At a time when many meetings industry conferences are launching or relaunching, one of the veterans in the space, Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International's Affordable Meetings, is also shaking things up. The national conference has a new name, HSMAI's MEET—which stands for Meetings, Events, Education, and Technology—as well as new ways for buyers and suppliers to do business. It will also feature a free, hybrid component.
HSMAI's MEET will take place September 7–8 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. “I think that everyin the industry has looked at what it needs to do to help drive the right return on investment,” said Fran Brasseaux, executive vice president, HSMAI, McLean, Va. “We’ve done the same thing. We started looking at what we needed to do to make the show more related to contemporary best practices, as well as what we could do to add value for attendees and exhibitors.”
The event’s trade show floor has seen the biggest changes. In addition to the traditional exhibition hall, HSMAI has created two programs for one-on-one appointments between buyers and sellers. One is a “reverse trade show” called TEEM Up, where planners set up appointments with exhibitors they are interested in meeting. Planners, who must qualify to participate, work with a full-time HSMAI staff person to book seven to nine appointments, which will take place in a private area on the show floor for two hours on Thursday morning, September 8. “Exhibitors asking for appointments may not be the right match for planners, so what we want to do is give planners the opportunity to control the appointments,” said Brasseaux. HSMAI expects 60 to 70 planners to participate.
There is also a MEET Exhibitor Concierge, an HSMAI staff member who works with exhibitors on pre-show marketing, and an Attendee Concierge. The Attendee Concierge serves as a matchmaker, setting up appointments between exhibitors and planners based on their compatibility and interests. With TEEM Up, planners pick who they want to meet up with, but with the Attendee Concierge, appointments are based on mutual interest. The Attendee Concierge has been tested at regional HSMAI shows and has proven to be successful. TEEM Up is entirely new.
A free virtual extension of the conference, called MEET On, will live-stream 12 sessions and feature interviews with exhibitors and presenters. Participants will have access to all exhibitors at a virtual trade show. HSMAI expects more than 1,000 virtual attendees, in addition to 2,000 attendees at the physical meeting. The virtual content will be accessible online throughout the year.
The educational program has been revamped and rebranded as MEET University, under the guidance of educational consultant Vicky Betzig, CMP, president/owner, Meetings Industry Consulting. The program adds new formats that let planners interact with industry experts and their peers and take a more hands-on approach to education. The formats include peer-to-peer roundtables, case studies, and speed-learning sessions, as well as the traditional classroom setting. Meet University includes 45 sessions over two days, and, in addition, a MEET University Boot Camp is being offered as a back-to-basics program for new planners.
In years past, Affordable Meetings was geared toward new or beginning planners, but that is no longer the case, said Brasseaux. About two-thirds of expected planner attendees have at least six years of experience, she said, and, accordingly, the bulk of the educational content is now aimed at experienced planners.
HSMAI's MEET is free to qualified planners. HSMAI will also roll out the MEET brand at its other meetings in 2012, Affordable Meetings West and Mid-America. For more information, go to HSMAIMEET.com.