If you build it, they will come

That mantra has been flipped on its head lately—it used to mean if you set up the right programming and trade show, attendees will flock to it. Now event organizers are concentrating on getting the right people to come, and relying on the audience to draw the sponsors and exhibitors. That's what this item on the recent American Business Media’s Trade Show Summit says, anyway. From the item:

    “We focus exclusively on attendees from a marketing standpoint,” said Sonya Ruff-Jarvis, marketing director for Reed Exhibitions’ National Hardware Show. She has identified top retail customers attending the hardware show and designed custom marketing programs for them during the show. “We customize programs to meet buyer needs,” she said.

David Shaw over at the B or Not 2B blog says that he has worked with a company that had this attitude all along:

    The Richmond Events model was and is unique. The company focuses on attendees first. They invite senior buyers to an event, under the promise that the event will be tailored to the needs of those who attend. Only then do they design and develop the conference program, based on the actual needs of attendees (and they succeed in this superbly, based on the post-conference surveys I've seen.) And only then do they sell sponsorships to selling companies, based on an actual list of confirmed attendees.

Hopefully, it won't be unique for long. We've been attempting to do something similar with our Pharmaceutical Meeting Planners Forum, and he's right, it's hard. But it's absolutely the right way to go. I'm glad to hear more show organizers are starting to recognize the fundamental truth that, except in instances like maybe some tech shows, sellers are more likely to go where the buyers are than vice versa.

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