More than 140 executives gathered at the Washington (D.C.) Convention Center June 15 for the by-invitation-only Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum to discuss the latest trends and issues confronting the exposition organizers.

Topics ranged from emerging international destinations for expositions to trends in corporate marketing budgets and case histories of how associations coped with show-related issues. Here are a few highlights from the one-day conference:

  • Travel Industry of America Association's Chief Operating Officer Michael Pusateri described why the association, which had experienced five years of flat revenues, decided to buy the TravelCom show from JD Events.

    TIAA, an umbrella group representing all facets of the travel industry, saw a chance to grow the show beyond its primary focus on hotels and airlines to include a much wider range of suppliers in the travel industry, Pusateri said. Moreover, 40 percent of TIAA's revenues were derived from its Pow Wow show, and the organization wanted to diversify its revenue stream.

    Pusateri detailed the strategy for buying TravelCom and how the purchase was financed in part by the revenues produced by the show over several years.

  • Most attendees at the forum said they were very interested in Dubai and Macau as emerging destinations for trade shows. Both destinations are making major investments in infrastructure and attractions and facilities. India, on the other hand, was perceived as not yet having the venues to adequately support international trade shows.

  • A marketing executive from Bell South and one from Siemens Medical Solutions discussed trends in exhibiting budgets and goals. Both executives reported that marketing budgets were flat, but that exhibiting budgets remained strong. The Siemens executive said that branding was the top reason for participating in trade shows, while the Bell South executive said that his company was primarily interested in generating leads at trade shows.

    He also said that he was looking for ways to spend his exhibit dollars more effectively, such as having part of his team participate via videoconference or online in any training at the show. The Seimens representative told show managers that budgets were fixed, so that any help in keeping hotel costs down at the show would mean more money available to spend exhibiting.

  • A panel of CEOs discussed various challenges. For example, to keep registration fees affordable while adding new programming, Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, said his group axed the poorly attended final night banquet, even though it had been a tradition for many years.

The fifth annual ECEF was produced by Mike Hough and Sam Lippman. At press time, Hough said he was moving on to other projects. Lippman will continue to produce ECEF, to be held May 10 next year at the Washington Convention Center.

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