Meetings & Conventions - On Campus - November
How to be sure all those ancillary events add value to the
By Sarah J.F. Braley
he 25,000 attendees of the annual meeting of
the American Academy of Ophthalmology won’t have a minute of
downtime for three days. With luck, they might be able to block out
the hours between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. for sleep. Why? About 1,000
peripheral events take place during off-hours, after the jam-packed
educational program and the 8,000-exhibitor trade show.
These are the “in conjunction with” events or ICWs that allow
various exhibitors, alumni organizations, subspecialty societies
and related associations to take advantage of the fact that so many
people from their industry have already gathered in one place. For
trade show organizers, these events create a chain of goodwill. The
sanctioning of dinners, cocktail parties, reunions, sales meetings,
press conferences and other peripheral happenings adds value to the
More than 1,500 colleges open their facilities to groups, says
Michele Nichols, publisher of the annual Guide to Unique
Venues (Amarc; Minturn, Colo.; $39.95). Cancellation and
attrition fees often are lower at universities than at typical
hotels and conference centers, she adds. For low-cost
entertainment, both town and gown offer possibilities. Most college
towns feature venues and recreation options that cater to the
budget-minded student population.
At the AAO’s annual meeting last month in Dallas, “We had a lot
going on,” says Debra Rosencrance, vice president of meetings and
exhibits for the San Francisco-based organization. Rosencrance
notes that because of managed care, ophthalmologists have
experienced declines in reimbursements and income; as a result,
many doctors have become more selective about which shows they pay
to attend. “So having all these extra events makes ours the meeting
to come to,” she says.
In fact, after-hours networking is a primary reason many
professionals attend a conference, points out Jim Daggett, CMP, of
the Chicago-based meetings consulting firm JRDaggett &
Associates. “They might see these activities as just as attractive
as the education.”
The money flow
Whether a trade show welcomes one or 1,000 peripheral events, it
behooves the meeting planner to track, as closely as possible, how
much money is being spent. Being able to prove that your convention
brought in $500,000 extra can help in next year’s negotiations.
This data also can help convince a city that yours is the meeting
they want to welcome over another.
Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to compile these figures.
Rosencrance knows she can use her annual meeting’s 1,000 ICWs as a
negotiating point but finds it daunting to determine a sum total
for related expenditures. “It’s becoming more important to know the
entire economic impact of the meeting,” she stresses. “I think we
Hotels can help tally the numbers. Each year at Medical Design
and Manufacturing West, held in Anaheim, Calif., eight to 12
exhibitors host peripheral events at one of the 10 hotels in the
room block. To find out how much is spent on these events, Roger
White of Canon Communications LLC, which organizes MD&M and its
co-located shows, Pacific Design & Manufacturing and PLASTEC,
includes a clause in his hotel contracts that requires a complete
rundown of ancillary revenue in the post-convention report.
“We keep track of the events because they can add tens of
thousands of dollars of revenue at the hotels,” says White, the
trade show division’s operations manager from Canon’s Los Angeles
headquarters. “It makes our account look more lucrative.” For those
who worry that a hotel is not revealing everything, White suggests
going one step further and talking to the people who held each
ancillary event to confirm the total dollars spent.
Adds Daggett, “If we track these events properly, they should be
considered part of the meeting spend. People hosting these events
tend to spend tremendous amounts of money.”
Another significant money-saver: With so much going on
elsewhere, the hosts don’t have to entertain the troops. At
Lighting Dimensions International, an exhibition featuring
manufacturers of entertainment lighting, staging and other elements
that go into producing live events, companies often host parties at
clubs where they installed the lighting and sound systems.
Mike Doolittle, sales manager for show owners Intertec
Exhibitions in Denver, says ICWs take pressure off the show
organizer. “When we try to team up with a manufacturer to have a
party, budget constraints can scuttle it,” he notes. “The
manufacturer, on its own, invites only a segment of the attendees;
we would have to invite the entire attendee list.”
While show organizers generally encourage ICWs, remember it is not
a free-for-all. Planners need to know what is happening and when so
they can compile a comprehensive schedule and inform attendees
where each event is taking place. Often, convention organizers also
help coordinate ground transportation for the various happenings
around the city.
“The planner needs to stay involved,” says consultant Daggett,
“making sure all the buses are in the correct place and that
everyone gets on the right bus. The attendee is still our
responsibility, whether the event is planned by us or not.”
