Questex expands events in vertical markets

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New exec VP looks to launch exclusive shows in multiple vertical markets Questex Media Group tasked new exec VP Philip McKay with accelerating the aggressive growth of the company's appointment-based events portfolio. The industry veteran has long been the champion of exclusive events, which bring top-level buyers and sellers together for networking, educational sessions and one-on-one meetings—all set against a backdrop of leisure and of luxury hotels, paid for by vendors that hope to build relationships that lead to sales. The model has gained momentum in the events industry and has been a natural fit for the Questex travel vertical, which launched its Incentive Travel Exchange appointment-based series in 2005. November will see the company's Info360 brand introduce the Portals, the Content & Collaboration summit in the technology space, and Questex also is poised to debut 10 new appointment-based events in existing and new verticals. Media Business caught up with McKay to talk about the popularity of the model, the company's goals and all the business plans he has been drafting. Media Business: You are going to be focusing on expansion. What are your next steps? McKay: Directly after [launching Portals], we're looking to launch a food and beverage event. Then we have a publication for golf superintendents, and we're looking to do an event in that space, as well as hospitality and beauty retail. We're also looking to do four more technology events in the information management space under the Info360 umbrella. We're going to be busy. We are in so many verticals right now that we can launch 10 of these successfully in 2011 and keep on going. Some of the events that might be successful in the United States, we are planning to bring over to Europe and also to Asia-Pacific. They would be easy brand extensions. We're also looking into new verticals. We believe that we will grow this hosted model to be a significant contributor to Questex. MB: How will these events work in conjunction with existing trade shows? McKay: Some of our launches will be [collocated] with our larger trade shows. We're looking in the technology space at the AIIM and the On Demand shows. We will have some aspect of the hosted model with each of them and bring in that high-level person who right now may not be going to that event. It will be a collocated event that will run as a standalone, but we will share some aspects. Attendees will be able to have private viewings of the show floor, have one-on-one appointments with the bigger exhibitors and have shared content with keynotes. MB: What is the allure of the appointment-based model, especially in an economy that has marketers second-guessing event spending? McKay: These events guarantee the audience to the vendors. They don't [require] big booths. You take out about 60% of the spend the company would have at a large trade show. These events are easier to launch than a big trade show because you're looking at smaller universes. Marketing costs go down, total exposure is much less. On the revenue side, they're very scalable. You're only spend is on access to the attendees so, if you do have 50 or 60 exhibitors, you're getting up there revenue-wise too. Each year, [margins] get better. If you start off the first year in the 20% range, you're doing well; but these events can work out well over 50% in years to come. They're very profitable. The exhibitors pay the freight and cover the cost of the attendees. There's quite a vetting process that an attendee has to go through. We have to make sure we have the right people with the right titles and the right responsibilities—and more important, that they are also ready to buy. I love talking about the buying and selling aspects of these events because you actually see people writing orders. •
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