demonstrates that creative communications can truly resonate with your show's participants."
"While the show is the biggest of its kind, it's clear that the organizers are dedicated to continually setting the bar higher each year," Kane adds. "Regardless of what type of show you're promoting, Interbike's social media growth shows that fans and followers can translate to on-site success."
For more on Interbike, visit the show's official website.