Objective, useful content entices attendees

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Eighteen months ago, CMP Technology established CMP Custom Events, a unit within its CMP Integrated Marketing Solutions (CIMS) group.

As part of CIMS, CMP Custom Events can combine turnkey face-to-face programs with print and online components to expand the reach of marketers' messages, as well as to support attendee recruitment efforts.

James Lonsdale-Hands, a 25-year veteran of the conference and trade show industry, joined CMP as managing director of CMP Custom Events in March 2006. "In the first year, we did about 35 to 40 events. This year, we're looking at doing close to 300," he said.

"Custom events range from a 15-person, C-level, half-day forum all the way up to a huge user conference," Lonsdale-Hands said. "All of these are invitation-only. We ask the clients who they want to come to the events based on their marketing goals."

The key to custom events, he added, is to strike the right balance between the client's goals and program content that will entice IT executives to attend. "These people can smell a sales pitch a mile away. So we make it very clear to the client that each event must also have compelling, objective content."

Lonsdale-Hands cited as an example an event series that was so successful for the major IT company sponsor that it was expanded from two test events last year to a rollout of five in the first half of this year, then to an additional five in the second half. He declined to name the client.

The format was a half-day forum held in an upscale location with about 25 to 30 mid-to-high-level IT executives from large corporations targeted by the client.

"We would have one of our editors be the moderator and give an overview of the topic," Lonsdale-Hands said. Next, a respected analyst would talk about related trends in the marketplace.

"Then we'd have a client of the client come and give a case study," Lonsdale-Hands said. "Then the client would give a very toned-down pitch [on its solution], and we'd finish it up with a panel discussion."

While ramping up to produce nearly 300 events from a base of 40 could seem monumental, Lonsdale-Hands said the key components—the format, the logistics and the team—are in place to execute the expansion plan. The unit now has 10 people, with additional outside help hired as needed.

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