Delivering higher-value meetings, building stronger business partnerships and enhancing the event experience through creativity were the main themes at the New York Society of Association Executives’ Meetings Management Institute conference held yesterday at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York.
While those messages may not have been unexpected, they were received by an attentive audience of about 100 association planners and other industry members by an executive speaker panel featuring Center for Exhibition Industry Research president and CEO Douglas Ducate.
In his keynote address, Ducate said that as electronic media continues to grow, exhibitions, trade shows and meetings will become the “last bastion” of face-to-face marketing. Coupled with continued industry consolidation in many end-markets like automotive and retail which is shrinking the customer pool there is ever more pressure on planners to produce successful events.
“Businesses will have to create the experience, adding value for exhibitors and attendees,” said Ducate. Across the board, “planners will have to be more flexible, innovative, professional and deliver on promises” in the new economy, he said.
Those sentiments were echoed by other speakers. Jack Withiam, executive vice president and general counsel for trade show producer George Little Management LLC, urged planners to think long-term and strategically.
Both Judy Wander, director of conventions and conferences for the International Council of Shopping Centers, and Anthony Floreano, Northeast general manager for GES Exposition Services, stressed non-traditional venues and flexibility with dates and vendors.
Said Wander, “With the shift to a sellers’ market, build long-term partnerships with suppliers. Understand their business, so that you can work with them on bundled packages and get the best F&B deal. Hold meetings in comedy clubs and nightclubs.”
“Get away from the template,” said Floreano, alluding to the “big-box” thinking. “Experiment,” added Richard Green, vice president of association sales and industry relations for Marriott International, “since we all deal with shows that get in a rut.”
Ducate left planners with an adapted quote from Mark Cuban, the entrepreneur and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks: “If you give 150% effort every single day and add value for customers and attendees, the future will take care of itself.”