Unlike turning lead into gold, “Squeezing Pennies and Making Dollars” is more than an alchemist’s dream, it’s what company management expects their marketing teams to do. Lucky for EXHIBITOR2010 attendees, there was a course for just that this year.
With companies finding it hard to turn a profit in the current economic climate, saving money was the education theme of the week at EXHIBITOR2010.
In a ritual that every tradeshow marketer goes through, this year’s attendees were “still getting hammered by their bosses to cut costs but maintain ROI,” said Candy Adams, CTSM, CME, CEM, CMP, CMM and president of Trade Show Consulting. The Booth Mom, as she is known in the industry, instructed 15 sessions at EXHIBITOR2010 and had an opportunity to really see what was on the minds of attendees.
“Budget and spending versus return on investment was still as big this year as last year,” Adams said. “I think in managing exhibits, we lag behind the general economy in worrying about budgets, because we commit to shows a year in advance.”
Education has always played an important role at EXHIBITOR2010 conferences, but over the last two years courses at the conferences have been changing rapidly to match the turbulence in the tradeshow industry.
Of the 205 sessions at EXHIBITOR2009, 65, almost a third of them, were new. This year has seen a similar change, with 70 new sessions out of the 220 at EXHIBITOR2010.
“Our attendees realize that education is only going to help them and never hinder them,” said Jan Nelson, executive director of the conference’s Certified Trade Show Marketer (CTSM) program. “Their message to us is about resilience. They are going to make it through the downturn because they are taking steps to move forward and not dragging their steps.”
The industry is complex and many veterans take for granted the many practices that make up a successful company exhibit at a tradeshow. It’s hard to know where to begin, said Stacy Phillips, conventions and meetings marketing associate for Utah-based Myriad Genetic Laboratories, Inc.
A second-year EXHIBITOR2010 attendee, Phillips has only been in the industry for about 18 months, but has come to rely on the show to bring her up to speed.
“It’s better the second year just because you understand the lay of the land. It is a huge show and there are so many people from so many industries,” Phillips said. “Its great to be able to network with everyone and to talk to the experts and get their feedback.”
Features such as the Peer2Peer Roundtables, designed for attendees to discuss challenges and techniques for overcoming them, have helped her quickly close the learning gap.
“The industry is completely changing all the time and you need to grow and adapt,” Phillips said. “Like with social media. Not a lot of people have adapted that yet, and so a lot of the sessions here are talking about how you can use that in your tradeshows.”
The mystery that is social media was on everybody’s mind this year, second only to penny-pinching.
Sessions such as “Social Media – Legal and PR Issues” and “Meetings 2.0: How Web 2.0 and Social Media Will Change the Face of the Events Industry” were big hits. Of the 70 new sessions at this year’s event, more than 10 percent had social media as their primary topic, a positive outlook for an industry that has been slow in adapting the technology and likely one that will bring praise from industry critics.
“Meeting professionals are just getting their toes wet with social media,” Corbin Ball, CSP, CMP, MS, CEO of Corbin Ball Associates and the instructor for the latter of the two above-mentioned courses recently wrote in an article titled, “2010: The Meetings Technology Revolution – Are We There Yet?”
“This drastic change from business as usual will feel uncomfortable to many, but, like it or not, this is the direction things are going,” he wrote.
But for what reason is this change so inevitable? If the sessions and attendees are any indication, the increased interest in social media may be just one of many things companies are looking at to find cost-cutting alternatives to – well, everything.
Regardless if cutting costs or making use of Twitter was the object of focus, most session students thought the quality of the information made the trip worthwhile.
“They were good,” said Mike Schaiman, managing partner at Helios Interactive Technologies. This was the first year he had attended any of the sessions offered at an EXHIBITOR show, but he said he was satisfied with the class he took, “Technology Tools for Increased Immersion on a Limited Budget.” “They were fluid, they worked as a team, they were sharp, no hiccups. It was a good presentation.”
When asked if he would consider coming back for some more sessions next year, he said, “Definitely.”
EXHIBITOR2011 will be held March 27-31 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. For more information go to www.exhibitoronline.com.