July 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Newsline newsline.gif (8042 bytes)SHOW MANAGERS LOOK TO LURE EXHIBITORS BACK TO THE CONVENTION CENTER

Trade Shows Test Suite Alternative

Bruce Johansen For many exhibitors, the effectiveness of booking private suites to entertain clients has been reason enough to forgo buying a booth. Now, to counter the trend and boost exhibitor numbers, show managers are offering their own suite deals. In January, the Los Angeles-based National Association of Television Production Executives saw total attendance fall by half to about 10,000 at its annual show in Las Vegas, with several key exhibitors holding court in suites at The Venetian rather than buying booths. Exhibitors preferred the intimacy and privacy not available on a typical trade show floor, according to NATPE president and CEO Bruce Johansen.

“The January show was dysfunctional,” said Johansen. “We couldn’t control the hotel inventory, and we had The Venetian courting our exhibitors [to rent suites instead of booth space].”

The association has regulations specifically prohibiting this practice, but, asked Johansen, “What are you going to do? Sue one of your largest exhibitors?”

In an effort to reinvent its convention, the association will let exhibitors rent convention center meeting rooms so they can meet with attendees on-site, yet in a setting that replicates the exclusivity of a hotel suite.

“We’re going to make meeting rooms available to exhibitors, and everything will be under one roof,” said Johansen of his association’s effort to get its largest exhibitors back in the fold. In turn, exhibitors will be able to either schedule appointments with buyers or treat the space an open house. The concept is being tested this month by another entertainment industry group. For its annual show at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas, the Encino, Calif.-based Video Software Dealers Association offered exhibitors private suites as an alternative to booths, according to Carrie Dietrich, vice president of marketing and industry relations. The group decided to revamp its event layout based on member feedback after previous shows.

“This is the first year that we have moved the focus almost entirely away from the exhibit floor and into suites,” Dietrich said, adding that although the logistics of the event flow presented a greater challenge, her 250 exhibitors welcomed the option of working out of suites instead of booths.


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