TWO MEETING PLANNING groups combined shows to gain several advantages — getting better deals with venues, marketing to exhibitors more efficiently, and even attracting attendees who might not otherwise be there.

IBC Life Sciences, a meeting planning company, recently held a four-day conference at the new Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. The show, TIDES, on the manufacturing and development of oligonucleotide and peptide products, attracted close to 500 attendees, including more than 60 exhibitors. IBC also added a smaller two-day program addressing analytical method validations, which brought in close to 200 people.

“[Exhibitors] were delighted to have exposure to two great audiences in one show,” says Anna Allen, senior marketing manager for IBC Life Sciences in Westborough, Mass. “ The program sessions took place in different parts of the building, but there was one exhibit hall to which both audiences had access.”

Allen's team was also creative about marketing the two meetings to attendees. Although the audience overlap between the two conferences was less than 10 percent, IBC developed a promotion strategy to attract people with common titles from different departments within the same organization. “We offered a buy-two, get-one-free program that crossed over the workshops,” says Allen. “So, if someone registered for TIDES, and someone from the same company registered for analytical methods, then a third person from the company would be entitled to a free pass to either meeting.”

Advantages for All

The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, Arlington, Va., has been experimenting with this tactic successfully for the past year. “Last year, we held an injection device workshop just after our annual biotechnology conference,” says Sharon Pichon, director of meetings and expositions at AAPS. “Almost a third of the general [program attendees] stayed on for the specialty workshop. We expanded our efforts this year to include a nasal and pulmonary device workshop (two days) and a short course on PEGylation (one day). By maximizing our staff and our venue, we are able to offer attendees a whole week of biotech meetings.”

In addition to pre-conference marketing, marketing materials at registration, signs, announcements, and moderator encouragement to stay on for the added programs all resulted in increased workshop attendance. “We trained our staff at the registration desk to ask if attendees were interested in staying for the workshop,” says Pichon. “A special discount for registered conference attendees also helped increase workshop attendance.” The group was able to handle the additional attendees because most of them were local and did not require a hotel room. Those that did were able to extend their stay with the San Francisco hotel, which, fortunately, did not have a major group checking in at the same time.

AAPS offered exhibitors a great benefit too. While they could exhibit during the main biotech show, they also had the opportunity to do live product demos during breaks at the extension workshops.

The cost savings benefit everyone. The meeting planner saves money on staff travel costs and shipping of supplies and equipment and also gets better rates from hotels on meeting space and sleeping rooms. Exhibitors can reach more than one audience with a smaller investment. Attendees love it because they can pack in more learning without having to plan two trips away from the office.

Jennifer Goodwin is president of The Goodwin Group, a global medical communications consulting agency in Arlington, Mass. You can contact her at