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Webinars help exhibitors develop effective strategies, maximize return on investment

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The New York International Gift Fair has earned a reputation as a place where orders are written. “It is the only show that has proven itself to me,” said longtime exhibitor Wilma Wabnitz, president and founder of wholesale company Wabnitz Editions. “You see revenue.” That revenue provides a demonstrable return on investment. But as George Little Management prepared for its 2009 summer show, organizers noticed that industry buying habits were shifting. In the pinch of the recession, buyers were decreasing the volume of their at-show purchases. They still made buying decisions based on what they saw on the floor, but often opted to spread a series of smaller orders over time, said Christian Falkenberg, VP-show manager at GLM. “The landscape changed,” he said. “In the past, you had hard numbers; suddenly, it was more than that. It was more important than ever to get your name out there 365 days a year.” It's a challenge that many show organizers have encountered as the economy has moved market behavior and in some cases even redefined the methods by which exhibitors measure and achieve ROI. GLM introduced a webinar training series to help exhibitors develop effective strategies. “We noticed that those exhibitors that had the biggest success were those that did a lot of work leading up to the show,” Falkenberg said. The webinars underscore the importance not only of making and maintaining connections with attendees but also of maximizing exposure through an evolving array of marketing opportunities that include digital directories and mobile apps. In the leadup to each show, about 150 exhibitors attend a webinar, he said. The majority are first-time exhibitors, but longtime participants like Wabnitz said they also find value in a program designed to help control exhibition costs, promote lead development and increase visibility. “Smaller companies with no marketing department ... are the companies that are going to get the most from the webinars,” Falkenberg said. Preshow webinars will help exhibitors prepare for the winter NYIGF. The format is a simple slide show presentation with live audio and question-and-answer interaction. The first session, held last month, focused on pre-show marketing opportunities and the development of promotions to be offered during the event. This month, a webinar will focus on booth design, lead generation and sales strategies. In December, the GLM operations team will provide tips to reduce set-up costs. Webinar attendees can request free 15-minute in-booth consultations. In addition, a postshow webinar focuses on lead management and the use of year-round tools like the online catalog. “You can't just put up a booth and expect to have a good show,” said Stu Teller, managing partner at Right Angle Strategies, a business development services company that partners with GLM to produce the training sessions. While about 35,000 attendees are expected to flood the aisles, buyers on average have shaved about a day off the time they spend at the event, he said. Demand for the webinars has grown since the 2009 inception, Falkenberg said. “We want to put as many tools as possible in [exhibitors'] hands.”
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