Carlsbad, CA – The restructuring of the old CMP Technology by its new owner, United Business Media (UBM), into four separate subsidiaries was completed just in time for the biggest economic roiling that the trade show industry has seen since 9/11.
Built around the triad of events and authoritative online and print properties, the newly formed units, TechWeb, TechInsights and Think Services reach out to specialized communities with content and exhibits while Everything Channel provides hosted events for top-level buyers and sellers.
The four divisions together employ the strategies and structures that the industry as a whole considers the best philosophy for survival and growth both in the current economic decline and the inevitable recovery.
- A serious focus on content and education: A healthy offering of educational sessions at an event is central. “It engages the audiences and stimulates the experiences of buyers and sellers,” said TechWeb CEO Tony Uphoff. While the number of exhibitors may sag in a recession, top-flight content can support attendance by offering attendees something that justifies their requests for travel expenses. Uphoff said his team previews portions of the content and uses attendee feedback to polish it up before it is presented. Advisory boards are considered a valuable asset in keeping content timely and attractive. “The content is developed by the community itself,” said Philip Chapnick, CEO of Think Services. “If the board thinks something is missing, they will go out and find someone who can provide it.”
- Boost online education: Offering more content, including product training, online is a way to keep attendees in the community even if their travel budget requires them to skip the event this year. “People are going to be looking for more good online alternatives next year,” Chapnick said. Registering for an online event also provides organizers with data for mailing lists and insights into the type of content customers are looking for. “The more people we can get online and registered for different products, the better we can figure out who those people are and figure out new face-to-face events for those groups,” said David Blaza, vice president of events, at TechInsights.
- Taking brands overseas: UBM already has a strong presence around the world, which gives its divisions the advantage of having administrative and support staff in place when expanding their brands overseas. There remain challenges in terms of marketing and the ratio of exhibits to education. “In China and Germany they tend to still like the traditional trade show, but I think there is going to be more education about the products in the future,” said Blaza, who added that complex electronics products lend themselves to a high level of training. Nancy Hammervik, vice president of events for Everything Channel, said her company’s hosted events can be more expensive to produce outside the U.S. due to the nature of the venues. “We use a lot of boardrooms and ballrooms, so the biggest challenge for us is finding that kind of space,” she said. “Also, you don’t pay for that type of space at U.S. hotels as long as you are taking up sleeping rooms and food-and-beverage. But in Europe and Dubai and everywhere else, you pay for it.”
- Central locations: Everything Channel has steered its hosted events away from the resorts that would seem to be a natural destination for high-rolling CEOs and other senior executives. Hammervik said the time constraints faced by the attendees and the crowded agendas of the sessions made downtown hotels in major cities more convenient. Kate Spellman, senior vice president of marketing and business development, said Everything Channel picks up its attendees’ expenses and remained sensitive to other “pain points.” “We are looking at more regional events that don’t require as much travel for either attendees or vendors,” she said.
- Venue for corporate events: The recession and the public relations fallout of AIG’s now-infamous corporate retreats put a damper on company sponsored events for potential customers. The situation could, however, be an opportunity for trade show organizers to offer their events as venues for sponsored parties and seminars. “A lot of the big tech vendors are having to cancel their customer or partner events,” Spellman said. “We are saying to them, ‘You still have to get in front of them.’” TechWeb has a full-service unit that will arrange such custom events within Interop and other major conferences. Think Services offers major exhibitors the opportunity to hold sponsored sessions in which the company discusses advances in its particular field or specialty and its products. Blaza said the idea of incorporating a corporate event into a trade show is more than simply a fallback position. “They also found out while running their own events that they were preaching to the choir and weren’t reaching new customers,” he said.
- Stress ROI: The mantra of trade show sales is more important than ever. Shows have to prove that they offer adequate bang for the bucks of attendees and exhibitors. But Uphoff pointed out that all forms of marketing media are in the same boat. “Live media fits really well in the era we are living in because it is increasingly performance driven,” he said. “People are cutting back on exhibiting and attending, but they can’t stop doing business.” TechWeb has made the extensive customer research, which it compiled for internal guidance, available to outside readers as a means of illustrating the ROI its events, print and online content offer. A significant advantage that trade shows have is their potential as a Mecca for the members of the community the exhibitors want to reach. “Our conferences and trade shows are really a service to the community,” said Chapnick. “They provide a place for the community to come together as opposed to just being a place for buyer and sellers.”
Reach Tony Uphoff at (516) 562-5000 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Philip Chapnick (415) 947-6000 or email@example.com; David Blaza at (415) 947-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Kate Spellman at (516) 562-7383 or email@example.com; Nancy Hammervik at (516) 562-5000 or firstname.lastname@example.org