For its upcoming Affordable Meetings West conference in Long Beach, Calif., the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International is adding a new twist—pre-arranged, one-on-one meetings between attendees and exhibitors on the show floor.
While attendees can still walk the exhibit floor, HSMAI’s One-to-One Meeting Concierge program allows them to schedule private meetings with exhibitors during show hours. Attendees must sign up in advance, but there is no cost to participate for attendees or exhibitors. While not a full hosted-buyer program—HSMAI does not pay attendees’ travel or hotel expenses—the association will cover the cost of parking and lunch (with a gift card) for participants who complete a minimum of five meetings with exhibitors. (Registration is free for Affordable Meetings attendees.) HSMAI is anticipating about 700 attendees at the conference, which runs June 16-17, and about half are expected to participate.
Here’s how the program works: When planners register, HSMAI follows up to find out what they are interested in. Based on that feedback, HSMAI staffers play matchmaker, suggesting exhibitors to meet with. Ultimately, however, attendees decide, and HSMAI draws up a schedule. Attendees can make as many exhibitor appointments as they want, as long as they are during exhibition hours. Each meeting is 15 minutes long and takes place in a cordoned-off area of the exhibit floor.
The idea came from both exhibitor and attendee advisory boards. Each felt that HSMAI should develop a one-to-one opportunity as a way to improve the return on investment for planners and exhibitors. The Affordable Meetings Mid-America conference in April introduced the program on a trial basis, developing meeting schedules for about 12 planners. It was well-received and a full program will be in place for Affordable Meetings West.
Organizers hope to extend the program to the Affordable Meetings National Conference, which takes place in Washington, D.C., every September.
HSMAI is the latest meetings industry organization to add a one-on-one component to its event. In February, Meeting Professionals International introduced a hosted-buyer program at MeetDifferent. The Motivation Show, as well as two new events debuting in 2011, IMEX America and AIBTM, also feature the hosted-buyer format. While not hosting buyers, the American Society of Association Executives is launching the Business Connections Lounge at its upcoming annual conference in August, which will allow attendees to schedule appointments with exhibitors.