Gathering the information also allows organizers to keep ICWs
from stepping on each others’ toes. At A/E/C Systems, a show
attended by about 16,000 architects, engineers and contractors,
small receptions may take place at the same time, but overlap with
larger events is discouraged. Show co-founder Michael Hough of MRH
Associates in Avon, Conn., tells exhibitors when their party is
going to compete with another event. “We want them to benefit from
this, so they’re happy,” he says. “The next year we want them to
come back, and we want people to say, ‘Hey, that was a great
The largest annual gathering of NeoCon, held in Chicago, welcomes
about 1,200 exhibitors and up to 60,000 design-industry
professionals. Hundreds of outside events are held at showrooms,
jazz bars and posh hotels. “We try to organize all these entities
and promote them as much as possible,” says Mark Falanga, vice
president of business development for Chicago’s Merchandise Mart
Properties Inc., which owns the five NeoCon shows.
Someone from MMPI is in attendance at all events connected to
the show. “We want to make sure these events are appropriate,” says
Falanga. “Then we will make suggestions how they can be improved
next time. We help with catering, promotion, selling tickets,
anything to make the overall show a success.”
The one debate among trade show organizers on ICWs is whether to
keep a tight rein on who is allowed to hold one, penalizing those
who don’t conform to the rules, or if it makes sense to open up the
doors and let anyone host a peripheral event, even if they are not
exhibitors or do not go through the proper channels to make
Organizers who want to exert a measure of control usually start
by blocking all meeting rooms at the host hotels and then assigning
space as the requests come in. If someone tries to book space
through one of the hotels, the property is instructed to notify the
show organizer. “If we find out that any exhibitors have booked
around us,” says Rosencrance of the AAO, “we take away some of
their priority points. But generally people will make the changes
necessary to comply with the rules.”
Also, exhibitors who host parties without the show organizer’s
knowledge run the risk of angering their colleagues, who are likely
to voice their displeasure. “We get word from people within the
industry if someone is trying to skirt the rules,” says Stuart
Aizenberg, director of trade shows for the National Automatic
Merchandising Association, which holds two annual shows for vending
and food-service companies. “They get invited to an event in a
hotel suite, then they blow the whistle.”
On the flip side, trade show consultant Sam Lippman is in favor
of eliminating penalties and welcoming all events held by
exhibitors and nonexhibitors alike.
“I’ve always felt that the more events that take place, the
better it is for the buyer and the show,” says Lippman, president
of Arlington, Va.-based Integrated Show Management & Marketing.
“If you punish major manufacturers who want to set up in a hotel,
the next year, when they have a new product or need a new channel
of distribution, how are they going to think of you as a show
NeoCon is run under this inclusive philosophy. Falanga says the
show’s management is very permissive, embracing events that some in
the industry might consider competitive. “If it ultimately makes
sense to the exhibitor, it makes sense to us,” he says. “If someone
does something inappropriate, the market will be the best
indication as to how it works with the whole event. Let the market
Treat Them RightThe huge construction trade show
held every three years in Las Vegas, encourages related
associations to hold their meetings in conjunction with the larger
event. During the 2002 show, expected to attract 135,000 attendees,
eight organizations will convene. Here are some extras
CONEXPO/CONAGG offers those associations, according to Margot D.
van Black, director of exposition services and operations.
First dibs on hotel space. “Because the
association conventions are so important to us, we try to get them
to finalize their contracts before we do,” van Black says. “We want
to make sure they have adequate meeting space and sleeping rooms.”
She also tries to secure the same rates and deposit requirements
for all, for consistency’s sake.
Input on education. The associations each have
a representative on the show’s education committee. “They work with
the show to develop topics for their attendees, so our education
programs complement their convention seminars,” says van Black.
Online support. The associations’ convention
schedules are on CONEXPO/CONAGG’s Web site, and links are provided
to the associations’ sites.
Housing help. Van Black keeps tabs on the other
associations’ housing blocks. “If they are having problems filling
rooms and are worried about attrition, we will offer rooms [from
their block] to other attendees,” she says. “Or, if they don’t have
enough rooms, we will try to offer some from our block.”
Policy StatementWhere does your
stand regarding peripheral, or “in
conjunction with,” events? Not only should a policy be expressed in
writing, it should be published in exhibitor packages, e-mail
bulletins and any other relevant conference materials.
“Do whatever you can to
overcommunicate, and make it perfectly clear what the rules and
regulations are,” says Jim Daggett, CMP, of Chicago-based JRDaggett
& Associates, a meetings management consulting firm. Be sure to
include the following points.
Spell out your policy on who can hold ICW
events. Must they be exhibitors or registered conference
Indicate how much space the host organization
has blocked for ICWs in the convention center and area hotels.
State the proper procedure for reserving space, and give a
timetable for signing up for the space.
Specify when ICWs are allowed to take place.
Generally, no ancillary events are permitted during show hours;
exceptions occasionally will be made for big-ticket exhibitors.
State the penalty, if applicable, for those who
hold ICWs during show hours without the permission of the host
organization or without also exhibiting on the show floor.
Track the dollars. Require hotels to include
all related events in post- convention reports. As a back-up,
require those who hold ICWs to share spending figures with the
organization for use in future negotiations.
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