Industry Executives Gather at 14th Annual ECEF

DANICA TORMOHLEN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE
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Washington, DC –More than 200 attendees gathered to discuss key issues facing the trade show industry at the Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum (ECEF) 2015, held on May 27 at the JW Marriott. This year’s event attracted 218 verified attendees, compared with 206 in 2014, according to the event producer, Sam Lippman, president, Lippman Connects.

“We celebrated the 14th year of ECEF with the largest number of attendees and sponsors in our history,” said Lippman.

At the opening keynote, Scott Schenker, general manager, Microsoft, gave trade show executives a glimpse into the mind of a corporate show organizer and a bellwether exhibitor. “Events have been incredibly resilient despite everything,” said Schenker. “There are so many reasons that events could have failed, but there is something in our core as humans that we want to get together.”

Microsoft, which produces or participates in 7,000 events annually, clearly sees the value of both corporate events and trade shows. “Enterprises use their own events to service current customers, but there will always be a balance of corporate events and trade shows in our portfolio,” said Schenker. “We are looking for balance within, not one or the other.”

Session Highlights

The event offered a full day of sessions by industry professionals and outside experts. Trade Show Executive has identified several key takeaways:

  • New pricing models. “We are starting to get rid of early-bird pricing,” said Schenker. “It’s unpredictable, and it has no relation to supply.” Instead of offering discounted pricing until a certain date, Microsoft is limiting supply for discounted rates. For example, instead of discounted rates through May 31, Microsoft promotes 20 remaining at the discounted rate. “We are moving from deadlines to capacity to create more urgency,” he said. In addition, Microsoft sells up or plus passes that offer access to room blocks at adjacent hotels, front row seating at sessions or keynotes, and much more. For a recent event, Microsoft sold out 200 passes for an additional $500. “Think about what you can add, not what you can take away,” he said. “Attendees are willing to pay a premium to make choices about their experience.”
  • Unlikely partners. “Partnerships can come from unlikely sources,” said Marion Bossard, senior vice president, global market events, Toy Industry Association. “Are you focused on defending your turf or sowing seeds for success? We used to be very protective. It takes a lot of humility to say you need help.” For example, The Toy Fair recently partnered with UBM/Advanstar’s Licensing Show to cross-promote each other’s exhibitions. “Our exhibitors are their attendees and their exhibitors are our attendees,” said Bossard. “It is a match made in heaven.” The Toy Fair is also partnering with Reed Exhibitions’ BookExpo and Spielwarenmesse, the Nuremburg International Toy Fair.
  • Zero Waste Zone = New Revenue + New Launch. For NPE2015 in Orlando, FL, Gene Sanders, senior vice president, marketing and business development, SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, was concerned about getting attendees to the back of the South Hall at the Orange County Convention Center. Sanders worked with suppliers to create the Zero Waste Zone, a special section that featured a recycling pavilion, sustainability pavilion, recycling demonstrations, coffee service, a beer garden and a fashion show. “The Zero Waste Zone was so popular that we are launching an annual recycling event, the re|Focus Recycling Summit & Expo, in April 2016 in Orlando,” said Sanders.
  • Understanding your customer’s personas. “Market segments don’t perceive value, people do,” said Lori Anderson, president and CEO, International Sign Association. To gain insight into the perceived value of its annual International Sign Expo, ISA invested in customer research to develop ten attendee and six exhibitor personas. For example, one attendee persona identified was “Linda the Fast Follower,” a young professional who values education and networking but is concerned about travel costs. Based on the research, ISA developed a list of innovations for each persona, determined which innovations would add the most value in the short term and varied marketing messages to each persona group. “We spent 325 hours developing these personas,” said Anderson. “What it worth the time and money? Yes!” The 2015 show grew attendance by 5% and exhibit space by 7.5%.
  • Sustainability may be on the rise. As more and more exhibiting companies establish sustainability policies, show organizers may be faced with new requirements from their customers. For example, Wal-Mart rolled out an extensive new sustainability policy for vendors that began in January 2015. Yet, more than half (55%) of ECEF attendees polled said their organization does not have a sustainability policy in place. While sustainability may not be top of mind for all trade shows, it is a key issue for shows like the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo. In 2010, the show launched the Greenbuild Mandatory Exhibition Green Guidelines (GMEGG), a program that involves all exhibitors in the sustainability of Greenbuild. “We added sustainability requirements to exhibitor contracts,” said Kate Hurst, vice president, community advancement, conference and events, U.S. Green Build Council. “We conduct an audit of 10% of our exhibitors to make sure they are complying. If they don’t, they will not be allowed to exhibit in future shows.” Here’s a link to Greenbuild’s GMEGG requirements for exhibitors: http://gocms.hanleywoodexhibitions.com/GAL/Shows/Greenbuild/2015/PDF/GB15%20New%20GMEGG%20Rules.pdf

To download copies of the presentations and white papers, as well as view photos from the event, go to http://www.lippmanconnects.com. ECEF 2016 will be held June 1 at the JW Marriott in Washington, DC.

Reach Sam at (703) 979-4904 or sam@lippmanconnects.com