The place and impact of exhibitions as part of association events was at the centre of discussion for members of the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) at their roundtable at ICC Birmingham last week. The discussion was an opportunity to share best practice and develop ideas to improve the exhibitions that sit alongside association conferences and congresses.
The session was led by Ian Taylor, venue sales director at The NEC Group, who gave an introduction focused on the size of the market and the growth in expenditure on social and digital marketing channels. Taylor noted that exhibitions were the original social networking opportunity, offering a means for exhibitors to affect all five senses.
Challenges of measuring the success of exhibitions as well as the need to effectively integrate them into an event were also discussed.
The session covered design and sales techniques, through to social media registration, hybrid events and the use of the latest technology and data.
The cost and financial implications of venue exhibition space was also debated.
Three particular messages from the event emerged:
- The importance and benefits of using high quality data as part of the process when selling exhibition space – ranging from attendee information through to footfall and delegate ‘hotspots on the floor’.
- The need for personalisation of business events – in particular, using techniques from consumer shows that excite, inspire and entertain attendees.
- The need to identify and demonstrate ROI to exhibitors. The message was clear – if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Measurement can drive sales and prove performance.
“We encourage our sales people to be as industry and audience facing as possible and ABPCO provides a great opportunity to achieve that ambition so it was a pleasure to be a part of such an engaged discussion,” said Taylor.
“We were able to share some of our observations on current trends in the exhibition industry, particularly the way in which show organisers are increasingly engaging with exhibitors to help evidence ROI on their marketing expenditure and the role that venues can play in adding real value and creativity to that process. “It’s clear that organisers, exhibitors and venues who carefully think through the needs of their visitors will be best placed to gain their attention and deliver an inspiring experience.”
Sammy Williams from The Stroke Association, who was attending an ABPCO event for the first time commented: “We joined ABPCO for a variety of reasons but chief among them was the opportunity for learning and sharing of best practice. This was my first event, there was a huge amount of information exchanged and it was great to be part of such a diverse group of industry experts.”
ABPCO, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, offers membership to UK conference and event organisers, those studying for or pursuing a career in the meetings and event industry, and individuals and organisations working across all spectrums of the industry. For more information visit www.abpco.org/membership.