ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.
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Planner-2-Planner Insight Life on the Trade Show Floor My Simple Tips For Connecting Attendees & Exhibitors BY JUDY WILLIAMS OF SDN MEET UP When your exhibitors and attendees make productive business connections at your trade show, you keep them coming back, but with all of todayʼs ever-changing technology options and both attendees and suppliers fastened to their smartphones, itʼs a challenge to create a trade show environment that provides value and critical connection tools to both attendees and suppliers. Here are some of the new and neat ways attendees and suppliers are making those significant connections. ■ 1. Appointment Making Allow attendees and exhibitors to make appointments in advance of the show. In 2011, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) International Convention began offering its own "myBIO" personal planner tool via the Zerista event platform. About four months before the show, BIOʼs "One-on-One Partnering" program allowed attendees and suppliers to enter the systemʼs website to create detailed profiles and look for potential partners. When they find the right match, or partner, a meeting request is sent and if the other person agrees, the two parties are given a time and place to get together in a designated area at the conference. The meetings were each limited to 25 minutes, at which time a bell rings and the parties move on to their next appointment. ■ 2. Hot Topic Areas Create a designated discussion area such as the back section of the exhibit hall (where people are able to hear) with individual round tables. Assign, in advance, topics and moderators, who have an interest or expertise in the topic, and create an agenda with as many one-hour slots as hot topics. This draws together attendees and exhibitors in a new and different way by learning together, and it promotes networking, discussions and problem solving. If you set up near the F&B stations, it also provides solo diners and show newbies with a natural and easy way to meet and greet new colleagues and critical supplier contacts. A "hot topic class" on iPad apps for your industry could be interesting and accessible if you forego hiring a tech expert and instead, use an impassioned attendee. ■ 10 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 3 Serve food on the trade show floor to bring in attendees. 3. Grouping Exhibitors A new trend is to group similar companies in designated areas on the trade show floor so that attendees can visit suppliers offering similar products and services at one time. For larger shows, this is much more appealing and fruitful than walking the floor endlessly and often without adequate result. Time is money for attendees as well as suppliers and this is a basically free and easy way to draw the right birds of a feather together. ■ 4. Meetup.com The free online social gathering tool Meetup.com enables organizers to channel niche groups in advance of the show. Use dedicated areas on the floor and ask hosts to supply their own coffee or F&B in the Meetup tradition. Collect ideas for themed meetups from sponsors, exhibitors and attendees and using Meetup.comʼs online interface, you can post messages on the event board and interested people can connect with one another directly, resulting in planned, rather than random "meetups." ■ w w w. c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m