To bid or not to bid?

Donna Mattei Johnson, CEM, CMP, CTS & Mary Higham, CEM

IAEE at the Westin Alexandria

You have contracted with your tradeshow vendors (general contractors, registration, audio visual, floral, etc.) for years – your level of service is excellent, they are dependable and you  have a great relationship with them – why would you want to go through the daunting task of bidding our your vendors?

As a third party provider, some of clients demand that we bid out services every year. This can be very challenging and time consuming. Bidding out services every year does not provide bulk buying power or allow our teams to establish critical relationships, but it does keep our current vendors on their toes year over year. Then we have some clients that have not bid out services for years and have no idea if they are getting the best deal from their vendors.

Typically we prefer three year service contracts with a mutual cancellation clause. This allows us to negotiate the best prices for services, build upon relationships and course correct if needed during the term of the contract.

Once a decision has been made to bid out service it is important to inform your incumbent vendors, stakeholders and staff of the reasons you are going out to bid. Then you must develop an RFP (Request For Proposal) and a timeline for the bidding process. The RFP should allow you to compare all services in an “apples-to-apples” order. The best way to receive the apples-to-apples RFP is to request that all vendors submit their proposals in the same format and in the order that is requested.

After the RFP is developed (normally at least 1 year prior to your contracts ending), inviting your vendors to visit the event is allows everyone to get a firsthand look and ask any additional questions prior to the submission. Communication throughout the RFP process is key to your success. You can request that all questions to the RFP be submitted by a certain date and share all answers with all bidders or you can decide to answer questions individually.

Upon receipt of all RFP’s it is critical to develop a comparison chart to ensure that pricing for each requirement was submitted. While rates can be important, they are not an accurate measurement of everything that is included. Price alone should not be the lone determining factor when selecting vendors. It is extremely important that you are comfortable with the vendor, that the relationship is a partnership. Hopefully a long-term, win-win partnership. Good luck and happy bidding!

Mary Headshot 1

Regularly bidding services for your show certainly has its advantages and there are definitely arguments to be made for why services should be bid every 3-5 years. However, if you are already pleased with your current vendors, it may be in your best interest to skip a bid cycle now and then.

If you are bidding every three years, you are constantly spending large portions of both your and your supplier’s time crafting, submitting, pitching, and reviewing proposals. You end up with only a year or two of fluid service, as the vendor will need a year to get up to speed and then the last year of the contract requires crafting a response to the new proposal so that they do not lose the business. The old phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can aptly be applied here.

Exhibitors do not like change when they can avoid it. Reliability is a huge factor, and changing vendors frequently is difficult for them. Processes change, pricing differs, and they have a difficult time keeping track of who the “Official Vendors” are. Not only with exhibitors, but attendees are also confused when you are switching vendors frequently. Show tools and processes differ both in look and protocol. When you are happy with you current vendor, it seems unnecessary to create undue stress for not only your them, but your own team who doesn’t know who they will be working with year to year. By maintaining your relationship uninterruptedly, it builds loyalty on both sides and consistency for your exhibitors, attendees, and internal staff.

Sometimes, if you establish that you are very pleased with the service, you may wish to consider signing a longer term contract. This can enable you to develop a competitive pricing model that both parties can be happy with and to work towards long term goals, saving you both the time and stress of an RFP process every 3 years.

Just because you choose not to bid a successful service is no reason to bury your head in the sand about the latest tools and technologies. Educate yourself on the newest innovations and if you see something that piques your interest, ask your current vendor if it is a feature that they can offer you. My association offers a new product competition that we were constantly bidding vendors for. Because we sync it with our mobile app, my organization asked if we should bid the app as well. We approached our existing app vendor, whom we were/are very happy with, and asked what product competition systems they would be able to integrate with. The result was the app vendor custom built us our competition site and it perfectly syncs with our app. This program is not only perfectly fitted to our needs, it ended up being less expense than finding both a new competition submission site vendor and new app vendor. It is understandable that you want your vendor using the latest technologies, but sometimes all it takes is a conversation with them to have them offer that service.

Whether you decide to bid routinely, or just when needed, it’s very important to stay on top of industry trends, keep your knowledge of different vendors current, and develop strong communication with your existing vendor on your needs, future plans, and intentions. Best of luck!

Go & Be – Counted

JSullivan

Julie Sullivan, CEM, CMP
Manager, Exhibition Sales
International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA)

This winter, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend Expo! Expo! on a scholarship courtesy of the Washington, DC Chapter of IAEE. As you can imagine, this news and opportunity added an extra element of excitement and anticipation for me and made the event seem all the more rewarding and memorable.

