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Live from IAEM: Bellying up to the bar

And it wasn't even 9:30 a.m.! This actually was a fun session, with the panelists bellied up to a bar (with real bottles of liquor on it, though they only drank water) and the moderator serving as bartender, in recognition that most of the best learning takes place, well, let's just say not in the session rooms. My favorite quote, right off the bat, from someone in the audience:

    I'm noticing there aren't any suppliers at the bar—who's picking up the tab?

The panelists, including Jane Berzan, CAE, senior vp, National Association of Convenience Stores; Ignacio Cabrera, CEM, vp of exposition sales with the National Association of Home Builders; Tony Calcana, executive vp of expositions with ADVANSTAR; Rick Geritz, CEO, BDMetrics; and Marcus Arky, general counsel, MetroGroup; tackled a bunch of sticky issues, from what's the most critical factor to the success of a tradeshow (delivering relevant bodies on the show floor, proving ROI to exhibitors), to what they'd change if they could (standardize regulations and union rules in all venues—this one got a big laugh, have convention centers provide more free move-in days, and have exhibitors follow up on the leads generated at the show were a few).

They also dived into whether or not to segment the trade show floor, something attendees at large shows (and smaller exhibitors) are asking for, but large exhibitors and those with prime locations don't want. Berzan talked a bit about how her show went about doing this and getting buy-in from exhibitors. As Calanca said, "It's a dilemma we all face if our show grows large enough. It's hard to convince them, especially your biggest exhibitors, but they will have a better experience because buyers can find them more easily."

And they batted around when to get a deposit from exhibitors (up front? a certain graduated percentage as you get closer in?). While attorney Arky liked the idea of removing a barrier to immediate sales by waiving up-front deposits, most of the show organizers disagreed, saying that they'd be more likely to blow off the show if they didn't have an immediate stake in making it happen. All agreed that those who haven't paid don't get their booth come showtime.

As to ROI, Calcana pointed out, "We're talking more about ROI these days because our exhibitors are asking us about it more than they used to. As the amount they have to pay goes up, so do the demands for ROI. We may not like it, but it's an appropriate response."

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