ABM revises seminar format, explores attendee generation

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A newly revamped approach by American Business Media in presenting its marketing seminars was introduced last Thursday with its Events Summit in New York, a half-day session presenting panels of marketers offering marketing event best practices in attracting attendees and sponsorships. ABM, which has traditionally presented two-day seminars on various marketing topics, is condensing its offerings into a four-hour format and will take the seminars on the road to several cities over the coming months, according to ABM President-CEO Gordon T. Hughes II. The new format is more appropriate for “a different kind of economy,” Hughes said. Greg Topalian, senior VP of Reed Exhibitions, kicked off the Events Summit with a presentation on motivating teams during challenging times. One approach, he said, is to “focus on fear,” stressing to prospective attendees that coming to a professional trade show or event will help strengthen their prospects of staying employed during tough economic times. Topalian touted the viability of regional events. With attendee and exhibitor travel lagging in a down economy, he suggested offering transportation discounts and establishing liaisons with regional associations whose attendees are less reliant on long-distance travel. Joy Puzzo, corporate audience development director at Advanstar Communications, detailed her company's “SWAT team approach” to attendee marketing, with various team members bringing such expertise as marketing, creative and database analysis to bear in a joint effort to boost attendance. Puzzo stressed the need for list segmentation to attract expo traffic. For Advanstar's Licensing International Expo, which has been moved from New York to Las Vegas for a June 2-4 run, she has divided prospects into four groups—those who've never registered or attended in the past; those who preregistered but did not show up; those who preregistered and attended; and previous walk-ins to the show. “Since we're moving the licensing show to Las Vegas, we know we'll have bigger pull from California,” Puzzo said. “That raises the importance of East versus West Coast marketing, as well as the targeting of Asian attendees.” Puzzo said the goal for the licensing expo is 25,000 attendees and that to achieve that level, constant contact is essential. Internal lists of prospective attendees are contacted at least 10 times via e-mail, e-newsletters, fax, direct mail and telephone, and prospects from external lists are contacted two to three times, she said. “People are afraid to fax, but fax responses have jumped for us,” Puzzo said. Multiple channels are important for attendee development, said Joseph Braue, group director and senior VP of United Business Media's Light Reading unit. Braue said Light Reading typically conducts one or two webinars prior to a physical event in order to develop attendance. “We also focus on our core Web site and not on dedicated event sites,” Braue said. “Twitters, blogs, video and stories about the event by editors all stay on our home site.” Braue added that Light Reading, with content aimed at the telecommunications industry, extends the value of its events by hosting a complementary virtual event three months following a physical one. Sponsorship sales remain a potent source of event income, said Michelle Finn, VP of Nielsen Business Media's Hospitality Design Group. The flagship Hospitality Design leverages live events with intimate gatherings that mix executive attendees with sponsors. These include cocktail events aimed at new, younger buyers, and a hosted buyer event called HD Summit, where buyers interact with top executives in hotel and restaurant design. “Sponsorships are not dead,” Finn declared. “We have found that these new innovative events, championed by our editors, have been successful in a down market.” M
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