When I applied for the scholarship, I had several key goals in mind. Since it had been nearly five years since my last brief fly-in, take a CEM class, visit the exhibit hall, and fly back out ten hours later, I hoped to make this trip a total emersion experience. I wanted to begin networking and supporting IAEE on a national level, bond with my local IAEE DC Chapter community, hear about new trends in the industry, gain some new insights on multi-generational communication, and last but certainly not least, experience a new city. Like everyone, I suppose, I had pre-conceived ideas about what my experiences there would be like and what the City of Los Angeles might hold as well. In reality, my expectations were completely dashed to the rocks. My time there was everything I had hoped it would be and more. In fact, from an attendee’s perspective, I thought Expo! Expo! 2014 was the proverbial grand slam.

I went to Los Angeles to “Go & Be” many things: original, innovative, creative, and strategic as IAEE’s Expo! Expo! encouraged us to be. Upon returning home, I felt genuinely surprised and inspired by the vitality and adaptability of our industry and impressed with the thriving, rejuvenated Downtown LA area. It was a perfect pairing of meeting to destination.

As the seed of an idea from months earlier suddenly took root and began to materialize, my only remaining dilemma was deciding on what to do out of the countless options available to me during the meeting. Sticking to my initial goals, I settled on an agenda including a city-wide tour, learning how to building better relationships in our technology driven era, networking on a national and local chapter level, applauding all 257 CEM graduates, and visiting suppliers and industry friends alike on the trade show floor.

My experiences at Expo! Expo! re-confirmed for me that I’m in one of the most exciting and successful career paths. The industry is doing very well, has been doing well during the recession, and will surely continue to do so because it adjusts effectively through the ages. The proof of its strength was in the numbers announced at this year’s meeting. Not only did Expo! Expo! 2014 experience record attendance and had a record number of CMP graduates investing in its future, but the industry is producing big numbers where many others simply are not.

Making the decision to go to Expo! Expo! 2014 was a great one for many reasons. It was an opportunity for me to support the exhibitions and events industry at the national level, it stood as a testament to my level of commitment and support to our close-knit Washington, DC community, and was proof positive to that I wanted to officially stand-up and be counted. As the saying goes, “the community that stays together, thrives together” proved very true last year and I’m thankful for its support.

“Go & Be” HOPEFUL should be added to the Expo! Expo! 2014 meeting theme. The future looks very bright indeed for exhibitions and events.

Movers & Shakers

Jennifer Abdinoor is now National Convention Sales Manager with Reno-Tahoe Convention & Visitors Authority

Susan Ainsworth is now Director of Member Programs and Services at American College Health Association

Janet M. Allen-Smith is now Director, Mid-Atlantic Regional Operations at Smart City Networks

Chris Anderson is now Conference & Corporate Relations Director at American Jail Association

Terrence Arth, IOM, CMP is now Vice President Member Programs & Services at National Association of Chain Drug Stores

Diana Brodney is now Manager of Conferences at Access Intelligence LLC

Yvonne Chanatry is now Vice Presindent, Marketing at America’s Health Insurance Plans

Dan Cole, CEM is now  Senior VP, Trade Shows & Exhibits at Hargrove, Inc.

Jennifer Custer is now Manager, Partnerships & Community at CTIA-The Wireless Association

Alex Davis is now  Manager, Operations at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

Jana Fields is now Senior Director Sponsorships and Meeting Planning at American Bus Association

Allison Fried is now Director, International Communications at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

Jessica Gelsinon is now Manager, Sponsorships at International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions

Laura Goodling is now Account Manager at a2z Inc

Caitlyn Gorski is now Senior Tradeshow Marketing Manager at Cvent.com

Jean Huh is now Sponsorships Coordinator at Water Environment Federation

Kate Hurst is now Vice President Community Conferences and Events at US Green Building Council

Puneet Jain is now Director, Emerging Technologies at a2z Inc

Donna Jarvis-Miller, CMP, CEM is now Director, Membership Operations & Events at American Public Human Services Association

Candace Johnson is now Director, Event Operations at Walter E Washington Convention Center

Brenda Kinney is now Convention Manager at American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine

Steve Koenig is now Senior Director, Industry Analysis at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

Pam Magnani is now a Meeting and Event Consultant at Vicki Johnson & Associates, LLC

Tom Markusson, CEM is now Senior Director, Sponsorships & Exhibits at American Health Insurance Plans

Mary Medawar is now Director, Exhibit Services at National Association of Chain Drug Stores

Denise Medved is now VP Sales & Business Development at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

Sarah Moretti is now Specialist, Exhibit Sales at Water Environment Federation

Mary Cecile Neville is now  Director of Marketing & Communications at SnowSports Industries America

Kathleen O’Brien is now HMS Rental Specialist at Hargrove, Inc.

