TheExhibitors Association has become the latest industry association to introduce a hosted-buyers meeting, announcing the launch of its new event, Face-to-Face Connections.
The event, which will be held January 6 to 8, 2010, at the Embassy Suites Dallas-Market Center, gives TSEA members an opportunity to meet in 30-minute private meetings with vendors who provide products and services to the exhibitions industry. The meetings will take place in hotel suites, not on the exhibit floor. TSEA will pay for the guests’ expenses—including airfare, hotel rooms, and meals. For a flat fee, the sellers will get a hotel suite in which to set up shop and meet with the buyers.
“The idea actually came from our members, who are exhibitors at trade shows,” says Dave Brull, director of marketing and membership at TSEA. “At industry trade shows, they typically do not walk the floor because they spend so much time on the trade show floor in day-to-day life. Their first two priorities are education and networking. So they needed another way to be able to meet with the suppliers in the industry.” Also, since they travel 100 to 200 days a year, they wanted something “short and concise that really gets down to business.”
TSEA is not the only industry association to introduce what is often called a hosted-buyer meeting. In recent months, IMEX, Reed Travel Exhibitions, and Meeting Professionals International have introduced hosted-buyer meetings.
In developing the event, TSEA looked at different models and came up with its own version. Face-to-Face Connections is limited to approximately 25 buyers and 25 sellers. Each buyer will meet with 10 to 15 vendors for 30 minutes each—depending on their needs, Brull says. Each buyer must meet with at least 10 vendors. Up to three buyers and three sellers are allowed to attend each meeting. The event is all business, with an opening-night cocktail reception, followed by a day and a half of these meetings.
All buyers must fill out an application to participate, ranking their areas of interest (custom exhibits, audiovisual, marketing, signage, green exhibiting, consulting, freight, among others). Sellers fill out a profile detailing the services they provide. TSEA then will sell slots to vendors and make sure the spectrum of services is represented. Once the participants are selected, TSEA will play matchmaker, working with the buyers and sellers to set up the meetings and schedule the appointments. “They can pick the meetings that make sense for them—we don’t waste anybody’s time,” Brull says.
According to Brull, TSEA may expand beyond 25 buyers and sellers in the future, but “the point is to keep this intimate; we don’t want this to become huge. We’d rather repeat than have it become too big.”
The overhead costs are the buyers’ airfare, hotel, and food and beverage. Vendors pay more than they would for a typical exhibition booth, but the return on investment should be higher, Brull says.
TSEA purposely made this a stand-alone event, separate from its exhibitions. “This will never replace a trade show and, considering we are the TSEA,” says Brull, “we are not advocating for the end of trade shows. But this is a good supplement to trade shows—just another aspect of face-to-face marketing.”
For more information, go to the Face-to-Face Connections Web page.