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entire first day of AIBTM is being dedicat- ed to professional education, with the remaining two days of the event set aside for the trade show portion.

On the education day, Knight says that a series of conferences, forums and work- shops have been specifically designed for the benefit of both planners and suppliers in the meetings industry. “These sessions have been designed in a variety of ways to maximize the experience for those in attendance.”

“There are no other U.S. business-to-busi- ness appointment-based shows of the scale of AIBTM for meeting planners that offers a hosted buyers market,” adds Knight. “For planners, attending will save time and resources. It allows them to visit with a huge variety of exhibitors, all in a single location. For the exhibitors, they can hold appointments with up to ten attendees in a single day at our show.”

In addition, he says, AIBTM offers U.S. plan- ners a platform from which to see some overseas exhibitors that they would never otherwise have been able to experience.

Along these same lines, Lutsko says that DMAI’s post-show surveys have discov- ered that 46 to 61 percent of attending meeting planners identified new meeting destinations that they would have never otherwise considered prior to learning about them at a Destinations Showcase event.

Lutsko adds that hosted buyer programs are really taking off in the meetings indus- try. “We added this component to Destinations Showcase in 2009, and it allows us to bring a new group of quali- fied attendees together with our exhibitors, where both sides were unlikely to have met otherwise. In the beginning, people didn't quite understand the con- cept, but now more shows are adding hosted buyer programs, and I'm sure they will become more and more popular out- side of our industry, too.”

Lutsko notes that these shows provide sig- nificant value for attendees and exhibitors alike because all of the time- consuming coordination is handled by show management. He says that DMAI's

34 May  June 2011

hosted buyer program sold out last February in Washington with very positive feedback from participants and sponsors. “We're still accepting applications, but expect another sellout in Chicago this June, and we are already working on ways to expand the program in 2012.”

DMAI's Destinations Showcase Conference and Expos take place each February in Washington, DC, and June in Chicago. Admission is free for qualified planners.

These one-day events feature morning breakout sessions, a keynote luncheon and an afternoon expo designed to bring meeting professionals together with desti- nation marketing organizations from across the United States and beyond.

Trade shows like Destinations Showcase have adapted and evolved over the years to keep up with changing times.

AIBTM is a new show that was created with a similar evolution in mind.

Before working for the Pennsylvania Convention Center,

Kevin Richards

worked on the other side of the industry as a trade show organizer. Richards says that he has seen the changes in the trade show industry over the past several years.

“The economic shift has caused both trade show organizers and attendees to reevaluate and change how they go about their business,” he notes. “Partnerships are more important than ever. Everybody plays such a key role leading up to and during the trade show in order for it to be successful.

The host venue, local CVB,

area hotels, vendors and suppliers all must work together to ensure that the attendees will have a good and worth- while trade show experience.”

Richards adds that the focus of trade shows has definitely turned more toward the audience in recent years.

For the show organizer, he says, everything is based around their audience. “Everything is examined. Are enough attendees coming to the show? Is it possi- ble to increase the length of their stay? The more attendees and the longer they

are in town, the more revenue is generat- ed for the convention center, the city and local hotels, restaurants and other busi- nesses.”

For Exhibitors

“From an exhibitor standpoint,” says Lutsko, “you're in a room full of people specifically looking for solutions to over- come their challenges. You get to talk to hundreds of people in just a few hours and they generally want to hear what you have to say. You can't go into an event expecting every attendee to be a 'hot lead,' but you should be able to uncover quite a few solid prospects... People don't make the effort to go to a trade show and walk the floor if they don't have a reason to be there.”

He adds that exhibitors should set aside some time before the show, even as little as 30 minutes, to take a look at who else is exhibiting. “Let's face it, outside of trade shows, how often do you get to sit in a room full of your peers - sometimes even your competitors - to exchange ideas and get advice that directly applies to what you hope to accomplish?”

According to Maurer, “At many trade shows, I sell as much to the vendors in other booths as I sell to the attendees.”

Maurer says that these vendors can be a valuable source of business as it relates to the Morgantown Event Center.

“I learn

what competitors are doing well and what we might be able to do better. “

Also, Maurer says that because he repre- sents an independent property, the edu- cational sessions of trade shows are very valuable in terms of learning what’s new and trending.

“Trade shows still target specific markets,” observes Knight, “and they provide the best platform for reaching a targeted audi- ence in a way that is personally engaging.”

“For exhibitors,” he continues, “trade shows provide an environment in which to make contacts and conduct business in a way that is both intense and focused.”

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