AIME (Asia Pacific Incentive and Meetings Expo) and other such trade-shows are fascinating melting pots of opportunity, and many people just miss it. But how do you get that next job? win incentives for your destination? confirm conferences for your hotel? start a conversation about someone holding their association meeting in your venue? How do you get that return on investment from a trade show?
More business than you can imagine
I’ve seen prizes for “Best Stand” go to people who have no idea how to actually sell. I’ve seen tiny stands in bad positions walk away with more business than they ever imagined.
During the first AIME I ever attended, a stalwart of the industry came for her appointment. I was working for the stunning Raddison Playford Adelaide at the time. Ms X said ” I bet you have no idea what my company even does“. She was absolutely right. Provided with a list of appointments I had carefully packed my bag and was a little excited to be travelling interstate with colleagues. But, with no briefing, no “why” I was even there and no KPI’s how was I to succeed? Nervous as hell, I very quickly responded “I am very much hoping that you will tell me all about your company Ms X“. Phew…. it was the right thing to say… just, and we are friends and colleagues to this day. Every year prior to each AIME , I read up on the buyers, or have my plan ready. Research to gain that return on investment from a trade show.
It’s an investment
I remember convincing a bunch of sporting venues and a NSW Govt department, that we needed to invest in AIME. The group I was convincing really didn’t know what the MICE/ Business Events industry was, let alone AIME. But we were sitting in a precinct meeting at the end of 2000 with a number of very empty hotel rooms and 7 large sporting venues. Convinced we needed the world to know that Homebush was not full of tumbleweed, (as the Sydney Telegraph kept quoting), something had to be done. We needed to tell MICE buyers about the vibrant venues and fabulous people, we were ready to set these buyers worlds on fire. On that first year, we had an Olympic dias where we asked the buyers to step up and have their photo taken with medals. I had arranged sales training for all the venue representatives some who were much more comfortable talking the business of sport, or the special event business, than the conference and meetings business. Sydney Olympic Park the Meetings Mecca was born. Education is often necessary to attend the shows you want, and to get that return on investment from a trade show.
More than pre-scheduled appointments
I remember feeling that Accor’s Blue Mountain hotels (we had Mercure Laura and the stunning Hydro Majestic at the time) needed a bit of extra push, as they just weren’t getting the bites with the PSA’s (pre-appointment schedules). We decided to send a note to everyone we had ever dealt with in Melbourne, that was before everyone inundated you with EDM’s (electronic direct mail). “Just drop by when your feet are sore and we will give you some foot soak from the Mountains” we said, it worked its socks off (and theirs). Those two properties converted enough business to have paid for the stand and more.
I’ve exhibited with bureaus, I’ve exhibited with hotel chains (the Accor stand was seriously impressive and the champagne awesome). Thrown parties and attended them (IHG always do a good one). Launched new venues and held media conferences (The Star rebranding was pretty exciting). I’ve worked with international destinations, where the team have invested huge amounts in travel and infrastructure to be there. They all require a plan of action, and solid follow through to win that return on investment from a trade show.
Job offers aplenty
Over the years I have supported colleagues who have presented in the seminars, by being a plant (to ask those hard questions) and rallied others to form a crowd. Being on panels, has been fun. Job offers have been discussed at AIME. I’ve been a buyer and a seller and I have recruited talent.
AIME there is much opportunity, as there is at any trade show. Don’t be one of the whiners who says “well there wasn’t much traffic this year” . Anyone who walks past you that you don’t speak to is an opportunity lost. Any exhibiter, buyer or worker is worth getting to know and making an impression. Consider your own personal brand not just that of the business you represent, to really gain that return on investment from a trade show.
ROI in advance
On occasion you work in a company that asks in advance for an expected ROI, (as all should these days). There is nothing better than being able to pull a report stating from previous AIME’s we converted $#### business, they send you back with even more support.
A little touch of wisdom
But apart from that very first year, where I was ill prepared, I have focused with my various teams on the following and trained others in the same. To ensure that return on investment from a trade show.
- Tell people in advance you are going to be there
- Work those PSA’s (pre appointment schedules) so you are as chock-a-block as you can be
- Double book meetings with others and just take more colleagues if you need to
- If you are on a combined stand with your bureau, get to know your cohorts, don’t treat them as competitors work with the spirit of abundance
- Be organised, paper and staplers are still key, transcribe later it is difficult to be super engaged when you are typing onto a laptop
- Always have a spruiker to pick up other appointments that might be walking by
- Take the time to work/walk the floor and to gain inspiration from your colleagues
- Record everything in a good CRM and follow up, follow up (remember what you can’t measure you can’t manage)
- Say hello to those international buyers sitting alone at the cocktail party, not just all your mates
- When you are at your stand, keep your head up, not on your phone and… smile
See you at AIME and good luck…