Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 11 2013

Why Planners Should Be Cautious When Innovating

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

It’s no secret: meeting professionals love innovation. In an industry that has been plagued by plenty of organizations that recycle speakers, sessions and show floor designs, forward-thinking planners and suppliers have steadily embraced the concept of change and reinvention in order to remain relevant.

While new additions and new content are crucial, too much newness can be dangerous. PCMA recognized those risks at 2013 Convening Leaders in Orlando when the organization unveiled The Show Reimagined. The event worked to educate attendees about new possibilities for trade shows while they networked and ate lunch. While The Show Reimagined aimed to combine learning and eating, the concept created some confusion.

“You have to understand the expectations of the attendees,” Ann Johnson, Associate Director of Programs, PCMA, told participants at the PCMA Education Conference in Denver.

That expectation was simple: attendees wanted to eat lunch. With long lines for food, some attendees were a bit frustrated at the very beginning.

“Ultimately, it may have been wise to better articulate the concept in advance,” Johnson added.

SEE ALSO: Embracing Mistakes

Susan Katz, Director of Corporate Events and Travel, True Value Company, is no stranger to the challenges of failing to understand attendee expectations, either.

After years and years of delivering an identical trade show experience, Katz said that the company embraced a mindset that “if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.” However, after hiring an outside branding firm to completely redesign the show experience, show organizers recognized that there is an inherent danger in aiming to move too far forward too fast.

“It created confusion on the show floor, and it didn’t enhance the buying experience,” Katz said.

With new signage and a new convention center location (the show had previously been held in a massive warehouse), Katz said that the move was simply too much of a radical departure that failed to resonate with the company’s audience. True Value used the changes for two years and then started over again from scratch.

SEE ALSO: Innovative Meetings: Reinventing the Wheel

Has a focus on the need for innovation ever backfired at your meeting? What went wrong, and how did you fix it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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