Event Formats: Out With the Old (But Successful), In With the New

If your association had a tradeshow or conference that was considered a success in terms of both attendance and profit, how much would you be willing to switch things up? Take a look at how—and why—organizations running two thriving events have decided to make changes.

It’s often said that “change is good.” By trying new things out, you could gain a new perspective or get a different and better outcome that would not have been possible had you stuck to the way things had been done previously.

This year’s new format promises to elevate the event to a new level and better reflects the power of the data presented.

I’m writing this post as I’m searching for a new place to live (new neighborhood, new apartment, new me, right?), which is why I was probably drawn to these two tradeshow- and meetings-related stories I’ve come across in the past few weeks. Both illustrate a willingness to take a bit of a risk (in my case, a likely rent increase) and make changes to upcoming tradeshows and meetings—which are currently considered successful—in hopes of delivering an even better experience to both attendees and exhibitors.

Fast-Paced and Action-Packed

The first was the announcement from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) that it would change the format of its fourth Predict event, the annual exhibition industry outlook conference taking place in September in Chicago.

According to a press release, even though the content presented in previous years was determined to be “spot-on in terms of accuracy and predictive measure,” the 2014 event will have “a new energized, fast-paced format—that of an action-packed financial news show featuring lively interviews, substantive conversations, and provocative discussions, providing economic insights and new perspectives about the exhibition industry.”

To help create that financial news show backdrop, Ron Insana—a well-known finance industry expert and senior analyst and commentator for CNBC—will host the one-day event.

“This year’s new format promises to elevate the event to a new level and better reflects the power of the data presented at Predict,” said 2014 CEIR Predict Task Force Committee Chair Chris Brown in a statement. “Ron’s knowledge and experience in the financial industry will inject a new layer of insight for exhibition executives to apply to their strategic thought process.”

Leaner and Meaner

The idea of adding additional value to an already successful event is also behind the announced overhaul of the recently completed Americas Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition. AIBTM’s model for the past few years was to have a show floor filled with suppliers who wanted to show off what they had to offer to buyers who were hosted by the show. According to Trade Show News Network, this year’s show had more than 1,000 buyers and 508 suppliers.

For next year, the tradeshow floor be overhauled (all exhibitors will be required to use the same 8-by-8-foot exhibit pod preassembled for them), and the event will be scaled back (attendance will be capped at 250 buyers and 250 suppliers, resulting in a one-to-one buyer-seller ratio). The show gets a new name, too: IBTM America.

The changes are the result of conversations with industry leaders and members of the U.S. Advisory Board “who identified the need for tradeshows in this industry to prioritize the time given to meetings with premium buyers but in the most cost-effective way,” said show organizers in a statement.

Other changes include a mutual-match system. While buyers were always allowed to choose with whom they wanted to meet, exhibitors will now have this option as well. In addition, buyers will be “rigorously prequalified, personally invited, and the most senior decision makers with guaranteed purchasing power.”

“IBTM America will now give the U.S. meetings industry its own niche event that is focused on the business of meetings, no distractions, no time-wasting, and enabling both buyers and sellers to have their own community in one place for two days,” said Sallie Coventry, portfolio director of the IBTM Global Events Portfolio.

Although I wrote earlier that “change is good,” we all also know that “change is hard.” The second statement makes me better appreciate the willingness of both of these events to take a risk and try something new, even though what they’ve been doing has proven to be successful and likely profitable.

But remember, it’s always better to be ahead of your attendees or exhibitors and anticipating and responding to their needs, rather than fall behind and suddenly be forced to play a game of catch-up. Because let’s be honest: If you’re in that latter category, it’s already too late.

How are you changing up formats or other elements of your tradeshows and meetings to stay ahead of the curve? Let us know in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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