Is the Hosted-Buyer Model Working For Conventions, Trade Shows?

Author: Kim Benjamin       

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IMEX recommends up to eight hosted-buyer appointments per day and that buyers leave time to make the most of the learning programme as well as finding time to network and browse the show floor. (Courtesy IMEX)

With the sheer number of conventions and trade shows in an event planner’s calendar, there are many opportunities for hosted-buyer experiences. But is this approach still working?

From a buyer’s perspective, the opportunity to save time and money is obviously appealing.

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Cyril Constantino

However, Cyril Constantino, manager, supplier management, Asia Pacific, at CWT Meetings & Events, said he believes trade show organisers need to do more to ensure that buyers and sellers receive their time and money’s worth.

“Events as a hosted buyer can be hit or miss. My experience at some of the trade shows in Europe and the U.S. has been great, meeting many key suppliers and closing deals,” he said. “In Asia Pacific however, a number of the major players have started pulling out from exhibiting, diminishing the ROI of attending the event.”

Constantino said that even if all your costs are covered, it still isn’t worth investing two days on 20 or 30 appointments with suppliers you can’t do business with. He also noted how some of the big suppliers have started organising their own events to coincide with trade shows.

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Carina Bauer

Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group, which organises two of the biggest industry events — in Frankfurt and Las Vegas — says IMEX helps its buyers to plan ahead to get the most from their time at the show, both professionally and personally.

IMEX recommends up to eight appointments per day and that buyers leave time to make the most of the learning programme as well as finding time to network and browse the show floor. Providing fresh show elements each year, with a focus on experiential elements, is also key, Bauer said.

“Flexibility is our watchword. We recognise that each buyer’s needs are different. We don’t do matchmaking or fix buyers to a minimum number of appointments or days at the show,” she said. “Instead we focus on qualifying each buyer to ensure they regularly plan or contract large-scale events around the world, and have business to place.”

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Oscar Cerezales

Bauer added: “We are seeing significant growth in the number of buyers from Asia, particularly Singapore, Malaysia, and China. Overall, interest from buyers in Asia and the rest of the world remains strong.”

Oscar Cerezales, COO Asia Pacific at MCI Group,  said he believes that data and insights to demonstrate the ROI benefits can be lacking for the hosted-buyer model, with many shows tending to increase hosted-buyer figures without analysis of “quality.”

“That’s the main complaint from hosted-buyer [event] sellers — that there is a percentage of ‘hosted buyers’ who are not really the right audience or potential lead,” he said.

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Matt Grey

Focusing more on the educational content of shows could be one way to improve existing models, those in the industry say. “Nine out of 10 educational programmes for hosted buyers tend to have the same people, topics, and associations,” Cerezales said. “New programmes that are well curated and more innovative would attract higher engagement and participation.”

For Matt Grey, director of new business EMEA at Invnt, the more successful hosted-buyer events are those that diversify and incorporate other offerings for delegates, such as informative content programmes with multiple tracks, networking opportunities so that they can mingle with others, and tours of relevant venues and attractions in the area.

“When these are interspersed with pre-booked meetings, buyers are able to leave not only with potential new supplier contacts, but with fresh inspiration and an expanded [list] of industry connections,” he said.