By Luisa Handem Piette ______________________________________________________________________ Planning for Exhibitions vs. Events Experts agree that in the past decade competition among companies to attract buyers is growing increasingly fierce; and the line between exhibitions and corporate events continue to blur, especially with the advent of globalization. Are there differences in planning for an exhibition versus an event? Corporations tend to divide their annual budget into quarters, which allows more flexibility in either adding to their projected expenditure or cutting costs throughout the year. Within the overall umbrella of events, exhibitions present a more stable and predictable annual expenditure, as exhibition organizers must set their budgets far in advance to accommodate exhibitors. Exhibitors often vie for booth space at sought-after shows exhibition organizers must plan accordingly. Depending on the overall budget and financial goals for the exhibit, organizers must take into consideration the cost of the exhibit hall and the overall floor plan in order to properly price the booth space before the selling begins. Unlike exhibitions, corporate events and conferences offer more flexibility. Since attendees may be invited or pre-determined before the event is planned, the budget may be based on a specific allocation of funds. Because the event manager has more control over the audience of the event, he or she is better able to effectively select options for location, content, etc. In addition, by inviting a targeted group of attendees or customers, the event manager may be able to improve his or her return on investment (ROI) on key metrics specific to that audience. Regardless, both exhibitions and events must compete to attract and retain customers. In doing so, planning in advance is absolutely necessary for success. Both exhibitions and event managers must lock down hotel rooms, exhibit space and other logistical necessities as far ahead as possible to allow proper marketing and promotion. This presents a serious challenge to corporate event planners who, despite being experienced exhibition organizers, must now invest more time, financial and human resources in buyer-seller events. Adding subtleties to their annual or quarterly events, such as diversity of scenery and geographic location, more sophisticated entertainment and other attractions has become a “must” to grow attendance. This is where the lines between exhibition and event management begin to cross over. Exhibition Corporate Event • Budget may be • Start with a fixed determined by Advance Planning budget exhibitor and • Hotel Rooms • Invite customers for attendee • Exhibit Hall Space targeted pitch participation • Food & Beverage • Revenue from • More general • Speakers product or service audience, often • Entertainment sales, not attendee industry-wide • Other Meeting fees • Revenue from Logistics attendee fees and exhibition booth sales As a result, new vendors may be brought into the picture to help companies more efficiently organize their buyer-seller events. Richard Muir, vice president of global accounts for MiceiCom, says his company, MICE North America, is dedicated to creating successful face-to-face meetings and events for customers large and small. “We listen closely to our clients, learn from the lessons of past events, and help them strategically accomplish a good return on investment.” His counterpart in the communications department, vice president of integrated communications Nancy Chapman, agrees and adds that despite the high cost of large customer events, companies are not losing money as many of the events charge a set admission fee to their customers, thus, offsetting the high cost associated with events’ planning. “If any profit is made at all from the admission fee, the money is immediately reinvested in providing an even better experience to attendees, either by acquiring better speakers, booking a better venue or adding new attractions.” For these customer-centric, corporate events, it is not about growing revenue through the attendance fees, but rather exposing the customers to new products and services, increasing brand awareness and forming a long-lasting relationship—that is where the bottom-line is affected. CASE STUDY: Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) in Shanghai, China, May 2006 Freescale, a multi-billion dollar newcomer to the global semiconductor industry, offers a timely example of the complexity and costs involved in organizing large corporate events. In May 2006, the corporation held its technology forum (FTF) in Shanghai, China, with more than 2,000 participants, including more than 1,500 hundred customers as well as a host of partners and vendors. The Shanghai FTF entailed more than 400 hours of technical seminars, as well as a Technology Lab, which served as a mini-trade show within this major customer event. This complex event management project included a myriad of details, involved multiple parties and a high expenditure. According to Freescale, customer events such as the FTF support its business strategy and provide three key benefits: They increase customer intimacy. Events such as these create an educated bias for Freescale products. Customers walk away knowing how to build a design from the ground up using Freescale’s products. FTF also helps Freescale develop insight into its customers’ challenges so the companies can become committed partners and advocates. They reduce costs. FTF brings customers, media and analysts together under one roof and builds credibility with business and technology leaders quickly. When used by factory, sales and marketing groups, a major event like FTF can be more efficient than a series of smaller events, thereby reducing marketing and sales costs. They build brand strength. Freescale is a new player in the marketplace. To achieve significant and sustained growth, customer events build widespread recognition of Freescale as a premium, top-notch company. FTF gives attendees a snapshot of a vibrant, thriving company – a message each customer then disseminates to colleagues, peers, customers – even friends and family.