Attendance at the 2008 Motivation Show, held last week at Chicago’s McCormick Place, reflected the jitters the entire nation was feeling over the failure of some of the country’s largest financial institutions. While pre-registration was up over 2007 numbers, said Pete Erickson, managing director, Hall-Erickson Inc., “verified attendance was down from 2007 … very disappointing. It appears that people were planning to come and then didn't. The news of the day certainly didn't help us.”

Exhibitors gave the show mixed reviews, some doubting whether they would be back in 2009, others appreciating the quality of registrants who visited some of the hundreds of travel and merchandise booths. Overall, exhibit space was down 10 percent from 2007, according to Erickson.

Another deterrent for attendees at next year’s show could be its dates: The show starts on Tuesday, September 29, the morning after Yom Kippur, the most important and solemn of the Jewish holidays. Those observing the holiday, which ends at sundown on Monday, will miss the traditional move-in day for exhibits and will not be able to participate in the many receptions held on Monday, which has become a very popular pre-show event evening.

In a note to a concerned meeting planner attendee questioning why the dates were chosen, Erickson said, “We have been aware of the conflict with Yom Kippur during the installation period of the 2009 Motivation Show for some time and have been working with the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau and McCormick Place to secure alternate dates. Unfortunately, they have been unable to accommodate our request during the September-October timeframe, due to the extremely busy trade show calendar in Chicago at that time. However, it does appear that we will be able to avoid any future conflicts through 2016.

“We apologize for any inconvenience and want to assure you we explored every opportunity to avoid this unfortunate scheduling conflict,” said Erickson.

In an interview with MeetingsNet, Erickson said he plans to send out a communication this week to exhibitors, letting them know that the organizers are extending the installation schedule on Monday night/Tuesday morning for next year, due to the holiday, so they can plan their exhibit schedule accordingly.

This year, the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives held a very successful SITE NITE party at The Peninsula on Monday night, which drew more than 700 people and raised money for the SITE Foundation, an event the association plans to make an annual one. No one from SITE was available at press time to comment on whether SITE will hold its event on the Monday evening before the show in 2009.

Chris White, chairman and CEO of both Global Events Partners, a network of destination management companies, and Krisam Group, a site selection company, has hosted a Monday evening reception at The Motivation Show for several years. He said, “Our Monday evening event was a fun and productive evening, breaking attendance records. We couldn’t be happier. The show, however, is another matter. Clearly attendance was way down, and many of our GEP partners are questioning their ROI for this show. The GEP booth was generally busy because of the enormous amount of pre-show marketing and communication to clients, but [there were] not a lot of new faces. It doesn’t help that the show conflicts with Yom Kippur in 2009. This is inexcusable and unacceptable and will cause irreparable damage to the show’s reputation. There is serious talk of competition to ITME, so it would behoove Hall-Erickson to correct this date conflict.”