Amy O’Connor is now Director of Meetings & Conventions at Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy

Meredith Pallante, CMP is now Senior Manager, Conferences at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

Amy Phillips Hanley, CMP is now Senior Director of Meetings and Exhibits at American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Holly Price is now Project Manager at Naylor Event Solutions

Lesly Rehaut, CMP, CMM is now Director of Business Development at Travel Planners, Inc.

Christina Reilly is now Sales Operations Manager at CTIA-The Wireless Association

Heather Rhoderick, CMP, CAE is now Vice President, Events and Education at American Composites Manufacturers Association

Marilyn Sawyer is now Manager, Operations, Conventions & Conferences at Biotechnology Industry Organization

Michelle Schrei is now Mobile Project Coordinator at Eventpedia

Amy Smith is now Vice President, Conference Services at COMPTEL

Antoinette Tripi is now Manager, Meetings and Special Events at National Association of Chain Drug Stores

Victoria Velez is now Senior Coordinator, CES Marketing at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

George J. Vuturo, RPh,PhD is now Chief Medical Officer at American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM)

Lisa Yonkers is now Director of Meetings and Education at International Association of Fire Chiefs

Welcome New Members and Congrats to New Certifications

Welcome New Members:

Convergence, LLC

EventRebels

US Green Building Council

Congratulations on your new certifications:

Meredith Pallante, CMP at Consumer Electronics Association/CES

Peter J. Pantuso, CTIS at American Bus Association

Amy Pepin, CMP at International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions

Amy Phillips Hanley, CMP at American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Heather Rhoderick, CMP, CAE at American Composites Manufacturers Association

Your Brand. Your Image.

IAEE at Doubletree Bethesda

Donna Jarvis-Miller, CMP, CEM, Director, APHSA Membership Operations and Events

IAEE at Doubletree Bethesda

Bill McGlade, CEM, Director of Account Management, a2z, Inc.

When show producers find themselves taking on new Conference opportunities, we find ourselves evaluating all of the elements that an organization does when it comes to providing clear messages to the members.

Is there consistency across all communications? Does the brand align with the conference, the trade show, in publications, etc? Do your members have immediate recognition of your brand?

As producers of trade shows, we can be challenged to keep a brand fresh and new while aligning it with the look and feel of a trade show.  Do you have a brand specification guidebook that you can hand off to your vendors? To your exhibitors?

Problem:  Outdated signage to recognize corporate partners.  Inconsistent brand standards.  APHSA had two issues – one was a new brand with no brand standards written and the second was not giving proper recognition to their corporate partners. 

Signage looked like something from the 1990s. Corporate partners, who provide about 3% of their annual budget, were being recognized with small (11 x 17) signage.  Old or incorrect logos were posted on websites as nothing was in place to confirm the correct logos.  The association’s brand was also inconsistent in that they mixed their logos to ‘save money’ in printing new signs.  

Solution:  The solution had to be two-fold.  First, we had to begin with creating a brand standard for the association.  We are working with a graphics team to write clear, concise standards for the association and the nine affiliate member organizations. Once complete, each affiliate will have their own standards.

Next, working with the marketing team, we created guidelines when a corporate partner signed on to ensure we were using the correct brand.  Each year we confirm that we are using the correct logo from partners by a simple email.  If their logo has changed, we delete ALL their previous logos from our data files to help ensure that old logos aren’t accidentally picked up.  We now provide a full list of logos with a zip file to vendors – even though we may be simply updating a file – to help with the error factor.

Signage is not cheap; however, the real estate given to corporate partners at conferences provide not only a benefit but it also builds good will with the funder/sponsor.   The conference team created new meter boards using the association’s brand to recognize the partners.  These undated boards were used multiple times in 2014.  Additionally, we added the corporate partners to general session walk-in slides.

Corporate funders don’t mind cutting the check to sponsor or support an organization if they are getting their ROI.  Are they being treated as a partner or just another check?  When I produced the Wild West Veterinary Conference, for our top sponsors we added multiple meter boards throughout the conference and their logos to all walk-in slides for sessions.  One executive stated ‘We had planned not to renew our support until I walked into the hotel.  This is the first year that we are being properly recognized without it costing us additional money.’

This simple act of adding a few extra signs and logos to general sessions went a LONG way in renewing not only that sponsor but 70% of the others.  They appreciated the recognition and acknowledgement.

In closing, my philosophy is printing a couple extra signs doesn’t break the bank – it actually improves the bank.  After all we are in the relationship building business with our sponsors and partners.  The more we do to provide them the unsolicited recognition the more loyalty we create.

