As the pressure builds on convention and exposition departments to increase revenues, one approach worth noting is that of the Society of Automotive Engineers in Warrendale, Penn.
The 75 folks on the SAE meeting planning staff have lots of opportunities to hone their planning skills. The international, 75,000-member association holds 30 major meetings per year, with attendance ranging from 1,000 to 50,000. Of those 30 meetings, about 20 have trade shows, with each show attracting between 40 and 1,400 exhibitors. Also, the association runs about 500 professional development seminars annually, and the organization holds roughly 1,000 standards-writing meetings each year. It seemed only natural to David Amati, director of SAE's professional meetings and activities group, to have his department take on some outside work to boost his organization's revenues.
"We don't do anything for organizations that aren't mobility related," he clarifies. "We're careful to stay in our area of business." In this area, SAE has a well-developed network of contacts. The same companies that exhibit at its shows also tend to be the companies exhibiting at the shows it manages for others. SAE is also conscientious to take work only from other nonprofits. "The groups we do this for would hesitate to approach a for-profit show organizer," notes Amati. 'They feel more comfortable with one of their own."
In addition, the SAE's clients are staging relatively small-scale events, trade shows with 3,000 attendees using 15,000 to 30,000 square feet of exhibit space. These are niche areas, not broad-based shows, says Amati. Moreover, SAE is not doing that many outside jobs; in 1997, it handled three events.
"I guess I agree with the independent show organizers that associations should not be managing other associations' shows, unless they're in a related field. I don't think that's competing with the independent show organizers."
Amati admits that it does make money doing these outside jobs. Just how much money, though, he wouldn't say. "We take a management fee,' he says. "It's negotiable. It's all over the board."