Today I had a discussion with an executive level independent meeting planner.
We were discussing trade shows for our industry. This planner shared with me that he/she doesn’t like walking a trade show/exhibition floor. Some of the reasons were “I know what I want and I don’t need to walk through a maze to have a bunch of sales people say to me “Do you have any meetings?”; “I want education about products and services in sessions where 1 or 2 suppliers of a product, along with 1 or 2 customers of that product can talk about the product”.
Is this just the result of a bad experience with an inexperienced sales person? Is it because most planners feel that they already possess all of the requisite knowledge around event marketing, sponsorship sales, destinations, hotels, conference centers, off-site venues, transportation, catering companies, audio visual, production, general service contracting, customer service, event measurement, insurance, airlines, etc?
I read an interesting blog (SmartBlog Insights, Dedire Reid, CAE from her recent ASAE experience). This excerpt stuck with me:
“What if instead of keynotes and promos at general sessions, ASAE had used that time for town halls or moderated discussion groups that focused on our pressing needs? What if we had the opportunity to discuss new ideas and approaches to common issues? This would certainly be more meaningful and valuable to attendees than hearing promos about the new ASAE logo or study trip.”
As so much is being talked about in social media about the need for change, and as so many companies are innovating around making event experiences engaging and better/different than they have been in the past, why are professional planners so hesitant to actively attend and participate in trade shows? Where do they go to improve their annual meeting, tradeshow, and other events?
The planning professional I spoke with today is someone I have respect for. He/she is not unusual. MPI has dropped its January show; ASAE dumped its spring show many years ago and feedback from friends I had that went to LA said the summer show was fair; PCMA doesn’t have a trade show even though a majority of its members are responsible for managing one. Springtime in the Park in D.C. and Holiday Showcase in Chicago seem to, in my experience, lack the “must go” labels they have had in the past.
Is it because they are not responsive to their members, and they just keep producing last year’s show in a new city? How are they learning about new products, services, innovations if they aren’t seeking marketplaces for that knowledge?
These are all good organizations. Suppliers are dropping out of their shows, and the associations dropping them, because the members…professional planners who often have responsibility for either producing a trade show or exhibiting at them (corporate planners)…don’t see the need to attend them. The shows fund a great deal of the professional education the professional members enjoy for ridiculously low rates. As this model continues to erode and change, who will pay for this education? If planners are not willing to actively participate in the trade show, are they willing to spend $2,000 to $3,000 in registration fees to continue their education? If their organizations won’t pay those kinds of fees, will they take them from their pocket to maintain their professional designations?
Or will the model, the large annual meeting, simply continue to erode? If planners don’t see the value in attending a trade show, how can they truly believe they are good for their members and exhibiting companies/sponsors? Is a marketplace not a good venue for learning about existing and new products and services that are going to affect your industry/business/organization?
What say you?