Let’s take a look at signage options:

  • Traditional signage – meter boards and banners printed to be displayed on site
  • Digital signage, TV monitors and LED walls
  • Internet or web signage, banner ads
  • Exhibitor booth listing both online and printed program.

As far as cost, web and traditional are the least expensive where digital signage can get pricey. Hopefully, as technology grows and becomes more efficient we will see these prices drop but you can build some really cool signs using LED walls or even TV monitors. Think about rotating ads on a monitor when entering the exhibit hall or at registration. Make these ads fun and interactive if to attract the attention of attendees. The purpose of these new ads is to draw attention from attendees so make sure they stand out. What about a video ad? 10 seconds of jaw dropping attention grabbing awesomeness! The possibilities are endless with digital signs.

This is not to take anything away from traditional signage. There will always be traditional signage and it will begin to compliment digital signage. Where digital signage cannot go, traditional signage will and it will make a larger impact than we believe. The key here is to keep the branding consistent and make it eye popping as well. Yes, having a logo and acknowledging your sponsors and partners is great….but what about giving them the opportunity to create something cool and exciting for that sign. What about giving them the opportunity to stand out among the partners?

Don’t forget about web signage. Web banners galore, everywhere, pop ups….no that’s not the correct route. Keep it simple and tasteful. Possibly add one or two rotating banner ads on your main site and internal pages. These can be animated gifs to draw some more attention. Let’s not dwell on banner ads…let’s talk about the number one signage opportunity all exhibitors have but do not utilize correctly in the slightest bit.

An exhibitor has an online booth listing. In this listing they can add their description, products, categories, brands, logo, social media etc…yet they don’t. What boggles my mind is that exhibitors do not realize the thousands of clicks the online floor plan and exhibitor listings receive. This is your first digital representation, your first SIGN to attendees and most of them are bland or not filled out. This is the big push I would like to see happen. We need to educate our exhibitors and sponsors to utilize fully maximize their exposure and get the most ROI for their dollars spent.

With so many signage options, there are plenty of opportunities for both exhibitors and sponsors to take part in. Dare to think differently to make your brand, your image consistent and bright!

Go and Be: A Planner’s View of Expo!Expo! 2014

Jules Short Hair Carrie 004_pp1

Carrie Abernathy CMP, CEM, CSEP
Director of Education & Events
Practice Greenhealth

“Go and Be”.  The theme of IAEE’s Expo! Expo! 2014, “Go and Be”, really resonated with me as a meeting planner.  I have attended several planner-centric conferences over the years and I was really excited about the innovation that IAEE brought to the table for planners at their 2014 conference.  In December I was lucky enough to be provided a scholarship to attend Expo!Expo! by the DC Chapter of IAEE to “Go and Be” an attendee of the conference in Los Angeles.  I really took on the challenge of trying to immerse myself in as many of the conference “new offerings” and engagement activities as possible.  To me, the idea of Go and Be and the execution really engaged planners in a new way.  Not only were planners provided with exceptional breakout educational sessions and a fantastically diverse tradeshow floor, but we were able to get in “bite-sized” education and gain hands-on experience by visiting the ‘Go and Be’ areas.  For me, the areas created a safe haven to network and build relationships while learning valuable tips in different topics such as ‘Trends and Directions’ and ‘International Business’.   I was equally impressed that Expo! Expo! tackled conversations around influence, potential, and motivation.  I was expecting new technology  to be at the forefront of the conference, and while it was, Expo! Expo! tackled these important topics as well as part of a truly diverse agenda.

I believe one of the most appealing traits of Expo! Expo! was the conference’s ability to customize the learning and engagement experience to any attendee at any level of their career. Having multiple types of engagement opportunities at any given time for adult learners is an excellent strategy (and one that I plan to use in my own conference as well!).  With sessions to fit learning styles of all types  (visual, hands-on, lectures, panels), I felt as though attendees of all backgrounds could make the conference experience valuable and relevant to their professional. As well, with sessions for young professionals, women, students, and C-suite level learners, the conference did a really great job of making everyone feel as though they had something to learn and something valuable to contribute to the conference conversations.  As a director-level event professional with over ten years of experience in the meetings business, I often am concerned that the education will be geared to beginners or senior level executives, or that I will become uninterested in the topics that I tend to see at most every planner conference.  However, I felt as though at Expo!Expo! truly engaged attendees in a way that held our interest and sparked creativity. I know that I personally was able to bring back new ideas on technology and engagement to try at my conference.  I always appreciate that Expo!Expo! “test-drives” new features for planners so that we have an idea if they will be successful in action at our own events.  IAEE certainly has their work cut out for them to top the 2015 conference, so I am truly looking forward to what IAEE’s Expo!Expo! has in store for us this December!